TLH4

New Year’s Eve is a time which holds so much promise for everyone. It’s the end of the year, and a moment where people look at what they’ve experienced through the last twelve months and forward to what they hope will come next. More than any other holiday, it’s a reflection on what was and what could be, and for the people of Gotham it’s an opportunity to try and decide what they want for this future.

Because of that, this issue of The Long Halloween is a lot quieter than previous issues, despite featuring Joker flying a biplane across the city in the hopes of poisoning everyone in the process. Batman at this point has forgotten about Holiday entirely, the Joker’s attempts at distraction having proven to be successful.

Despite the craziness of his plan, it really comes across simply as a cry for attention – he wants to be the only serial killer in Gotham, and it’s upsetting to him that Holiday has stolen his thunder. He doesn’t broadcast his intentions in this issue or make anything part of one of his games. Instead, he simply gets his poison canister, steals a plane, and heads out. There’s little showmanship there, simply determination.

That dedication to a single cause ties him in to most of the other characters appearing in the issue. Carmine Falcone is shown in the midst of a big party being thrown both for his family and the wider criminal underground of Gotham. It’s clear, though, that the attacks on his family have weakened him, with Sal Maroni and Falcone’s own sister both acting suspiciously around him. It makes a fun change to see the villains slowly being destabilised by violence around Gotham, and with the rise of the “super-villain” it’s a thoroughly engaging time in fictional history for the creative team to roll around in.

Having said that, this month’s murder is the weakest part of the issue by far. Alberto is shot before his story seemed to go anywhere, and the death sequence itself seems tacked into the issue. Everybody else is spending their time working out what they want for the future, but Falcone gets a few pages of fretting about hsi present before his son is killed without him knowing. It’s disappointing for the Holiday killer’s actions to seemingly be sidelined in this way, as though the creative team knew somebody had to die but didn’t have a clear way of including it as an incorporated and important part of the narrative. As it is the scene feels inserted in randomly, pausing the issue until it’s over.

The murder mystery also seems to have been mostly forgotten, or at least Loeb isn’t able to find ways to cast suspicion on any of his characters. The closest we get here is Harvey Dent arriving home (just after the murder sequence) and his wife commenting that his hair is wet. He goes on to have a very brief scene with Jim Gordon which, again, feels like padding. The creative team aren’t able to end on any kind of cliffhanger for the pair, so instead they pad things out so that things remain undetermined by the time the issue concludes – this does in some way fit into the “looking ahead to the future” theme which unfurls through the issue, but it also feels like a deliberate stalling because the story can’t develop any further quite yet.

Instead, the more interesting scene happens in the next room, as their wives talk to one another about their aspirations and hopes. Gilda wants a family, and she speaks to the disappointment she has that her life has become secondary to Harvey’s ambition. She’s being held in stasis as well, because nothing can move forward in Harvey’s life until he’s taken down organised crime in Gotham – and now, it appears, he needs to take down Bruce Wayne as well. These small running tensions help build up the wider narrative in a more interesting way than the more overt “what if THIS is the status quo” suggestions that keep appearing in the narration. We know that Bruce isn’t involved in organised crime, so the tension in Harvey has nowhere to go – but with Gilda now getting involved, there’s something for us to root for or find tension within.

The issue ends with Batman stood on the town clock, Joker defeated, and wondering what will become of him in the New Year. He thinks that this may be the first small victory that’ll lead him to finally ridding the city of injustice – it’s a hopelessly optimistic moment for him, but there’s something hugely charming about it. At this moment in time he’s apprehended his worst enemy, and he has Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent watching his back. It’s natural for him to feel like he’s finally cresting a wave, and the hopeful note the issue ends on is thoroughly earned for the character within this individual story and his story as a whole.

New Year’s Eve is a time of putting the past to rest, and Batman finally seems like he may have a chance to do just that. He just has to stop Holiday and his job will be done…

See you for Valentine’s Day!

Batman The Long Halloween #4: New Year’s Day
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale
Colours by Gregory Wright
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

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