TLH7

We’re back into the hunt for Holiday at last, after a few issues where their presence had faded right into the background, reduced to killing off random minions where once they were prominently murdering named characters. The race to find out Holiday’s true identity isn’t actually moved forward in any way during the issue, however, as we instead spend out time tracing out various theorises about who the killer could be – which emphasises how this issue was released before Twitter existed, as social media would inevitably have found out the identity by now. They’re just too good.

It’s entertaining to see Riddler and Batman – the two finest detective minds in the DC Universe, even if Riddler is written to be a bit of an idiot here – play out the different scenarios, and the approaches they each take. Riddler acts out the scenes with himself playing the role of killer, and it looks like he comes to the belief that the murderer is Catwoman, Carla Vitti, or Falcone himself. On the other hand, Batman is forensic in his approach, and his suspects include Sal Maroni and Harvey Dent.

Riddler’s guesses fly out seemingly at random, suggesting that he’s more invested in the fun of a riddle than in the release of actually solving it. He doesn’t give Falcone anything particularly useful (spoiler: none of the guesses here are right) and although he skirts near to suggesting who the actual culprit is, he prefers to pose questions and see how Falcone and Sofia react to them. He’s performing, like Ivy was last month: the supervillains don’t care much about the street-level gang violence of Gotham, because they’re looking at a higher cause. Here, it’s that Riddler is too busy amusing himself to stoop to actually providing any assistance to Falcone or his people. Again, we see the divide between “villain” and “super-villain”.

Whilst Batman and Riddler throw out all their conspiracies to the reader, we also get one from Harvey Dent, which looks like it’ll be the next big act of the series. He wants to get Bruce Wayne, and by sheer force of will he’s dragging along Gordon and his team to help him do so. With half his face covered in shadow (which you’ll need to get used to seeing) he declares, simply, that if Bruce Wayne is complicit, then he deserves no mercy and only punishment. Harvey is getting more and more binary in his search for “justice”. In a small moment, Tim Sale adds the face of Gordon’s assistant, who we know is a mole for Falcone, into the side of that panel. A reminder that Harvey is so hellbent on his single theory that he’s not seeing what’s right in front of him.

With Holiday still hidden, the big question here is why they decide to leave Riddler alive at the end of the issue. Of course, the real reason is because he’s the Riddler, and you don’t do a famous villain like that. But the in-Universe reason is left unexplained, which is fun to delve into. The most likely reason is that it’s a show of power in an issue which is filled with theory. Batman wanders round the Batcave, Harvey and Gordon go back-and-forth in their office, and Riddler runs rings at Carmine Falcone’s request. They’re trying to break down who the killer might be, and in the process they completely overlook that today is a holiday – April Fool’s Day – and Holiday is going to be out there that very day, somewhere.

If there’s one criticism of The Long Halloween as a whole, it’s that there’s no sense of hysteria on the actual holidays, when everybody knows Holiday is going to be on the prowl again. Why is everybody staying home that day, the one day in the month that something was bound to happen?

Riddler being left standing is a great visual as well because Holiday doesn’t leave any toys at the scene, unlike his other attacks. Riddler IS the token, in this instance, and he represents everybody trying to uncover Holiday’s identity – they’re all fools to try and do so, and Holiday is five steps ahead of them all. The attack happens directly outside Falcone’s office! If that isn’t a brazen display of power, then what is?

Holiday does drop their umbrella at Riddler’s feet before walking off, which suggests Riddler will probably now know who Holiday is. That’s another interesting twist, and I don’t remember if it receives any payoff later on in the series… so we’ll have to see how that goes. Holiday is playing into the fact he knows that supervillains don’t get on with ‘regular’ villains, in a sense, and trusting that Riddler isn’t going to say anything to anyone about what he saw. There’s another display of power in that nobody is going to know that Holiday even showed up this time round unless Riddler says something. Falcone has a human-shaped line of bullets in the back wall of his office, and another one of the guns that Holiday’s been using. It’s not much to go on.

So by the end of the issue, it looks as though Riddler has Holiday’s identity; Falcone knows Holiday was there; Batman knows nothing; and Harvey Dent knows the wrong thing. For a holiday based around playing people for fools, that’s a pretty great outcome for Holiday. Remember that everything is stacked against the killer – they know what day they have to kill someone, but they have to put in a lot of work to keep tabs on where that person might be, the variables around their location, and the wider context of the search. That Holiday is able to stay ahead of everybody is testament to their ability to improvise, which seems to be one thing Riddler recognises when Batman can’t.

In any case, so far all the right people have been made fools of.

See you for Mother’s Day!

Batman The Long Halloween #7: April Fool’s Day
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale
Colours by Gregory Wright
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

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