I Have Loved Your For The Longest Time
Oh there you are, didn’t see you there. Well, you’re just in time for the review of my favourite Batman story (spoiler alert: it will now be at the number one spot for quite some time). I have signed copies of it, black and white printings, hardcover and softcover, basically I’ve been paying most of DC’s mortgage for the past 20 years. If you’ve seen conspiracy theory then know that this is my Catcher in the Rye. I see it, I buy it, I go out and assassinate a famous pop star etc etc.
So with that out the way this review is more talking about what I like and (dislike as nothing is perfect) about this excellent book.
I view Haunted Knight as the audition for this book, whilst that was more meh to me than a marvel movie (I just can’t really get into them) this book shows the full potential of both writer and artist.
So lets get started with the Brown Nosing that I’ll be doing with it, caressing it’s spine, kissing it’s face…wait what….
First appearance in canon of Calendar Man, Alberto Falcone, Sofia Gigante and Solomon Grundy
The Godfather Of Graphic Novels
The book opens much like the film The Godfather. The beginning wedding is pretty much images from those famous scenes translated to page. Maybe I like the book so much because The Godfather is also my favourite film. You put Batman In a similar story to that then you can imagine how much I nerdgasm over it (need to tone down the sexual references….need to stop living in my mums house and get a life…). You are instantly hit by how dark that Tim Sale’s art is. He uses slithers of light to paint what is going on in a scene. It’s like Sin City but minus Millers reliance on all women being prostitutes (we haven’t forgot Miller…damn you MILLERRRRR!!!!).
The book is very Mafia centric. This is the first true war on crime in the run thus far. Whilst Year One did good as a wing man, Long Halloween walks in the club and gets all the birds that Year One has been chatting up for the last 40 minutes and getting nowhere with.
It’s crazy how this has so many cinematic elements that then went on to influence the Dark Knight so much, which of course went on to influence so many of the comic book films we have today. The rooftop scene where Gordon, Batman and Dent vow to take down The Roman is almost shot for shot in The Dark Knight. It’s a beautiful scene that adds severity and shows how obsessed each character is with ridding Gotham of crime and corruption. The panels paint Batman as being above the law and that the police need him as much as he needs them.
Rise of The Super Villains
To me this book is really about the Rise of the Super Villain. Whilst we have had them in the run up to this point, it is really this book where they begin to out number the mob. In taking down the Mafia they unintentionally leave a space for the likes of The Joker, Penguin and The Riddler to cement themselves as the cities Crime Kingpins.
The book is akin to a pulp noir murder mystery. The killer, a mysterious figure named ‘Holiday’ who only strikes on public holidays…hence the name. Whilst murder mysteries are very hard to pull off in comics as it’s often the newly introduced character who is the villain (I’m looking at you Hush….FFS…Tommy Elliot was the only new character….nice twist….FML). However, this book keeps you guessing and even after it’s conclusion leaves you wondering if they even truly figured the mystery out. It’s this kind of mystery that really elevates it and I guarantee will keep you coming back to read it again and again…..or you might be busy…probably not though as you’re reading this. Good work on your life so far, thumbs up. You loser.
Even Calendar Man, a joke of a villain gets reinvented as a Hannibal Lector type character, he is truly chilling and it’s magnificent how Loeb can take old, glanced over characters and make them legends. Whilst he initially speaks in riddles, by the books conclusion we realise that he was right the entire time.
You Either Die A Hero Or Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain
At it’s heart, but very much in the background through most of the chapters is the fall of Harvey Dent and his eventual turn into the super villain, Two Face. Loeb masterfully forshadows this from even the opening chapter. I get the feeling that the acid was just the straw that broke the camels back with Dent and that he probably would’ve went crooked at some point or the other. This isn’t like Anakin’s turn to the dark side, there is motive and reasoning and a chance happening that truly breaks the aforementioned character. You could’ve learnt something from this Lucas, you RUINED MY CHILDHOOD.
It is how easily Dent is manipulated that really breaks Harvey, at one point he and Gordon arrest Bruce and when this is shown as a waste of time you can see Harvey at snapping point. The more that Dent sees from the inside that the law in Gotham isn’t working the more we see him become skeptical, he begins to consider murdering The Mafia to get it over with, and whilst said in a jokey manner, we know, that all jokes have an element of truth to them. In the end the coin is all he needed, it mirrors the characteristics of Justice, innocent or guilty, that is the only outcome it supplies. That is all there is in Gotham. Dent hates how easily the high society people get away with winning over a jury and he realises that in Gotham, everything is a coin flip.
This really helps to illustrate how incorruptible Batman is too, unbeknownst to Harvey, he is going through similar struggles but he doesn’t break.
The Book climaxes with Maroni throwing acid in Dents face in court. This scene is more heartbreaking than when you were at the High School Disco and seen the girl you’d sat next to all year, that you’d fallen in love with, kissing Andrew Smith, the weightlifting, charity worker. The man you could never bea…getting a bit side tracked. Anyway, the entire book has built up to this point and it doesn’t disappoint. It is beautifully orchestrated and set up and when the acid finally comes out you can just feel the world come crashing down. Everything you’ve read thus far over the past year in this book has built to this moment and when evil wins out, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Nolan did a similar scene in The Dark Knight, where a defendant pulls a gun on Dent, and whilst that was almost played for laughs, this is the complete opposite.
“I don’t want help”
“But I might be able to be helpful”
The book does a great job of balancing the murder mystery, the fall of Harvey Dent and the romance between Catwoman and Batman. They are in love as Selina and Bruce too. I think it’s love anyway, it might just be a cheeky finger behind the bike shed (bet you didn’t think you’d read that in a Batman review….this is why DC haven’t asked me to write for them yet…fml). We get invested in both characters and want to see them happy, even if Catwoman isn’t on the right side as much as Batman would like her to be. She often is seen hanging around the Roman’s penthouse and if you know her entire origin story you’ll know how nice this subtle touch is.
Sale of the century
Tim Sale absolutely NAILS the art work in this. His use of shadows is incredible, you just get a feel of the atmosphere in each page. The colour palette truly compliments everything. You have pages that are just completely blue and black and it makes the work feel distinctive and unique.
Whenever the killer ‘Holiday’ strikes the pages go black and white, with only the red chilling blood having any pigmentation to it. These execution scenes add real gravity to the book and when they show up you feel the dynamic of the arc change up.
Sale truly dictates the pace throughout. The book is fully of large images which mean you can breeze through the pages in quick succession and in one sitting. Even the style of clothes is pitch perfect. The work has a timeless feel to it, like the animated series it could be set in every decade from the 20s onward to present day. It is so well stylized.
I really wish Sale could draw every single book. The entire things feel so cinematic. He is able to draw some eyes on a black or white background and give it so much feeling and character. Sales uses repetition to add impact to each page, whether it is The Roman Smiling, a full page spread of a character saying they believe in Harvey Dent, it all has purpose and meaning to add to the text.
When Batman and Riddler attempt to solve who Holiday is it goes back to the black and white style and inserts the suspects in the prior executions, carrying them out. This is genius to me, it not shows how similar the Riddler and Batman are with their methodical problem solving and detection it also spells out that everyone has motive to be Holiday and easily could be. It’s like the end of a horror movie when they finally figure out who the killer is and get flashbacks. I wish there were more elements like this in other comics as it is truly outstanding. This is Sale’s masterpiece and the art truly elevates the work to new heights.
In using the holidays Loeb is able to show how each character acts on the special days. Father’s day is really the one that adds true significance to the plot. We see Gordon at home, coming home late and receiving a tie off his son. It’s a very sentimental moment that channels just how much family matters to Gotham and how he wants to make Gotham a safer place for him, which is why he is so work orientated.
In the same chapter we see Harvey get his coin, also from his father. Is his madness hereditary? I believe so. It’s a wonderful section of the book that gives each character a personal moment and shows deep down who they truly are. The Roman, he is so wrapped up in The Holiday killer that he neglects his own family, Sophia his daughter, has just returned from prison and he doesn’t even give her the time of day. He only got so involved with the killings because of his family and now he risks losing them on all levels.
This speaks volumes to the books strength, it says so much without action scenes, everything is political, tactical and thought out. I wish more comics would rely on plot over action, it’s one of the main reasons I went off Justice League. The fights aren’t what makes you interested, it’s the dialogue and plot.
It’s Not Perfect
Yes, whilst I’ve been completely kissing the books arse for the last 10,000 words, it’s not perfect. Solomon Grundy is in for some reason…no idea really, there’s an action scene but that’s it, he’s not needed. The Poison Ivy section is such a let down too. I HATE HATE HATE mind control. It’s such a lazy way of changing a character’s motives to make them do something without putting in the effort to show why they’ve acted the way that they did. It’s also terrible when a character is under mind control and they do something that they never would and then somehow get snapped out of it easily. The control couldn’t have been that great so why did you do what you did? It’s nonsense to me and this is by far the worst part of the book. The pace slows right down and it’s just…crap really.
Another week element is when Bruce Wayne is suspected as working with the mob, whilst this initially takes place in the Poison Ivy chapter it drags on for so long and is quickly resolved that it doesn’t really add any anxiety to the book. Telltale seem to be doing something similar in their game and I wish they would just break away from making Bruce a suspect in things, it’s a waste of time as we already know what the outcome will be and Bruce’s playboy persona should mean that he never gets into these situations.
“I Did what needed to be done”
It’s great how all the villains want to take Holiday out, ego centric people like The Joker can’t stand the spotlight not being on them. By the end Gordon and Batman realise that they must use bait to catch holiday and when their true identity is revealed your jaw will hit the floor. This reveal ends masterfully with the spotlight being on him. There is no cliff hanger over his identity, it just leaves you asking so many questions that I can imagine the wait for the next episode back in 1997 was agonising. This is a Bruce Willis was a ghost all along level of twist. It Is So GOOD!!!
The book climaxes with Two Face breaking everyone out of Arkham, except the calendar man. Loeb not only has the super villains take over Falcone, The Roman’s, office physically but also figuratively. This is the heart of crime in Gotham and now the supervillains own it. It’s excellent has throughout the plot Loeb has had the super villains slowly appear, central to the plot, one by one and now they are in the Kingdom, ready to rule. It’s a star studded cast of The Riddler, Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow and Solomon Grundy. They are here now, the time of the mobster is over. This is the era of the supervillain.
The Roman finally gets taken down by Two Face. He did what had to be done, even his speech bubbles are jagged, he is truly a broken man. Tragically Gordon, Batman and Dent meet on the rooftop again, for the last time. It’s been a year of hell. They took down the Roman, like they promised, but at what cost?
This just gives me goosebumps, everyone thought they knew what they were in for but they had no idea, sure the good guys won, I guess, but they lost so much in doing so that it may not have been worth it.
The book ends, like all murder mysteries, asking more questions. I won’t spoil it but let’s just say there was more going on than we and even Batman knew about. Brilliant.
This is still my favourite Batman book, all of my problems are quite nit picky and the work itself is of such a high level that it’s hard to even be mad at this. If you haven’t read this book then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It’s the gateway drug that got me into the Dark Knight and is a necessity for any comic collector. This isn’t just one of the best Batman Books out there. It’s one of the best graphic novels of all time
9.5 / 10
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.