As the fireworks for Independence Day, the Gotham City Coroner is on the docks of
Gotham Harbor, waiting to meet someone. Holiday appears, kills him, and throws his body into the water.
Bruce is spending the Fourth of July with Selina Kyle at Wayne Manor. Selina is trying to convince Bruce that Gotham holds nothing for him and that he should leave town--with her. They kiss, but their evening is interrupted by the Bat-signal.
Batman arrives at the police station to find not Jim Gordon on the roof but Harvey Dent, nervously flipping the coin his father gave him last month while he awaits Batman. Harvey apologizes to Batman for falsely accusing Bruce, telling him that once Maroni helps bring down the Roman, he intends to take a vacation from Gotham. Jim Gordon comes up to the rooftop then to inform the two that Holiday has struck again.
Meanwhile in Gotham Jail Vernon has announced to Sal Maroni that he has a visitor--Sofia Gigante. Sofia wants to know why Sal is ratting out her father when she went to prison for him and never once even thought of squealing. They share a kiss and Sofia advises Sal that it is really Harvey Dent’s fault that he’s in prison. If Dent were out of the picture, she says, there would be no problem.
At the Gordon homestead, Gilda is paying a visit to Barbara and asks her why they stay in Gotham. Barbara’s answer, Jim’s work, does not satisfy Gilda. She says that the work is tearing her and Harvey apart, and she questions if there could ever be an end in sight to the madness of the Holiday and the Roman cases. Barbara does not respond.
While investigating the site of the coroner’s death, Batman and Jim see more fireworks going off over Gotham. Batman leaves to investigate the source while Jim stays behind and wonders why the coroner was a target of Holiday, since the past killings have had some sort of connection to Falcone. Batman quickly finds the origin of the new blasts: the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter. The explosives released the Scarecrow’s fear gas on the area surrounding the Gotham City Bank Depository, creating a diversion so that they could rob the place.
Batman takes out Scarecrow quite easily but is cornered by a shotgun-wielding Mad Hatter. Catwoman suddenly emerges from the smoke and rescues Batman at the last minute. She has been following him all night and could not help but get involved. She suggests that they run off together with the money but he declines. She abruptly withdraws from the scene, leaving Batman behind to clean up after the two villains.
This page marks the only appearance of the Gotham City
Coroner in the regular pages of TLH, but the TPB reveals a little more about him. The
“lost pages” in the back of the trade showed one scene cut from issue four in which the
Gotham City Coroner identifies Alberto’s body on Jan. 6, a day Jeph calls Little Christmas
for some reason. The text that accompanies these pages tells us the character is named
Jaspar Dolan and that Tim modeled his face after comics legend Will Eisner. (I’m going to
try to find a pic of Eisner and post it here for comparison.)
Note Jaspar’s behavior
here. Clearly he’s waiting on someone in particular, as evidenced by his presence on the
pier in the first place, his door being ajar in panel one, and his calm expression in panel
two. His fear in panel four has to be out of recognition. If he was surprised by the attack,
or the attacker’s identity, his expression would be different. So he either recognized the
attacker, recognized the gun and realized his attacker was Holiday, or both as it eventually
revealed. I only point this out to demonstrate how wise it was to cut Jaspar’s first
appearance. Had it been kept, Holiday’s real identity would have been too easy to surmise.
“Let’s see: first time Jaspar appears, he identifies Alberto’s mangled body. Second time,
he dies with a look of recognition on his face. Hmmmm...”
As it is, there’s still one
big clue here. In panel six, Holiday throws Jaspar’s corpse into the river and it’s later
discovered. Who was the only other Holiday victim whose body was disposed of?
Panel two’s caption (“Wayne Manor. My father’s house.”) is one
that occurred last issue (page twenty, panel one) and which recurs throughout this series
and in the sequel Dark Victory (notably in issues one, seven and eight of
Selina’s dialogue in panel three reveals a lot about her relationship with Bruce.
Harvey’s arrest and trial of Bruce is surely common knowledge, but Ivy’s control over him
couldn’t be. Sure, CATWOMAN knows about it, but Selina doesn’t. So Bruce clearly
must have confided in her. Keep this in mind when you look at Selina’s anger at Bruce’s
distance early in DV
Page 5--Selina’s dialogue to Bruce here echoes Catwoman’s later dialogue with
Page 6--Some of you are probably wondering why, out of all the possible artwork in
this great series, did I choose this page to scan. Well, it’s mostly because of those last
three panels on the bottom. I think they are the most potent images in the whole series,
and here’s why. That first panel on the bottom shows Harvey’s left side, the evil side, of
his face in shadow while he flips his coin. The shadow and the coin both portray evil’s
influence. In the third panel Harvey’s right side, good, is showing sadness and remorse.
These two panels display the ever-growing conflict within Harvey, and in between them is
the Batman, himself mostly in shadow and looking fierce. I feel that these panels firmly
portray the struggle that links both Bruce and Harvey between a desire for a better life and
the need to see justice done. This parallel is of course drawn between Harvey’s dialogue
on page seven about wanting to get out of Gotham for a while, and Bruce’s earlier
thoughts on the previous page along the same lines of what it would take to get him to
abandon his quest. But the comparison is more subtle in these illustrations, and therefore
they are stronger and more affecting to me.
Page 7--Don’t overlook Catwoman, listening in on things in the last panel here. She
tails Bats throughout the issue.
Page 8--Vernon strikes me as taking a big risk here, visiting Sal with Sofia. What if a
guard saw Vernon associating with two known mobsters, facilitating their meeting, and
even taking orders from one of them to “go get a shoe shine” in panel six? Very risky
Page 9--Gosh, this page is chockfull of subtle hints about things that I wish we knew
In panel one, Sofia comments to Sal, “I went to prison for you,”
revealing a tidbit about her previous incarceration. As to what the charges were against
her or the info she had on Sal and didn’t reveal, that we shall never know
The kiss in panel four is also very telling, revealing that their previous
relationship wasn’t all business. I can’t help wondering if that Falcone family tree from
issue three might hold more clues along these lines. Sofia’s husband Rocco Gigante is
listed there as dead; did Sal kill him? Could one of Sofia’s two AWOL sons (who have yet
to show even in DV) really be Sal’s? Could these be the reasons behind the bad blood
between the two families (which continues in DV between Sal’s two sons Umberto and
Pino and Sofia)? So many questions, so few answers.
And the last panel continues
that theme of independence that runs throughout this issue. Sofia says that “everyone lays
off” if Dent’s out of the picture, expressing their mutual desire to return to happier days
gone by when they hey had more freedom, a time which of course can never be reclaimed
even after Sal does “the right thing” and takes care of Dent in the next issue.
Page 10--Here in panel two we see Gilda and Barbara discussing the question that
runs throughout the issue, “Why do you stay?” But you can clearly see here that they’re
pondering the question of freedom in a less perfunctory manner than their husbands. They
don’t fully understand the sense of duty and responsibility their husbands have (Jim
Gordon is the one character who never ponders it, so the sense of duty is clearly strongest
in him). Gilda especially is in the dark, as she shows with her “digging into hell” comment
in the last panel. Even hell has to have gatekeepers, but it is not surprising to me that those
gatekeepers don’t have wives and that in the future both Gilda and Barbara will leave.
(This comment by the by might seem really reassuring to all the people who believe that
Gilda did commit the first three Holiday killings, but I disagree. She is clearly displaying
here a desire to run away from Gotham, not to make it a better place for her and Harvey
Page 11--Gilda’s question in panel three, “Will I ever get my Harvey back?”, goes
unanswered, foreshadowing the fact that she will not.
Page 12--Catwoman is visible in the silhouette, hiding in the bridge’s supports in the
last panel, still following Bats.
Page 14--Here we see the results of the concoction Scarecrow and Mad Hatter will
mixing in the last issue. The explosions of the fireworks released Scarecrow’s fear gas on
the guards, thus enabling the villains to blow open the doors and steal the money.
Page 15--This is a Lewis Carroll quote (from the Mad Hatter? Who’da thunk it?)
from his poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” which first appeared in the fourth chapter
of Through the Looking-Glass, published in 1872, which is apparently about eating
oysters. (The entire text of the poem is located here. Note
that the quote is from the fourth and fifth stanzas of the poem, omitting the end of the
fourth stanza, “ ‘If this were only cleared away,’ /They said, ‘It would be grand!’” The
Scarecrow’s line, “I doubt it” is spoken by the Carpenter in the poem, but the Scarecrow
does not appear to be shedding a tear.) As I recall, either Tweedledee or Tweedledum
recites the poem to Alice before taking her on to meet the Red King.
Page 16--The rhyme Scarecrow is spouting in the first two panels here is a nursery
rhyme “Sing a song of sixpence,” believed to be a charm that brought riches in olden
times. The text of the rhyme is provided here. The
Scarecrow is interrupted before he can finish the last stanza, which ends “When down
came a blackbird/and pecked off her nose.” I can also tell you that the captions that open
the third panel on the left, which introduce the two villains to us, are lifted out of last issue
and before that appeared in the LODK Halloween specials that featured these villains.
Page 18--The reference in panel two’s caption to Bruce’s fears overcoming him is of
course a reference to the events of issue eight on Mother’s Day.
Page 18-19--This quote from the Mad Hatter on the bottom of page 18 and the top
of page 19 is also from “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from the latter half of the ninth
stanza, in reference to the oysters the two characters were about to eat. Luckily, Batman
fared much better, thanks to Catwoman’s timely intervention (and her own Alice quote,
which comes from chapter seven of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland--Selina
misremembers it, by the by. The line is spoken by the White Rabbit and should be “Oh my
dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers!”).
Page 21--Catwoman’s lines in panel one echo her earlier dialogue, as Selina, with
Bruce. The difference here is that while Bruce was tempted, Batman is not.
“Fears” and “madness” are of course the titles of Jeph and
Tim’s first and second LODK Halloween specials, which featured the Scarecrow and the
Mad Hatter respectively.
Batman’s single line here sums up this issue’s theme and
answers the question of why he never gives it all up. “The price of independence” is his
continued existence as Batman. Without his sense of responsibility, the citizens of Gotham
would not have freedom; thy would be constant victims of crime. And so out of duty, he
performs his job, so others can taste the freedom that was taken from him so many years
ago when his parents were killed.
Did I mention that this issue is by far my favorite in the series?