Since we're on the topic of comic books, I figured I'd talk a little about the first full story I read. I think it's officially called a "trade" when it gathers a run of comic books together (the terminology is still so new), but it was a complete story that I read and that's what seems important for my purposes. "The Long Halloween" is a Batman noir, to simplify it to its bare essentials. Batman is a detective hunting down a serial killer just called Holiday who kills people, not surprisingly, on holidays. It was an interesting and engaging tale that lets you place your own guess work into the mystery, but still takes you a direction or two you weren't expecting to go.
One of those places for me was through the major cast of characters. Even though it's mainly a story about mob members being killed, we still see Poison Ivy, Joker, Riddler, The Scarecrow, a lot of Catwoman and even Solomon Grundy. For a Batman story almost entirely grounded in reality's rules, a few of those were interesting to see (especially Solomon, what with his immortality and all). I don't think this took away from the story too much, but it did muddy the waters a bit.
I can see why Christopher Nolan cites this as a major source of inspiration for his Dark Knight films. I was afraid that reading The Long Halloween would be just like reading the story of the two movies, but I can't even think of a real similar moment. Nolan didn't get his inspiration for the story from this book. Just the inspiration for his Batman. One grounded in that reality I mentioned a minute ago.
It's a pretty bleak reality at that. I kept noticing one word throughout the saga. "Gone." It kept coming up as Batman or Catwoman or other people watched someone they were trying to catch or help slip away. For me, it reflected some of the hopelessness that must come from living in a world with so many sociopaths. Batman's work is literally never done.
The artwork didn't get me at first. There was something about it that didn't demand my attention immediately. Then there was one panel, I believe it was a man killed in a bathtub, the entire panel black and white except for the blood he soaked in, that completely changed my mind. From then on, I stopped many times to admire what was done with so few colors.
What did I learn? Well, I really want to write a mystery. I've tried it a lot of times and usually get lost somewhere in the first act, but that doesn't mean I won't try again. If I can find a way to serialize it like this (The Long Halloween is separated into 13 issues), I might have more success. To make big stories, I need to start thinking in smaller stories.
Also, Batman's really awesome. Though I think I already knew that. I'd definitely recommend you read this one if you get a shot.