21 Years have passed since the publication of Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller. Year One is a strange sort of follow-up/prequel to Miller’s acclaimed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. While the latter shows us the comeback of a tormented Batman, Year One takes us to the early year(s) of the caped crusader. How he came to be.
4 Chapters in 1 year.
(for year two and all the other years in between Miller’s works I fondly like the tales of Jeph Loeb, with graphics by Tim Sale and Jim Lee)
The graphics -somewhat pale and bleak-, the Bat costume, the gadgets, it all reflects the past times of the comic figure that Batman once was. A bit camp. Naive like the young man looking for revenge, subject to doubts.
In a ‘parallel parfait’ to Bruce Wayne’s search for a hidden identity, we witness how Gordon arrives in the Dark City of Gotham to take up his assignment in the corrupt police force. And how he deals with it (hard headed and using his fists). And with his workaholism, his commitment to the law, his loyalty towards his wife and (unborn) child. How his opinion on the giant Bat evolves from lawbreaking vigilante to ‘a friend who might be able to help‘ (when facing the new threat called The Joker).
And the earliest encounters of the Bat and the Cat(woman) make it clear that they are destined for a troubled and complex relationship. A theme that Loeb has brilliantly built on. And in Batman: The Long Halloween Loeb directly pursues the story of Year One but directing it towards the gangster theme through Frank Miller’s character of The Roman.
A personal favourite is the delicate, hidden romance of lt. Gordon and sgt. Sarah Essen. Just one of his personal struggles. Perfectly illustrated in coffee bar romantic moments (Nighthawks reluctant to go home):
Now, put together the works of Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb and Alan Moore (The Killing Joke). And recognize characters (like Harvey Dent, the psychopathic Branden), storylines and developments in Tim Burton’s Batman movies, as well in the new Dark Knight series.
It seems like phenomenal duo Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale had a clear mission for Batman: The Long Halloween. It feels like they revisited the material of Frank Miller’s Year One and wanted to pick up and elaborate on the gangster theme. In a way they continued their re-portrayal of the winged crusader as a superclass detective, as they had begun in Batman: Haunted Knight. But they went beyond these 3 previously published Halloween stories. Would this 13-chapter tale then best be known as Year Two (the only true successor to Miller’s subliminal work)? Well, nevermind. The questions is irrelevant as this work has more than enough quality to offer by itself.
I made a promise – to my parents – that I would – rid the city – of the evil – that took their lives.
There’s a killer out on the Gotham streets. Nothing new so far. Seems to have a murderous appetite to kill on holidays. Likes a riddle. Harvey Dent, district attorney, vigilantly and relentlessly chases the bad guys from the good side of the law. It takes a while for him to accept the big bat as a companion. But together with commissioner Gordon they create a bond to hunt down the head of Gotham’s main gangster family, Carmine Falcone (“The Roman”). A war commences.
Frustration grows with some defenders of the law. The Maroni family gets involved. Things get out of hand as all villains seem to be getting out of Arkham Asylum. In the meantime Bruce Wayne/Batman gets to deal with more than violence with Selina Kyle/Catwoman. He finds himself victim to a strange and dark attraction. The death of Alberto Falcone, The Roman’s son, causes his gigantic aunt to go nuts. And it leaves some questions on whether the poor son was consciously left out of daddy’s imperium. And what links the late doctor Wayne to The Roman?
It all fits together in this tremendous and superb tale of murder and mystery. Giving birth to the notorious Two-Face. Two sides to the end. All’s well. Ambiguous yet. Who’s Holiday? How many are Holiday? Luckily at least Gilda still believes in Harvey Dent.
Batman: The Long Halloween was clearly a major source of inspiration for the first new generation Batman movie Batman Begins.
In Legoland (returning from Italy) I completed my Lego Batcollection with the Battank (vs. Riddler & Bane) and the Batcopter (vs. Scarecrow). I already had the Batcave (with Robin & Alfred, vs. Penguin & mr. Freeze), the Batwing (vs. Joker), the Batboat (vs. Killercroc) and the Batmobile (vs. Two-face).
As Catwoman (Batman dragster) wasn’t available (I’m trying to get to her, and the Arkham Asylum, in the US) I’ve bought her as a keyring.
And now a whole new Lego series from the new Batman movies is available (explains the Harley Quinn keyring)… can’t wait to get it!
Brings up mixed feelings: should I feel fine that Tim Burton’s great creations were ruined? As I really love the realistic feel of the new movies, even more inspired by Frank Miller‘s incredible Battales. Great scripts, atmosphere and acting.
Without having seen the new movie, Ledger’s pose (movie posters) seems inspired by Brandon Lee’s The Crow.
And do check out the Lego movies: