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Batman: The Long Halloween

(Words by Jeph Loeb, art by Tim Sale, Trade paperback Published by DC)

A couple of friends of mine recently sent me a hilariously deadpan spoof of a Batman story, proving just how easy it is to write one. You could almost write one using a cut-up machine like William Burroughs, as long as there were mention of certain things: Bruce Wayne's famous promise to his parents; the hint of paranoia that Gotham has been bothered by more criminals since Batman arrived; Bruce's relationships with pretty women that never quite work out; the way Batman always disappears silently when Commissioner Gordon is in mid-sentence.... Yeah, Jeph Loeb has got it pretty easy. Is that how he manages to create something as readable as this?

Batman: the Long Halloween is a successful return to the Year One underworld created by Frank (Sin City) Miller. Loeb brings back gangsters such as Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone, and underused villains like Solomon Grundy. Of course, Loeb writes in all the usual Batman staples - one could even call them clichés - but it's effective reading nonetheless.

Someone is knocking off members of The Roman's crime family, and because the murders occur on well-known holidays, the killer is dubbed 'Holiday'. Loeb writes this as a classic whodunnit, with all the suspects paraded before the reader with a motive. He examines Batman's relationship with the criminal fraternity through Bruce Wayne's relationship with Carmine Falcone, and Batman's relationship with District Attorney Harvey Dent. In fact, as well as being a straightforward murder mystery, The Long Halloween is also the origin story of how Harvey Dent became Two-Face.

Tim Sale's artwork is marvellous. His lines are cleanly stylised, without fuss or clutter, although his version of Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) seems straight out of the 80s when all around appear to be from an earlier era. One of my favourite panels is near the beginning, where Catwoman and Batman are facing off on a black rug. The way Sale has drawn them, it looks as though they are teetering on the edge of a void, which is clever, even if it wasn't deliberate. It's also refreshing to see women drawn to look like realistic women (albeit stylised), which is still relatively unusual in superhero comics. And Sale's toothy rendition of The Joker is scariness incarnate.

It's obvious that Loeb and Sale both love gangster fiction, and so do I, so I found this enjoyable and engrossing escapism.

http://www.darkknight.ca/dknight.html -- very in-depth Batman site. This one has a huge amount of information.

Anna Jellinek

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