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: (Movie Faces of Harvey Dent)

There's a lot more to Billy Dee Williams' portrayal Harvey Dent from Tim Burton's Batman (1989) than you might have suspected. I know that I certainly didn't think there was much to say, which is why it's taken me this long to finally write about one of the most famous portrayals of Harvey in pop culture.


I'd wager that, for most people around 1989, this was their introduction to the character, even if they weren't yet aware that he was going/supposed to become a major villain. I would imagine that when most people--the non-comics fans whose experience with Batman came only from the Adam West show--were watching the film, their thought was less, "Hey, it's Two-Face" and more "Hey, it's Billy Dee Williams!"

Here's your opportunity to get all the references out of your Degobah system.

If the movie's Harvey didn't especially stand out, it's no surprise: he's kind of a nothing character, mainly there to represent the side of law and order who are there to get screwed with by the Joker. Oh sure, he's introduced as making a bold (but surely doomed) stand against the mob kingpin who has ruled Gotham for years, but that promise is quickly wasted in favor of turning him, Mayor Borg, and Jim Gordon into a three-headed representation of Gotham's ineffectual establishment.

In this scene from the rare Star Trek/Star Wars crossover, Lando is assimilated into the Borg. /rimshot /couldntresist

Almost immediately after his first appearance, Harvey spends the rest of the film as a bureaucrat and accountant whose only job is to make sure a parade happens. This could have worked if it were played for conflict, much like how Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones was brought in to be the King's Hand only to find himself having to scrape together funds for a pointless, wasteful tourney (no spoilers, please, I haven't even finished the first book!), but instead, Billy Dee's Harvey doesn't get to do anything at all except be shouted at by the Mayor and look official. As a result, Harvey Dent in Batman is so damn inconsequential that his role in the comics adaptation (written by our old pal Denny O'Neil!) is reduced to just two panels with no dialogue!

Source: Gotham Alleys

But if you look behind the scenes, you'll discover that this wasn't always the case... )

What could Billy Dee Williams' have been like as Two-Face? Hard to say. I haven't seen anything to indicate that he could go there as an actor, but if any of you know any performances of his that hinted at that kind of darkness, do let me know! Considering what happened with Tommy Lee Jones and Batman Forever (which I both enjoy on their own merits, mind you), I think that it's a shame that Billy Dee Williams never had a chance to prove himself with the role.

Nonetheless, Billy Dee Williams' performance of Harvey in Batman--truncated as it was--stands as a milestone for the character, paving the way for the character's fame in non-comics pop culture through B:TAS and beyond. Maybe he's the George Lazenby of Harvey Dents, but Lazenby has still earned his plance in the Bond mythos, and so too has Billy Dee with Two-Face. Not too shabby, when all's said and done.

about_faces: (Default)
So hey, remember when I said that I'd discovered an even-more-obscure Batman newspaper comic strip, one which featured what may well be the single rarest Two-Face appearance ever?

Well, good news, everyone! I have come into possession of several scans of the strips, including most of the Two-Face stuff! Not all of it, sadly, and I'm missing the surrounding strips, so the result kinda just feels like being plunked into the middle of a story. But the important thing is, hey, long-lost Two-Face appearance! What's more, as this pre-dates the O'Neil/Adams classic Half an Evil, this strip is actually Harvey's first true appearance during his seventeen-year absence in the Silver Age! So okay, it's crazy rare and historically important, but is it any good? Let's find out!

He was top of his class at Handsome Law School! )

And on that cliffhanger, I'm afraid I've run out of strips. If I ever get my hands on any other scans, I'll be sure to either revise this post or do a whole new, more complete version of this. So yeah, all in all, this strip is much more what I expected the 90's strip to be: an amusing and kinda cool little artifact with some neat bits, but ultimately nothing to write home about for any reason other than its sheer obscurity. Pretty much everything that I didn't include centered around 60's-style Batman detective work and riddle-solving, which didn't exactly make for compelling reading nor offer any character moments. Still, I'm glad to at least have found this much of something which isn't anywhere else on the internet! What think you folks?
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
For seventeen years now, I've held a grudge against Shadow of the Bat, the two-part Batgirl origin episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Or rather, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, as the show was retitled in the wake of Batman Forever in order to capitalize on that damnable sidekick.

As you might be able to tell, I don't care much for Robin, and that apathy goes for the Bat-Family in general (save for Alfred), including Batgirl. Look, I've always liked Oracle, but I've always disliked teen heroes even when I was a teen myself. But while I've gained affection to Bat!Babs thanks to stories like the excellent Batgirl: Year One, I still never cared much for the episode, partially because it's the weakest of Two-Face's speaking appearances thus far. Besides being a one-note character, he's barely involved beyond simply being a villain, and not even the story's real villain.

But that alone isn't why I resented SotB. No, you see, back when WB first released a series of B:TAS home videos, they dedicated each tape to two episodes featuring a single villain. For the Riddler's tape, they included If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? and Riddler's Reform. The origin and his best episode, that's probably the wisest pairing you could make. For the Joker, it was Christmas with the Joker and The Laughing Fish. Okay, a classic-but-weak episode paired with one of the best, fine. You get the idea. And then, there was Two-Face's tape, which had some pretty great cover art:

Love it. So! For Two-Face, you'd think that the only obvious two episodes to include would be his two-part origin, right? That's just obvious, right? Ha ha, nope. Instead, they went with Shadow of the Bat: the Batgirl origin with Harvey as a minor supporting villain. Rassum frassum!

... Well, okay, I suppose that fifteen years is long enough to hold a petty grudge against an innocent cartoon episode with never did nobody no harm. Besides, I've come to better appreciate this story thanks to the YA novelization Dual to the Death, which combined this with Two-Face, Pts. I and II into a pretty seamless single epic: the fall of Harvey Dent, and the rise of Batgirl. What's more, combining those two episodes made me realize how even his minimal involvement here contains important continuity for his character development.

But most of all, I found myself fascinated by SotB's TRUE villain: Gil Mason, a corrupt cop who seems to be an alternate-universe counterpart to Harvey himself. Seriously, whether it's intentional or not, Gil seems to be the evil mirror-universe version of Harvey Dent, a true Two-Face who doesn't even have to get scarred. It's the parallels between Harvey and Gil which I find fascinating, all the more so because they're in cahoots.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's finally get to the damn review already, and maybe I'll even acknowledge Batgirl's existence along the way! No promises, though.

Would it have made a difference, Gil? )

While I'm still not crazy about the episode on its own merits (although Babs really won me over this time around), I now enjoy it way more when I take the details and motivations of the novelization into account, so much so that I now wish I would see Harvey's reactions to learning about how he was manipulated by Gil from the very start. Even if Gil did come out of the coma, he wouldn't be long for this world now that he's on Harvey's bad side, which would resolve that plot hole rather nicely.

What I'm basically saying is that I like SotB far more for what it could have been rather than what it was, which is still a pretty mediocre Two-Face appearance. But in my own head-canon, it's a GREAT episode, and I think I can deal with that. Old VHS tape, you are forgiven.
about_faces: (Default)
Part 1

And now, the conclusion of (my review of) Paul Jenkins' Batman: Jekyll & Hyde. At this point, artist Jae Lee left the mini-series for unexplained reasons, and artistic duties were taken up by B:J&H cover artist (and artist of Steps, that story from Legends of the Dark Knight) Sean Phillips.

For many, the loss of Lee is terrible, since he was undoubtedly one of the main draws to the story. Bear in mind, Lee was a rockstar artist around this time thanks to his work on such titles as Grant Morrison's Fantastic Four and his previous collaboration with Jenkins on Marvel's Inhumans mini in 2000. Seriously, as someone who grew up reading Wizard magazine in the 90's, I cannot stress how highly Inhumans was touted as THE shit, and how Lee (less so Jenkins, because the prevailing mentality was "who cares about writers?") was hailed as a superstar. As such, to lose Lee halfway though is to lose pretty much the main driving force behind this series' appeal to most comics readers at the time.

Personally, though, I think that Sean Phillips (who is now far more known for his collaborations with Ed Brubaker in absolutely goddamn brilliant stories like Sleeper and Criminal, not to mention the infamous Marvel Zombies) is a far more expressive and dynamic artist, and I prefer the way he draws Harvey anyway, so I approve. Besides, in a sense, this brings Jenkins' story full circle, considering that this all started with Jenkins and Phillips in Steps. Just be prepared for a jarring bit of artistic whiplash. Then again, considering the big revelations that Jenkins has in mind, perhaps artistic backlash is the least of your worries.

Ice cream, funny little hats, and traumatic childhood revelations, behind the cut! )

If you want to own Batman: Jekyll & Hyde, the collection is pretty commonly available, and can be purchased online at places like Amazon.com. There's a lot more which I couldn't include, including more Two-Face hijinks and an entire subplot of Batman recovering from the effects of the serum.
about_faces: (Default)
There is no Two-Face story quite so nobly ambitious, so frustratingly misguided, so fleetingly moving, and so goddamn gloriously ridiculous as Batman: Jekyll & Hyde.

Years before the book's release in 2005, I read an interview with writer Paul Jenkins where he discussed his intentions to tell--I clearly remember--"The Killing Joke of Two-Face stories." While other writers have made me realize that such a goal is doomed to fail, I was damn excited. I mean, sure, Harvey already had not one but two Killing Joke-worthy tales, but while both were brilliant, neither have earned the kind of esteem for the character that TKJ did for the Joker. He needs that kind of story! And hey, more Two-Face! Always a good thing, right?


Here's the thing: I love stories which peel the villains apart and show what makes them tick. I think most long-running villains--especially in the Batman rogues gallery--could benefit from that kind of treatment, and few more so than Two-Face. As such, I appreciate that Jenkins shoots high with bold ideas and revelations about the true nature of Harvey Dent's madness.

However, to say that Jenkins missed his mark would severely undersell the fascinatingly frustrating and frustratingly fascinating mess that is Batman: Jekyll & Hyde. In trying to give the character a new tragic poignancy, Jenkins instead oversimplifies Harvey's origin in a manner that's both cartoonish and offensive, all while simultaneously having Two-Face commit the single most irredeemably monstrous thing he has ever done.

And yes, the evil plan involves ice cream. Don't question it. )

Since this post is already long as hell and we're only halfway through, I'll stop here and post the rest a few days from now. In the meantime, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out [livejournal.com profile] wo_meimei's own critiques of Steps and the first two chapters of B:J&H here and here. She goes way more in depth than I do, and her insights (especially into this story's treatment of mental illness) are invaluable. She also fills in the gaps of the story in more detail that I cared to, which is great for those of you who haven't read the story and are unable to obtain a copy.

EDIT: Part Two is up! Go go go!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Harvey Dent's final appearance in the DCAU (and Two-Face's first appearance in The Batman Adventures comics) coincides with the brief, remarkable tenure of new series artist Mike Parobeck. Taking over from Ty Templeton and joined by original inker (and all-around all-star of Batman comics) Rick Burchett, Parobeck's pencils helped shape The Batman Adventures from a fun tie-in kid's comic into a series which felt every bit as sweeping, cinematic, and animated as the animated series itself.

For a perfect example, let's first take a quick look at issue #9, The Little Red Book. While this was Parobeck's third issue of The Batman Adventures, it was the first to really showcase his considerable talents for action. Considering that Kelley Puckett's story this time around was rather paper-thin, Parobeck's art really was the whole point... well, except for a cameo from Harvey, but who cares about that sort of thing other than me? Answer: hopefully some of you too!

The "little red book" in question is the MacGuffin which drives this story's action, as Batman proceeds to chase down some nondescript mobsters in pursuit of the book. It's only when the book is seemingly destroyed that we learn its significance:

Lookin' back on the track for a little red book... )

I should mention that this issue came out in the summer of 1993, almost a year after the Two-Face origin episode (which was also Thorne's first appearance) went on the air. Since it's likely that Kelley Puckett wrote this issue after seeing the episode himself, I have to wonder if this story was intended to give a bit of history between Thorne and Harvey, who had previously been written as a happy-go-lucky dope more interested in press conferences and hot redheads than in tackling organized crime.

As such, this issue was the very first to actually flesh out characters and events from B:TAS. Up to this point, Puckett's stories in TBA were great fun but less than supplemental, especially since his takes on Joker, the Penguin, and Croc didn't quite match up with their animated counterparts. I strongly suspect that Puckett was working from the original TAS Writer's Bible, which contained many huge differences from the produced episodes. After Little Red Book, Puckett and Parobeck's stories not only better matched the show, but they also followed up on events in the form of character development and sequels.

Which brings us to TBA #22, which stars... well, who else?

Full disclosure: right up until I reread this issue for this review, I used to think that The Batman Adventures #22, "Good Face, Bad Face," was the weakest of the major Two-Face appearances in all of the TAS comics. But then, generally speaking, I always viewed Puckett's stories over the majority of these stories was vastly inferior compared to the work of Ty Templeton and Paul Dini. To me, Puckett's work was fluff, comprised of big empty panels with one or two lines of dialogue with little in the way of story or character depth, mainly serving as a template for Parobeck's wonderful art.

Or so I thought. It was only as I was forced to sit down and study his work like the series finale for TBA with Hugo Strange that I truly came to understand the subtle talents of Puckett's stories. What I took for simplicity, I now see as something that--at its best--was more akin to graceful superhero haiku. As such, I hope that I can be forgiven for posting a bit more than the usual scan limit of 1/3rd an issue. If anyone has a problem with this, let me know and I'll trim or delete accordingly.

While I used to see Good Face, Bad Face, as a blandly standard Two-Face story (Harvey's committing crimes! Batman wants to save his friend! Two-Face breaks down without his coin and goes to jail! Repeat!), I was amazed upon to discover that it actually has a compelling insight into the nature of Harvey Dent's insanity, and what the coin-flipping truly represents. In keeping with the ending of Two-Face, Part 2, it's tragic but not without hope, however distant.

I have to save him, Alfred. He's my friend. )

Purchase info: As I said before, The Batman Adventures is largely out of print, but the first twelve issues have been collected here and here (which is the one with #9, Little Red Book, if you want to read the whole thing). The first twelve can also be found up for digital purchase on DC's Comixology app for .99¢ each, including Little Red Book. As for the rest, let's hope that DC someday finally puts the rest of TBA in print.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Strange as it may seem, many people never even noticed Harvey Dent's first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series! I'm not just talking about people who'd never heard of the character before, but actual Batman fans who should have otherwise recognized the man who would become Two-Face! Seriously! How could this even happen?

Well, to be fair, Harvey's initial appearance was so brief, so blink-and-you'll-miss-it, that his debut feels less like a cameo and more like an easter egg. Also, never mind the fact that On Leather Wings isn't the most memorable episode either. While there's not much to discuss about this tiny appearance, it's worth noting not only as being one of the all-too-few appearances of Harvey pre-Two-Face, but also because his presence in this pilot gives Harvey the distinction of being one of the few characters whom we can say was in B:TAS from the very beginning.

In which I find a way to analyze five seconds of screen time, behind the cut! )

Personally, I suspect that Dent there had no great personal interest in capturing Batman, so his casual line could easily be read as "Suuuuure, Bullock. I'll totally do that when you capture Batman, which I know you're TOTALLY capable of accomplishing, absolutely. Go have fun now!"

Of course, my reading of Harvey's words cannot be supported by these five seconds of screen time. For that, we have to go elsewhere for more insight about his feelings about both Bullock and Batman, to the story which is the single greatest appearance Harvey Dent in the DCAU. What may come as a surprise (or may be absolutely no surprise whatsoever), this appearance happened not in the TV show, but rather in the supposed "kid's comic" tie-in, The Batman Adventures.

I've said it before and I'll say it many more times: the TAS tie-in comics are brilliant, and collectively the best Batman comics published over the past twenty years. While TBA is my least favorite of the four TAS comic series, that's kind of like saying I have a least favorite kind of bacon: even when it's not as good as the others, it's still great. In later reviews, I'll elaborite further on the greatness of men like Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, and more. For now, I'll just say that TBA was pretty damn great, on par with any average episode of the actual TV show, and sometimes it even surpassed the show in terms of dark subject matter.

For example, take issue #3 (which conveniently just so happens to be the issue we're reviewing today!), in which the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. In a scene that would have been too violent for the Fox Kids TV censors at the time, the Joker proceeds to savagely beat Gordon with a baseball bat on live TV. You can see it yourself here if you scroll down near the very end of the article. It's a shocking scene thanks largely to Ty "The Guy" Templeton's chilling depiction of the Joker in the thralls of orgasmically evil delight. And again, this is meant to be, you know, for kids!

So who can possibly thwart the Joker and save the day?

Why, none other than Harvey Dent and his Action Bathrobe! Okay, not really. But kinda! Sorta. Really, you just have to see it for yourself.

Harvey and Batman hatch a plan behind the cut! )

If you'd like to read these issues of The Batman Adventures in full, the first twelve issues are 99¢ each up at DC's Comixology site, and you can even read the very first issue (with a fun but off-sounding Penguin) for free! Try out that issue to get some idea what digital comics are like. If you still prefer paper comics, then your course is going to be harder, since the first TBA trade paperback is long out of print. Why the hell doesn't DC keep these comics in print? Why have they NEVER reprinted the vast majority of the DCAU tie-in comics? Utter foolishness!
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
Okay. I've put this one off long enough.

One of the reasons why I've come to love Hugo Strange is because of how the character was uniquely developed over the decades by a handful of writers, each of whom directly built upon the previous stories. While Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, and other villains varied wildly in how they were written (Continuity? Character consistency? BLASPHEMY! MOAR EVIL PLOTS AND DEATH TRAPS!), Hugo was the only character to have a linear progression from the Golden Age all the way to the early 2000's! It was so rare, so precious, so goddamned unusual, that it was well past time for SOME writer to come along and fuck things up. That writer happened to be Doug Moench.

Now, I know I've ragged on Moench a lot, but until this point, his track record with Hugo Strange had been stellar! He wrote two fantastic Hugo stories, including one of the greatest Batman stories ever. I suppose it was only inevitible that his general Moenchness would catch up with him by the time he made the foolish decision to write a sequel to Prey over a decade after the fact, so he could properly depict the return of Post-Crisis Hugo Strange.

Yes, Catwoman, spines work that way.

Here's a thing, though: Devin Grayson already told Hugo's return a few months earlier in the pages of Gotham Knights, in her fantastic Transference storyline. That story, set in modern continuity, made it clear that Hugo hadn't been seen since the events of Prey way back around the Year One continuity. Got all that? Well too bad, because Doug Moench decided to make that even MORE convoluted with Terror, which clashed with established continuity!

More importantly, though, is the fact that Terror sucks. The main problem is that Moench tries to cram in several plotlines--all of which he's regurgitated lazily from earlier in other, better stories--and falls flat in every instance. But I don't want to undersell its quality, nor conversely, oversell its entertainment value for awfulness.

Behold the ill-fated team-up of two fear-based psychology-driven mad professors, behind the cut! )

If you'd like to read Terror in full--including the extensive Catwoman subplot and full details of the Scarecrow's revenge campaign--both it and Prey are finally being collected in one single volume. It's probably the smartest thing to do, even if the sequel is vastly inferior, but the whole collection's worth tracking down for the first story alone.
about_faces: (Default)
Today, I bring you a post which I fear may be unreadable. At least, if you don't own old-school 3D glasses. And even then, can 3D be viewed on a computer screen? Either way, I'm gonna ask you to bear with me as we look at selections from Batman 3D: Ego Trip, a graphic novel by comics legend John Byrne with effects by 3D master Ray Zone.

I enjoy Byrne's story and art here quite a lot, but I had a damn hard time settling into it in either two or three dimensions. Obviously, 3D isn't meant to be viewed without glasses, and while the actual 3D effects are often spectacular beyond the sheer novelty value, my eyes can't really handle it for long stretches. I wish they'd rerelease this story in 2D with coloring, so Byrne's story and artwork could be appreciated on their own merits, even with all the panels of various objects COMIN' RIGHT ATCHA!

So as I'm going with the assumption that we're all here to focus on the story, let's squint and try to take a look at Ego Trip, a Batman caper written in 1990 but with a distinctly old-school feel, guest-starring four of his greatest villains (including, naturally, Two-Face, who gets a slightly tweaked origin here) as they torment Batman and cause him to trip balls:

IT'S LIKE YOU CAN TOUCH THEM behind the cut! )

As a bonus, Batman 3D also included a pin-up gallery by an all-star roster of artists. Because I love Batman pinups, here's the whole lot!

Toth, Adams, Zeck, Gibbons, and more! Holy crap! )

As always (well, as usually), I've made certain to post no more than 1/3rd of the graphic novel's content, so there's plenty more to read for those who can track down this hard-to-find book. It's available for pretty cheaply used on places like Amazon.com, although there's no telling whether any copies will still have their glasses. Proceed with caution! If you have a local comic shop that might carry it, always try for that first. It's definitely worth checking out in whole. Hopefully someday, it'll find a new audience. In either dimension.
about_faces: (Default)

Even by 1992, Dick Sprang still had the chops. So no giggling at his name, now.

Batman: Two-Face Strikes Twice was a really, really great idea on several fronts.

In a general sense, the gimmick was perfect: a two-issue Two-Face mini-series telling two different stories at the same time: one in the style of late-period Golden Age, the other in painted "modern" style. The concept alone has so much potential for nostalgic fun (Outlandish deathtraps! Corny dialogue! Giant oversized Dick Sprang object set-pieces!) as well as commentary on how superhero storytelling has evolved over the years, for better or worse. More specifically, the story provided a rare showcase for Two-Face, a character who has evolved considerably between his first appearance in 1942 and TFST!'s publication in 1992.

... Hey, I wonder if it was meant to be a 50th anniversary celebration of the character? That hadn't even occurred to me until just now! If so, TFST! was more than just a gimmicky Two-Face caper through past and then-present: it was a love letter to Batman in general, and Harvey Dent specifically. Oh, how very... very bittersweet.

Unfortunately, it's far from perfect. While author and Batman stalwart Mike W. Barr pretty well nails the entire retro story down to a surprising detail, the "modern" counterpart falls short like wowzers, mainly because Barr pretty much writes in the exact same style. There's still cheesy dialogue, bad one-liners, and groaner "two" puns, only now everyone uses computers and half the cast rocks mullets.

Also, cape technology had apparently grown by leaps and bounds.

But before I trot out a summary judgment of "noble failure," let's take a look at the Harvey-centric parts of TFST!, which are all the more important for featuring the last canonical modern-day appearance of Gilda Dent before The Long Halloween came out and pretty much ruined the character forever. Why, no, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

I... I didn't want you to hear this from a stranger, Harvey... I'm getting married again... )
about_faces: (Default)
Happy Halloween, Face-Friends!

I'm not sure if that's what I'd really wanna call you folks, but eh, I've got a little alliteration-lovin' Stan Lee in my heart.

This is a post I thought I wouldn't get to for many more months to come, so we have the intrepid [livejournal.com profile] cyberghostface to thank this time! Over at Scans_Daily, he's taken it upon himself to post Doug Moench and Kelley Jones' Batman: Red Rain trilogy, the Elseworlds saga of Batman versus vampires, which becomes Batman AS a vampire versus vampires, and then, finally, Vampire Batman versus everybody! Including Two-Face! As written by Moench at his very Moenchiest! Ohhhh yes, it's gonna be crack. But much of it is also legitimately great!

If you haven't read the trilogy, I urge you to check out the following links before reading this post. It's not necessary to enjoy the crack I'm about to bring you, but you don't wanna be left out, do ya? Course not! At the very least, check out the first part, which is deservedly something of a minor classic of alternate reality tales:

Must... end life... in classic Lorne Greene pose... from Battlestar Galactica!

The first part, Batman/Dracula: Red Rain is pretty goddamn fantastic all-around. It doesn't hurt that Dracula himself is pretty much, as a rule, awesome. I don't like vampires, but Dracula is always a magnificent villain who just happens to be a vampire, and the threat he brings to Gotham (and what Gotham, in turn, does it him) is the kind of thing that can only be done in an alternate continuity.

EDIT: I just realized that [livejournal.com profile] cyberghostface was unable to include the page where Dracula reveals that, just as birds drinking from a contaminated stream will sometimes go insane, so too has the blood of Gotham drove Dracula mad and thus turned him into an even worse monster. I love that detail of the city itself being able to corrupt even someone as already-evil as Dracula.

It's not only a great Elseworlds--an achievement unto itself from a genre that too often falls back on "Plug X character into Y setting"--but it's also a sterling achievement from both Moench and Jones, two creators whose work is often plagued by excess and bad ideas gone awry. Which, not coincidentally, brings us to the sequel:

Holy god, what the hell is wrong with you KNEE, Vampire Batman?

Batman: Bloodstorm is my least favorite of the three, although it's not technically the worst. There's a lot of good in it, mainly derived from the fun of seeing the Joker become the non-vampiric leader of the vampires, but otherwise, it too often wallows in the posturing melodrama inherent in most vampire stories. This tale of Conflicted Vampire Batman too often struck a tedious balance of hand-wringing angst and grotesque violence, with the usual dose of Selina Kyle T&A thrown in, what with her being a naked purple were-cat and all.

Taken as a whole, it's still a pretty powerful tragedy, and by all accounts, the story should have ended there. There was absolutely no need for another sequel, and yet, we got the third and final part five years later:


Now Batman: Crimson Mist--which I bring out today--IS technically the worst of the trilogy. It indulges in Moench's propensity for overwrought and, yes, hilariously melodramatic posturing and shouting, while Jones' art pushes the characters and the extreme graphic violence to levels of grotesqueness that simply do not belong in Batman comics. It takes all the intense excellence of Red Rain and ratchets it up to cartoonish levels. But just like similar works in that respect, particular the late-period work of Frank Miller and Neal Adams, there's something entrancing about seeing a creator given free reign to crank their bad habits up to 11. It's that trainwreck quality.

And again, this is Moench writing Two-Face at his Moenchiest. There are few writers who depict Harvey as this much of a ranting, raving madman, like Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face from Batman Forever but entirely devoid of humor. So just resign yourself to that knowledge that Harvey finally enters the trilogy just in time to become the second-worst villain of the story:

Welcome to DARK KNIGHT! ...For REAL. )

If you'd like to read these stories in full, they've been collected in this handy-dandy single volume, Batman: Vampire. The only downside is that it was published as a result of the idiocy that was Countdown, and so they've replaced the classic Elseworlds branding and logo with the short-lived "Tales of the Multiverse." Blah. Bring back Elseworlds, dammit! And Harley Quinn's old costume! And Matlock! And get off my lawn!

And whatever you do, have a safe and happy Halloween!

You're so cool, Brewster!
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Let me get my bias out right away: I think Batman: Year One is one of the greatest comics ever made.

It's deserving of every bit of praise it receives, and maybe even more, as Frank Miller has done everything in his power to make old fans forget what so many new fans don't realize: he used to be fucking brilliant. But then, working with a masterful artist like David Mazzucchelli (whose recent Asterios Polyp is a modern comic masterpiece) certainly didn't hurt.

While I find that Frank Miller's more-celebrated opus The Dark Knight Returns seems to get uglier and more dated with each passing year, B:YO still shines as a powerfully humane story of crime and heroism. More than that, it's also an incredibly minimalistic comic that represents the antithesis of how bloated and empty most comic storytelling is today.

Whereas most comics are filled with pointless splash pages and two-page spreads to pad out fluff stories to fill trade paperbacks, Miller and Mazzucchelli could tell entire scenes in just a couple panels, or sometimes even just one. Every single line of dialogue mattered. Every word counted. As a long-winded bastard myself, I admire the hell out of anyone who can tell a powerful story by saying very little, or even nothing at all.

So yes, I hold B:YO very close to my heart. As such, I admit that I was prejudiced against the mere prospect of a Batman: Year One animated film, particularly as I've been underwhelmed by all of DC's animated features over the past few years. Even their best adaptations--Justice League: New Frontier and All Star Superman--play like rushed Cliff's Notes of much better graphic novels. Considering that this is largely due to WB Animations' stupid and arbitrary 75-minute running time limit, I was especially dismayed to learn that Batman: Year One would run at little over an HOUR. No way in hell they could do justice to B:YO in that little time!

Except then I read this interview with Bruce Timm, where he said, "When we the finished and timed the storyboard for Batman: Year One we found it came up a little bit short. This was a new one for us! We’d put pretty much the entire comic in the movie and didn’t want to pad it and create new scenes that weren’t in the comic." So I didn't know WHAT to think anymore. Could they have done it? Were they able to tell the entire graphic novel in just an hour? Would they do it justice?

Well, we watched it last week. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I can give this an objective review. I have no idea what someone would make of this if they haven't read the original graphic novel. I don't know how well it would hold up as a film on its own merits. The worst part is, I can remember the last time I felt this way: when I tried to review Watchmen. By which I mean, Zack Snyder's Watchmen movie*.

I imagine some of you are already going, "Oh dear."

What the movies of Watchmen and Batman: Year One have in common is that they're both technically very faithful. Often times, a bit TOO faithful, where it's clear that they virtually used the comic as a storyboard. This would be bad enough, since you can't tell the same story the exact same way across two different types of media, but the changes/cuts they DO make miss the point again and again and again. Because the original comic is so tightly written, the removal of a single line can cut out the entire heart of a scene.


And yet, after all my complaints, I should stress that this isn't a bad movie. I'm sure it'd be enjoyed by someone who never read the comic. In fact, based on the reviews I'm seeing from people who HAVE read it, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm in the minority of those bothered by these changes. But personally, I see absolutely no reason for this film to exist if they didn't really do it right. The original comic is a nuanced, layered look at two heroes who complement each other, who face their own flaws as well as their enemies, and ultimately change the course of the corrupt city around them. The movie is about two good guys who show up and beat the bad guys. The comic is a masterpiece of comics art and writing. The movie features standard animation and mediocre voice acting, with a couple great exceptions.

It's a good movie based on a GREAT comic, and there's no reason to watch it as anything other than an interesting experiment. If you haven't read the comic, I say just do that instead. Otherwise, Batman: Year One is worth a rental, if only so it can encourage you to reread the comic, which everybody should do. It's a story which deserves to be reevaluated for the modern era, as it's too often misunderstood by fan and filmmaker alike.

*Here's the thing: I admire what Snyder did (and what he attempted to do) with Watchmen. It was an impossible task, and I think he gave a legitimate interpretation of the source material, which is such a rich and complex work that literally no one can agree about what's really important in that story. It's truly a rorschach test for readers, and the film was simply what Snyder saw in the inkblot. Even still, it was only a fraction of the original story, and like B:YO, was hindered by its slavish adherence to the source material without fully understanding the story. There's a reason why Snyder's brilliant opening credits sequence--which wasn't adapted from any part of the comic itself--was a better Watchmen movie than the film as a whole.
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Batman: Year One is obviously not Harvey Dent's story. Hell, it's arguably not even Batman's story, since the main focus and arc belongs more to Jim Gordon than Bruce.

It's more about the first year of Batman being active in Gotham, as seen through the eyes of Jim Gordon. And sure, there are secondary characters who are more directly involved, such as Selina Kyle, Commissioner Loeb, Sarah Essen, Carmine Falcone, and Arnold Flass, each of whom act and react accordingly to the actions of Gordon and Batman. And then you have the bystanders such as Barbara Gordon and Holly Robinson, the characters who are largely powerless to the events going on around them.

But what about assistant district attorney Harvey Dent? He's a relatively tiny character, making fewer appearances than anyone else in the story. And yet, he's a unique character in a very important way, which we learn in the second page of the first issue, just after Bruce Wayne and James Gordon roll into Gotham for the first time:

In trademark Frank Miller fashion, exposition is revealed via newscast that Harvey Dent has once again tried and failed to bring down the corrupt Commissioner Loeb. While this panel is meant to serve as a segue into Loeb's first scene (now that we, the readers, are fully aware that Loeb is hardly a nice fella by the time he welcomes Gordon to Gotham), it also tells us that Harvey Dent was already fighting the good fight before Gordon and Batman ever arrived. In fact, based on what Miller tells us about how rotten and corrupt pretty much everyone in Gotham is, it's reasonable to assume that ADA Harvey Dent has been the sole crusader for justice in all of Gotham City.

Don't believe me? See for yourself behind the cut (AND WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BATMAN: YEAR ONE, WHICH YOU ALL SHOULD HAVE READ BY NOW) )

P.S. Of course, as I'm sure you've guessed, this post was written in anticipation of the Batman: Year One animated film adaptation, which comes out on Tuesday but is available to download on iTunes right now.

In case you're wondering: yes, I've seen it, and yes, I'm planning to give it a full review with the help of [livejournal.com profile] dr_von_fangirl. We're both fighting a flu right now, but hopefully we'll have it out by this weekend. We have a LOT to say about the movie as a whole, and specifically about what it does to our two favorite characters. Does Harvey make it into the film, and if so, how much of it? You'll find out soon enough. In exhaustively obsessive detail. With ranting. And snark. Because that's how we roll.

Note: all scans are cropped from the digital copies of Batman #404-407, which were purchased at DC's official Comixology site. Sign up for an account and you can buy all four issues for just $1.99 apiece. As you can see, the quality of the scans is quite good, and taken from the recolored graphic novel rather than the crappy four-color print of the original issues. If you'd still rather prefer a hard copy in paperback, it can be purchased pretty much anywhere. Read it one way or another, if you haven't already. It's a fucking fantastic story.
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As you know, I've been reviewing Doug Moench's various Two-Face appearances for some time, going in chronological order. They've been a mixed bag, but a far more interesting mixed bag than I thought from back when I read the stories originally. Even the infamous Face Schism story had more going for it than I originally thought! So maybe the *next* Harvey story of his might not be so bad either! Hmm... wait, what *is* is the next Moench story?

... oh. Oh no. Not that one. Not... it... I... I can't...

... Ummm... Henchgirl? *singsong* Oh my beloved Henchgiiiirl? Hellooooooo, [livejournal.com profile] bitemetechie?


Hi! Thank god! Say, uh, how masochistic are you?

...is this the sort of question I should be openly answering on your fanblog? You know my tendency to overshare.

Erm... *cough*... it's just, I only ask because... well, I am about to review a story which is very relevant to your interests! I mean, considering that you moonlight as [livejournal.com profile] dr_von_fangirl, expert in all things Catwoman, queen of Selina... *cough*even the Jim Balent years...*cough*

You don't mean...


Because... because it has Harvey in it! And also, I thought that maybe you and I could maybe kinda sorta do a dual review together maybe? You know how much I love your geek brain. Not to mention your geek everything-else...

Oh, hush. Look, don't get me wrong, there is a lot to enjoy about Selina's nineties series, but you have no idea what kind of clusterfuck you're getting into here. BECAUSE CATWOMAN'S ENTIRE NINETIES SERIES IS A CLUSTERFUCK. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THE CLUTERFUCKNESS OF THE CLUSTERFUCK. I MEAN LOOK AT ALL THAT EMPHASIS. EVEN THAT FALLS SHORT.

Yes, but Catwoman: Year Two, which ran through Catwoman #38-40, is at least a *standalone* clusterfuck! And besides, the events of this story follow pretty directly after the events that you so excellently covered in your comprehensive, complete, and definitive origin of Selina, which tied all her Post-Crisis stuff into a neat little package.

Oh, you mean that post that everyone everywhere should read because it totally took nearly a year to complete, you shameless flatterer? That one?

Exactly! So you might be interested to know that C:Y2 is the only story thus far to bridge the gap between Frank Miller's gray-suit Catwoman into the purple-suited Jim Balent character from the 90's solo series!

But even still, this story is kind of...not-great.

Oh, it's awful. Lousy. Dialogue is horrible, characters are all over the place, and the art is the visual equivalent of being unreadable. You'd probably know better than I, but it might just represent the absolute nadir of Selina's 90's series. BUT it features both of our favorite characters "facing off"!

I see what you did there, HURR.

Basically, what I'm saying is that I want... no, I need to drag you into this mess with me, so that perhaps we can at least get some entertainment value out of this crap.

Hooray! I'm helping!

Besides, I think it'd be fantastic to see what happens when our two favorite characters meet up for the first time. Just imagine: Selina Kyle and Harvey Dent, hanging out together! Do you think they'll get along as swimmingly, as perfectly, as absolutely lovey-dove-ily wonderfully as we do?

I'm guessing not.

On with the trainwreck! Choo-chooooooo!

When Selina met Harvey (...and the Joker... AND the Penguin) )
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1989, from what I can tell, was a weird year of transition for DC Comics. Post-Crisis, Post-Watchmen, Post-Dark Knight Returns/Batman: Year One... they had entered a new era, but it seems like they weren't exactly sure what the hell that MEANT. Batman especially seemed to be affected, and we'll get to that in a moment, but he wasn't the only one.

Take Green Lantern, for instance. After the main series Green Lantern Corps was canceled, the adventures of Hal Jordan were moved over to Action Comics Weekly (itself a misbegotten attempt at an anthology series filled with such fascinatingly flawed and oddball stories such as Wild Dog and the Secret Six team that nobody remembers, alongside more standard heroes like Deadman and Nightwing), and Hal's new adventures were immediately off to a rocky start. This is truly the most ignominious and forgotten period of Green Lantern history, featuring such career lows for Hal such as Star Sapphire deciding to just up and slaughter Katma Tui for no good fucking reason, the revelation that Hal is fearless because he was LOBOTOMIZED by the power ring, and lowest of all, a story which can only be described best as "Hal Jordan Has No Friends," in which everyone--from Green Arrow to Clark Kent to frickin' ALFRED--pretty much just tell Hal to fuck off.

The the first and third instances were written by James Owsley (later to become Christopher Priest), who, in 1989, wrote a story in Batman Annual #13 which inadvertently served as a companion piece to "Hal Jordan Has No Friends." Think of this story, Faces, best described as, "Batman, I Don't Even KNOW You Anymore." It's set in the period where Batman just began his transition into becoming an aggressive jerkwad and everyone is disappointed in him, especially Jim Gordon and even Harvey Dent.

Oh, and another thing about 1989? The quality of printing and coloring for DC Comics seemed to be at an all-time low. The scanner actually does these pages some favors, but by and large, be prepared for subpar quality throughout. I'd love to see this one remastered down the line, even if it's less of a brilliant story and more of an interesting character study for a Batman in transition.

Greetings, old foe... )

Later that same year, Batman's relentlessness would reach its climax when he'd re-clash with Two-Face in A Lonely Place of Dying (which acknowledges this story, even though Jim Gordon is fine with Batman again, and that apparently Harvey briefly went sane at some point before going insane again, what?), a story which further played with Batman and Harvey mirroring each other. More importantly, it's also the story that introduced Tim Drake, which I would argue was the very moment when this weird transitionary period finally kicked into progress.

Finally, after all the deconstruction and tearing down, Batman now had somewhere to go, and the Batman creative teams finally found their footing. And a few months later, the next Batman Annual was released: issue #14, Eye of the Beholder, the definitive Two-Face origin. The 90's were here, and a new era had begun. But Batman's decent into being a manipulative dick would carry on, for better or worse, and would prove increasingly difficult to shake despite the best efforts of many great writers to come.
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While DC's current Flashpoint event is apparently being met with complete apathy now that it's been entirely overshadowed by the impending don't-call-it-a-reboot-reboot of DCnU, there's one thing that's caught the attention of the whole comics community. It's one thing that everyone--from the biggest news and gossip sites to fan communities to even the critical folks at scans_daily--can agree upon.

And that is that Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's Flashpoint: Batman--Knight of Vengeance is great.

No, not just great. Google reviews for the third issue, and every single one you'll find save for maybe one is glowing. Flashpoint: Batman is universally considered to not just be the best of the Flashpoint tie-ins by a *wide* margin, but legitimately, A+, best-of-2011 "instant classic" great great GREAT.

I understand where they're coming from, and y'know, I can almost agree.

But something holds me back, and I'm getting increasingly annoyed that it's something that no one else seems to notice or care about. They seem to be focusing less on the story and more on the twist, which has now been plastered so many places by now that I'm hoping I won't be spoiling any of you by posting it right here. Because for me, the moment I actually became interested in the potential of F:B-KoV wasn't when the twist happened in the story itself. No, it was when I saw Dave Johnson's cover art for the final issue:

Hoshit. When I saw that cover last month, a dozen ideas and possibilities popped around in my fan-brain. That image alone tells a whole story without a single word. In this reality, Bruce was the one who died, and so Thomas became the Batman while Martha became the Joker.

It inverts and plays with the idea of Batman and the Joker being mirrors and/or polar ends and/or two sides of the same coin and/or whatever their dynamic represents, depending on the fan and writer. How would that grief turn the noble Martha Wayne into the Joker, and more importantly, what kind of Joker would she be? How would Dr. Thomas Wayne, a full-grown adult without any of Bruce's years of rigorous training and childhood trauma, become a vigilante himself? Even in this alternate reality, why is it so tragically inevitable that there be a Batman and a Joker?

I think that these kinds of questions were what so intrigued everybody who loved F:B-KoV. Perhaps all the more so because they go completely unanswered. I suppose that, for many, that open-endedness is brilliance. For me, it's a half-baked non-story of pretension, posturing, and bullshit. And it's made all the worse by the three or four useless, boring subplots that go nowhere, add nothing to the story as a whole, and take up space that could be better used looking expressly at the Thomas/Martha story, which is all anyone cares about anyway. And even still... it doesn't work for me. Not like it should.

So in a rare case of striking while the iron is only-recently-cool, let's take a look at Flashpoint: Batman--Knight of Vengeance and see if maybe I'm not missing something.

So there was this time when Batman's wife, the Joker, kidnapped Harvey Dent's twins... )

And yet, I say again, this story has stayed with me. I'm STILL thinking about it, and I'm still thinking about Martha most of all. I just read another comic that mentioned Martha Wayne, and I found myself still thinking about Joker!Martha, as if that's now her defining appearance. I wonder and worry that I'm not alone. Let's face it, this story is probably the most prominence that Martha Wayne has achieved in comics history as a character since her creation, just by default of the fact that no one ever does anything with her. I just hope that this doesn't stain the character in anyone's minds, not even my own.

And so to cleanse the palate, I offer up both Ming Doyle's Martha-centric fancomic Lady Gotham, as well as this wonderful piece by Yasmin Liang entitled, "Trinity Mothers":

Ahhh, that's the stuff.

Oh, wait, aren't they killing off Martha Kent in the DCnU? Well, fuck. Thanks, DC!
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During the 90's, when every title had an Annual and most Annuals had different themes ranging from crossing over into the ridiculous Bloodlines event, giving the characters their own Elseworlds take, or taking a look at the heroes back in the Year One of their tights-wearin' careers, I think the Legends of the Dead Earth theme was one of DC's oddest ideas of the whole decade. Yeah, it's kinda like an Elseworlds, except not. Except sorta. Kinda. What? Exactly.

The idea: Earth is... well, dead, and so are pretty much all of the DC characters (except for immortals like the Shade, who endures through the sheer power of dapper snazziness). But the legends of Earth live on in countless worlds and civilizations, passed down through oral tradition, myth, and legend. It's kind of like Matt Wagner's Grendel, where the character's legacy lives on in a post-apocalyptic future through various tribes, cults, and... um... robots. I imagine that it was borne out of the idea of superhero comics being our "modern mythology," and how these stories might evolve/devolve through the centuries. Yeah, needless to say, this was a bit high-concept, and of all the themes used for the annuals, it was probably the most ambitious.

I've only read about three or four, and just on the basis of those, I'm tempted to dub Legends of the Death Earth to be a noble failure. And me, I love noble failures. I'll take a dozen noble failures over any safe, stable, standard superhero comic any day. I think that's why I've gained a latter-day appreciation for Doug Moench's Batman work. When he's good, he's fantastic. And when he's bad, he still bloody interesting. Which brings us to his contribution to this event, Batman Annual #20: "Fables of the Bat-Man," which has the distinction of looking at the myths and legends of not just Batman, but also his Rogues Gallery:

I like how Harvey looks pretty standard, as does Ozzie, more or less, whereas everyone else are like, "What the hell?"

These are the Rogues as imagined through fables told by an old man to a group of children in a totalitarian dystopia, on their way to being brainwashed in the re-education center. But what the government stooges don't realize is that the old man is using these fables to subvert the system, using the Bat-Man and the Rogues to impart thinly-veiled metaphors about oppression, virtue, and justice. The Joker and Catwoman ones are a bit silly, and the Scarecrow one is just plain sad, but the Two-Face fable is actually fascinating because Moench uses the format to not just comment on themes central to what Harvey Dent represents.

Legends of the Bat-Man and this Villains, behind the cut )
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Sometimes, a character can dominate a story while barely appearing in it at all. I'd call this the "Harry Lime" effect, after Orson Welles character in The Third Man. Welles' Lime only appeared on screen for about ten minutes of running time over just three scenes, yet he's the most celebrated and memorable part of the film.

Fittingly, Harvey Dent has been used this way at least twice: the first being that wonderful Aparo-drawn issue of The Brave and the Bold from the Bronze Age, and today's story, "Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?" from Detective Comics #755, by Greg Rucka:

That cover image actually has nothing to do with what happens in the story. Hell, Two-Face's appearance is actually something of a spoiler, but the cover gave it away entirely, and I don't imagine it would have been much of a surprise to you guys here. So I'm including the image anyway, mainly because it's just a wonderful illustration by the great Dave Johnson, whose amazing work I can never fully enjoy without remembering the mishap I had trying to get a Harvey Dent sketch from him at New York Comic Con a couple years back I still love his covers for Rucka's run on 'Tec, which was a generally-solid run that seems to be strangely ignored these days.

I think the problem was that it was hindered by being in continuity, which meant that it had to tie into crossovers like Joker's Last Laugh and the tediously overlong Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive epic, which served no other purpose than to temporarily shed light on the problem of Batman being too much of a dick before ignoring his character epiphany entirely Loeb and Lee's Hush came around. To top it off, the vast majority of Rucka's run wasn't collected in trade, so it's seemingly been forgotten and/or ignored. Many stories from Rucka's run should be considered classics, including this one, so why aren't they?

I think it ties to the big problem with ongoing comics continuity, which is that some truly get stories and scenes get swallowed up by the bigger stories, thus not allowing them to stand on their own as they would in a one-shot or graphic novel. This happens to TV series as well. I mean, no one can really enjoy a great episode of The X-Files the same way without thinking about where the series eventually went from there, y'know?

Today's story itself can't stand up as a solid standalone issue, since it directly follows the events of Officer Down and also leads directly to what will become Bruce Wayne: Murderer, but it still features wonderful moments nonetheless, and perhaps one of the all-time greatest Two-Face bits ever.

Two-Face crashes Jim Gordon's retirement party behind the cut )

P.S. Hey guys, sorry for the utter lack of any updates, but I imagine you can guess why. Updates will be slow going for the next few weeks, as will new chapters of Dent. Henchgirl's helping me edit the next chapter during the rare moments when we're feeling intelligent enough while Hal is fleetingly sleeping. It'll be a huge-ass chapter, though, enough to tide you over, but we just need to get it edited just right before then. Silly me, thinking I could actually stick to a weekly deadline with a baby! How could this possibly have gone wrong?
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I'm not sure why, but there was a very brief period around 2000 when it seemed like DC was all about Batman graphic novels by Bob Hall, the former Avengers/Squadron Supreme artist whose creative decisions--according to Jim Shooter--were inadvertantly responsible for turning Hank Pym into a wife-beater. Oh, and Hall also illustrated the Marvel graphic novel Emperor Doom, where Doom takes over the world, a magnificently badass story that deserved to be reprinted. But Hall just drew those stories, whereas at DC, he became the writer/artist of a handful of Batman prestige format stories.

For whatever reason during 98-00, DC was all about Hall, and Hall was all about the Joker. First, there was the I, Joker, a particularly weird Elseworlds. Then there was It's Joker Time, an instantly-dated satire of Jerry Springer style TV. Man, between that, 2003's Jerry Springer: The Opera, and Peter Gabriel's 2002 single "The Barry Williams Show," what the hell is up with everybody deciding to skewer Springer several years AFTER that show's relevancy period? If It's Joker Time came out a couple years later, it would have been about reality TV, and really, there's way more potential for fun if you had Survivor with the Joker.

Between both of these, there was Batman: D.O.A. Much like the classic film noir D.O.A., Batman has been poisoned and has to find out who did it and why before time runs out. Unfortunately for the Batman, the story... hell, the actual cover itself... kind of spoils the would-be-killers right away:

Despite being right there, their appearances in the story itself don't amount to more than a pair of extended cameos, but it's certainly notable enough to look at right here! Because frankly, we just don't see enough of the rogues hanging out, y'know?

Oh, just a warning, though: be prepared to ignore the stupidity of the Penguin being in Arkham Asylum. I hate it when writers put him there, ignoring the fact that he's perfectly sane in favor of "Bat-Villains go in here!" But it's okay, because Hall at least uses Ozzie to great purpose, as he and the Gruesome Twosome undergo a different kind of group therapy at Arkham.

How the 'Unholy Three' hatched their brilliantly evil scheme... over ping-pong )

You know what? I don't care. I want more leisure and scheming time with Harvey, Ozzie, and Mr. J! There's untapped potential here like... well, like crazy! Well, except in Ozzie's case, but that group needs the sane would to ground the others. Wait, would that make them a perfect team of Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil? What the hell would Harvey's D&D alignment be, anyway?


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