BATMAN: FACE THE FACE

Can you face it?

July 6, 2006

REVIEW: BATMAN: FACE THE FACE
DC COMICS 2006

Gorden mentions Dent has killed four cops and crippled a fifth. Batman says "Damn," in response to what might be considered a bloodbath anywhere else, but when Robin realizes the zoo animals are in danger, they've got to act. What's a few cops?

BATMAN FACE THE FACE

An overview of my criticisms of the James Robinson scripted "Face the Face" 8-part series. Particularly pointed out are confusing plot points and (to me) odd character behaviors.

Detective Comics 817 - PART ONE

KGBEAST dies. I suppose he deserved to die, but for the next several parts of the tale, in each issue some second-string villain is killed at the end. This is a gimmick. The clockwork demise of the characters in this manner is predictable, unpleasant and seems to yell at me "you're reading a comic book!" Nice artwork though.

Batman 651 - PART TWO

Nice tenements drawing on page 3. I wish I could see it more clearly (many overlapping panels).

A series of very short vignettes are used to introduce minor characters (in the vein of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns), but none of them have anything to do with the story after Batman's Batplane explodes against the building where Poison Ivy has taken some corporate types hostage. These minor characters vanish and were only there to be "surprised" at this explosion (shades of 9/11 in New York? I don't know, but it made me think of it). It strikes me as unfair for a writer to invent people he wants the reader to take seriously, and then to unceremoniously delete them from the tale.

The explosion seems to do considerable property damage, yet Batman emerges unharmed (did he parachute in suddenly? Eject somehow? Is he impervious to jet craft explosions?) Later Batman is seen skimming through the sky over Gotham in (another?) Batplane.

Batman confronts Poison Ivy, who tells him that these corporate types are evil and are environmentally unfriendly to her beloved plant life in many places around the globe. Batman tells her he agrees with her position (pretty cheeky for a disguised multi-trillionaire) but that she is going about her protest the wrong way. He lets her know that Robin has placed a "very powerful defoliant in the buildings water - specifically the sprinkler system" and he is going to burn up her plants if she doesn't surrender (since they are all - - including the hostages - - surrounded by these plants, how would they avoid getting napalmed too? This is not mentioned. Maybe Batman is just bluffing and Robin is lost on another floor of the building.)

Defeated, this ends with Poison Ivy saying "I wanted to do the right thing," and then kneeling before Batman, who intones, "perhaps, but in the wrong way."

Why is she on her knees?

As it turns out, Batman has proved to be much more damaging and reckless than Poison Ivy. The upper floors of this building have been demolished by the crashing Batplane, and what was the effect of falling debris on the streets below?

It also bugs me that this "supervillain" demurs so quietly (and weirdly) at being outwitted by Batman who may agree with her position, but not so much that he isn't willing to kill all her plants, more or less this was Ivy's original complaint against the people she was holding as hostages.

Last page: someone has to die and its the villain Magpie.

Detective Comics 818 - PART THREE

There are many versions of Batman. The Frank Miller and Jim Lee Batman likes to pound on criminals partly for the pleasure of it (hence the mad grin he seems have in these instances); other Batmen hold back their punches but are quite willing to go at it , no-holds-barred, when sufficiently enraged (e.g., the Azzarello Batman in Broken City). The Batman in Face the Face uses "nerve pinches" and "concentrated punches." This made me feel that Batman is strangely detached and removed from the violence he perpetrates in his "war on criminals" but it certainly is a cleaner way to fight. It reminds me of the more elegant (but unreal) Batman from the "new look" era of Neal Adams and Jim Aparo.

In the story, Batman enlists the Frank Robbins created character Jason Bard, an old mainstay of Detective Comics going back 3 decades. A handicapped private investigator, Batman needs some help because he is "impeded by the dawn." Is Batman a vampire now?

"I know men," Batman says, sounding psychotic as he stares at the nude, standing Jason Bard (who was awakened from his sleep). Also: "I need your services..." Is this scene setup deliberate? Its kind of creepy.

Bard consequently agrees to help Batman. He also reveals that the gal he had in bed with him murdered her husband (luckily he has the evidence handy in a sealed envelope), and Bard hands her over to Batman, who says "lets go." Is Batman running a taxi service to the jailhouse for Bard? Hopefully they won't use the Batplane.

Someone has to die: The Ventriloquist.

Batman 652 - PART FOUR

Batman is a father-confessor in this episode, as Gotham City cop Bullock, put off by Batman's rudeness at the crime scene of the dead Ventriloquist, confronts him "you still don't like me, heh?" Batman then details Bullocks corrupt past. He also adds "you make my skin crawl."

Batman is a pretty sensitive guy. After verbally excoriating him, Batman turns his back on Bullock as if to say "you go away now!"

Bullock hangs his head for awhile, and asks Batman: "Didn't you ever make a mistake?" Then Bullock brings up the whole "one year later" storyline in which Batman split Gotham for a year and left Harvey Dent in charge of protecting the city. Batman ponders this and answers: "The ledger is erased between us." Batman still has his back on him like a petulent schoolgirl, though.

Marie Severin Batsman

Later, flying the Batplane (is it a new one? The same one that exploded in Batman #651? I don't know) Batman lets Robin eject out while in midair, who then crashes through a skylight to attack Killer Moth who is robbing an empty jewelry store (Marie Severin and Ty Templeton hilariously parodied this often used Batman cliché in Batman Black & White Volume II.). Batman then appears at Harvey Dent's apartment (he parks it hovering off Dent's apartment building. Is that what he did where he battled Poison Ivy in part 2?) and they chat about how the gun that killed KGBeast, Magpie and the Ventriloquist have Dent's fingerprints on them. Batman appears to accept Dent's denial - - what's a few fingerprints?

Meanwhile, Robin is fighting for his life with Killer Moth. I wonder why Batman ejected the kid over Gotham to fight Moth, and doesn't once try to contact him to see how it's going, or if he even survived landing through glass? Earlier Batman is deeply concerned about his responsibility of having a kid along to fight crime, and then he doesn't have a moment of concern when the kid is in combat with a notorious enemy?

Someone (apparently) Dies: Harvey Dent, lost in a paranoid phantasy about jealousy between he and Batman - - detonates his own apartment. Also, there is an indication that Orca is dead, another supervillain.

Detective Comics 819 - PART FIVE

Yes, Orca is dead. She is down in the sewer, where Batman is searching and comes across Killer Croc - - not the articulate, funny and ugly Croc from Azzarello's Batman Broken City - - but the psychopathic, animalistic Croc who promptly goes berserk and is defeated by Batman. Batman then walks away, leaving Croc unconscious in the sewer, who will presumably wake up quite famished later, looking for Gotham sanitation workers.

Someone has to (apparently) die: The Tally Man shoots Jason Bard.

Batman 653 - PART SIX

Harvey Dent now lives in a trashed-out hotel room whilst speaking to his "scarred side" which shows up in broken pieces of mirror. He flashbacks to when Batman originally asked him to assume his post as "Gotham's Protector" while he was gone for a year. This includes the following dialogue:

Harvey: (Protesting) "What about Batgirl?"

Batman: "I'd rather not discuss her."

Harvey: "Huntress."

Batman: "How effective was she even prior to everything?"

Harvey: "The Creepers back in Gotham."

Batman: "Yes, and have you ever tried talking to him?"

Harvey: "Ragman."

Batman: "He's changed. And he's off somewhere being spooky. You should see the company he keeps now. He's not in Gotham is all I know."

Did I wander into a Batman soap opera? Instead of standing in Dent's hotel room, they should be at a table in a Starbucks talking over coffee.

Well, things being not quite right in Harvey's head (maybe the above dialogue was only imagined by Dent. I hope so) he convinces himself to return to crime (who could've predicted that?) and having a bottle of nitric acid handy and a scalpel, proceeds to rip one side of his face apart. When the Two-Face voice asks Dent how he feels, he says "I'm of two minds." Does that mean that Harvey Dent has two minds now, plus the Two-Face mind, too? (That's three!)

Incidentally, I learned from this issue that it doesn't hurt whatsoever to pour nitric acid on one's face (which is apparently able to burn skin tissue off in a perfectly straight vertical line) and likewise hacking at your face with a scalpel does not hurt either. Harvey looks quite happy afterward. I guess it feels good!

Someone has to die: I was wrong, nobody dies!

Detective Comics 820 - PART SEVEN

Some very nicely drawn artwork. Interesting lighting effects and an interesting inking style.

Batman wears a hands-free cell phone thing on his cowl whilst he battles a Batman figure conjured by Scarecrow's sinister gas stuff. Also, a strange Superman shows up, and I guess they're from an alternative earth sort-of-vision. But, as Batman states, he has conquered these fears and so Scarecrows gas does not harm him (though it looks like he is fighting real people who crash and jump as they battle). We learn this is all happening because Batman's psychological fear multiplied by Sarecrow's gas is that Bruce Wayne would not have his dead fathers approval (to be Batman? Or approval in general? Likely the former, but the latter? None of this is explained).

A bit later, Batman apologizes to Harper, a policewoman at Gotham H.Q. In an earlier part of the story, he had brusquely cut her off and turned his back on her (which he did to Bullock... why is he always turning his back?).

Batman 654 - PART EIGHT & ENDING

Harvey Dent has taken control of the Gotham Zoo. Bullock, Commissioner Gordan, Batman and Robin are far away conferencing in the safety of the Commissioners office, apparently in no hurry to do anything except watch thick coils of cigar and pipe smoke come from Bullock and Gorden's smoking. Gorden mentions Dent has killed four cops and crippled a fifth. Batman says "Damn," in response to what might be considered a bloodbath anywhere else, but when Robin realizes the zoo animals are in danger, they've got to act. What's a few cops?

In the ride to the zoo in the Batmobile, Robin counsels Batman to not feel guilty that Dent has taken up being Two Face again. Bats listens dumbly as Robin explains the situation, that even if Harvey was framed for the earlier murders "I don't for one second believe his Two-Face persona dragged him completely unwillingly back to the dark side."

A flashback is then shown of Batman pleading with Dent much earlier: "I did believe you, Harvey. This whole time I've been the one voice saying that I didn't think you were guilty." While Batman is doing this, Dent has a gun aimed right at Batman's face. The relationship between Batman and Two-Face suddenly lurches into abused wife territory.

When Batman and Robin attack Two-Face at the zoo, I now notice Harvey has one blue eye and one red eye. If you use nitric acid, does it dye blue eyes to red?

The eight parts to this story tie up at the end with Dent still on the loose and the real culprit identified; Tim/Robin is to be adopted as Bruce Wayne's son (Alfred looking on approvingly). It is also with this last part that the one truly satisfying moment of the whole tale occurs and makes me think of the Batman of yore: he tells the criminal who framed Two-Face that he'll be bringing Dent to come see him right after he explains what that criminal did to him.

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Simon Bianchi Cover


Original Page July 2006 | Updated August 13 2012
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