about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)

Ty Templeton was the original DCAU Batman comic artist who returned to title when it was rebooted as The Batman & Robin Adventures, but it wasn't until issue #4 that he took over writing duties. His writing style wasn't quite as gracefully operatic as the Puckett/Parobeck era of The Batman Adventures, but he more than made up for that by packing each issue with character moments that expanded upon the lives of these heroes and villains between the televised episodes, as well as the comic appearances that the show would never end up acknowledge.

This was especially true in the case of Two-Face, especially in the aftermath of Paul Dini's Two Timer from TB&RA #1-2. As you'll recall, that story expanded upon both Harvey's rehabilitation and his relationship with Grace Lamont, only to destroy them both seemingly beyond repair in a soul-crushingly depressing ending. If that were an episode of the show, that would have probably been the end of it, considering how little interest the show had in exploring Harvey as anything other than a villain for the vast majority of his appearances.

Thankfully, Templeton--who was the artist on Two Timer--had different plans, and he wrote three stories which each respectively fleshed out Harvey's life, backstory, and psyche. With the first of these, Fifty Fifty, Templeton told an unusual Two-Face tale that explored the limits of Harvey's adherence to his coin, and in the process, he managed to bring Grace Lamont back to the DCAU one final time in a way that provided some small measure of closure to their broken love story.

Unfortunately, the art by Brandon Kruse and Wild Dog co-creator Terry Beatty isn't quite up to par with the likes of Parobeck, Templeton, and Rick Burchett, and it's easily the weakest part of this issue, but at least we're treated to Ty's fantastic cover. It's a beautiful take on Harvey, although some of you more observant Two-Face fans might notice something a bit off about the coin. Don't worry, unlike the show's weirdly inconsistent depiction of the coin, this time it's quite coincidental!

Harvey Dent is finally in control of his anger... )

Want to buy this issue? Well, if you want a digital copy, then you're out of luck. While DC's digital comics story at Comixology has been posting most of the DCAU comics, their run of The Batman & Robin Adventures cuts off at the issue RIGHT BEFORE this one! Argh!!! So keep your eye on Comixology, and maybe someday it'll be added. In the meantime, you totally should catch up on this great series, especially issues like the greatest Ventriloquist and Scarface story of all time, great slice-of-Gotham stories like Dagger's Tale, and this Riddler/Batgirl story, where Templeton proves his proficiency with neglected DCAU villains by writing one of the very best takes on the Riddler. Good stuff, all!
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Preface: This story deals with sensitive subjects, mainly concerning circus sideshow performers, and I'm not quite sure what the protocol is when it comes to discussing such people. Google didn't yield much in the way of help, so if I end up saying anything incorrect, inappropriate, or offensive, please let me know and I shall change the review accordingly.

Also, you may notice that this review has absolutely nothing to do with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which is today. Regardless, I hope that you're having a good one whether you celebrate it or not, no matter your circumstances! See y'all when the tryptophan coma wears off!

Matt Wagner's three-part Two-Face story, Batman: Faces (1992), is a Bat-classic by a master comics storyteller working at the height of his abilities, one that's been hailed by the likes of Joe R. Lansdale and blogs like Comics Should Be Good. The latter particularly hailed it as "a great Two-Face story," and Mark Waid went one step further, listing it in the top four "Essential Storylines" for Harvey Dent. That lofty standard alone would have caused me to harshly scrutinize Faces, but the fact is that this story has never sat well with me when it comes to its depiction of Two-Face.

One way or another, there's just something about what Harvey does in this story that just seems fundamentally wrong for the character. I've theorized that if this had used the Oswald Cobblepot instead of Harvey, it would be one of the greatest goddamn Penguin stories ever published, which is a shame all the more because the Penguin needs more great stories! Croc would have also worked perfectly, especially considering that circus sideshows play a very large part, and it would have played with similar ideas as the B:TAS episode Sideshow.

But on second thought, perhaps I'm unfairly judging a great story--and it is a pretty damn great story--just because it doesn't fit my (admittedly-exacting) view of Harvey. For one thing, it's rooted to the popular idea that Harvey's insanity is directly tied to his vanity, which is one of my least favorite classic tropes about Two-Face. Regardless of my misgivings, the vanity aspect is a legitimate one depending on which canon you follow.

Taken within that context, is Faces a great Two-Face story even if it doesn't have my preferred version of the character? Or do the problems with Wagner's Two-Face go deeper than my superficial nit-picks? Are the flaws with this Two-Face merely skin deep, or does it go down to the bone?

How perfectly perfect... )

The trade paperback of Faces is commonly available, having just been reissued with a new logo to tie it in with Wagner's recent minis, Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk. If you prefer digital comics, then all three issues are currently available for $1.99 each, so about $6.00 all told! Not a bad deal!


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