This book is the sequel to The Long Halloween and it definitely works with that in mind. When it stands alone, this book isn’t nearly as good as it is without its predecessor. Much like the first story’s ending seems a bit unfinished without this collection. When these two combine however, you have a truly epic Batman adventure.
This book’s format, length, look, style and even its plot are very similar to The Long Halloween. Again, this is a “who done it” about a killer who murders people on holidays. Instead of mobsters, death finds the cops. Instead of getting shot, the victims are hanged. Clues are again left, but instead of involving holidays, they portray the game of Hang Man with different phrases written on them. Also, all the clues point to Harvey Dent as the killer.
In the first book, Loeb relied heavily on the mystery and who was behind the killings. In this story, the mystery takes a bit of a back seat to deal with the characters involved in the mystery. The “who done it” is easier to solve in this collection than the last one, but this time, almost every character is focused on and we are given good reason to either love or hate them. Also, we see a lot less of Bruce Wayne because Batman is more in control this time. We also get to see the origin of Dick Grayson played out and we see his slow transformation into Robin. Tim Sale’s art was already miraculous in the first book and his art has continued to evolve. The characters still have that unique stylization that brings a bit of magic out of everyone.
I suppose in addition to the mystery being a bit easier to unravel, the story’s length also hinders its enjoyment a bit. Especially when combined with the first story. Still, it doesn’t affect its impact nor does it detract from the quality of the story. By the end of both books we are tired of all the murder and corruption in Gotham, but I suppose that’s how Batman feels.
I really enjoyed this book. Even though it doesn’t receive as much praise as The Long Halloween, there is still plenty to love and I may have even enjoyed this story more.