There and Back Again selects a character to highlight, then showcases iconic stories and moments within that character’s history.
Written By: Jeph Loeb
Art By: Tim Sale
Published: December 1, 1996 – December 1, 1997 by DC Comics
Over the years Batman has gained many titles: Dark Knight, Caped Crusader, or just the Bat. My favorite however, is The World’s Greatest Detective. It conjures an image of not just a hero, not just a crime fighter, but someone who is superior, in every way, than any criminal. No matter how clever the bad-guy, regardless of how difficult the situation, The World’s Greatest Detective will reign supreme.
When you stop and think about who Batman has faced down, is there a more menacing title than The World’s Greatest Detective. The Riddler challenges his intellect, Poison Ivy his sexuality, Joker his sanity, Bane his physical prowess, Ra’s al Ghul his leadership, and Two-Face his humanity. Yet, every time, in every possible way, Batman has outclassed them all. If you’re a criminal in Gotham, knowing the powerhouses Batman has fought and conquered, The World’s Greatest Detective stops being a title; it becomes a threat. In “Batman: The Long Halloween,” we get to watch the beginnings of Batman becoming that very threat.
The Long Halloween is a thirteen issue run from the mid 90’s. It’s set during Batman’s earlier years, my favorite Batman time period. This is before any of the arch-villains have become household name’s within Gotham. He’s still proving himself to Gordon, heck, he’s still learning how to be Batman.
What we’re given in the Long Halloween is a crime drama/murder mystery in which we see Batman in an unfamiliar place: he’s learning. This is a complete contrast to today’s, modern, Batman (which I do love). He doesn’t have a contingency for every conceivable scenario tucked away in a pouch, or hidden in the shadows of the Bat-cave. This is a young, raw Batman facing a criminal who is easily as clever as he is at this time.
Every holiday, whether it be Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving, a serial killer the news is calling “Holiday,” murders someone. Yet, to no Batman fan’s surprise, killing on a holiday isn’t weird enough. The Holiday specifically targets people from the Maroni mob. To further complicate things, on April Fool’s Day this serial killer, with all the opportunity needed, chooses not to kill, but instead purposefully leaves it’s victim alive and well.
Now, if you read the name Maroni, you might think you already have the answer. I mean, isn’t there a gang-war like, every other weekend in Gotham? If the Maroni’s are getting picked off, it’s probably someone from the Falcone family. You’d think so, until Falcone’s own son Alberto gets shot in the head by Holiday.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to dive face first into this story, allow me to also mention that over these thirteen issues, nearly every villain we know and love also make appearances. Scarecrow, Joker, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Calendar Man, Solomon Grundy, and Catwoman all show up in meaningful ways. To further my point still, we’re given a pre-converted Harvey Dent partnering up with Gordon and the Bat to catch Holiday. It is in these very pages where the transformation of Harvey into Two-Face was brought to new life after almost a decade.
This story is by far one of the most dark and gritty crime drama, murder mystery, story driven arcs I’ve ever read. It has every ounce of the Batman I love, put into a position he’s unfamiliar with, while facing his yet-to-be greatest enemies. This is the Batman story, which is absolutely available in TPB, that I give to both burgeoning Batman fans, and longtime addicts alike, when asked for something special.