A Killer Whodunit
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its sixtieth choice, Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, reviewed by Tripwire editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Colours: Gregory Wright
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Today’s graphic novel choice is the seminal Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween. Set earlier on in Batman’s career but after Batman Year One, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have constructed a Dark Knight epic which was easily the equal of Frank Miller’s work on the character.
Gotham is a city at war with two rival gangster families, the Falcones and the Maronis, vying for ultimate power in the criminal demi monde. On the side of law and order is Captain Jim Gordon and district attorney Harvey Dent. They make a pact with Batman to bring down the criminal fraternities that are ripping Gotham apart. But there is another spanner in the works, a serial killer everyone has named the Holiday killer who takes great pleasure in dispatching some of the more unsavoury figures in the city.
So Dent, Gordon and Batman are forced to unravel a murder mystery at the heart of Gotham. Batman villains like The Joker, Poison Ivy, Calendar Man, Catwoman and The Scarecrow are also part of the rich tapestry that Loeb weaves here.
Batman: The Long Halloween is arguably the most ambitious Batman story ever created. It owes a great deal to films like The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and even Goodfellas as the internecine struggle between the warring gangs is just as important to it as the more outlandish elements. Loeb gives Gordon and Dent their unique voices here and he also imbues characters like The Joker and Catwoman, who continues to play both sides, with their own foibles and idiosyncracies.
Visually it is also a wonderfully cinematic tale too with Sale with the aid of colourist Gregory Wright using a subtle colour palette and dramatic camera angles to ramp up the filmic qualities here. Murders take place in black and white and single and double page spreads are utilised here to set a very deliberate pace or to make a very intentional dramatic point. Sale also plays with light and shadows to set tone and shift mood to suit the story.
Sale takes from the European tradition of comic art while still remaining very American. The oversized format of the Absolute format gives his art an extra impact, allowing his work to really breathe.
Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Batman Year One was a shot of fresh air when it came out but Batman: The Long Halloween was the next step for the Dark Knight Detective. It is a brilliantly realised inventive whodunit with a cast of compelling players and art which never lets up, building on and ratcheting up the tension. Loeb and Sale worked together on a lot of different series but Batman: the Long Halloween is them at their zenith as a creative team.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far