Writer: Jeph Loeb
Illustrator: Tim Sale
The Long Halloween is one of Batman’s most famous and important stories. Whether you notice it or not, you’ve been exposed to the Long Halloween’s influence, in one way or another.
Without it, there wouldn’t be lines like, “I believe in Harvey Dent,” or the scene in which the Joker burns a giant stack of cash in The Dark Knight. Gotham, the T.V. show, integrated characters from The Long Halloween, such as Sofia Falcone. It’s also rumored that Matt Reeves is going to be taking inspiration from this classic Batman tale.
There are at least three reasons why I think this story is so iconic: it’s an old-fashioned mystery, it re-imagines the origin of Two-Face in a personal way, and it’s a character study of the city of Gotham.
Now let me tell you why only one of those elements works here.
As a mystery, The Long Halloween doesn’t really work.
The mystery surrounding The Long Halloween is who is the Holiday Killer and why is he/she murdering mobsters on specific holidays? Every now and then, we see Harvey Dent, a possible suspect of being the Holiday Killer, making morbid statements and sitting creepily in the dark. It comes as no shock that he was, in fact, the Holiday Killer.
But then we find out that his wife was the Holiday Killer too…
Harvey Dent’s Wife, Gilda, revealing herself as the Holiday Killer is far too contrived. She possessed no concrete motive to be the Holiday Killer. Yeah, she talked about how she missed her husband, but that wouldn’t provoke the average person to cold and methodical genocide.
There was no evidence that the reader could have observed to suggest that Gilda had the will to kill people she had never met before.
Along with not giving a believable reason why she committed these crimes, the story doesn’t do a good job of explaining how. What is it about Gilda that makes her able to get away murder six times, while being hunted by Batman?
Think about it. She’s just a random citizen, with no background in forensics, no enhanced abilities. Gilda is about as capable as any other neighbor in your neighborhood, and she was able to fool Batman, “The World’s Greatest Detective,” and the entirety of the GCPD for a year.
There are a couple of plot holes in the narrative. One of them is involved with Alberto Falcone, the son of Carmine Falcone. I simply don’t know how this poor guy was able to fake his death? Batman himself even said he couldn’t have done it himself, and it was made clear that his family had no involvement.
For clarity, Alberto has no experience in the criminal underworld. He’s a recent graduate from college. Yet, he somehow knew that Gilda would sneak up behind him and wore a bulletproof vest (He probably forgot that most of the victims of the Holiday Killer had bullet wounds in the head). After being shot off his yacht, he managed to swim to safety all by himself and was unseen by anyone else.
This might be more of a nitpick than a plot hole, but I don’t buy that Harvey Dent and Carmine Flacone were able to easily hire people from Batman’s rogues gallery. Like, even if they were able to contact someone like Poison Ivy, why would she even help them?
Also, do I have to explain how crazy it is to hire the Joker to do anything?!
“Hmmm. There’s a dude murdering members of my mobster family. Let me hire the guy that poisoned the water supply a few months ago to help me.” Good thinking, Carmine.
Like I said before, Gotham itself is like a character with its own character ark. We see regular crime bosses with suits get outclassed and outgunned by criminals with outrageous gimmicks.
The new wave of villains, like Riddler or Mad Hatter, aren’t even painted in a glamorous light. They’re not innately more competent than the more old-school mobsters. It’s almost like their style of crime is simply more in fashion and is therefore more predominant.
I have a great amount of sympathy for not only the protagonists but also the antagonists because we are given a glimpse into how living in Gotham can affect their interpersonal relationships. Harvey and Gilda have clearly been broken from living in this city. Commissioner Gordon’s marriage goes through a rough patch, due to his devotion to protecting Gotham. And Batman’s -well, he’s Batman. His relationships are always complicated.
As an origin for Two-Face, the story falters.
Harvey is established as having a fixation with the number two, before even getting his face scarred. It’s kind of forced how the number is constantly sprinkled in almost every line of dialogue that the district attorney has.
The story behind why Two-Face compulsively uses his famous coin is that his dad gave it to him… that’s it. I kind of have a theory that Harvey Dent just has an undiagnosed case of OCD, instead of the split personality disorder that he typically has in other continuities.
That might explain his obsession with the coin and the number two, but I just wish it was explored more.
Either way, Harvey’s first act as Two-Face is undermined because he’s just following the footsteps of the first Holiday Killer, Gilda. There really was no point in having two Holiday killers. It’s just an unearned twist at the end. The killer just being Harvey would have led to a tighter script.
Although the Holiday mystery and origin of Two-Face weren’t perfect, I loved the development of Gotham City in the Long Halloween.