As far as Batman stories go, I tend to claim 'The Long Halloween' as my personal favourite (or 'The Killing Joke' - its honestly kind of a coin-flip). I enjoy how grounded it is, focusing on more of a detective story than an action adventure, and it's a good source for letting some of Batman's lesser known foes into the spotlight, if only for a moment. As an example, we have Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian), who is a bit of a 'Hannibal Lecter' type in this. But it provides us with some of our old favourites as well.
Much like with 'The Dark Knight Returns', this one is split into two parts. This is one place I find DC kind of triumphs over Marvel with their animation. If they have a good, beloved story to tell, they will see to it that its told right. A two-parter allows for much more wiggle room. It tends to work out pretty well, and they have a good track record of providing us with some solid adaptations. There's a few bumps in the road, sure, but DC has a good way of not messing around with their darker animated stuff, and this is no exception. To be fair, I'm overdue for a re-read of this story, so there are a few places in the movie I'm not sure match up 100%. But as far as I can see, so far so good.
Things kick off on Halloween night, when Carmine "The Roman" Falcone's (Titus Welliver) nephew, Johnny Viti, is killed by a suspect who leaves behind a jack-o-lantern as a sort of calling card. GCPD Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) calls for a meeting with DA, Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), and Batman (Jensen Ackles), and has them look into the murder, bending, but not breaking any rules in the process. The trio find themselves pursuing a holiday killer they simply nickname "Holiday", who kills one holiday per month. One connection the victims seem to have is that they are all criminals. But who is offing them, why are they offing them, and why are they choosing holidays to do it?
As mentioned earlier, some of our old favourites are along for this ride. The big ones for this chapter are Catwoman (Naya Rivera), who's more of a helper this time around, and of course the good old Joker (Troy Baker). There is more to come though, as we'll get to see the likes of Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy coming into the picture, each in their own unique way. It's that part that I'm looking forward to a little bit more, but I definitely had a good time with this. It's a good look into the darker, more grounded side of Batman stories, and is one of the more classic tellings of how Two-Face becomes Two-Face (another thing to look forward to in 'Part 2'). So if you're a Two-Face fan, this is actually a good story. His role here is a very back-and-forth one where its hard to tell just what side he's on.
As far as the voice acting, the fact of the matter is that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill remain the best respective voices for Batman and Joker, respectively. Having said that, while Troy Baker still does a great job here as Joker (not for the first time), Ackles does a somewhat surprisingly good job as Batman. When I learned about that casting, I was picturing Batman sounding like Dean from 'Supernatural'. He did the voice of Jason Todd in 'Under the Red Hood', but that seemed to just fit. As Batman, it was a pleasant surprise, and he actually does have a bit of a Conroy edge to his voice here. That aside, between the mystery and intrigue, this is a bit more of a unique Batman story, matching a tone a little more with the 'Arkham' series of games as opposed to the Animated Series. It's definitely solid, but really, it just got me excited to see what they will do with the second half of the story.