A serial killer who dispatches with his victims on notable dates of the calendar gets nicknamed "Holiday" by the media, but he's killing Falcone's gangsters - the organised crime group who hold Gotham to ransom - he may be inadvertently cleaning up the city but he's still breaking the law. The trinity guardianship of James Gordon, Harvey Dent and the Batman make a pact to find Holiday, but it takes longer than expected and there are twists along the way.
The almost cinematic, noir look is striking straight away, the visual quality of this graphic novel give it a unique and mature feel. The gangster 'baddies' are sometimes grotesquely drawn and it reflects their influence on the city, overall the artwork is of a consistently high quality with some black and white pages accented by a single colour feature - it's effective and looks quite beautiful. It's not just the artistic qualities which give this a level of maturity, the pathos between Gordon, Dent and Batman has a real gravitas to it. Each respect and trust each other (though with a healthy amount of reserved suspicion). Their relationship underpins the entire story and neither is ignored or under-developed. The domesticity of Gordon and Dent's lives are shown as we see them juggling their jobs with home life, their wives too play an important part in fleshing out the strains that their work (and obsession) has on their own families. This is easily one of the most the most developed incarnations of Batman I've seen, he has an emotional depth and an anger unlike any other Bats. We see a grown Bruce Wayne cry at his sense of guilt over his parent's death, he feels directly responsible and instead of going out on a costumed jolly he is genuinely haunted by the evil in the city. Some of the older comics (and definitely the TV series) depicted Batman as camp, but he's certainly not in The Long Halloween - this is a stubbly, gruff Batman who looks aggressive, a perfect vigilante.
Joseph Loeb shows how great a writer he can be by creating a very long story (this is three times the length of Year One) which is episodic but linked by constant story arcs. Practically the entire Batman Rogue's Gallery makes an appearance but it doesn't feel as though they are simply being crammed into the story for the sake of it, each is there for a reason and even when you start to think that they perhaps aren't adding much, you are then shown why they are there. Each chapter represents a 'holiday' from the year and that adds to the uniqueness of the book, it is segmented by Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc, rather than the usual numbered chapters. This portrays the movement of time and the year-long span of the whole story - it's epic and the timeline enhances the sense of desperation and menace experienced by the main characters. Long Halloween is also a two-face origins story and it's easily the most heartfelt telling of his creation, it spends time making sure you understand his motives. The dialogue steers clear of cheesy one-liners and flows naturally, you can hear the voices in your head and along with the visuals you'll feel as though you've just watched a highly stylised film!
In a nutshell: This story set a year or after Year One still covers the early part of Bruce Wayne's 'career' as Batman but it's made clear that he's encountered a lot and been on a steep learning curve. Gordon and Dent are equally as important to the story and this is easily one of the best and most grown up Batman titles available. The very first chapter is probably the most engrossing piece of Batman I've ever read, and this graphic novel never really loses momentum, it's obvious why this was has been so influencial on subsequent books and the Chris Nolan films.