October 29th, 2010

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

A Two-Face origin by two Marks: Waid and Chiarello (and the latter's history with Harvey)

Somehow--I don't know how--Mark Chiarello seems to have become the Two-Face artist for DC.

Chiarello is currently the artistic director at DC, wherein he's overseen and produced such wonderful (or at least, extremely interesting and admirable) projects such as Batman: Black and White, Solo (very sadly canceled), New Frontier, and Wednesday Comics. In short, he's one of my favorite people working behind the scenes in comics.

But when I first discovered Chiarello, it was for his comic art and covers. I hated them at first, but have come to prefer his minimalistic elegance over the overly detailed garish grotesquery or hyper-realistic (to the point of lifelessness, in some instances) styles of other painters from the 90's.

And of course, when I discovered Chiarello, it was for his one-two punch of Two-Face pieces. I'm gonna put four big ones behind the cut, and leave the last two outside, since I'm gonna be discussing the content as well as the art.

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But I found it interesting that Chiarello, who hadn't drawn much of anything that I know of for the past fifteen years, came back to do these covers. Not to mention that he was the artist they got to do the Two-Face origin in the misbegotten Countdown series (origins which were mostly illustrated by artists with some notable association with the character they depict):

Now that makes me want to see a whole Two-Face story drawn by Chiarello in this new style of his, which combines the slick, cold noir style with his current messier elements. The duality works rather well for Harvey. In that second page reveal of his new face, it almost looks like the scars are going to come loose and unravel his own head! Plus, I love how his bad side's suit is no longer a uniform checkered pattern, but more like a piece by Piet Mondrian (and the winner for most pretentious artistic reference goes to...)

As for the content of Waid's origin, it doesn't entirely sit well with me. Waid seems to have an unpleasant pattern of never having any good or humanity in his villains, particularly with his view of Dr. Doom as a petty monster who would happily wear the love of his life's skin as armor if it meant proving that he's smarter and prettier than Reed Richards. So that's what I think of when I read the line "forces Dent to act honorably," as if he wants to be all-evil, all the time, but the coin sometimes keeps him from doing it. This is a classic "Two-Face as pure monster" view of the character.

Also, that's an interesting idea: li'l Harvey collecting as many number-two related items he can find. That's all new on Waid's part, and it would be fascinating to see a writer try to work that into Harvey's past somehow. Assuming, of course, that they could pull it off in a compelling way that actually adds to the character rather than just continuing the trend of him being obsessed with the number two.

Finally, that's what passes for "Essential" Two-Face storylines? Glad to see Batman Annual #14, as that's Eye of the Beholder, and I reluctantly understand Long Halloween's inclusion. But Faces is a flawed tale that would have been brilliant with Penguin in the lead (indeed, it could have been one of the greatest Penguin stories ever, and lord known Ozzie needs more good stories), whereas Harvey is just out of character and misused in the lead.

By the way, I feel like I should apologize if I end up trashing a story any of you guys particularly like. Lord knows I'm rather exacting and opinionated, so hopefully I haven't tread on any toes here. If we disagree on a story, well, hopefully we can at least discuss why in a mature and constructive manner.

That said, seriously, fuck Face the Face. ;p

But that's a rant for another day. In the words of a wise skeleton, "I sleep now."