I’ve been rough on James Robinson’s “Deface the Face” arc, but I feel like this finale justifies some of my complaints about the illogical way this story has been paced, unfolded, and delivers information. Because it’s still delivering information only this time it’s mostly out of the mouth of a preacher at Harvey Dent’s funeral. And the information is, once again, about Harvey’s dual nature, the crimes of Two-Face versus the heroism of the man he was before, and so on and so forth. It’s a peculiar epitaph to say the least. Perhaps its one saving grace is that apparently Alfred finds it as a tedious and pretentious as I do.
To be honest, maybe the technique of juxtaposing the funeral with the past action probably could have worked in another writer’s hands. Maybe the epitaph could have come from another mouth (rather than some third person removed who didn’t even know him). While the preacher was eulogizing, I kept asking myself why some random stranger was saying all these things. Wouldn’t it have been a stronger choice to make one of the key characters be the one to present the eulogy? Wouldn’t it have been a stronger choice for it to have been Bruce?
People: please die in an orderly and symmetrical fashion
And do we care about Kobra? Throughout the arc they have felt like little more than a tidy foil–which is fine: the point of the story is the relationship between Two-face and Batman. We needed a common foe against whom they could align. But given the somewhat tepid nature of their plot (what a terrible commentary that mass-murder has become so banal), I feel like Robinson could have somehow made this fight more personal, more invested? I mean, he explains why Harvey Dent sort of cares (and obviously Batman does), but mostly they just go through the hoops.
And though I did like to see Bruce Wayne taking some time to make an appearance at Wayne enterprises, I have to laugh at the very awkward metaphor he relays to Alfred: “Perfect to clean the palette of my mind so that I can “paint” my current thoughts and deductions.” What does even mean? If you clean your palette, you won’t have any paint to work with. And do we really need “paint” in quotation marks? Would we otherwise assume he was speaking literally? I think his intention was to suggest a blank canvas somehow, but this is just messy.
And in the end, for me the conclusion wasn’t terribly gratifying. Of course that final confrontation was going to be inevitable, but there were aspects of it that seemed convenient–like how Robinson dealt with the problem of the Fireflies. Of course we can assume Batman will go and pick them up later, but that sort of minimizing just sucks all the urgency out of the whole crime-fighting aspect. Is Batman really only arresting people when he feels like it’s convenient? And ultimately we’re left with a faux-cliffhanger in which Robinson’s essential message is: “business as usual”.
I really would like DC to actually surprise us for once with something that isn’t just passive acceptance of yet more stasis to come. I find this more more discouraging than the inevitable retcons of big impactful events.
Given all of Batman’s skills and gadgets, how does Harvey even keep up?
While I generally enjoy the energy that Carmine Di Giandomenico has consistently brought to this book and his livelier sequences are full of interesting angles and opportunities to showcase Batman in action, the funeral looks very peculiar. This is mostly because of the wide angle shots that put all the headstones on display. I appreciate that artists sometimes need to take shortcuts, but has anyone ever seen a graveyard in which the headstones were perfectly uniform by style in rows like this? Typically they are not. Either they are all uniform (like Arlington), or (more commonly) they are widely varied based on a family’s personal taste, etc. The rows here just look exactly like an artist’s shortcut rather than being purposeful, unfortunately, and I found it incredibly distracting. Otherwise, the characters look generally good and there are other beautifully rendered environments: the city, Wayne Manor, and more.
Props to Ivan Plascencia on colors; he does an amazing job giving each time and location its own palette and the juxtaposition of the past and present is nicely highlighted. I also like that he went with warm colors for the funeral, giving it a sort of hazy morning look rather than merely drenching it in greys and other lugubrious tones.
- You want to read a eulogy for Harvey Dent.
- It’s the final issue of this arc: you can do it!
- Batman and Two-Face actually work together for a hot minute.
There’s nothing in this book that isn’t predictable and the dialogue is some of the most stilted and unnatural out of all the books in this arc. In some ways, those are this book’s good points. We get the story we expect: a joint venture between Two-Face and Batman ends pretty much just as you would expect it to, and the comically awkward dialogue is practically a throwback to the 30s or 40s where characters in cartoons stood around explaining what’s happening and conscientiously thinking through their every action and emotion. Does it work? Not really. Are there parts of it that are entertaining? Sure. Is that enough? You be the judge.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.