TLH11

It’s a surprise Netflix have never attempted to bring the story to serialisation, because the structure is very similar to the classic ‘binge’ structure of their series – namely in that things sag for a while before too much happens at once which you wish had been given more time to grow earlier. What could have been a rest month (given that there are no major holidays in August, unless you count Watermelon Day) turns out to be the most dramatic and fast-paced issue of The Long Halloween in quite some time, with Riddler returning to try and offer some answers, as Maroni goes to trial and Falcone celebrates his birthday.

That’s the holiday this month, by the way – August 2nd, the day of The Roman’s birthday. He celebrates with his family, including the apparently quite kind-hearted Sofia, who is centre-stage as she wishes her dad a happy birthday. Her role has changed throughout her late appearance into the central narrative, but then again this isn’t an issue which is particularly kind to its female characters. Catwoman sits this one out, and instead we see Gilda Dent trying to stand up to her domineering husband – poorly. Her character doesn’t fit in this storyline as it stands. She’s drawn like a doll, smaller than all the other characters, neat and tidy in appearance, and cowers out of the panel at any given opportunity.

That keeps her alive, at least, unlike certain other, more dominating female characters in the issue. Let’s get to that later though. Perhaps the moral of this issue is that it’s always the quieter ones you have to look out for, because the more posturing you get from a character, the more likely it is they’re going to be tripped up by the quieter folk living in their orbit.

What unites the characters here is that they’re all so close to achieving whatever they’ve been after since the start of the storyline. Harvey Dent finally has someone in court who’s looking to deliver him Carmine Falcone on a silver platter, seemingly, although we already know that Sal Maroni has been reached and is acting as a trap. Falcone has Dent exactly where he wants him, and is very close to taking out his closest rival and the stern DA at the same time. The only problem for both characters is that they don’t have the trust or approval of their peers anymore. Dent stands apart from everyone, having pushed his wife away from him at the start of the issue and with no sign of Batman or Gordon in his corner.

As a result, his closest partner is his aide, Vernon… who we already know is acting as an agent for Falcone, and is prepping Dent for an assassination attempt. Vernon’s such a fascinating milquetoast character. He’s actually one of the most simplistically evil characters in the story, quietly selling out his boss throughout the series to the point that he’s willing to set up for Dent to be murdered in a public court. It’s not even that subtle! As soon as the attack happens, Vernon has to race off because he so publicly handed the bottle of acid to Sal Maroni. Harvey was always so interested in tackling the greatest prize possible that he missed both the importance of Vernon to this narrative and the lengths to which Maroni would be able to go.

Maroni’s arc in turn is fascinating, and seems to be completely stupid. He’s convinced to attack Dent in the courtroom using a bottle of acid by Sofia Fatale, and for some reason he goes through with it despite the facts that this in no way will help him in any manner. Other than it’ll make Sofia happy, the act will only cause Maroni to lose power – because while he’ll be in jail as a convicted murderer, his rival The Roman will now get to saunter around a Dent-free Gotham. It’s hard to know what to make of his choices here, or what he thinks he’ll achieve. Perhaps evil is just a bit stupid.

That’s certainly the case for The Riddler, whose showing through The Long Halloween is pretty embarrassing. He also got the opportunity to experience an apparent assassination attempt first hand – his own – and his response is to go to a bar and get drunk by himself. What’s embarrassing about the scene is how off-base Riddler is throughout his conversation with a prowling Batman. He goes straight into a discussion of who “Holiday” is, unaware that Batman doesn’t care about that at this particular moment, and that the caped crusader is instead looking to find out what’s going on with Falcone. The sheer fact Falcone wants to know who Holiday is… acts as confirmation that Falcone can’t be Holiday. Probably. And so Batman’s net tightens.

Falcone’s use of supervillains finally gets him called out by his sister Carla, who rounds on him at a family celebration with accusations about his projects, and what his ultimate goals are. It’s a scene which definitely needed to be set up more clearly (perhaps during the last few issues where nowt happened?) and it’s a scene which is clearly not going anywhere given the final pages of the issue, in which Carla is summarily killed by Holiday whilst trying to break into the coroner’s office. Her death is the one thing keeping Falcone from having everything he wants – the x-factor which puts him in danger just as he thought he’d wiped out the two biggest threats to his power.

Well, that and the fact that Harvey Dent, damaged from the acid attack, has escaped from hospital after apparently murdering his doctor by stabbing him in the back. What?!

I’ll see you all on Labor Day!

Batman The Long Halloween #11: Roman Holiday
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale
Colours by Gregory Wright
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

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