27th Oct2021

‘Batman: The Long Halloween Special – Nightmares #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jeph Loeb | Art by Tim Sale | Published by DC Comics

So there I was a few days ago moaning at the lack of effort from Marvel, DC, and Image in putting out some decent quality stuff for Halloween. After all, Halloween and Christmas were the two big times of the year for seasonal specials and themed event comics. DC have, with this Special, clearly said to moaning fanboys like myself, ‘hold my beer’. The Long Halloween is one of my favourite DC books ever, and to not only revisit that, but get both Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale back as well, well, this monkey’s gone to Heaven. If you never read the original, although try to as it is superb, don’t worry, as this is a stand-alone story, just one set in that particular time and place. If you like Batman, or just superb storytelling, you’re golden.

For those that want a quick refresher, The Long Halloween was a story set in Batman’s early days, as he tried to capture a serial killer called Holiday. Holiday’s motif was to kill people each month on a holiday in that month (Easter, Christmas, Halloween etc). Virtually all of Batman’s Rogues Gallery feature, and the story connects with Harvey Dent’s slide into becoming Two-Face. Think of it as an extension of Batman: Year One. Move on a year since the identity of Holiday was found out, though that was more complicated than expected, and we have a series of crimes in Gotham committed by The Calendar Man, seemingly miffed with someone stealing his thunder. Though not a murderer, Julian Day’s crimes revolve around holiday motifs – seasons, holidays, days of the week etc. Of late, he’s been busy stealing large collections of gems. Birthstones, to be exact. Picking on the store where Bruce Wayne’s parents bought his mother’s pearls was a bad move.

Harvey Dent is now, sadly, Two-Face. Gilda, his wife, has been away, tied up as she was in the events of the previous year, but has secretly returned to Gotham to find Harvey, now living in the sewers being guarded by Solomon Grundy. Gilda, it seems, may not be scarred externally like Harvey but she’s most definitely messed up inside. Just as well, as The Calendar Man is gunning for her and Harvey, and he’s become a darker, nastier individual since last year too. With all this menace building, there is still time for a little fun. Commissioner Gordon asking Batman if Robin can go trick or treating with his young daughter Barbara is funny enough, but her wearing her home made ‘Batgirl’ costume is the cherry on top. Great stuff.

Gilda gets kidnapped by Julian Day, leaving Harvey to seek Batman’s help, and the two reluctantly team up, though Bruce is horrified by what his great friend has become. He has good reason to be, for the bargain they struck was soon broken. Badly. Bridges pulled down that can never be rebuilt. The very early signs of the differences that will develop between Batman and Robin are also apparent. As Batman takes down Calendar Man, Julian Day reveals his motif is because he grew up a street kid, he never got to enjoy any holidays. Bruce couldn’t care less, but Robin expresses sympathy for how that twisted him. Clever writing right there. So, resolutions of a sort, but no victories anywhere. Two-Face escapes, of course, and other relationships start to develop along the lines we know today.

This was every bit as good as I could have hoped for. Superbly written, with absolutely spot-on characterisation and some fantastic little hints and nods to the future. It was nostalgia of a sort, but every bit as relevant today as when the original book came out. The art, by Tim Sale, was absolutely sublime. His page and panel composition still amazes me, there was just page after page of glorious art. A big shout out as well for the fantastic colouring work by Brennan Wagner, whose muted colours and shadings make Sale’s art look even better, if that is even possible. This was a true team effort creatively, and every person on this book made it the best it could possibly be. Batman was pretty cool too, let’s not forget that.

Comics genuinely do not get any better than this.

***** 5/5

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