about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
In case it hasn't been clear from how much I've been taking this up, I absolutely love The Beautiful Ugly, the latest Two-Face story from DC's Legends of the Dark Knight. Although only a one-shot issue in length, it's a story that works on multiple levels as a crime thriller, character study, urban tragedy, and as a exploration on both vigilantism and the limits of our criminal justice system, something which has become depressingly topical of late. It's also one of the best Two-Face stories I've ever read, largely because it's one of the few stories to really tap into the character's rich-but-wasted potential.



If you'll pardon the pun, Harvey Dent has always been criminally misused by writers. Over the years, he's played a number of roles--thief, bank robber, gang leader, mob boss, terrorist, supervillain--but none of them has ever made much sense for the character when you consider the character's history before the acid hit. This guy was a crusading district attorney, one of the only people fighting crime rather than committing it or simply just trying to survive in the corrupt hellhole that was Gotham City. Why would such a character just suddenly become the antithesis of everything he stood for and become the very thing he once fought? Why did he essentially become an entirely different character?

Part of the problem is that the majority of writers think of Two-Face as a scarred, coin-flipping, duality-obsessed gimmick gangster who once was a good guy. By only focusing on who he is now with little thought to who he was then, this has all too often led to the character being a cipher, one not rooted in any real personality nor motivation. This is probably the single biggest reason why there are so many mediocre Two-Face stories out there. Even still, the character has endured because, beyond the iconic visual appeal and his gimmick, there's the great idea of a character, one who could be used for many excellent stories if only someone would break him out of the usual villain roles and stop relying so much on the coin-flipping as a plot device.

Thankfully, comics writer (and sometimes inker) Derek Fridolfs felt the same way. He's an old-school Batman fan after our own hearts, and it comes through in his work on titles like Batman: Arkham Unhinged, the villain-centric tie-in comic for the Arkham Asylum/City games wherein Fridolfs frequently married comics and TAS elements into the Arkhamverse. In that series, Fridolfs was the first writer to really explore Killer Croc and Black Mask origins since both characters were created in the mid-80's, and his take on Talia al Ghul was far more in keeping with the character's morally gray canon than the Vigo-the-Carpathian-esque mustache-twirling villain she's become in the mainstream DC comics.

Point is, this is a guy who both loves and understands villains, so it's no wonder that The Beautiful Ugly--co-written by promising newcomer Kenneth Elliott Jones, who deserves at least half the credit here--is one of the only stories that seems to have some real insight as to what makes Harvey Dent tick.



Ultimately, though, to simply describe TBU as a character study for Harvey Dent--no matter how excellent--would still be a disservice to all the great stuff that Fridolfs and Jones--along with artist Jason Shawn Alexander (Arkham Unhinged: End Game)--have crammed into this taut little tragedy of Gotham City.

When people see me, they are horrified, not because of how I look, but because of what I am... )

If you're interested in owning The Beautiful Ugly (and you should!), all three parts from Legends of the Dark Knight #56-58 are available digitally via Comixology, as well as on iTunes, Kindle, and Nook stores, direct links to which can be found here. I also highly recommend you check out Derek Fridolfs' blog for tons of in-depth discussion about this story with his co-author, Ken Jones. It's a rare insight in the creative process of a comic by two very interesting, very cool guys who understand how to tell a great Batman tale worthy of the Legends of the Dark Knight banner.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
It'll take me a few days to write a full review of The Beautiful Ugly, the new Two-Face story from DC's digital-first Legends of the Dark Knight series, and my review will also be spoiler-heavy. For now, though, I do want to quickly mention that I absolutely loved this story, and that everyone should check it out. LotDK isn't exactly a top-selling title, and stories like this deserve our support.

It's one issue, split in three parts (LotDK #56-58), each just 99¢, so that amounts to $2.97 for the full story. Not bad at all, I'd say, and it's certainly a better deal than DC's usual $3.99 cover price for stories that have far less actual content. If you're unused to LotDK, there are at least four ways you can buy it: 1.) from Comixology.com (1, 2, 3), 2.) from iTunes for iPad/iPhone (1, 3, Part 2 not found), 3.) from Amazon for Kindle (1, 2, 3), or 4.) from Barnes and Noble for Nook (1, 2, 3). If you don't have a tablet or don't like reading from your phone, you can read Comixology purchases via your home computer, like I do! All in all, I prefer Comixology, as I often enjoy using their "guided view" reading format.

If you still prefer to read your comics physically, well, you're going to have to wait a while. You see, the original plan for DC's digital-first books was to release weekly installments online, which they would then collect and publish as full monthly issues. However, DC has cancelled LotDK as a monthly series, and will instead be reprinted the stories as collected editions only. This means that the only way you will be able to read The Beautiful Ugly in physical comic format will be to, 1.) wait about six months or more, and 2.) buy it in a full-size collection that will probably go for about twenty bucks.

Now, if you want to do that, awesome! LotDK is a neat mixed bag that's worth supporting, and I also rather enjoyed the Riddler/Black Mask story that ran just before TBU, so these stories would certainly make the whole collection worth owning. But I also know that most of us can't afford that kind of splurge, so you'd probably be better off sampling them individually for 99¢ per installment. Ultimately, I'd still recommend that everyone buy and read the digital version ASAP, especially if you're planning to read my extensive autopsy of a review. Two-Face stories should be supported anyway, but man, this one especially deserves attention. And again, do be sure to check out the authors' commentary over at Derek Fridolfs' blog!

Okay, that's enough shilling for me. See you back here in a few days for my full review of The Beautiful Ugly, assuming that nothing else of note pops up!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
First things first, I wanted to mention this yesterday, but my son Hal just turned two, and oh my god, the Terribles Twos have arrived in (what I sure as hell hope is) full force. As a fan, this amuses me greatly. As a father, my ears will never stop ringing from the tantrum screams and I will never sleep again. Hey, look, I'm of two minds about it! Whee! ... Well, what do you want from me, I'm exhausted and have a toddler, it's the best I can do right now.

Secondly (enough two puns, Hefner!), guess what, you guys? After I posted about The Beautiful Ugly--the newest Two-Face story appearing in the digital-first Legends of the Dark Knight--I was contacted via Facebook by the story's co-author Derek Fridolfs! Besides the nice things he had to say about this blog, he brought to my attention that he's hosting an interview/discussion about The Beautiful Ugly with co-author Ken Jones over at his own blog! The first part from last week is here and the second just came out today, in conjunction with the release of the second part of TBU!


I had my reservations about the art last week, but wow, THAT is a Two-Face!


These discussions by Fridolfs and Jones are very cool, as they provide a rare insight into the creative process of writing a Batman story without any of the PR-soundbite-ness that comes from normal interviews at comic news sites. Reading through Fridolfs' blog, it's clear that this is a guy who loves Batman and the villains the same ways that I (and presumably many/most of you) do, which certainly explains why his work on Batman: Arkham Unhinged was always a solid read, often handling the villains better than the regular DCU did. He's first writer to actually explore the origins of Killer Croc and Black Mask for the first time since... well, since their original stories in the 80's, and he also has a greater understanding and appreciation of Talia than certain other comic writers and filmmakers do. I now wish I'd reviewed more of Arkham Unhinged, but I put it off so I could first review the rest of the Hugo Strange stories and then Arkham City itself, so I'm taking the opportunity to talk it up now.

Fridolfs is a cool guy and a great writer, so he's definitely worth supporting. Definitely check out his blog and read his discussions on TBU, and hopefully I'll have my own review ready to go shortly after the final issue and discussion both come out next Thursday. With one or two reservations, I greatly enjoyed the second part, and I'm anxiously awaiting to see how it wraps up!

With that, I'm off to enjoy the rest of my holiday. I was thinking about maybe doing a picspam of whatever patriotic Two-Face stuff I could find, but ultimately, I think I'll just stick with this. I've always been ambivalent about this piece from Grant Morrison and Dave McKean's Arkham Asylum, mainly because--in true Morrison fashion--it's all about using a character as symbolism rather than as a person. In this case, it's showing how America itself is two-faced, which is a perfectly valid idea, but not exactly one which applies to Harvey himself, especially considering that he's supposed to have written it. Nonetheless, for today at least, it's appropriate enough.



On that cheery note, I'm off to find a TV network that's airing 1776, which has its own things to say about the light and dark sides of how this country was founded. I shall try not to incessantly sing "The Lees of Old Virginia" around Henchgirl for the next week, but I make no promises.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Once again, there's a new Two-Face story appearing in the "pages" of DC's digital-premiere Legends of the Dark Knight series! The first issue (read: the first part of three, the first 1/3rd of what will be a one-shot-length story) came out yesterday, and surprisingly, USA Today even ran a promotional article about the story! Why they did, I can't imagine, as neither the writers nor artist seem notable enough to warrant the special attention, and Harvey himself has never been that big of a draw. Still, it's great to see smaller, under-the-radar series like LotDK getting this kind of exposure. It's also neat to see Harvey treated as the star focus of the USA Today piece, even though the details of the article suggest that, just like with the last Two-Face story in LotDK, the real protagonist of this tale will be a regular guy stuck in the middle between Batman and Two-Face.



According to the USA Today article, Harvey "revisits a case he lost and, wishing to make it right, tries a former criminal again in his own twisted way." According to co-author Derek Fridolfs--a capable writer of many digital Bat-books including the solid Arkham City comics and the delightful Li'l Gotham--described the story as thus: "Without spoiling too much, this story asks the question: Is there any way to live a good life without being held accountable for past sins? If you turn your life around for the better, is there any way to escape the evils you did in the past?"

I've read the first part, and while I'm not going to do a full review here (how can you review 1/3rd of a story?), the story so far looks poised to depict Two-Face as a merciless living reckoning--presumably a combination of Javert and Anton Chigurh?--for the new character's past sins. And the emphasis here is "past," as the article makes it clear that this guy has atoned and doesn't deserve Harvey's "justice," delayed or otherwise. Quoth co-author (and newbie comics writer?) Kenneth Elliott Jones, "We see how an innocent person can get swept up in a lunatic's whirlwind almost at random." Even though it sounds like Harvey will be in the wrong here, I think this is a great use for him as a character, one which emphasizes the strengths of his background and the ideas he represents better than just having him be a bank robber or a mob boss. Harvey should always be seeking justice, one way or another. Not only is that perfectly in keeping with the Harvey Dent who was, but it also plays into how he's a twisted mirror of Batman himself.



So how is the story so far? Well, as usual with digital comics, the first part is all set-up, but the gist of it goes as follows: a new gang of wannabe masked criminals have been gas-bombing subway stations, and while the gas itself isn't lethal, the ensuing panics have caused fatal tramplings and other injuries. As the hospitals are flooded with the wounded and the dying, a weary nurse ends her shift and goes home to her boyfriend, Aiden, and everything seems peaceful and calm... until Two-Face and his gang break into the house, looking for a score to settle with Aiden.


That's all that happens thus far, and just like many a classic Simpsons episode, the (ostensible) real story doesn't kick in until the end of the first act. Maybe the gassing gang will play into this further, but I'm not counting on it. The gang's actions mainly serve to play into the story of the nurse, Marissa, through whom we get a rare chance to see Gotham through the eyes of a civilian bystander of the daily chaos that comes with that city. I'm a big fan of these little-utilized trope, especially in stories like John Ostrander's Gotham Nights minis (anyone read those?), so I'm interested in seeing how Marissa's story plays out as she learns that her boyfriend may have been a part of that chaos at one point.




The art is by Jason Shawn Alexander, an artist I've never heard of before who has worked on some Conan and Abe Sapien comics, as well as the epilogue comic, Batman: Arkham City: End Game, which I haven't read yet. Jones praises Alexander's art by saying that it "takes it to a whole other level. His ability to capture and depict the energy and emotion of each moment is amazing. It drives the story home. And it looks fantastic." While the co-author of the book may be biased, I generally agree: Alexander's art is moody and atmospheric, sketchy in ways that remind me a lot of Bill Sienkiewicz with Dave McKean touches. It's very Vertigo Comics, especially akin to Hellblazer-type books from the late 80's and early 90's. Many, I'm sure, will find it ugly, but I liked it a lot... right up until we saw his Two-Face.



I think that has to be the single ugliest Harvey Dent I've ever seen. I'm intrigued by several of the unusual details--the solid white suit suit, the opaque eyeball--but my god, he looks like a dessicated half-zombie half-drug addict. Granted, everyone in this story looks rather filthy and unkempt because that's the artist's style, but it's always jarring to see a Two-Face who looks like a wreck even on his good side. Well, I'll say this for Mr. Alexander, the Two-Face he drew for the cover is rather excellent. Hopefully we'll see more of that Harvey in the interior art over the next two parts.

All in all, I am mightily intrigued by what the writers have planned for The Beautiful Ugly based on what we've seen here and what they said in the article. Fridolfs' last words sentences that a heavy, shades-of-gray ending is in the works, saying, "Gotham breeds tragedy, whether you dress up as a hero or a villain, and whether you live in the city or are visiting. There are very few triumphs in Gotham. Even victories can be hollow. The punishment of crime is something everyone has some feelings toward. And I think by the end of the story, it will be interesting to see if the readers side more with Two-Face or with Batman." (Emphasis mine)



If you want to pick up the first part of The Beautiful Ugly, it's currently available for 99¢ at Comixology! The next part will be out next Thursday, and the finale will be out on the Thursday after that! I may or may not do a full review of the story, as it will depend on how much I'll have to say about it when all's said and done. I'm afraid that I simply don't have it in me to write a whole review for something if I don't care about it. Not anymore, anyway.

So since we're on the topic: hi, everyone! Wow, it's been a longer absence than usual, hasn't it? Sorry about that. I fear that I will be updating here less and less for the foreseeable future. It's been too hot here to blog, and what little energy I've had for writing has been devoted to stuff on Facebook and Tumblr, plus a bit of dabbling in book reviews at my Goodreads page. Most importantly, I'm trying to focus on writing fiction, including a couple collaborative projects with Henchgirl and [livejournal.com profile] captaintwinings, plus I'm slowwwwwly chipping away at the next part of Dent. Well, with the annoucement of Amazon's Kindle Worlds (read: officially-sanctioned fan fiction!), I figure it might be smart to have that novel ready to go if WB/DC starts licensing out its properties, and if I decide to take that risk.

All that said, I don't want to abandon this LJ, nor do I ever plan to do that. But the fact is, the next big posts I have yet to write are ones that I really don't WANT to write, ones which I've put off writing for years now. You can probably guess what some of them are, concerning things such as The New Batman Adventures, The Long Halloween, and Half a Life. These are all things that I *have* to write about, as they're all major Two-Face stories in one form or another, but they're also some of the most frustrating ones for me. As such, I'm in no rush to finally tackle those, which is resulting in me generally neglecting this blog. In the meantime, do feel free to follow me on any of the above-linked sites, if you're so inclined. I'd hate to lose touch with any of you due to my slacking-off here!

Profile

about_faces: (Default)
about_faces

July 2013

S M T W T F S
 123 456
789 10 111213
14151617181920
2122 2324252627
28293031   

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 07:36 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios