I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
My biggest regret with this book is that I read it in July, when the sun was out and it was eighty degrees in the evening. This is the kind of book I would want to read in October, when the air is crisp and the leaves are dead and I go walking in the evening with my dog, passing the cemetery with some bizarre anticipation. It’s a Halloween book, set at Halloween and it’s great for Halloween.
Luke’s like goes from normal to haunted quickly. He finds out his dad is dead, he’s inherited a host of spirits and they’re not happy. It might be cool if you found out that you have a bunch of ghosts who will follow your orders, it would be less cool if they were out to add you to their ranks.
This book is aimed at young adults, and you can tell in the way the story flows, but it surprised me by how dark it went. Maybe I haven’t read enough teen literature yet, but I can’t imagine a lot of them have the literal devil, blood sacrifices and necromancer wars. There’s some interested world building, which is mainly near the end, but it feels slightly out of place with the rest of the book.
Luke’s a likable character, starting as a popular jock at school with a decent understanding of how and why cliques work. Once he inherits the ghosts, he finds that there’s more help to be had with the weirder kids. Elza, a girl at school who can see those in the world beyond, is a great partner who just doesn’t give a crap about social cues. She would be right at home in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics.
The ghost themselves are alright, but we never really get to know them. There’s the big bad, the monster and the one who’s getting to old for this, but they’re not really fleshed out as characters. There’s eight of them, but it might have been better to have a few less and make them more memorable.
I liked the book and Leo Hunt has a way with words when it comes to the netherworld and Hell and he does a few run-off paragraphs that hit hard. I’ve already ordered the book for my library and would get the sequel, if it happens. It’s dark, unique in it’s British-setting and a fast-paced page turner. It’s not perfect, but it’s doing a lot and building some interesting ideas for it’s world. Recommended.
Part Three of the Batman Reread! In this, I look back on Batman: The Long Halloween.
The Long Halloween was one of the first ‘official’ sequels to Year One. Written between 1996-1997, the book is by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale. A serial killer, dubbed Holiday, is taking out members of the Falcone and Maroni family, Harvey Dent is trying to shut down the mob, and Batman’s rogue’s gallery is causing no end of trouble. There’s a lot going on and it’s no wonder it takes a year to tell.
Normally, I wait until the end to talk about the art but there’s no way for me to hold off with this book. Tim Sale’s art is gorgeous and one of a kind, and everything he draws is dynamic. Even the scenes that are just talking heads are lovingly illustrated and knock your socks off. His Batman is both heroic and demonic and his cape moves in the spirit of Todd McFarlane. I know the art might not be for everyone, some people prefer the realistic styling of Jim Lee and the like, but it’s Sale’s stylized art that truly makes this book a classic.
Which, upon rereading this, I believe even more strongly than I once did. On my first read, this book felt like a great American novel, with clever dialogue and a mindbending mystery. Now, not so much.
Jeph Loeb does a good job with this story but it suffers from his own style. If you read interviews and hear others talk about him, it seems that Loeb likes to write stories without the answers planned out. So, in this book, he’s written a murder mystery without knowing who he’s going to have end up be the killer. When I first read this, I thought the multiple choice answer of the Holiday’s identity was brilliant, because it let me decide who was the real bad guy. Now, I just wish Loeb would have told us, because it seems like everyone was Holiday, which means the character isn’t really important, because it doesn’t really exist.
I also had remembered Harvey Dent and his transformation into Two-Face being more subtle and tragic but on rereading, I was disappointed. It seems like Dent was always an angry and dark character, willing to bend to the rules to see justice. Maybe I’m bringing Christopher Nolan’s White Knight version of the character into the book now, but it does hinder my sympathy for Dent.
Okay, one more complaint. Batman fails. I hate that. I hate it when all the work a hero does ends up being fruitless. Remember how Jim Gordon and the others went to a lot of trouble to save the mayor from the Joker’s shooting in The Dark Knight? But then, in the next movie, the same character is killed off by Bane, making pointless all the work the heroes did! I hate stuff like that.
So, when Two-Face kills the mod boss, while Batman is in the room, I’m angry because Batman didn’t save the day. Holiday is never stopped, even though some people end up in jail for the murders, but everyone he wanted to kill is dead now! At the end, the question is asked if Batman and Gordon did the right thing, but looking back, I’m not sure what they did to help!
It really is Tim Sale’s art the saves this for me. I’ll read countless stories of nonsensical plotting as long as a get a parade of Batman’s villains drawn by Sale. And there are plenty of cool moments that Loeb gives us, many of them ending up in The Dark Knight (the burning pile of money, the pact between Dent, Gordon and Batman). Catwoman is written well here and is one of the cooler parts of the story. I also liked how this book shows the switch in Gotham from normal mob crime to Batman’s more colorful super villains. And if you don’t feel bad during the Mother and Father Day chapters, you need your heart checked.
Also worth checking our is the Noir version of the book. Without colors, the lines pop and you can feel the grit this story has. I still prefer Sale’s art with the dynamic colors, especially since the holidays rely on them, but it’s still great to look through.
Up next, Dark Victory!
I’ve been in a huge Batman mood lately. I’m rewatching Batman: The Animated Series (which hopefully will go all the way to Justice League Unlimited). I also started listening to Fatman on Batman with Kevin Smith and that’s been rekindling my whole love affair with the character. The thing about Batman, for me, is that my interest in him doesn’t stem from the comics. Where I feel in love with the X-Men and Daredevil through the old stories, Batman is a character who encompasses every form of media and I was introduced to through cartoons, movies and video games.
But when I did get into the comics, I got into them hard. I started with No Man’s Land, but then started into the classics, Year One, Dark Knight Returns and the Long Halloween. I haven’t stopped since either, and the amount of Batman comics I’ve read is second only to the X-Men.
But I want to read them again.
It’s been maybe a decade since I read my first Batman comics and I haven’t reread most of them since. Now it’s time to go back. So, I’m going to reread all the old classics, my favorites and the new stuff. Below, is my reading order from top to bottom.
The Man Who Laughs
Quick Looks Part One
The Long Halloween
The Killing Joke
Death in the Family
No Man’s Land
Under the Red Hood
Batman and Son
Heart of Hush
Whatever Happened to the Cape Crusader?
The Court of Owls
Death of the Family
The Dark Knight Returns
I’m reading them in story-chronological, not publication order. This lets me end with the Dark Knight Returns, which seems to make sense for the whole plan. Also, there are some key stories that I don’t feel like rereading because I didn’t like them (Knightfall) or they don’t seem as important (The Cult), but I’m still going to comment on them when they would come up chronologically. This way, I don’t have to get through Grant Morrison’s crap again.
As a note, if you haven’t read them, don’t expect a full summary of the stories. One thing I can’t stand about most rereads/rewatches is that they spend 85% of the text explaining the episode, and then add a quip comment or two.
Also, my lovely wife will be (hopefully) reading them too and commenting. It’s going to be her first time through each of them, so we get another perspective on how the books have aged and other neat bits. So, most likely, this will be a regular (weekly) production on the blog. Feel free to read along and comment as I work through this list.