Appropriately titled “The Talking Man”, strap yourselves in as James Robinson takes us on the fourth installment of his “Deface the Face” arc chock full of…talking.
I guess it’s right there in the title, so we shouldn’t be surprised, but the story grinds to a halt and starts to choke on its own exposition as Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Two-Face circle round and round on subjects of varying interest like: who is the murderer? What’s Kobra up to? Are we all friends or enemies? Can Harvey’s imaginary friend come out and play?
This could be interesting except it’s not. Robinson suddenly feels stuck in second gear and I can practically hear the grinding and stripping as he tries to push this vehicle in a new and intriguing direction. But this jalopy isn’t going anywhere. It’s set to stew in a pothole of its own dense verbiage and, in particular, a unfortunate round-table psychodrama on Harvey’s split personality that feels straight out of a Robert Bloch novel circa 1959. Note: that’s not a good thing.
Harvey talking about himself in the third person taken to all new levels!
And that’s it. Other than a quick check-in with our Kobra operative in lockdown, that’s the whole book. 20 excruciating pages of redundant psychoanalysis and wild claims about who really killed Karl Twist. All the while flinging out mangled lines like: “Twist was dead before I’d even had the time to toss my coin.”
And it’s not just Two-Face lobbing expository grenades all over the place. Batman’s very helpful here too, just in case we’re too dumb to understand what Harvey keeps repeating page after page. “It means that if they–Kobra–if they were already shown his strategy…and their attack on Jim’s precinct means that’s a definite possibility…”
“You already said that,” Harvey responds. And it’s true. Everyone just. keeps. repeating. themselves. Honestly it feels like Robinson was handed a fully rendered set of pages and had to make up dialogue to go with the pictures, cramming it into pre-set word balloons and trying to fill the pages with substance.
The bottom line is this: I love Harvey Dent (and I believe in him!), but Robinson goes too far for too long with the double-identity in this one. While Two-Face prattles on about who did what and why and what it all means, Batman and Gordon seem content to listen and perhaps nod knowingly–as if the cockamamie nonsense coming out of Harvey’s mouth makes a lick of sense. It doesn’t.
And then this happens:
Interlude: Harvey commits sui….nevermind
Yeah, don’t worry about that. Batman’s got it all under control.
I honestly don’t know what’s dumbest in this book, but at the moment for me it’s a toss-up between:
- Harvey jumping off the bridge for no real reason,
- the Brotherhood of the Grail guy pointlessly spouting his rhetoric in an effort at plot progression (you know which guy I’m talking about: this guy),
- or the closing splash page with Harvey practically car-surfing with guns blazing.
And no review of this book could be complete without discussing the art from artist Carmine Di Giandomenico, and his glaring use of a Lincoln penny as the table around which our newly hatched triumvirate plot and plan. There are three editors listed on this book and yet somehow this passed. It’s especially egregious given that the closing splash of Detective No. 990 specifically showcased the table as appropriately being a 1922 Lady Liberty silver dollar.
There are otherwise some nicely rendered moments in this book art-wise, but the table is absolutely distracting in an enormous way (it’s a major set-piece on so many pages!). Another distracting nitpick is how Harvey’s Two-Face side looks like a used piece of purple Bubble Yum with an eyeball and some hair stuck on it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make taking him seriously rather difficult.
- You wanted a Batman/Gordon/Two-Face team-up (and still hope to get one?)
- You like rambling, well-nigh incoherent psychobabble out of the mouths of crazy people.
This disappointing fourth installment to Robinson’s “Deface the Face” could just be a slack issue in what will otherwise prove to be a fun and exciting story about Batman and Gordon working with Two-Face to deal with the Kobra infestation in Gotham. It feels largely like too many pages of skippable exposition about what’s motivating Harvey and why Batman and Gordon would join forces with him, but nothing here feels very convincing; Harvey is played as psychotic and self-pitying, and Gordon and Batman stand around asking baffling naive questions and/or drawing even more baffling naive conclusions. Might have been better if Robinson had skipped this and started the book with a narrative block that simply read: “Harvey convinced Batman and Gordon they could work together. They’d sort out the particulars later.” And then just get on with the story.