thehefner: (Two-Face: FOREVER!!!)
[personal profile] thehefner posting in [community profile] scans_daily
In last week's post about Paul Sloane--the second Two-Face--[personal profile] lbd_nytetrayn asked if Paul's made any appearances since his brief return in 1987. The answer is yes(ish), thanks to the generally-great Ed Brubaker.

In early 2003, while "Hush" was well underway in BATMAN, DETECTIVE COMICS writer Ed Brubaker penned his own six-part murder mystery that tied together all of Batman's rogues in a secret conspiracy to kill the caped crusader. And unlike "Hush," which brought in a brand-new character to fulfill the double-cliches of being "long lost childhood best friend" and "totally obvious red herring," Brubaker dusted off the concept of Paul Sloane for "Dead Reckoning," but with a modern twist. In doing so, he created a far more interesting original villain than Hush himself, one with tons of potential who, of course, hasn't been seen nor mentioned since.

For that and many other reasons, I lament that this story was utterly ignored in favor of "Hush." Not that this story isn't without its flaws--oh my, it has them--but we'll get to those inside.

The flaws begin before the scans even do, as the issue introduces a subplot that goes nowhere. I'll get to that in a second. For now, all you need to know is that the cops find the dead body of a man dressed as Killer Moth (the real Killer Moth having been turned into a far more "cool" and "extreme" man-eating moth monster thing; oh, the 90's, how I do not look forward to your revival in ten years).

Mustache Guy is a nobody, a two-bit hood who figured that becoming the new Killer Moth would be his ticket to the big time. Thinking about it now, I think about how his story could have actually tied into the larger storyline here, foreshadowing (spoiler hint ahead) the idea of an outsider trying to join the big leagues of the Rogues Gallery, and the consequences that follow. That would have been awesome.

If that was the intent, it wasn't handled very well. After the first issue, Mustache Guy's subplot (which takes up a very good chunk of the issue) is promptly forgotten and brushed aside. Sloppy storytelling, IMO.

Anyhoo, next thing you now, our old buddies Eddie and Ozzie have a private sit-down to discuss the murder:

So Batman follows the Lame Mustache-Guy Subplot to MG's girlfriend, then to his ex-partner, who spills the beans:

In the next issue, former Commissioner Jim Gordon is giving a lecture at a law school when a mysterious man with long hair approaches him, saying he wants to talk about Harvey Dent. The man shoots at Gordon, who attacks back with his awesome cane-fu skills. He bashes the man in the face, only to watch as the make-up flesh peels off. The attacker escapes, of course.

Batman visits Harvey in Arkham, finding him in the isolation cage "again," because our favorite bisected antivillain has driven his latest shrink to a nervous breakdown.

Aww. I'm a sucker for moments like that, when Harvey still shows a soft spot for old friends (even/especially those he's tried to kill in the past). Particularly Jimbo, a character who--unlike Batman--has pretty well given up any hope for redemption for Harvey.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the cliffhanger of the previous issue was that Penguin received a double-sided coin in the mail, both sides scarred. Knowing that might be kind of important, as this happens next:

(Obviously, he isn't really dead: you later find out in pages I don't include that they just reported him dead until they can catch the killer. Until then, the news reaches Eddie, who is not pleased at all...)

Time for one of my major complains, for those who've been waiting with bated breath.

I love Brubaker. I really do. SLEEPER and CRIMINAL are two of the very best comics to come out all decade, and how CAPTAIN AMERICA work made me finally fall in love with Steve Rogers. He's a brilliant writer of crime and espionage.

He's also tone-deaf when it comes to writing dialogue, at least for the Bat-Rogues. It's Bendis-itis, where characters who have distinctive voices elsewhere now all sound like the exact same guy. Put it this way: if this guy wasn't wearing the Riddler costume, would you have any reason whatsoever to suppose that this character was Eddie Nigma? Would you have any reason to suppose that character above is Jonathan Crane? Do they sound at all different?

Brubaker has a fine ear for criminal dialogue, which works best for Two-Face. The same voice doesn't work for characters like Riddler, Penguin, Scarecrow, nor Mad Hatter (who, as you'll see in Part 2, sounds off with only saying one line). Joker is an exception, but problematic for his own reasons. More on that later.

Back to the story:

Batman finds out that Penguin was on his way to someone with connections to a dead actor named Paul Sloane (bum-bum-BUUUUUUUM). Bruce and Babs to a play starring Veronica Bella, the ex-girlfriend of Paul Sloane. Under the pretense that Babs is working on her graduate thesis, Bella fills in the story about Sloane, who vanished eight years ago.

Maybe it's just the fact that I am an actor/performer myself--not to mention movie geek with a fondness for classic horror--but damn do I love the idea of a character who's a twisted method actor. If you've ever known a method actor (or worse, someone who claims to be some kind of method), you know they're at least a little unhinged.

During the play, Bruce looks into the wings and sees Darkman Paul Sloane watching Veronica's performance. Bruce excuses himself and chases Darkman Paul Sloane to the rooftop.

And that's the end of Part 1. Part 2 to be posted sometime this evening, just to keep you in suspense. Also, because I'm lazy.

At this point, I would like to mention that I really dislike the art. Tommy Castillo has proven himself a capable artist elsewhere, but here, I find it seriously detracts from the story. His proportions are awkward, his facial expressions all over the place, and it all generally reminds me of doodles I used to make when I was a teenager: passable, yes, but nothing that would get me into the Kubert School.

If this story had a more appropriate artist, or a superstar on par with Tim Sale or Jim Lee, I can't help but wonder if it might have gotten far more attention. For all its flaws, I think this is still a superior story than "Hush," even if much of the superiority comes from untapped potential. But I'll let you decide when I post the finale later today.


Date: 2010-01-05 06:19 am (UTC)
roguefankc: Leomon (Default)
From: [personal profile] roguefankc
Actually, granted, Nigma was really out of character in these scans (I don't actually ever recall his swearing like that before) but I think Brubaker actually did a good job with this.

Hmm...I actually find it odd though that a relatively normal person can cause people like Penguin and Riddler to be absolutely terrified. Penguin and Nigma and Crane have all done things that would make Sloane seem like small fry.

Besides method acting/insanity, what are Sloane's abilities?

Re: Whoa...

Date: 2010-01-05 06:25 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
I can understand that sort of fear. The fact that he is insane and happens to be a method actor and a make up artist is bad thing since he can basically be anyone from your henchman #8973 to your maid or butler or your right hand man and you have no idea when or how he is going to attack or who he even is.

Re: Whoa...

Date: 2010-01-05 07:48 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
It's different with me though. I like Rouges who are all different from one another and poses different dilemmas. It's like, when the 'grim n' gritty' is in fashion, everyone is grim n' gitty, when it is Silver Age, everyones Silver Age, etc, I like it when Rouges are more varied, you can have the Complete Monsters like the Joker or Zsaz, Well Intentioned Extremists like Poison Ivy or Ras Al Ghul, Corrupt Executives like Penguin, Goofy Silver Age types like the Condiment King or the Science Fiction types like Clayface or Dr. Milo. I believe there is a place for people like Clayface in the Bat-Rouges along with the 'realistic' villains.

Re: Whoa...

Date: 2010-01-05 08:08 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
True. I think comic books are truly one of the few places where you can pull off having a Complete Monster exist alongside a goofy villain.

Re: Whoa...

Date: 2010-01-06 08:37 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Remember, though, that the original concept of Clayface was basically a deranged actor in monster makeup. This would seem to be hearkening back to that.

Re: Whoa...

Date: 2010-01-05 07:11 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Except that ALL those rogues essentially started as "ordinary men", until THEY had transformational moments and turned to crime. They can understand how appallingly an "ordinary guy" can be, when pushed too far.

Re: Whoa...

Date: 2010-01-05 06:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In all fairness, Riddler and Peguin are usually backed up by henchmen when executed a plot/scheme and have the advantage of knowing their enemy and being able to launch the first assault.

Here, they don't know their enemy and they are the ones being hunted despite their reps. Like in chess, even pawns can take a king with the right moves.

Date: 2010-01-05 06:29 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
You know, from first glance you would think that Ed Brubaker would be the perfect writer for a character like Batman but I was never really sold on his Batman nor was I with Dixon's or at times Rucka's Batman.

Date: 2010-01-05 06:56 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
One vibe I got from Brubaker was that he didn't really 'get' Batman. Even in these scans, I always get the feeling that he is constantly struggling with the character trying to get him 'right'.

Though, while this may be an old and tired argument, I would love to see an Ultimate-verse line in the DCU where each writer gets their own universe to play with. I heard there is going to be some 'Earth-One' graphic novels out next year, Geoff Johns is doing the Batman one and Stracynszki (I think) is doing the Superman one.

Date: 2010-01-05 07:41 am (UTC)
yaseen101: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yaseen101
I think we've seen what he can do with the current Captain America run, which seems to be all Brubaker. I will try to be optimistic with Geoff Johns Earth One universe, since he is such a Silver Age fan boy I'm hoping to see something akin to the Bronze Age Batman, which was the best interpretation of Batman in comic books, IMO.

Date: 2010-01-06 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] darkknightjrk
I don't know about Brubaker not doing a good Batman, but I do get what you mean about writers not doing good on these corporate characters. The writer that comes immediately to mind is Robert Kirkman. Invincible and Walking Dead are some of the best comics I've ever read, and yet his work on Marvel Zombies and Ultimate X-Men were just...not good at all.

Date: 2010-01-05 11:44 am (UTC)
jeyl: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jeyl
Wait a minute. Batman helping law enforcement instead of punching their lights out? Isn't that out of character?

Date: 2010-01-05 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"oh, the 90's, how I do not look forward to your revival in ten years"

Marvel is doing its 90's revival right now. ;)

Date: 2010-01-05 07:13 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
It's a shame that they're using Paul Sloane as a deranged method actor, when there's already a deranged method actor in Gotham in the form of Basil Karlo, the original Clayface. One MIght have thought some reference would have been in order, like maybe Sloane being a Karlo groupie...

Date: 2010-01-06 08:40 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
I was going to say that! You stole my idea by doing it first!

Date: 2010-01-06 12:38 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
I'm a pre-plagiarist; I steal other people's ideas before they had them, the joys of a four dimensional telepathic facility... :)

Date: 2010-01-06 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
You can't do this to me! I'll sue with my fourth-dimensional lawyer!

Date: 2010-01-05 08:25 pm (UTC)
alias_grace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alias_grace
Both the pencils & the colours are completely unsuited to this story. Too 'toony.

I like where it's going though, I'm always a bit of a fan of stories where Eddie Nigma & The Penguin interact.

Date: 2010-01-06 08:42 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Interesting. So the guy's sort of a theatrical version of Film Freak, in a way; someone obsessed with theatrical craft and the old-fashioned skills of the theatah. I could see that going somewhere.


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