about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

Comic Review: the old D.A. versus the new D.A. in the "Manhunter" backup in "Streets of Gotham!"

So seriously, what the hell has DC been doing with Two-Face for the past year and a half?

I ask because I wanted to review the final part of the first-ever Two-Face solo story wrapped up in Batman: Streets of Gotham, which came out today. But I realized that such a review was impossible without looking into the events that brought the character to this point, as written by Tony Daniel, Judd Winick, and Marc Andreyko, neither of whom seemed to read the other's stories and utterly ignored continuity when it came to Two-Face.

Has anyone else noticed this? Has anyone else been confused?

Let's take a blow-by-blow look at Two-Face over the past year and a half, and you let me know if this makes any sense, or if I'm missing out on some crucial detail somewhere along the way. Please, seriously, help me out here. I feel like no one else is even noticing these glaring inconsistencies.

And while I'm at it, I'd like to rant a bit about Andreyko's Manhunter co-feature from Streets of Gotham. Hope you don't mind.

In March 2009's Battle for the Cowl, written and drawn by Tony Daniel, there was a whole subplot about the ongoing gang war between Two-Face and the Penguin for control of Gotham's underworld:

However, they were both being played against one another by the new Black Mask, who blew up Arkham Asylum and released a bunch of inmates, including Jane Doe, who we'll be hearing about more soon enough. In the end, Black Mask won and became the sole boss of crime in Gotham, leaving Penguin defeated and forcing Two-Face to flee the city in shame:

All well and good, right?

Except no! Come September 2009, Judd Winick's excellent five-part run in BATMAN #687-691 does the best thing possible when it comes to Tony Daniel's Battle for the Cowl: it pretty much ignores BftC. Not all of it, just large details.

In Winick's story, Two-Face and the Penguin are still battling for power. Only this time, Harvey is multitasking, attacking the Penguin while trying to figure out what seems off about Batman lately:

The whole story is excellent and well worth reading (I previously posted the Harvey-centric portions here, but you really should just go out and buy the darn thing).

Cutting to the chase: Winick's story again shows the Black Mask taking over power, but in a different way than Daniel's. Mask manipulates and forces Penguin to work for him, then saves a Bat-beaten Two-Face from going to jail, giving Harvey an ultimatum:

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

And there we go. Black Mask is now King, and once again--in a totally different way--Harvey is deposed and run out of town. So, two different tellings that ultimately amount to the same thing. A bit of a continuity headache, but nothing that really affects anything, right? All pretty cut and dry, right?


Because by November 2009, two issues into Judd Winick's run, we see ANOTHER Harvey appearance in Marc Andreyko's Manhunter back-up feature in Batman: Streets of Gotham (#4 through #10), which totally ignores BOTH Daniel and Winick's stories by having Two-Face still in Gotham, at full power, at the same time Black Mask is running things.

No, seriously, the Black Mask unmasking becomes a major plot point in the story itself later on. But before that, we have Two-Face being targeted by Kate Spencer, AKA Manhunter, first on the streets and then in the courtroom.

Kate's become the new D.A. of Gotham after the old one was murdered by Jane Doe--creepy identity thief and murderer--and for no particular reason, Kate makes the assumption that Two-Face hired Jane for the hit.

Here's the thing about that panel: that is literally the first time that ANY mention of Two-Face was made in the Manhunter story so far.

I've scoured through the first three parts, and there's absolutely no mention that Two-Face hired Jane Doe. There's no mention of Harvey at all! All of a sudden, Andreyko has Kate randomly assume that Two-Face was behind the D.A.'s murder.

Now, granted, that's an assumption that we the readers would make. But there's no reason in the story itself for Kate to make that leap in logic.

Y'know, it's one thing for Kate Spencer to believe that Two-Face is a remorseless monster, a mockery of a once-great human being, with no actual humanity left inside him. That fits her character.

However, the story itself seems to support her view of Harvey:

... Y'know what, I'm just gonna tangent from my original point, because I need to rant here.

This view of the villain and Kate's own smug glibness is one of the main reasons why I never liked Andreyko's Manhunter, but it's particularly annoying to see it done with Two-Face. Look, "one-note remorseless sadistic killer" is a take that many go with for Harvey, but at least one can read those choose to see it as just Harvey's bad side in control. Not so here, as Andreyko's story entirely enforces Kate's view of Two-Face.

Anyway, Harvey's arrested, charged with ordering the murder of the previous District Attorney, thus pitting ex-D.A. Harvey Dent against current D.A. Kate Spencer in the courtroom:

Kate tries to strike a plea bargain with Jane Doe to testify against Harvey. But unbeknownst to Kate, Harvey makes a counter-offer to Jane herself. We never hear what it is, but I assume he plots with her to help them both escape.

I don't know for sure, because it's one of several plot points left dangling and unaddressed, right along with why the old D.A. was murdered. Because even though this Two-Face is a cold-blooded murderer, he is actually innocent of ordering the murder of the old D.A.:

Jane Doe later admits that Harvey is "the wronged party here." But just because Harvey's innocent of this particular murder, that doesn't stop Kate from trying to put him away. However, that proves to be increasingly difficult, thanks to Judge Van Dyke:

I get what Andreyko's doing here. He's making Kate the underdog in a case where the Judge (and press and public?) is already biased to side with Harvey, either out of sentiment or bribery. None of it matters, though, because Jane Doe blows up the courtroom with one of Black Mask's Arkham-busting bombs. In the confusion, Jane and Two-Face both escape, and the Judge is missing.


Except... no, it isn't. No, in the next issue, all anybody can talk about is Jeremiah Arkham being revealed as the Black Mask, and then the rest of the Manhunter co-feature is entirely devoted to Jane Doe trying to kill Kate. And we still get no explanation as to why Jane Doe murdered the old D.A.

And all throughout the rest of Manhunter, there's absolutely no mention is made of Two-Face or Judge Van Dyke's murder, much less why Harvey killed the Judge in the first place. Hell, he wasn't even acquitted of the charges of murdering the D.A.!

But those of us who read the DC solicitations were secure in the knowledge that Harvey's story still was "to be continued" in another format. Here's what the actual solicit said for Streets of Gotham #14

"And in the new Two-Face co-feature, writer Ivan Brandon picks up where the trial of Two-Face left off in the Manhunter co-feature! Despite his innocence, Two-Face is a man on the run, and discovers that even when he thinks he has nothing left to lose, he hasn’t quite hit rock bottom!"

All right! We'll finally get answers! Maybe even closure!

Except, as you'll see when I post the actual story... no, we don't. Ivan Brandon's Two-Face story completely ignores Andreyko's, which itself ignored Winick's, which itself ignored Daniel's.



Is this all due to some editorial clusterfuck, ala Countdown, Death of the New Gods, and Final Crisis all contradicting one another in various ways? And unlike that clusterfuck, no one else seems to be noticing THIS clusterfuck!

And then there's the actual Two-Face solo story by Ivan Brandon, the one that just today wrapped up in Streets of Gotham. That one seems to be another clusterfuck for some reason, not to mention the story itself is frustrating in its own ways. But I'll address all that in my next post, when I tackle Two-Face: The Long Way Down heads-on. Hopefully no one else will post scans of it in the meantime.
Tags: jeremy haun, manhunter, mark bagley, tony daniel

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