thehefner: (Two-Face: FOREVER!!!)
[personal profile] thehefner posting in [community profile] scans_daily
When Dick Grayson put (back) on the cape and cowl as Batman, most of the critical and fan attention was seemingly focused on Grant Morrison's BATMAN AND ROBIN, whereas Judd Winick's five-issue-reign on BATMAN was dismissed as--to quote the AV Club's review--"a bit too much like business as usual compared to what Morrison and Quitely are up to."

Having finally read the Winick story as a whole, I'd say it feels less like "business as usual" as much as a more direct continuation of the Batman Family stories of the past fifteen years, as opposed to Morrison's overarching focus on the concepts of Batman over the past sixty years. He's not interested in the soap opera dynamics and relationships between the Bat-Fam and the classic Rogues. Problem is, those are the things that I love best about Batman comics. I dare say that would be the same for most of you.

So for me, there was a lot to enjoy in Judd Winick's too-short BATMAN run from issues 687-691. Not the least of which being the use of Dick's arch-nemesis (or whatever he's supposed to be), followed not long after the events of NIGHTWING: THE GREAT LEAP.

The story starts with a flash-forward to three weeks, when we see Dick!Bat looking beaten and bloody, while a voice from off-panel asks, "I'm looking at a dead man, right?"

Really, the moment I read these pages, I knew that the mystery assailant could only be one person. But what especially impressed me from the start was the indignation in that voice, the bitter disdain over matters of masks and identity.

Right from the start, I liked what Winick was doing. This wasn't going to just be about number-two-themed crimes or revenge from NIGHTWING. There was something more going on here from both ends, rooted in both character and thematic meaning. Very cool.

Flashing back three weeks, Dick's reign as the new Batman has been getting a great deal of attention in the press... namely that he's been letting himself do something Bruce never did: actually be caught on film. Things are shaping up for the former boy wonder as he proceeds to take apart the Penguin's empire, but the videos have caught the attention of one person in particular.

I love the look of this Two-Face. I like the bad side to have hair, but I don't like when it's scraggly and all over the place. I much prefer a bit of an untamed coiff like this (ala the Animated Series). It's like he combs it along with the rest of his hair, but the white hairs won't quite stay in line.

Also, say what you will about Bagley's artwork, but he's one of the few artists to really give character to Harvey's unscarred side. I love the facial expressions he gives Harv throughout the story, as they really add to the portrayal here.

When these pages were first posted on the IJ scans_daily, I think most of us took Harvey's reaction at the end to mean that he specifically recognized this Batman as the same guy who was Robin and Nightwing. One person (I forget who) put it perfectly:

"I know that face."

"I took a bat to that face."

It struck me as a marvelous idea. Harvey may not know who Dick Grayson is, but NIGHTWING: THE GREAT LEAP made it clear that he's intimately familiar with Dick enough to have recognized Nightwing as the same Robin that he nearly beat to death.

And yet, as we learn, that isn't the case. Harvey doesn't put two and two together and see that Batman is Dick. All he sees is that Batman isn't Batman. Which I personally find far less interesting, especially considering where this story is ultimately going.

Compare this Dick!Bat to the Dick!Bat of PRODIGAL. That one seemed more like a watered-down version of regular Batman, but this... this actually still clearly feels like Dick Grayson wearing a Batman costume and playacting. Personally, I find this far more revealing and interesting to watch, and it's just a shame I can't spend more time devoted to Dick's arc alone.

I'm with Harvey on this: I like this Benny guy. There's a nice dynamic going on between these two (or three). Benny seems to be much more level-headed and sensible than your average Gotham thug, and both Harveys actually seem to respect him. The good Harvey does, at least, and I think that's the Harvey who's in control throughout this story.

But I actually have a much wilder theory about who Benny is, and his relationship with Harvey. I'll devote a whole post to this story in the future, but for now, here's one relevant page from BATMAN CHRONICLES #16:

What do you guys think? Is there a chance that this Benny could be Benny Montoya? Far as I know, we haven't seen him since, GOTHAM CENTRAL: HALF A LIFE, where we learned that he was off to become a firefighter.

The biggest problem with this theory would be that Benny would be willing to work with the guy who outed Renee, framed her for murder, made her an outcast in her own family, and pretty well ruined her life. But then, that all depends on how Benny felt about Renee's homosexuality, and whether or not he sided his his parents over his now-estranged sister.

In any case, it's all mere fan conjecture on my part, as I'm well nigh certain that Judd Winick didn't intend for this Benny to be Benny Montoya. Back to the stuff that actually did happen.

By the way, I've also gotta say, I like the suit that Harvey wears here. If you're gonna have Two-Face wear split suits, it's best to have him in neutral colors, so that the wildest, most shocking part should be the scarred side of the face itself.

Oh Harvey, dick move. Still, it was nice of him not to deface the Lincoln side.

Dick's immediately hit by darts packed with hallucinogenic drugs, leaving him off-balance for Harvey's attack, which is where we opened this post. Yay, now we're all caught up!

And while Harvey had spent years hiring teleporters (like Warp) trying to get in, Batman always managed to put up firewalls to prevent him getting in. That's the most important reason why Dick isn't really Batman, as far as Harvey's concerned, because the real Batman would never have been so careless.

But really, what's Harvey's entire motivation here? Finally breaking into the Batcave seems like almost a side benefit, a secondary interest to him from the way he treats this impostor Batman. He's actually angry at Dick for having the temerity to impersonate Batman! His entire motivation, it seems to me, is to take down this impostor and to find out what happened to the real Batman.

Look at that first panel. He actually looks worried! Whatever is really driving him to break into the Batcave, it's not primarily to defeat his old enemy. It's to destroy the thing that Harvey Dent hates perhaps more than anything else: the hypocrite. The pretender. The impostor.

Because he can respect Batman as a foe, and maybe even Nightwing to an extent, no matter how much he hates them. But whenever Two-Face deals with someone he perceives as being a hypocrite, it's always personal.

So leave it to Dick to turn the tables and make it personal in his own way:

Now, this is meant to be the climax/resolution of Winick's arc, wherein Dick (once again, for those who remember PRODIGAL) goes full on Batman, thereby convincing Two-Face that he's the real deal. That is clearly what Winick's intentions were.

And yet, that doesn't wash with me. Batman would never speak to Harvey that way. Batman's all about holding out hope that Harvey will change, whereas it's textbook Dick Grayson to condemn Harvey as someone who never will.

Therefore, I strongly prefer to read Harvey's "It... it IS you..." not as him recognizing Dick as Batman, but as Robin/Nightwing: as the smiling, impudent whelp who infuriates Harvey to no end. "It... it IS you... the brat..." I'd like to see that interpretation used when Harvey and Dick inevitibly meet up again.

Harvey's part in this story ends on what feels like a shoehorned-in epilogue with him suddenly in prison orange, on the way to Blackgate Prison since Arkham was blown up (wow, full circle from PRODIGAL, eh?). The prison transport is blown up, and he's released... but not into the care of his own men.

"... but the Black Mask will manage." Yawn.

And of course, this moment is promptly forgotten as Two-Face is clearly still in Gotham for the events of the MANHUNTER feature in STREETS OF GOTHAM.

Notice anything strange about Harvey's decision here? He made it on his own, without the coin. If we want to see this as something other than an oversight on the writer and/or editor's part, there are a couple ways one could read this. One is that both sides agreed to leave, and thus there was no need to flip the coin.

But personally, it's struck me how much more this Harvey Dent... has it together, for lack of a better term. There's very little of the sneering, bitter, hateful Two-Face from PRODIGAL, ROBIN: YEAR ONE, and NIGHTWING. He's still crazy, yes, but not raving, nor sadistically cruel, nor a madman bent on spreading murder and mayhem.

As I said before, I actually think that Harvey's good side was in control throughout this story. I find the result fascinating to see in the character here, compared to the other versions, particularly the all-evil-all-the-time version that appeared in MANHUNTER right after this.

Between the warring Harveys in NIGHTWING, are we starting to see Two-Face start to split apart completely? Or are the people at DC just becoming careless about consistency? Either way, it'll be interesting to see which Harvey (or both?) will show up when he replaces the MANHUNTER co-feature in SoG in a couple months.

As a final note, most of the comics I use for Two-Face Tuesdays are long out of print, some never having been reprinted at all. This, however, is very recent, so I feel I should at least offer a link for you to purchase it yourself to read the whole thing (which features several choice Dick and Alfred scenes that I couldn't include here). It'll be released in the hardcover collection BATMAN: LONG SHADOWS.

Date: 2010-05-04 04:30 am (UTC)
cyberghostface: (Batman & Robin)
From: [personal profile] cyberghostface
Great post. One thing that bugs me about the art...that little strip of flesh over the jaw. Wouldn't it be better to just get rid of it (if you were Two-Face)? I imagine it must be bothersome.

Date: 2010-05-04 08:38 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
I find that to be a very distracting and unnecessary detail, personally. I know that Harvey's scarring is never consistent, and varies from artist to artist, but that bit of flesh over the teeth is SO connected with Jonah Hex in the minds of, I would imagine, pretty much everybody, that it really doesn't work.

Date: 2010-05-04 01:44 pm (UTC)
skalja: Ultimate Spider-Woman posing like a BAMF (Default)
From: [personal profile] skalja
I never thought of it. YMMV, I guess.

Date: 2010-05-04 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Fair enough. All I can say is that it really bugged ME.

Have to say

Date: 2010-05-04 04:39 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] pervymax
I'm really impressed with the way you think, and your analysis. Especially this part

"Batman would never speak to Harvey that way. Batman's all about holding out hope that Harvey will change, whereas it's textbook Dick Grayson to condemn Harvey as someone who never will."

I credit myself with really *understanding* Batman, but I never could have articulated that: and yes, it's so perfectly true. Of course he would. He's not the goddamned batman. But he is batman.

Anyway, kudos on an excellent post, and thanks for taking the time & effort to share.

Date: 2010-05-04 05:36 am (UTC)
iambickilometer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] iambickilometer
I love that one line of Dick's: "But it's not all light and darkness, Harvey. There's gray. You can't see that."

But I can see what you did there, Judd Winick!

Date: 2010-05-04 07:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for posting this.

This type of analysis and commentary is exactly why I lurk around this site.

Date: 2010-05-04 09:04 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
One thing that kinda bugs me about Harvey's hideout here is that big yin-yang on the wall. My reaction to it here is the same one I had to it in 'Batman Forever' - it just doesn't WORK for Two-Face. His whole thing is the rigid separation of good and evil - good is one side of the coin, evil is the other; the two are separated only by circumstance and the luck of the flip, but they ARE always separate - whereas the yin-yang symbol inherently denies that ideology. It's all about there being bad in the good and good in the bad - it's about the integration of good and evil, not the segregation. A yin-yang symbol would only work for Harvey if the black and white dots were removed, making the two sides separate again.
I have my own theory about Benny. This is, you mentioned, sort of a spiritual successor of a sort to 'Prodigal', yes? At least in terms of Dick taking up the mantle again, and Two-Face going up against him. Well, you may recall that, in that story, he had a henchman by the name of Ralphie who was REALLY stupid and inefficient and got on his nerves and whom he offed at the end. It is possible, therefore, that Benny is an intentional reference on Winick's part to this earlier henchman, given that he is Ralphie's complete opposite in every way. Moreover, this also applies to Two-Face himself.
Think about it - in 'Prodigal', Harvey was letting his crazy side loose a LOT. He ranted and raved and snarled and generally acted like a psycho, and he had Ralphie, a blithering idiot, working for him, whom he deep-sixes as soon as he has an opportunity. In this later storyline, Harvey is calm and collected and methodical, and he has Benny working for him, a useful, efficient guy whom he actually likes, and who stays alive at the end. If Winick has done his research, and is aware of 'Prodigal' being a prequel of sorts to this, then perhaps he is making THIS portrayal of Harvey and his henchman the flip side of the coin, as it were - last time we got the bad side, now we get the good side.
As for Harvey not flipping the coin after being released, it is quite possible that he doesn't HAVE the coin. In Arkham, it made sense for him to have the coin around - it's part of his therapy - but in prison, which is where he's headed, all personal items that are on you at the time are confiscated when you go in.

Date: 2010-05-04 07:46 pm (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
>>As for Harvey not flipping the coin after being released, it is quite possible that he doesn't HAVE the coin. In Arkham, it made sense for him to have the coin around - it's part of his therapy - but in prison, which is where he's headed, all personal items that are on you at the time are confiscated when you go in.

It makes sense to me. In prison, by definition, you no longer have freedom--i.e. the liberty to make any kind of important choice. Harvey is very much a rules-based person and would abide by the rules of that environment in that respect--at least till he escaped. Any choice he makes with the coin becomes, in that environment, just a game, and Harvey is--at least in his own mind--not into that. It would make the coin seem less serious.

Date: 2010-05-04 09:23 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Exactly. Of course, the moment he gets OUT of prison, he'll start flippin' that coin again, but for now, he'll play by a different set of rules.

Date: 2010-05-04 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
That may be due to editorial policy, though, which I'm fairly certain, at this point, goes something like this: 'If it happened in the last two or three years, fans might remember it. If it happened several decades ago, fans will DEFINITELY remember it. If it happened five-to-ten-odd years ago and doesn't involve someone big and flashy like Bane or Doomsday or Darkseid, no one will remember it, so why bother?'
Yeah, it's probably all theorizing on our parts, but one of the defining factors of fandom is the ability to see patterns that may or may not have originally been intended - the writer may not have MEANT them to be there, but they're there now.

Date: 2010-05-04 09:11 am (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
Looking at this, I can't help thinking: in a way, Harvey has developed more into Dick's nemesis than Bruce's now. And in fact, Dick's nemesis from childhood, a guy who used to kidnap him, beat him, and tie him up.

Date: 2010-05-04 12:00 pm (UTC)
rordulum: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rordulum
Which is something I really like. Dick needs his own nemesis, and Blockbuster never really convinced, but he's dead anyway.

Bruce always wanted to see the good in Harvey Dent, and that continued after he became Two-Face. Dick has no such hang ups about him, as has been expressed so well by the OP here, so Two-Face can be Dick's Joker.

And speaking of the Joker, he clearly recognises Robin/Nightwing as an adjunct of Batman, and treats him like the sidekick he used to be. Harvey sees him as a man in his own right. This was shown pretty clearly in that last Nightwing arc.

Harvey confessed there that he knew Nightwing was the Robin he attacked with a bat. But he was the person Harvey wanted to save Carol from himself. He even said he felt a sort of pride in seeing the Robin that he 'toughened up' grow into the man he was.

And Dick, well he made a point that does completely back up the OP's statement that Bruce would never say that Harvey couldn't change. He points out that Batman (Bruce) may have always thought Harvey was salvageable, but Dick himself thought:

"All I see is one face, and it's completely scarred over."

Date: 2010-05-04 03:45 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Moon magic (Moon)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
Also I would think that Bruce's desire to see the good in Harvey would possibly make Dick fear Harvey even more. It could make him uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.

Date: 2010-05-04 07:42 pm (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
Seriously, when you think about it the bad blood between these two is pretty pure. As I mentioned, this guy used to kidnap, beat and tie him up. This is what Dick knows Dent as: his grotesque childhood monster. His abuser, if you like. He even looks the part as it might seem in a kid's head anyway. Batman knew Dent as a friend and a good man and sees the tragedy of it. Whereas Dick knows this but has no reason to feel any weight to it. He never knew Harvey as anything other than a monster.

Date: 2010-05-04 10:14 pm (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
Dick is walking disproof of the meaning of life as believed by both Harvey, in the way you say here, and Bruce, in regards to how having your parents murdered before your eyes affects you.

Date: 2010-05-04 03:31 pm (UTC)
benicio127: (Heh)
From: [personal profile] benicio127
Oh goody! I'm glad you posted this; I wanted to ask you what you thought of Winick's Harvey.

I've heard people say they didn't like that he used a teleporter (??) to get into the Batcave. My immediate thought to that is -- of course Harvey (well, I guess the Two-Face side) would use any means necessary to find out who Batman is and make it more personal. Question is, if he actually found out that it's Bruce, would that change things?

Anyways, I think the reason people say bad things about this arc is because it's Winick and I definitely think he's unfairly maligned as a writer. How do you think he handled Harvey? It sounds like you have a pretty good opinion of it.

Date: 2010-05-05 01:30 am (UTC)
benicio127: (Heh)
From: [personal profile] benicio127
But I think it works here, if only because it shows Harvey thinking outside the box for other ways to get at Batman, while also showing how one step ahead Bruce himself was to set up blocks to prevent anyone from teleporting in.

Agreed. I would think that any of the villains would try and get into the Batcave or Batman's hideout in some way. Many of them have wanted to find out who the man behind the mask is. Some of them know and respect him enough to keep it a secret. (Ra's, the Riddler knew for awhile, Hush knows, obviously)

Thing is, I'm not the biggest fan of Winick myself, although I can't exactly recall why. Perhaps I've dismissed him unfairly if this story is any indication, because of all the "Dick Grayson as Batman" stories to come out since BATTLE FOR THE COWL, this one is by far my favorite.

I like Winick's stuff, I've thought he was a good writer. Don't get me wrong now, he's had his misses, but when he's on, he's on. This arc had one of my favourite scenes following the death of Batman: Alfred saying that no, he was not OK. He'd just lost his son.

And I agree with you, it definitely felt like right off the bat, this was Dick Grayson under the cowl and not Bruce Wayne; unlike from the scenes you posted from the Prodigal storyline.

Date: 2010-05-04 03:48 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Thieving Magpie (Thief)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
So glad you posted this--with commentary. I was thinking about that passage where Batman totally wouldn't talk to Harvey like that. I hadn't thought of him as actually meaning that it was Nightwing, possibly. I think I read it as Harvey almost coming to the cave in some ways because he needed Batman to be there. As you say, he's completely affronted by the idea of someone not Batman pretending to be him, so I think I saw him almost hoping that Batman would prove him wrong. To the point where he can accept that this is Batman no matter what clues tell him that it's another guy. The villains have to agree to play their parts in the ongoing saga. Joker has so far taken himself out with Bruce. Harvey is ready to continue, but he won't work with just anybody. If that makes sense.

Date: 2010-05-04 08:33 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
Good question. I would say maybe some of them do. Or if they don't need him in their lives, they would miss him if he wasn't in their lives. I don't buy the theory that Batman creates criminals by being Batman, but I think some of the really intense ones could get something out of having him. Harvey, especially, I can see feeling like there's something missing or unbalanced in a Gotham without Batman, for instance.

Date: 2010-05-05 01:47 am (UTC)
sistermagpie: Might as well be in Chinese (Chinese)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
At least, half the time.

ROTFL! See, when a Two Face reference works, it's just that smooth. He absolutely would become the Batman. Half the time.

Date: 2010-05-04 07:31 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Why the heck did Harvey have the two teleporters killed? They are teleporters! They are useful!

Maybe they aren't useful to him right now, but surely sooner or later they could have been. Ok, so if he hadn't killed them he would have had to pay them... But considering that his whole plan nearly got screwed because his usual teleporter is dead, you'd think he'd be much more careful with the very few remaining teleporters who are willing to work for him.

Date: 2010-05-05 03:12 am (UTC)
retro_nouveau: AARP Bruce (42)
From: [personal profile] retro_nouveau
Motto. Not only that, but I'd think that at least one of them if not both should have avoided it, if they were worth their salt. I also don't like when Harvey tosses the coin and underlings die. After a while of that, it has to be impossible to ever get anyone with the least bit of intelligence and sanity to work with you again.

Date: 2010-05-05 04:00 am (UTC)
retro_nouveau: AARP Bruce (44)
From: [personal profile] retro_nouveau
I like that idea - either two dead losers, two teleporters who would each be a boon to any criminal organization, or one of each.

Also, hey there! Finished The Hunter (before I even got the bike home, I'm not back in shape enough for 65 miles in 90 degrees, so I waited out the worst of the heat and started reading), awesome story! I totally saw Jack Palance as Parker (because I read the flap first), Marilyn Monroe as his wife, and Grace Kelly as Mal's date for his last night of life. I want Parker to cross over into the DCU now.

And great work, lots of valuable insight as usual! :)

Date: 2010-05-04 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mad
Can I please get a run-down on how many pages from each issue have been posted?


Date: 2010-05-04 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mad
It's all good.

It's just extremely helpful to list how many pages from each issue have been posted (especially with longer posts), since the mods always have to check that all posts stick to the 1/3 rule. So it's *highly* encouraged. (If I had to, I would've dug up my own copies of these issues, but I figured you'd have the information handy, since you've obviously delved into them more recently.)

Thanks so much!

Date: 2010-05-05 09:04 pm (UTC)
freddylloyd: (Default)
From: [personal profile] freddylloyd
Thanks for the posting, analysis, and link to the collection.

Date: 2010-06-01 08:19 pm (UTC)
aaron_bourque: default (Default)
From: [personal profile] aaron_bourque
Nmeh. This is "business as usual" as in not moving things forward and re-hashing ideas and concepts explored within the past . . . 10-15 years at most?

(whereas Grant Morrison is re-hashing ideas and concepts ignored--for better or worse--since 1939, for better or worse).

And Judd Winick's Batman just struck me as paint-by-numbers. Each "dramatic" moment and reveal feels like storytelling 101: Okay, we need a dramatic moment here, let's add one! Now we need to relieve the tension, so let's put in a joke!

This isn't necessarily terrible, but when, as a grown man, I read a story supposedly intended for an audience of post-adolescents if not grown-ups, I expect more. Grant Morrison's providing me with more (even though little bits and pieces niggle at me) whereas Judd Winick--and Tony Daniel-- aren't.


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