about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
As I mentioned a couple months back, Scott Snyder had announced that a young Harvey Dent would be featured in the upcoming new Bat-origin, Batman: The Zero Year. At the same time, DC's solicit for Batman #22 said (and still says), "The second chapter of “Zero Year” delves into Bruce Wayne’s past with the Red Hood Gang and his run-ins with aspiring District Attorney Harvey Dent!" And guess what, that issue just came out today!

So, much as everything I'd seen from the first part of TZY left me cold, I couldn't resist plunking down an outrageous $3.99 to buy Batman #22, only to discover... no Harvey. Nothing. You might even say, ZERO. Instead, all I have is a story with a more-dickish-than-usual young Bruce Wayne goes up against the Red Hood who already acts just like the Joker, whom Capullo insists on drawing with a mouth, thus ruining the simple elegance of the hood's design while making the character look stupider than ever. There's also more with Edward Nygma and Bruce's duplicitous uncle, plus a flashback to Bruce's training that didn't seem to serve any real purpose. All in all, this was one of the lightest, breeziest 40 page comics I've ever read. Nothing really happened. I never thought I'd say this about Snyder, but it almost feels like Tony Daniel never left the title!

So I guess we'll have to wait for next month to see Harvey, as it kicks off six months of non-stop Two-Face as his next big storyline is released. Which brings me to something I should have written about weeks ago. Last month, I neglected to post about how DC is dedicating an entire month to their villains, including around a dozen one-shot issues for the Bat-villains alone. On top of that, the covers will be 3D, because we have to out-90's the 90's when it comes to gimmick covers.

I should have posted about them all, but I just couldn't bring myself to care. Look, many of these just aren't the versions of the rogues that I'd want to read about (like Scarecrow, Freeze, and the new Ventriloquist), and as for the rest, well, I'm pretty much just expecting the worst from DC these days. It's just for self-preservation, mind you. I like being a pessimist because it allows me to be pleasantly surprised when things turn out better than I'd expected, so hopefully that'll happen with several of these.

Well, a month has passed, and this month's solicits have given us a few more scant clues about what to expect, especially where Harvey is concerned. After a teaser page in a recent issue of Batman and Robin (Whoever) and Peter Tomasi's big Two-Face story--the one tying into The Zero Year--has finally been announced in DC's newly-released October solicits, with a cover image to boot.

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
On sale OCTOBER 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
“The Big Burn” part one of five! Two-Face’s first epic in The New 52 sees Batman unraveling the mysterious connections between Harvey Dent’s life and the origin of Carrie Kelley!

My initial impressions and concerns haven't changed, so I'm still in "wait and see" mode. I will say how that's a nice cover, and the scarred eye is rather reminiscent of Lee Bermejo's in how it's all in shadow rather than showing the evil eye bulging out even in pitch darkness, as most other artists would do. That said, who's the blond woman? Guess we'll find out.

The solicit details also interest me, first because of how Harvey is sharing the ever-shifting byline of what was formerly Batman and Robin before that Robin was killed off. Since then, we've seen Batman and the Red Hood, Batman and Batgirl, Batman and Red Robin, and so on. So does this mean that Harvey will be allies with Batman in some capacity? I doubt it, because it doesn't seem like any writer ever wants to tell that kind of story. What I'm also wondering about is what--if any--connection Harvey will have in Carrie Kelley's origin, now that she's been brought into the DCnU. Will we be seeing a return of the grand tradition of Two-Face having a hand in Robin origins?

Harvey will also be popping up as an ensemble member in the main Forever Evil event series, if that cover is any indication, as well as in the special all-Bat-villain issue, also written by Tomasi:

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
1:25 B&W Variant cover JASON FABOK
On sale OCTOBER 9 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
As FOREVER EVIL hits the world, no corner of the DC Universe is in worse shape than Gotham City! Madness and mayhem hit the streets as both Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison unleash their prisoners upon the helpless citizens of Gotham. And with no Dark Knight to protect the city, what horrors will follow?

As it's also written by Tomasi, it's likely that it will somehow tie together with "The Big Burn," so this will also be a must-read. That said... man, does anyone else look at that cover and feel a wave of apathy twinged with sadness? I call it "sadthapy!" But seriously, until this image, I didn't realize how much I didn't recognize the Bat-rogues in DC Comics anymore. It doesn't help that I'm not a fan of the art either, but still, I really have lost touch with what DC has become. Whether that's a flaw in me (old 30-year-old fogie that I am) or in the company itself, I suppose only time will tell. Well, at least I still have comics like Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman '66 to follow!

That's all for comic news, but before I wrap this up post to continue preliminary work on my review of The Beautiful Ugly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Harvey-related awesomeness that happened on the most recent episode of The Venture Bros! For those who don't know what VB is, it's a great big homage to geekdom of all sorts that was wrapped up in the pretense of a Jonny Quest homage before it quickly blossomed into its own unique mythos. It's also one of my very favorite shows, and this new season is no exception. If you're in the US and if you have a participating cable provider, you can watch the newest episodes of VB here for free at the official Adult Swim site!

In the newest episode, Momma's Boys, the titular characters wind up inside "Dunwich Asylum" (get it? I didn't at first!) whereupon they meet a number of insane costumed criminals, including a one-off bit role by of a new character who is relevant to our interests.

I absolutely love Radical Left, as he--just like VB's perfect Cobra Commander stand-in a couple episodes ago--is that rare and wonderful combination of parody and homage. Those lines wouldn't at all be out of place with Harvey himself, except that with Radical Left, his desire for anarchy and "a nice home with a family" don't have to be exclusive at all! Well, as long as you take "anarchy" by what it literally means rather than just using is as a substitute for "chaos," a mistake that most people make, including Christopher Nolan. Really, they could have just stopped with the visual pun of calling him "Radical Left" (they have a history of one-joke name parody villains such as Dr. Septapus) but that quote just took it the extra mile! If they do bring back Radical Left, hopefully they won't wear the joke out too thin.

Okay, back to the review for The Beautiful Ugly. The final part comes out tomorrow on Comixology.com, so definitely pick it up! One way or another, I think it's safe to say that this is a Two-Face story worth supporting!
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!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)

News has come out that IDW Publishing has partnered with DC Comics to reprint classic DC superhero comic strips, starting with Superman and eventually going on to Batman and Wonder Woman. If you're like me, your fangasm of "Oh my god, all of these incredibly obscure and rare comics are finally being collected eeeeeeeeeeeee!" would be followed up with the question, "Wait... which era of Batman comic strips will be collected?"

While the current press releases do not specify, I got the answer from Dean Mullaney, the creative director of the Library of American Comics, who is putting the book together for IDW. Consider this an About_Faces exclusive, if you'd like! I wrote to Mr. Mullaney because I--perhaps presumptuously--wanted to offer my services in some capacity on the off-chance that they were going to collect the '89-'91 strips. The upcoming Superman Dailies book was made possible due to the contributions of a super-fan collector, and I wanted to see if I might be able to help in my own way to bring this beloved strip to the masses.

As it stands, the license that IDW/LoAC has from DC only goes up to 1972. The good news is that this means we'll finally be seeing a collection of the impossible-to-find 60's Batman comic strip, the one that featured the creepily happy-looking Two-Face! Hot damn, now we'll finally be able to read that full battle with all the rogues! The bad news, of course, is that there are no plans for reprinting the '89-'91 as of just yet, but Mr. Mullaney is hopeful that they'll be able to get around to those at some point.

Hopefully they will, and hopefully they'll keep me in mind too. I still have so much love for that strip, and I'd be more than happy to lend out my collection. Hell, I'd love to contribute more than that, if they'd let me. If I knew how to acquire the rights, I would be spearheading the development of that collection myself, complete with analysis, commentary, and interviews with the surviving creators. Any way--small or large--that I could help to bring this strip to bigger audiences would be an honor.

In the meantime, I'll continue to be on the lookout for affordable copies of color Sunday strips. I just found a bunch of new ones recently, so I'll be posting them here in the near future!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
News is breaking at all major comics blogs that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's next big Batman project will be an eleven-part arc dubbed The Year Zero. Quoth Snyder:

"It's not 'let's redo the origin.' It's time for a new story showing how Batman became who he is in the New 52. We tried to preserve as much of Batman's history as we could and keep what we could of this history intact. It's 'The Zero Year,' the one that no one has told the story of before. We see how Bruce became the Batman, built the cave, faced off with his first super villain ... It's time for a new story showing how Batman became who he is in The New 52. It builds up the mythology."

Most notably, Snyder also said: “We’re not going to take apart ‘Year One’... There’s no touching the hem of that book.”

Thing is, I can't entirely fault Snyder for this, nor is it a bad idea in theory. For all of Batman: Year One's considerable merits, it was really Jim Gordon's story in the year that Batman started. As such, it was up to stuff like stories in Legends of the Dark Knight to fill in the gaps and come up with that new backstory for the rebooted Post-Crisis era. While that's the era I like and while I don't want to see stories I enjoy get rebooted yet again, I certainly can't blame anyone for wanting to refresh that stuff for the DCnU reboot era. Retcons are part of the circle of life for DC.

On the other hand, Snyder's whole thing so far has been to build up his own original Batman mythology, like the Court of Owls being involved with everything, or the Joker always knowing that Bruce is Batman, or that James Gordon Junior is suddenly now Dexter but more evil. More annoyingly, he treats these revelations as if they've always been the case, with Jim Gordon Senior and Barbara talking about their long history with Junior as if it's old history now, or the fact that supposedly every child in Gotham knows about the Court of Owls via nursery rhyme but we're only now hearing about it. It's clunky retconning that technically doesn't retcon anything, while also not really jiving with established continuity.

Of course, this is a NEW continuity, so that shouldn't be a problem, right? It's Snyder's world now, and he's building it from the ground up. Okay, I get that... except, if that's the case, then why are they keeping Batman: Year One canon? Is he working with canon, or making his own? Well, we've been asking these kinds of questions ever since the DCnU was launched with all the foresight and planning of Leeroy Jenkins, so I guess it doesn't matter.

As always, I'm concerned about what's going to happen with the villains and supporting characters, especially after Snyder's abhorrent retcon of Mister Freeze's origin. If this is in the Year One-ish era, does that mean we'll be seeing D.A. Harvey Dent, and if so, what will Snyder do to him? Will the first "super villain" be the Riddler, since Snyder has been talking about doing a big Riddler story next? We'll have to wait and see, as always.

For right now, the biggest question I have--and one which I doubt anyone will answer--is what does this mean for Catwoman? If Batman: Year One is sacrosanct canon, does that mean that she still has the Frank Miller origin? The sex worker origin has been retconned out by the likes of Judd Winick and Ann Nocenti in Selina's own DCnU solo title, so are we ignoring what they've done because no one's read their stories and Miller's work is still incredibly popular? Or does no one really know nor care either way? Probably that one. I know I'll certainly be holding out hope that Selina's B:YO origin will be reinstated, partially because Selina's title has been utterly goddamn awful, and partially because Henchgirl showed us all just how great a character Selina became as a result of the Post-Crisis origin, so I'd like to that to be canon again. Insofar as ANYTHING is canon in the DCnU.
about_faces: (Default)
This news is eleven days old, but still worth posting: Comic Book Resources recently interviewed comics legend Walter Simonson about his upcoming Two-Face-related graphic novel, The Judas Coin, an exciting project which I've previous posted about here.

While it's been clear that Harvey is going to be but one of several characters across this story which spans across millennia, apparently his role will actually be more central than I'd previously suspected. According to Simonson, The Judas Coin is "really a Two-Face story with Batman/Bruce Wayne as a participant, but Two-Face is the one making the decisions." In fact, the story was originally just going to be about Two-Face, but it greatly expanded once it became a full-sized graphic novel. Still, Simonson says that it all "hang around" Two-Face, so it sounds like he'll be more than just an antagonist for Batman, who will be more of a "participant." On top of that, Simonson seems to have a good understanding of the character, saying that "I think Two-Face was the second easiest guy behind Bat Lash that I had." Considering that I also love Bat Lash, this is incredibly exciting stuff all around.

Furthermore, it sounds like Simsonson has put a hell of a lot of work into this book, drawing from a number of influences such as Hal Foster, Phillipe Druillet, and in the case of the Two-Face segments, newspaper comic strips. Or at least "faux-newspaper... it's faux in the sense that I break the mold of newspaper strips frequently in the story." The whole interview is very much worth reading just to hear how much thought and detail Simsonson has poured into this understandably-long-in-the-works project. If all this weren't enough to get you hyped, my artist pal Michel Fiffe* has actually seen some of the pages, and claims that Walt is "still killing it."

So yeah, The Judas Coin is now pretty much the DC Comics project about which I am most excited to check out. Even if it's not a perfect Two-Face story, it damn well promises to be the most interesting one in years, not to mention a must-read major work by one of the greatest comics storytellers of all time. It comes out in September, and I've already pre-ordered my copy!

*Worthy plug time: in addition to his own excellent comic series Zegas, Fiffe recently published an awesome Suicide Squad fan-comic which is both awesome to behold on its own merits as well as a glorious treat for fans of John Ostrander's late lamented series such as myself. The comic comes as an incentive with a signed print, both of which you can get here at his Etsy store.
about_faces: (Default)
So holy crap, DC has just announced that comics legend Walt Simonson is releasing a new graphic novel called The Judas Coin, featuring Batman and Harvey!

Holy crap. Well, this certainly helps make up for the fact that Tony Daniel is most likely doing Harvey's new origin.

According to Simonson, this story has been in the works for years. It was originally going to be published in Solo, one of the best series that DC has ever done, sadly cancelled before its time. Solo was one of the many brilliant projects by artist/editor Mark Chiarello, and his involvement in getting Simonson to create The Judas Coin marks yet another example of Chiarello's ongoing connection with Harvey. With Solo cancelled, Simonson ran the idea by Dan DiDio (whom I understand is a huge Two-Face fan), who greenlit the project. Now, several years later, it's finally coming out!

Here's the official press release:

This fall, DC Entertainment will be releasing THE JUDAS COIN, an original 94-page hardcover graphic novel written and illustrated by industry legend Walter Simonson.

THE JUDAS COIN features characters from all across the DC Universe. Today, take an exclusive first look at the book’s cover based on a featured showdown between Batman and Two-Face.

“The cover for THE JUDAS COIN was designed and drawn with inspiration provided in part by movie posters from the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Simonson exclusively told THE SOURCE. “In particular, I was thinking of the posters of Bob Peak, who did such beautiful work back then with montage. Peak was a master at creating a strong central image and surrounding it with smaller, often fairly loose images derived from various scenes in the movie.

I make no claims to Peak’s draftsmanship, but for a work like THE JUDAS COIN, comprised as it is of six separate but related stories, I wanted a cover that would provide both a strong visual image at its core, and a series of small drawings that would reflect the structure of the book’s interior. Batman and Two-Face, eternal enemies, provided a good focal point. The vignettes around them echo the individual stories within the book.”

Look for THE JUDAS COIN in bookstores everywhere on September 18th and be sure to keep checking THE SOURCE as more details about the book become available.

In the video interview up at the link, Simonson gave no further details as to what role Harvey would play, but added that the story takes place over two thousand years, and will feature cameos of many, many old DC characters. Naturally, one of them will be Bat Lash, a character of whom I am rather fond. A gunslinging fop who was once voiced by Farscape's Ben Browder? What's not to love?

That said, if there was going to be a western flashback, this could have finally been a way to tell a story with both Harvey and Jonah Hex, but eh, never mind. Maybe we'll just have to wait for some story where Harvey encounters Hex's stuffed corpse, because that's totally what happened to Hex. Seriously, look it up.

Man, why does big Two-Face comic news always hit mere hours after I've finally posted a long review?
about_faces: (Default)
After reading this new interview with Tony Daniel, I started writing a whole new post about how, once again, I thought that his heart was in the right place, that he shows a genuine love for the villains that I wish we'd see from other writers/fans, that I respect his intent even though I dislike his stories, etc.

But I scrapped that post, because there's just no point. I'll say what I need to say about Daniel when I review his Hugo Strange stories, his Harvey/Gilda story, and the upcoming Two-Face backup story which will properly introduce the character into the DCnU, which Daniel also discussed in the interview:

Of course, starting in issue #8 you are also going to be writing the Two-Face backup feature appearing in "Detective Comics" with Szymon Kudranski on art. Why start with a Two-Face story for your backup, rather than a Batman ally or another character?

Because the place I'm at right now as a writer, I think it suits me best. I really want people to see what it's like, delving inside the mind of a man who's losing himself in a battle between good and evil in his head. The dichotomy of both personas, with the dark side eating away at the light, and the man himself, going through unthinkable lengths to keep himself from losing completely. Going first person, using Harvey Dent's own words, as we witness him fighting for his demons will definitely leave an unsettling feeling in the pits of our stomachs. Some of it won't be easy to digest, this dark and destructive path he finds himself forced to march down, all the while clinging to that tiny bit of light at the end of what looks like eternal darkness. Having Szymon Kudranski on art is a giant plus, too. I think he's perfect for the seriousness and despair-filled tone of the story.

Will this psychological look into Harvey Dent revise or change parts of the villain's past for the New 52, or are you looking to touch on things we've never seen before, really fleshing out every part of Two-Face's history?

The latter, really. I want to take us on a journey inside his mind, and out, and reveal how he came to be the iconic figure he is today. The end result will hopefully leave people with a new understanding of Harvey Dent and Two-Face.

Once again, I'm very pessimistic, but the fact that he's showing way more investment in Harvey than most writers is endearing. He cares, dammit. Too bad I just have so little faith in his abilities as a writer based on his track record so far, but we'll see. We'll see. Maybe there will be a surprise or two if I keep my expectations low enough, and one good way to do that is to review Daniel's work thus far. Not trying to be mean when I say that, but still, there you go.
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And it's going to be written by Tony Daniel.

The details and my measured reactions behind the cut )

Welp, here's to the New 52, everybody! Drinks are on me!

I'll be over here, trying to keep up with this gif. Rouse me out of my drunken coma when it's time for the DCnU2.
about_faces: (Movie Faces of Harvey Dent)
Well goddammit, now I'm gonna have to start giving a crap about this movie. But I was enjoying my apathy! It was great! Damn it, Nolan.

Possibly spoilery image that you'll probably be seeing everywhere soon enough since it appeared in EMPIRE Magazine )

In related news, Henchgirl made the best observation about Tom Hardy's Bane after I showed her the new image of him on the cover of Empire Magazine: "BWA-HA-HA! HE LOOKS LIKE WRESTLER ZOIDBERG!"

Wrestler Zoidberg Bane. Cannot unsee now. That is how I shall be referred to the character from now on. Or perhaps ZoidBane Luchador? Nah, too convoluted.
about_faces: (Default)
In conjunction with the reboot's attempt to bring in new readers, DC has released a free BATMAN 101 primer through their digital comics store, which you can read right now.

It's a pretty great idea, assuming it falls into the hands (or rather, the browsers) of those who need it. I'm not sure how to make that happen, and I'm pessimistic about how much DC wants new readers as opposed to just recapturing old ones, but it's a great idea nonetheless.

In addition to previews of all the "New 52" Bat-Books coming out this month--including the lettered Snyder/Capullo pages of Batman beating up The Incredible Melting Two-Face and Button-Eyed-Scarecrow--Batman 101 also features a handy-dandy checklist of essential issues to check out via their digital store. Again, a great idea, especially for all of those who can't go to a comic shop for one reason or another, and don't want the expense of plunking down cash for whole graphic novels.

So of their available digital wares, what does DC recommend to new readers?

... Well, I'm sure we all have complaints and nitpicks, as that always happens with lists like this. God knows I dislike Loeb's trilogy of works (and why is Dark Victory placed above The Long Halloween in order? Also, why are the Hush books BEFORE No Man's Land? ARGH, THIS OFFENDS ME AS A COMICS MIX-TAPE ORGANIZER), and I outright hate that those books set the standard for what Batman is in the minds of far too many readers of the past fifteen years. But y'know, I can't deny that they do work as gateways for other stories, as long as one knows where to go next, as this list helps provide. Personally, I think Batman: The Animated Series is a much greater gateway, but then, there's no guarantee that anybody watching that will decide to pick up a comic. After all, there was no great new influx of Batman readers after The Dark Knight, was there? So if Loeb's books get people into the greater Batman comics, well, I guess that's the lesser of two weevils even for nit-picky fans like me.

But I am kind of saddened by the fact that there's no section for the villains. Even when peripheral titles like Gotham Central and Batman Beyond get included, there's not a single book in that list dedicated to the villains or even just ONE rogue, much less a whole category.

Eh, it's not that big a deal on its own, but it is just yet another reminder of something I've been noticing in regards to how the villains are treated in comics. Full disclosure: for all my "COMICS COMICS ALWAYS COMICS" talk, I wouldn't be the Batman fan I am today if I hadn't grown up watching the Adam West show, the two Tim Burton movies, and especially Batman: The Animated Series. In all of those, Batman was the straight man, while the villains were the stars. They could be larger-than-life and they could be painfully human, often times simultaneously. When I got into the comics, it was with a love for the villains already intact, which made it all the more frustrated to often read them as little more than antagonists to get kicked in the face (see also: that opening preview of Snyder/Capullo's Batman #1), just colorful background threats and monsters rather than characters in their own right.

That's not to say there AREN'T great comics featuring the villains, but even those don't get held up alongside stories on this list. If you ask me what I'd want included, I can off-hand think of Secret Origins Special, Going Sane, Penguin Triumphant, obviously Eye of the Beholder, and Chuck Dixon's Riddler origin. That's just off the top of my head, but feel free to help hash it out in the comments.

I feel like I'm expecting too much, but I really can't be the only one who loves Batman for the villains first and foremost, can I? I don't just seem them as "twisted mirrors of Batman" or a revolving circus of weirdos or the Usual Gang of Crazies or living reflections of Gotham's own dark underbelly. I mean, I see them as all those things, but grounded in their characters and their own humanity, however twisted they might be.

And really, the villains don't get stories included in this checklist, but shit like Batman: The Cult does? Fucking WHY? That's one of the ugliest Batman comics ever created, an encapsulation of the very WORST that Frank Miller brought to Batman comics (really, the entire thing is a clear attempt to do The Dark Knight Returns in modern day), with absolutely no gateway value to any other stories. If you want a dark story that shows Batman at his weakest, why not go for Denny O'Neil's Batman: Venom, which works as a lead-in to Knightfall while also being a damn good story on its own? Shit, if you're so hung up on including a dated 80's-tacular Jim Starlin Batman story, you'd be better served including the bestselling Ten Nights of the Beast, which is both genuinely thrilling and gloriously ridiculous.

Also, is there any reason to include Batman/Catwoman: Trail of the Gun? It's awful. I mean, it's really, really awful. It's got some of Ethan Van Scriver's best artwork, but as a story, god, it's such shit! If it doesn't lead into any other comics and it isn't any good, why the hell is it there? I guess it just must be one of the ones available for sale on DC's digital store, unlike most (any?) of the villains stories I mentioned above. I look forward to the day DC digitally converts their ENTIRE back issue library for purchase online, so everyone will have access to even the most obscure little titles for a decent price.

For all my complaints, I do hope that we see an influx of new comics readers. While I side with those who are incredibly critical of DC's new dickhole-for-justice take on Superman, I feel a bit of Dent-worthy internal conflict at the news that some kids out there are actually genuinely excited to read comics about Superman. There's always the chance that the new fans won't be the kind of fans I like--and it's a very real risk, as I feel increasingly adrift from a fandom which I recognize less and less--I'd rather take that risk than see a world where people love Batman from movies and TV, but have never read a comic book. Shit, we're already living in that world right now. So hopefully this primer reaches those fans, alongside the fan-curious.

I'd like to end with my favorite part of Batman 101, which can be read more clearly in the primer itself. But if you don't mind a bit of squinting, here's my screencap of the Batman character venn diagram:

It should surprise no one that I love how Harvey is plunked right there in the center, although I'm not sure he really fits the "sane" bubble, and might instead fit better as the sole occupant of the empty "Good/Evil/Insane" section. Still, considering that Harvey's mostly depicted as being pure villain with lip-service being paid to his good/evil duality, I like seeing him where he belongs, nestled in the gray area of alignment.
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It's been rather quiet here lately, and while I'm sure much of that has to do with my recent posts being less substantial than they were B.B. (Before Baby), I'm also a bit concerned that the recent DDoS attack may have affected things too. For the record, I'm not planning on leaving LJ anytime soon, especially since users fleeing LJ is pretty much what the hackers want, but should LJ be shut down for matters outside my control, I will either permanently move to the Dreamwidth account or start up fresh elsewhere.

In regards to posts with substance, I've spent the last five days sloooooowly working on a review of Flashpoint: Batman--Knight of Vengeance, which has become much, much more than I had expected based on the lackluster preview I posted two months ago. Everybody is gaga over this story, praising it as an "instant classic," whereas I suspect that they're just praising the mini's *twist* rather than the plot or storytelling. But even if it's just because I'm annoyed by the universal glowing praise it's receiving, the fact is that I'm still thinking about it almost a week later. Considering that 99.9% of comics coming out now are so mediocre that I often forget entire issues just hours after I read them, that's both impressive and a depressing look at the scale of what's considered "instant classics" in comics today.

I'm planning on outright spoiling the twist of Flashpoint: Batman--Knight of Vengeance in the review, outside of the cut, because surely everybody's heard of it by now. However, if you're someone who does not want to be spoiled, pipe up in the comments and let me know.

For now, I'll just post a cameo from Swamp Thing #66, by Rick Vietch and Alfredo Alcala:

From the looks of things, it seems like the good side is the one having the nightmare, and the bad side is dreaming of... well, probably nothing nice. I'm going to pretend that he's dreaming about ice cream. Yes, ice cream is much nicer than whatever it is that'd give Two-Face the warm fuzzies at night.

Also, anybody else get the impression that Grant Morrison's entire use of Clayface as a walking metaphor for STDs in Arkham Asylum was inspired by this page?
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When it comes to Harvey's place in the DCnU, the only thing anybody seems to be talking about is his appearance in Scott Snyder's* Batman drawn by Greg Capullo. God knows that all I've noticed, and we've talked about it at length. However, it turns out that Harvey was actually featured front and center on another Batman cover, and no one noticed it! Not even me, nor FYeahTwoFace! Wow! How could I possibly have missed Harvey being featured on David Finch's cover for The Dark Knight #2 and OH DEAR GOD WHAT IN THE HELL IS I DON'T EVEN WHAT.

No, I'm not posting it here. I don't want that taking up my bandwidth. Just go, see for yourself.

Yeah. Seriously, when I saw the thumbnail of that image on the solicits, I could have sworn that it was just a 'roided-up hillbilly in overalls. Even now that I look up teeny versions of that cover, all I see is a refugee from The Hills Have Eyes, not Harvey. Not whatever the hell is being done with Harvey.

Venom. I'm guessing that he's hopped up on venom. He has to be. Bane is all the rage now, and a modified venom-type serum called Titan was featured prominently in the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, to similarly ridiculous results when applied to the Joker (seriously, how anyone could take the game seriously after that final boss battle is beyond me). That game alone is apparently big enough to influence the look of Batman's ugly new logo, so I'm guessing that Finch's Top-Cow-Tacular series is following suit.

All things considered, this use of Harvey isn't so horrible. I mean, his scarring looks more typical than Capullo's, and he has his eyeball back, so that's a good sign that the character will likely be physically unchanged in the DCnU depending on the artist. I figured that'd happen anyway, later if not sooner, but it's nice to see that happening right off the bat (hurr). And really, it could be a lot worse. Bear in mind, David Finch is the guy with the distinction of having drawn the single most grotesque take on the Penguin ever put to print, so maybe Harvey got off easy here. We'll see what actually happens in the issue.

*I have now procured all but one issue (the third one) of Scott Snyder's current, much-ballyhooed run on Detective Comics. Once I get the missing issue, Henchgirl and I will read through it together and judge. Harshly. Because seriously, no way it can live up to the hype, and even still, I'm still really pessimistic about the idea of turning James Jr. into a monster. It kind of stains the ending to Batman: Year One, from Gordon's perspective. But we'll see, we'll see.
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Do I know what the hell is going on with the "New DCU" or whatever it is that they're calling it? No, I do not. After deliberately letting people freak out at the prospect of rebooting the whole universe (because hey, that's news), they're now insisting that it's NOT a reboot. What the fuck IS it, then? OHHHH, WE'RE NOT TELLING /coy. As such, all I can really do is just wait and see whatever the hell it is that they're gonna do. All I care about is whether or not this results in good stories.

I want to be more optimistic, I really do, but it's hard in light of the facts that it looks like we're getting Babs back as Batgirl, (a new?) Nightwing wearing a costume that's disturbingly similar to the one Robin wore in Schumacher's Batman & Robin, that several titles are now going to be written by artists with little to no writing experience, and the fact that we're seeing the returns of several comic artists who were considered incredibly hot by Wizard Magazine circa 1997. In this case, it's Spawn artist Greg Capullo, whose following cover for Batman #1 fits in the Image-style aesthetic of other Bat-Artists Jim Lee, Tony Daniel, and David Finch:

So far, that's the only indication of Harvey in this New DCU. In cases like his, as well as other Bat-Rogues, a full-on reboot might not be a bad idea, as some folks brought up in the last post. But again, we'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully there'll be some news to really get excited about, instead of just apathetic or anxious.

EDIT: ... Is that meant to be Eddie? That sure looks like a question-mark mohawk. If so, WHAT THE HELL IS EVERYONE'S DEAL WITH GIVING THE RIDDLER SOME STUPID, STUPID COSTUME DESIGNS? Seriously, you could do a whole list of the worst Riddler costumes of all time. Just off the top of my head, there's Bishie!Eddie from "Gotham Knights," the one from Azzarello's "Joker" GN, the stitch-faced Riddler from "Crimson Mist," and of course, whatever Tony Daniel has him wearing now. Why oh why oh WHY can't people just realize that the green jacket and bowler is flawless as it is? Sheesh!
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Checking in quickly from Orlando Fringe prep work to mention that DC's Source blog has posted a brief preview of Tony Daniel's Two-Face story, the first part of which is released tomorrow. Harvey's not actually in the preview, but he's talked about, and I find myself feeling cautiously anxious about Daniel's take on the character. From what we're seeing here, I'm wondering if Daniel's is actually following up on the events of Harvey ill-begotten solo feature, The Long Way Down.

If I have the time, I'll post a full review here of the first issue in the next couple days, but without any scans. I lack the capabilities at present. For now, back to rehearsal and worrying about whether or not Daniel's bringing Gilda (specifically Loeb's take on Gilda from The Long Halloween) back for this.
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There were two Harvey-related instances in the comics released this past Wednesday, but neither of them took place in current DC continuity!

The first was a guest appearance in Batman: Arkham City, the prequel comics to the video game sequel (thus making it also a sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum), which marks the first time that Paul DIni has ever written Two-Face outside of TAS episodes and the first two issues of Batman & Robin Adventures. Apparently he had plans for a post-Face the Face issue of Detective Comics, but that was nixed because of Harvey's minimal involvement in the craptacular Salvation Run storyline. If I ever get the chance, I must ask him what that story was going to involve.

The second is a mention in Flashpoint, DC's new big event. Harvey only gets mentioned, but this is notable because it's the Harvey of an alternate universe, which we haven't seen since DC arbitrarily decided to stop making Elseworlds. Why? Probably because they hate fun. Also puppies. Of course, DC swears that the world of Flashpoint isn't an Elseworlds or alternate timeline, so what is it, then? Who the hell knows or cares? Well, okay, I kinda do. The story looks like it has potential, but then, so did Brightest Day. Point is, there's a different version of Harvey who only gets a mention, but it's an intriguing mention nonetheless.

These are both slight appearances, so let's take a quick look at them, shall we?

Minor spoilers for this week's new comics, behind the cut! )

Finally, a quick note: real-life shall be consumed by the fact that I'll be performing at the Orlando Fringe Festival in Orlando, FL, so expect spotty updated over the next two to three weeks. We'll see how much free time I have. As always, if you have any suggestions, requests, or whatever, free free to send 'em my way... along with any friends or relatives you have in the Orlando area! :)
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Regular commenter Vito alerted me to this page, which describes the first half hour of Batman: Arkham City in detail (SPOILERS, obviously). Having read that, all I can say is, "well, nuts." All I'm gonna say is that I'm going to watch the actual gameplay with little to no expectations, so that if anything good actually happens, it'll be a pleasant surprise.

Oh, and the cover image and solicitation for the final part of Tony Daniel's upcoming Two-Face story has been released. It's not worth posting here, but you can find it along with the other solicits here. So Harvey's lost his coin? Or was it taken from him? There's certainly some potential for seeing a wayward Harvey, but we all know how optimistic I am about Daniel's story in general.

In both cases, I guess we'll just wait and see.
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I've decided to create about_faces.dreamwidth.com as a back-up. I'm not planning on fleeing LJ anytime soon, and even if I eventually do, I'm not sure I'd want to set up shop at Dreamwidth. Having something of my own site would be ideal (ala similar fan sites such as the Aquaman Shrine), but who knows how many people would find it? Hopefully, y'all will be able to follow me no matter what happens.

So, because YOU demanded it(!!!), here's a look at the second half of Doug Moench's Two-Face story from Knightfall.

Unfortunately, we have to skip entirely past the real point of the story, which the tension between Robin and a burnt-out Batman. What is it about Two-Face stories that really brings out the tension between Batman and any give Robin? Anyhoo, fast-forward, Batman decides to try taking on Harvey alone, and gets his ass ambushed. He wakes up in the ruins of the old courthouse where D.A. Harvey Dent once presided, with a "judge and jury" comprised of the late Mr. Lyman's enforcers. Oh yeah, we know where this is going...

Two-Face puts Batman on trial for the murder of Harvey Dent (coo-coo!) behind the cut )

Seriously, WHY does Harvey do anything other than become a violent vigilante in the style of the Punisher or Jason!Red Hood, or simply spend the rest of his days in Arkham just flipping his coin? There's no real leap from D.A. to mob boss, yet writers are just so used to that role from Pre-Crisis that no one's trying to reconcile it with the way the character's grown otherwise!

Once again when it comes to Moench and Two-Face, I don't love the story, but it's still a better attempt than many writers would make. Although I fear even that won't carry through to his next story, The Face Schism.
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Y'know, I was really, truly hoping that Tony Daniel wouldn't use Harvey. I really was. But it looks like he has plans for 2011:

“BATMAN in 2011 will prove rife full of challenges for Dick Grayson in Gotham City. While the Falcones are digging deeper into the business affairs of Gotham, someone has decided to help TWO-FACE return to glory. But are there ulterior motives at play? What role does Riddler play in all this and what does he want out of it? And with Catgirl being more of a menace than a hero, will she work through her nine lives before Batman to save her…from herself? Dick Grayson has a tough road ahead as Batman but he’ll forge ahead the best way he knows how—as guardian, protector, and savior of Gotham City.”

Thus far, the only time Daniel's written Harvey was in Battle for the Cowl, where he had Two-Face grind up a woman and at least two kids into shark chum. While I know that, yeah, Two-Face is a monster and all... I don't really like seeing him do that sorta thing, y'know? Personal preference and all, but I can really live without buckets of children meat in my Batman comics. And it's not exactly a promising indication of what Daniel might do with Harvey.

Nor is the fact that Daniel is such a fan of Jeph Loeb's Batman comics that, in the very first issue of his Batman run, he made The Long Halloween/Dark Victory canon. I mean, it was already sorta canon as of Hush, but one could easily argue that was just Loeb's personal canon, as it was mostly ignored by everyone else. Not Daniel, though. That said, while I dislike those stories, I don't hate the way Loeb wrote Harvey himself (although I do have my complaints), which makes the brief, nasty, all-evil appearance by Daniel even more disappointing.

But who knows? Given free reign with the character, perhaps Daniel actually might do something interesting with Harvey. Or, conversely, he might actually try to make this canon:


I'll say this, though. Since Daniel is clearly such a fan of Grant Morrison's mine-everything-in-Batman's-past-canon-and-make-it-darker method, I will accept nothing less in the way of a "return to glory" than seeing Harvey back in the orange and purple suit, green scarring, and either the bow tie or white turtleneck. Who says I'm too exacting and nit-picky? ;)
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I'm planning on talking about the stories in last week's Batman 80-Page Giant, but I'm curious to know how many of you actually read the stories yourselves, or plan to in the near future.

Either way, it'll inform how I approach my review, which I'll hope will lend itself to something we can discuss. It certainly raises some... troubling questions about Harvey, stuff that lends itself to debate. The comic is worth buying, I think, particularly if you're a fan of the rogues. It's not perfect, but it's certainly more interesting pound for pound than most 80-Page Giants of late.

Until then, I thought it might interest the more wealthy among you to know that you can now purchase Tim Sale's Two-Face cover from Dark Victory:

Sale info is here. The price isn't listed anymore, but last I checked, it was something like $1,500. So yeah, there's that. Any takers? How about you, [livejournal.com profile] surrealname? I know you LURVE Sale's artwork.

Why yes, I am mainly just posting this to get your reaction. Also because I actually do like Sale's Harvey, and just in general, I like seeing Two-Face in black and white. It suits the character, and isn't awash in garish, distracting colors that so often accompany him.
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For those of us who needed confirmation: Harvey will definitely not be in The Dark Knight Rises. Wait, wait, read it for yourself:

"Chris and I had a meeting, on the beach, just the two of us," Eckhart told MTV News on the red carpet for "Rabbit Hole" on Thursday. "I said, 'Chris, a lot of people are asking me if I'm in the next 'Batman.' And Chris said, 'Yes?' I said, 'Am I?' He looked at me and he said, 'No.' "

Wait, a meeting on the beach? Is this a true story?

"It actually is," Eckhart replied. "It's even weirder than I'm explaining it."

So there you have it: official confirmation that Dent won't show his two faces on the big screen come the film's July 2012 release. But, um, what of this strange beachside meeting?

"We found ourselves alone on the beach together on a stormy day and he delivered the news to me," Eckhart explained. "And I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken. But Chris has his reasons and my life must go on."

Honestly, if we have to get the news, it's best to get it in a cracky, oddly adorable fashion. Aaaaaand now there's probably fic. Way to go, Aaron.

For my part, I'm glad to hear it now than to hold out hope that maybe, maybe there'd be a surprise cameo in Arkham or in the twist ending or after the credits or in a deleted scene or maybe hell maybe in the fourth film yeah yeah maybe who knows *cries*. So good to be spared that cycle.

Someday, I'm going to write a whole, super-long TDK post once I revisit the film. If you're curious to know what I thought at the time, feel free to check out my epic, sprawling, meticulous criticism of Harvey in the film. I haven't reread it in over a year, because once I get on that rant and my ideas, it can infect me for an hour. Better to save that energy for later. Besides, I've changed my mind in some respects, and softened on other stances.

What I still feel, though, is that the film ultimately delivered a great Harvey Dent and a poor Two-Face. Which, given the choice, is far and away the way I'd want it. There's not a thing that Aaron Eckhart himself did that I disliked. I just think the script let him down.

We're heartbroken too, Aaron. Thanks for trying, you talented, adorable man, you.


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