thehefner: (Two-Face: FOREVER!!!)
[personal profile] thehefner posting in [community profile] scans_daily
First off, did anyone else notice in the DC Solicits that the MANHUNTER co-feature in STREETS OF GOTHAM is going to be replaced by a TWO-FACE co-feature? It's going to be written by Ivan Brandon, who wrote via Twitter, "I've made two-face's life decidedly worse."

This... could be very, very interesting. Particularly considering that I've been hating the use of Harv in MANHUNTER thus far. But it appears that I may have been too hasty. All in all, very interesting indeed!



Now, back to more Grayson-y goodness!

When Dick upgraded to Batman status like everybody bloody well knew he would in the wake of Bruce's "death," it felt strangely like both the writers and the fans had forgotten that this is actually the second time that he'd donned the cape and cowl. For instance, Winick's five-issue BATMAN run went out of its way to have Dick complain about how he'd never realized just how heavy Bruce's cape was.

The Continuity Cop in me was appalled. "What?! How could these people forget the 1994 multi-Bat-issue crossover storyline 'Prodigal?!'"

And then I actually reread "Prodigal," for the purposes of this post. It's... well, it's not bad, per se, it's just... so very of its era: the time of Chuck Dixon on DETECTIVE COMICS (and ROBIN), Doug Moench on BATMAN, and Alan Grant on SHADOW OF THE BAT. And even though I still consider Dixon the best of the trio, his Two-Face even back then was... well...





... with anger? (ten points if you get that reference)

Even though this came out eight years before ROBIN: YEAR ONE, consider 1994's "Prodigal" to be the official sequel, if that makes any sense. Oh, and the puns get a bit worse from here too (two? Just getting into the spirit of things).






In "Prodigal," Bruce Wayne--fresh from having reclaimed the mantle of the bat from Jean-Paul "Azrael" Valley in "Knightsend"--has left the country for personal reasons, temporarily leaving Gotham in the hands of Dick Grayson... as not Nightwing, but the new (third!) Batman!

Either way, Dick plays the role of Batman to the hilt, handily facing down varying levels of threats like Croc, the Ventriloquist, and Ratcatcher. But of course, the real enemy is behind the scenes the whole time, lying in a musky cell in Blackgate Prison (while Arkham is being rebuilt after Bane blew it up good and let the crazies run loose in KNIGHTFALL):







Call me a nitpicker if you like, but the trick of Two-Face fooling people into not recognizing him by standing sideways is just so 1952. And really, it'd be one thing if this were someone more nondescript slipping away, someone like the Riddler or even the Scarecrow, but you'd really think that there'd be at least one more wave of guards keeping an eye on the hardened cons to notice that, hey, why's one of the most infamous Gotham criminals just walking out of the courthouse?

Not that Dick!Batman notices right away, as he already has his hands full with the Ventriloquist. Now, unlike Morrison and Winick's run, Dick instantly takes to the job (it helps that he has Tim as his Robin, not Damian). But more than that, perhaps it's because Dick knows that the gig's just temporary, not struggling to support Bruce's legacy.

I mean, compare the Dick Grayson Batman of the first story arcs of Morrison and Winick's runs with this:




And that's just in Part Two. Boom, he's already in full-blown scary Bat-god mode. In fact, you never once see a trace of the grinning joyful Dick Grayson in his Batman throughout "Prodigal."





I'm not too fond of Bret Blevins' artwork during this period, but there's something wonderfully SWAMP THING about that Two-Face image there.

And of course the coin came up scarred. Why wouldn't it? Really, I'd be more interested in the story that would've happened if the coin came up clean. Would Two-Face have set about trying to repair the screwed-up justice system?

Also, wouldn't that be chaos he's unleashing, not anarchy? If so, you'd think Alan Grant would know this, being as he's the creator of Anarky and all. Not that Anarky was ever a good representation of anarchist thought anyway, but that's a whole other rant for someone else to give.

The story continues over in ROBIN, by Dixon and with art by Phil Jimenez.











Wait, why is Harvey blowing up a statue of Tim!Robin? He's never even met that one! You'd really think he'd be blowing up a mannequin in the speedos and pixie boots. Does he think that it's the same kid he faced all those years ago? Does he just hate the idea of Robin? Either Dixon or Harvey himself didn't really think this through.

Two-Face crashes a banquet of the Bar Association, wherein he delivers his sentence for whatever unspecified crime of which he's accusing them:





...

"Kill the lawwwwwyers"...? It's HENRY VI Part Twoooo...?? It's Shakespearrrre?????



READ A BOOK!





Oh, so instead of Two-Face "avenging" Harvey (as Dixon had him in ROBIN: YEAR ONE), he's... self-loathing? Or both? Oh hell, when your character is crazy, who gives a shit about consistency? Everything goes! Whee!

In the basement of the courthouse, Two-Face and his henchmen discover the database for the entire legal system: trial dates, juror lists, parole hearings, and more. As he monologues like any good villain, one of the technicians sends out a distress call, which only infuriates Two-Face.





They're IN the computer?





Sorry, I'm just realizing that there's no real commentary nor insight I can give to this story, so I think all I can do is make fun of it. I mean, really, this is all the finesse that a master criminal like Harvey can give? Good grief, he's just an insane thug!











Two-Face escapes with the files on floppy disk (hee!), while back at Wayne Manor, Dick confesses his fears about facing Two-Face again. Also, Dick is huge here, for some reason. He looks like Bruce with a mullet.





Awwww, boys are unsanitary.








Wait, Harvey, didn't you already flip to unleash chaos (or anarchy, or whatever) on the city? Are you getting wishy-washy, or did Moench not get clued in?

And again, man, of course the coin comes up scarred. I want to see a Two-Face story where he's on the cusp of his big plan, and then the coin comes up clean, making him take it in a whole other direction than the heroes expected.

But like the Two-Face of ROBIN: YEAR ONE, this is a character with a single-minded evil goal, who flips the coin simply to find out how to get there. At least that Two-Face had a sense of evil fun. This one is just a sneering, bitter, hateful villain who you just want to see trounced.

As the criminals run rampant over Gotham, Two-Face decides to kill his henchman for no particular reason.








Seriously, how do the Gotham villains keep getting henchmen, when there's a very good chance that they'll get killed by their bosses? Do they get great benefits? A dental plan? Or is work really that hard to come by for lowlifes in Gotham City?

Back to Messrs Grant and Blevins. And sorry for the wonkiness of the first scan. Perhaps a side effect of me having rewatched the Adam West BATMAN, which--for the record--was even better than I remember. God love the villains and their Dutch Angles!

















With Dixon and Graham Nolan taking over the finale here, Tim Drake discovers where Two-Face is hiding, and rushes in to save the day. How does that work out?














Hey, hey, remember when I did my first Two-Face Tuesday, and some people wanted to kill me for ending it by saying "TWOodles!"? Yeah, go after Chuck Dixon first:











... ugh. Dent's game should never be a loser's game. Dixon's writing Two-Face the same way he writes the Riddler, as someone obsessed with their own games who rage against anyone else for "cheating" when they, in fact, are always ready to manipulate the rules however they see fit.

Don't get me wrong, I can see how that makes a great challenge for the hero to overcome: how can you beat someone at their own game when the game is rigged? But again, it undermines everything that makes the villains great as characters, not just as villains.

So yeah, Dick beats Harvey by using his first experience as a guide to shutting him down. Personally, in terms of a sheer rematch between Dick and Harvey, I found this story rather anticlimactic.

Sure, Dick defeats Two-Face, and overcomes his fears and shame... except that he doesn't. Two-Face continues to be one of the bigger sore spots for Nightwing, and Harvey himself never actually knew that he was facing off against the kid he hated so much over the years.

That is, not until NIGHTWING: THE GREAT LEAP, which was far more cathartic and satisfying, while being mightily frustrating in its own right. If I hadn't already posted that one, I'd have done so next week, since it's their third round together.

So if all goes as planned, I'll just have to skip ahead to Round 4: the five-part Dick-as-BATMAN story by Judd Winick. It's one to which I've been giving an awful lot of thought over the months, and I honestly think it's been sadly underrated and ignored in favor of Morrison's BATMAN AND ROBIN.

Date: 2010-04-21 07:37 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Personally, the way I read this (or rather, the way I'm reading it NOW, with your commentary in mind) is that Harvey is kinda slipping here. Arkham's blown up, he's probably off his meds, he likely hasn't gotten any proper psychiatric care for weeks - it's no wonder that he's going a bit off the deep end. It's not that he's gone completely over to the dark side - he DOES have a few indecisive moments where he might NOT have followed through on his plan, had the coin come up good - it's just that he's discombobulated due to the sheer chaos that Gotham has been plunged into lately (not to mention a rattling previous encounter with Bruce not long before where he came perilously close to at least admitting that yes, he DID have some real problems). Note the last page of the story, the one you didn't show here, where he's strapped down to a gurney going 'On. Off. On. Off. On. Off.' Two-Face is never exactly in what you'd call his 'right mind', but he's really gone loony here.

Date: 2010-04-21 07:38 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Oh, and I'm pretty certain that that quote about the lawyers is actually from Mark Twain, isn't it?

Date: 2010-04-21 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Oh. OK. Wow, I was sure that was Twain. What was I thinking of?

Date: 2010-04-21 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
'Bat-Trinity'? I don't quite get the reference. Anyway, no, I didn't, but it sure seems to back up my theory, doesn't it?

Date: 2010-04-22 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Oh. Right. See, unless it's a really significant story, or something otherwise particularly noteworthy, I don't generally think of mainstream superhero comics that way. I just go 'oooh, that was good!', or 'well, that was lousy', and move on. As far as I'm concerned, it's all Batman. I suppose I SHOULD pay more attention to such details, considering that I aspire to enter the field myself some day, but it's just the way my mind works - I'm here for Batman, dammit! You writers get out of the way!

Date: 2010-04-22 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Oh, absolutely. Just one word balloon could do it - have some psychiatrist drop a line about how 'his mental state has fluctuated wildly depending on various factors', or some such thing. I mean, he's CRAZY - it shouldn't be too difficult to give a reasonable explanation for why he acts differently at various times, should it?
I suppose that writing a character like this is something like what they say about special effects - if you're REALLY doing it well, nobody notices it; they just accept it unconsciously and move on. It's similar to watching a terrible ham actor bellow and sob his way through 'to be or not to be', then watching a really good actor does it - the latter one makes it seem NATURAL.

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