Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Absolute Batman - The Long Halloween

“The promise I made to my parents, the promise to rid this city of the evil that took their lies, may finally be within reach.”

“I believe in Harvey Dent.”

The thirteen-issue maxi-series from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale is collected in this handsome Absolute Edition oversized hardcover complete with an introduction from Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer discussing the influence the series had on Batman Begins, the transcript of Richard Starkings interview with Loeb and Sale, the original proposal for the project, and a look at cover art, sketches, and the toys inspired from the tale. All in all a nice collection bundled together in a handsome package.

The idea, inspired by Sale and Loeb’s colaberation on Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials and the characters from Frank Miller‘s Batman: Year One, continues the story of the Falcone crime family only months after the end of Year One and follows Batman over one year as he attempts to stop a murderer who kills on every holiday (who becomes known as Holiday) and his shared obsession with Harvey Dent to bring down the Falcone family with the help of James Gordon.

Several of Batman’s rogues gallery make appearances in the piece including the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, Calendar Man, and the Penguin (how exactly Batman accummulated such a vast and varied group of villains after only a few months on the job is never adequately addressed). Aside from the Holiday and Falcone storyline the series also retells the origin of Two-Face when Harvey Dent gets acid thrown into his face in court by Sal Maroni. Harvey Dent’s tragedy is well explored from all sides - his, his wife’s, and the Batman’s. As the story reaches its climax Two-Face will unite the super-villains to get his own brand of justice on the Falcone family.

Nolan and Christian Bale are both big fans of the tale and it shows strongly, in good ways and bad, in Batman Begins. Although I like the art I’m not fond of this look of Batman (which sadly has become the norm since this series which part of the blame goes to Sale) or of some of the villains, especially the Joker. As a tale of corruption and what a person looses by fighting crime the story succeeds very well for both Batman and Dent. It’s dense and at times the numerous colorful villains seem to get in the way of the story (in stark contrast to Year One), but there is much to enjoy. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of Sale and Loeb’s follow-up Batman: Dark Victory re-telling the origin of Dick Grayson and Batman dealing with the fall-out of the events from this storyline which is a better condensed and focused tale.

As a collection Absolute Batman - The Long Halloween has few flaws. Aside from what is mentioned above, part of the cover of the book catches inside the slipcover causing wear and tear each time you remove it from its sleeve - not a great negative given the hefty $75.00 price-tag. Even with this annoyance, and the issues I have with the the look of some characters, it is an easy recommendation, and for those who enjoy it I would heartily recommend the follow-up Batman: Dark Victory.

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