TLH9

One month later, and we get to see the outcome of Bruce’s run from the law: he’s in jail. That time jump between holidays which is required for the story means we’ve skipped right past his capture and imprisonment, and instead we’re right in ready for his trial, which is overseen directly by Harvey Dent. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Harvey, Jim Gordon and Batman all in one room, and without having their three perspectives in one place we’re seeing how they each head off in different directions.

Harvey’s is the most interesting, and he seems to have been inspired by Batman’s lead to become more like a vigilante himself. His quest to bring down Falcone has led him to this dead end of investigating Bruce Wayne, but once the jury find Bruce innocent he’s left with no clear way to move forward again. It’s made clear in the story that Harvey has made a fool of himself here, first as he’s outperformed in the courtroom by Alfred of all people (perhaps unaware that the Butler is a highly trained actor) and then as he goes to sulk, shirtless, in his basement.

It’s there that we see he’s now acquired the famous coin associated with Two-Face, and he sits in side profile as he flips the coin and mutters to himself. The side facing us is the side which is typically scarred once he adopts the new guise, and it’s really nice to see the comic working to show how Harvey is turning towards stark black-and-white thinking even before the incident which will scar him. Sometimes comics will portray him as a staunch defender of the people who suddenly snaps and turns once he’s injured, but here we can clearly see that he’s seeing the world from two perspectives: those who are with him, and those who are against him.

The rest of the issue is a bit choppier, with lots of short interludes piled up one after another which work in isolation but struggle when read as a whole piece. Falcone catches up with Sofia very quickly as she briefs him on Bruce Wayne’s acquittal, which he barely acknowledges. Sweetly, she also gives him a father’s day present, but he brushes it off in order to go arrange more deals with the various super-villains of Gotham. It’s all watched by Catwoman, whose fixation with Falcone still hasn’t really been explored properly to this point. We’re suppose to assume that he must be her real father, but there’s very little going on with this part of the story. Catwoman just hasn’t been developed unless she’s in the same scene at Batman. Everything else is padding.

As noted, though, we are starting to see Falcone really slumming it in terms of who he’s willing to work with. Poison Ivy delivered limited results for him and his time with Riddler went nowhere, and now he’s spending time with Scarecrow and The Mad Hatter, two of the least comprehensible of Gotham’s super-villains. Richard Starkings puts in a really nice trick here of capitalising random letters through Hatter’s speech, but really the two characters spend more time yelling at each other about tea than anything else. Falcone stops their squabbling and tries to get them to focus again on Gotham Bank, which he still needs in order to launder money.

Across the course of the story so far, Falcone has tried to work on Bruce Wayne directly, and then sent in Poison Ivy to manipulate Bruce’s mind. For him to now turn to Scarecrow and Mad Hatter, despite their proven ability to manipulate and trick people using their varying methods of control, seems like a distinct step down. Scarecrow talks only in nursery rhymes and Mad Hatter is obsessed with serving out cups of tea – these aren’t capable people, not in the way Falcone needs them to be. It’s been emphasised over and over again, but the time of mobsters is reaching an end and the time of super-villains has come. Their agendas are left-field and strange; Falcone just wants control of a bank. This is never going to end well for Falcone, but he still keeps pushing.

Being Father’s Day, we do get a few other threads for the various dads of the series. Jim Gordon returns home late once more, to find a father’s day present waiting for him by his son’s cot. Although he is transparently overcome by the sentiment – which his wife sees – he’s also simply not putting in the time, here. He’s a good man who can’t balance his duties, and it’s not fair on his family.

The most effective scene of the comic springs out of the least effective scene. In the past, we see how Bruce Wayne’s father once saved Falcone’s life when he was younger and had been shot at the order of Maroni’s father. Falcone, brought into Wayne Manor by HIS father, is saved, which obviously causes Bruce a lot of trouble down the line. There’s also a nice scene where Alfred wonders about his role as a surrogate father for Bruce over the years, and if perhaps his inability to lead like Thomas Wayne might have contributed to Bruce’s decision to become a vigilante.

The flashback scene casually mentions Sal Maroni’s father Luigi, who shows up in the present day just long enough to get shot and killed by Holiday. This is possibly the most high-profile kill of Holiday’s “career” so far… but it’s also a character who was only just introduced a page before. Regardless, it gets Maroni in the right mental place for him to show up right at the end of the issue to try and make a deal with Harvey Dent. If handled correctly, the pairing of Harvey – who is spiralling out of control – and Maroni – who is spiralling out of control – could make for really engaging reading. These are two characters who want to get the job done, and now they’re working together it sounds like the 4th July could provide real… fireworks?

See you at Independence Day!

Batman The Long Halloween #9: Father’s Day
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale
Colours by Gregory Wright
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

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