Batman “Faces” Off Against Two Face
The puns have started already. I AM BACK!!! It’s the return of one of my favourite Batman Writers and Artists, The illustrious, Matt Wagner. If you’ve been following my reviews from start to finish then you know that Wagner’s work held the top spot in my rankings until The Long Halloween.
So far in the canon, Two Face has cemented himself (as of this moment) as the best Batman villain out there. Will Wagner continue his reign? Read my review to find out. I’ve never read this book before so I’m just as excited as you are (actually….doubt you even care).
“For two weeks, two days and two months, I searched in vain”
The book begins with Harvey Dent escaping from confinement in Arkham Asylum at 2:22am. The last we saw of him, he was getting kicked in both faces by Dick Grayson, the newly appointed Robin. The book is missing the dynamic duo, with the story being highly Batman centric, Alfred is used sparingly and from the off this book doesn’t feel like it has the personality of Wagner’s previous work. The book keeps up with Harvey’s obsession with the number 2, it get’s tiresome at points but overall there is a great reason and analysis of it that comes into play at the end.
It’s nice to see Gordon and Batman both acknowledge the dichotomy between Dent and Two Face. Throughout the book we get the feeling that the crimefighters pine for the return of Harvey, their old friend and hope to get rid of the monstrous Two Face that now stands in his place.
Throughout there are some really gruesome moments that Wagner brings forth that are definitely some of the grossest in the run so far. In the opening chapter we visit a costume party and see one of the guests have their face eaten away by acid laced in their mask. It really adds to the nefarious nature of Two Face and how dastardly his crimes are.
The art is brilliant throughout, as expected when it’s Matt Wagner. Wagner throughout the book has perfectly captured the Max Fleischer-esque style that is present in both Batman and Superman’s animated adventures. The work has a real darkness to it. Characters are often surrounded in shadow and there is very few primary colours used, the tone is very bleak and dark as opposed to the last book, Batgirl: Year One. As always it’s nice to get dynamism in the run and for us to feel like the story could really take a dark turn.
The panelling is beautiful, there is a race course section where we are given a birds eye view of the track and we follow the characters round as they converse. I’ve never actually seen a page used to this effect and it’s a really creative way of signifying several things at once. They depict Harvey’s face across two panels, one scarred and one normal, it’s a nice touch that really makes you view the character as almost two completely separate people. Wagner really is in his stride here and it’s great that we have such a talented writer and artist at the helm of this book.
It Was All A Diversion
Throughout the story, several people are murdered. They are all put down as being diversions by Two Face and it always seems like Bruce is one step behind. There’s a couple of side plots that seem unrelated, Bruce wants to buy an island, and Wagner does a great job of tying it altogether whilst dropping clues throughout that will keep readers interested.
Wagner perfectly balances the plot progression with the action scenes. There is an awesome Opera and interrogation moment that really adds thrills early on in the book. Much like in Monster Men and the Mad Monk, Wagner has paced the book to great effect. I imagine he plans everything out in advance as there isn’t really much time wasted here. The tale is the exact length it needs to be and clichés are kept to a minimum.
Welcome To The Freak Show
One of the most interesting articles of this story is it’s use of the travelling freak show. Whilst initially this may have been viewed as exploitative, Wagner adds commentary on how he views the freaks throughout the book and how they are actually beautiful people even without their appearance. The freaks are initially the villains of the piece, they are a lot more grounded than the supervillains that have been set out in the run this far and it’s a great addition to have them turn on Dent in the end.
They are introduced in almost a newspaper clipping kind of way. Spread across the page in panelling that is akin to the prestige layout from Watchmen. The last panel is reserved for Batman, it’s been very subtle in the run so far where writers have introduced Batman in this way. It makes us question whether Batman actually is sane or if he is like the freaks that he now chases. To me, he is like the freaks but damaged on the inside instead of out. He’s had a really tough run up till now and it isn’t going to get any easier.
The grounded feel of the work is carried on by the way that Wagner depicts Batman throughout, he uses detection tools and instruments to carry out his investigation work and it paints him more as a Sherlock Holmes figure than a true creature of the night.
He’s not perfect though and the murders continue, even in places he thinks that he’s checked. He blames himself and Batman once again obsessed over his failure, akin to his thinking in Venom. However, he’s been through that and he remains determined and ofcourse SPOILER ALERT will succeed in the end.
Gingers Have Souls
Throughout the book, tied into the negotiations, is this 3 foot tall, ginger nerd who wears glasses. At the costume party he meets a suspiciously attractive woman, who flirts with him and basically uses her sex appeal to get him to mess up the negotiations, dragging them out further. He’s an idiot. He doesn’t even bat (excuse the pun) an eyelid when she begins flirting with him whilst simultaneously getting Bruce Wayne’s bank account details from his wallet. It’s a bit comedic and a nice shift in the tone but once again it’s obvious how this section with at least play out. We all know gingers are to be laughed at anyway so it’s good that ones finally graced the comic run that we can cry tears of laughter at.
Ok ok mate I was only joking, I love gingers. Look. Not all my jokes land ok. In fact 95% of them don’t.
Batman picks up Two Faces trail in the book, it’s a bit tenuous that every crime is linked to the number two but Wagner pulls it off. I just wish in general that they would stop with the Two Face loves the number 2 thing.
STOP BANGING ON ABOUT IT!
NOLAN WOULDN’T DO IT!!!! DO IT LIKE NOLAN!!!
The books title to me is about how we all wear masks to hide who we really are. Throughout the pages there are tonnes of characters hiding things. “Putting a face on”, especially Batman and this ties into Two Face’s plot. He wants to reveal to Gotham who Batman really is. He ties him to the front of a blimp and wants to fly over the city.
Finally some blimps. They are a part of Gotham and it’s nice that one is being introduced and used as a set piece.
Overall I feel like every one of the main characters wants to appear a certain way. Hide behind the face that they have created. In the end though they can’t and the ugly truth will always find it’s way to the surface.
Sheman: Masters Of The Universe
Remember the ginger character from before (yeah you’ve still not forgiven me). Well it turns out he was actually in love with a Bearded lady. This section is unintentionally hilarious. When she reveals herself, beard and all, it’s like she’s also had a head transplant. She looks nothing like how she did previously. This is like in Austin Powers when they go ‘that’s no woman, that’s a man baby.’ Harkening back to the opening of Thunderball. This lady got some Thunderballs.
The ginger character, I’ll call him Wren, his name, from here on out has a brilliant moment when he tries to escape the nightmare scenario he is in. Everywhere he looks the freaks bare down on him until he just can’t take it.
He’s captured and the coin toss comes into the book. It’s a really tense couple of panels waiting on his fate but the result is obvious.
He’s taken up into the blimp and disposed of.
The blimp even has a nice big yin and yang symbol, similar to the one from Batman forever, lol, you DID NOT want to remind me of that movie Wagner.
Beauty And The Beasts
In the books climax the freaks turn on Two Face and demonstrate that he is the ugliest one there is. It’s great that Wagner depicts the deformed people as being the ones who are happiest with the way they look. It’s a delightful touch that shows that happiness doesn’t come from beauty and it’s possible to achieve in this life without being aesthetically pleasing. Two Face flees in a blimp and Batman chases him till it crashes at a circus. It’s soon over when Two Face meets the man with Two Faces and is condemned by the circus man, breaking him deep down.
“I Am A Freak But Not A Monster”
In the end he summarises by saying that Two Face makes all who are different look ugly. Batman to me does the opposite. In a way Dent was looking for justice, he wanted the freaks to prevail, it was just a twisted way to do it.
This book has it’s highs and it’s lows, whilst it still has moments of brilliance and a satisfying pay-off, it still doesn’t reach the heights of Monster Men or The Mad Monk. That’s not to say it’s bad it just feels like old ground and it’s a shame because Wagner’s art is excellent and his pacing is brisk throughout.
Overall this is enjoyable but entirely skippable.
I give the book a
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.
Art From The Book Mentioned In The Review