about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

Tearing into the AV Club's review of TAS's "Two-Face" (with a surprise guest reviewer/ranter!)

So, doo doo doo, there I was, finally going to read the AV Club's review of Two-Face, Parts 1 and 2 for their ongoing TAS retrospective. That, of course, is why I wrote the big rambling post last night, because I wanted to get it in under the wire. "So okay," I thought, "now I can finally read their review, hooray!

Then I read the first paragraph of the review:

“I believe in Harvey Dent.” The phrase has become primarily associated with The Dark Knight, but was first uttered in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween, the miniseries that served as a major influence on Nolan’s big screen take on Two-Face. Building on the underworld community established in Miller’s Year One, The Long Halloween has Batman teaming up with Harvey Dent and Captain James Gordon to take down a killer picking off members of the Gotham mafia, murders that coincide with holidays on the calendar. Much like this week’s Batman: The Animated Series two-parter “Two-Face,” Halloween portrays Dent as a valiant public figure struggling to negotiate his desire to see punishment for Gotham’s criminals with his obligation to the legal rules and procedures that he has sworn to uphold. And while Two-Face’s origin changes depending on the medium, there is one constant: once he loses the left half of his face, there’s no Harvey Dent left to believe in.

... I was originally going to post that above quote with an "AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!, and let you, my readers, take it from there in the comments. Because the thing I love about you guys is that I don't have to actually explain all the reasons why this is so infuriatingly WRONG because you guys ALREADY KNOW. Besides, it was hard for me to type with my fingers curled into shaking fists.

But Henchgirl insisted that I step back, take a breather, and come back to this later. She wanted the same for herself, because--god, I love her--she was just as pissed off as I was. But for different reasons! That's the real magic of the reviewer's opening statement here: here's just so much fail to go around!

Look. I know that The Long Halloween is always going to be a popular, seminal comic for many. And I know that while is "borrowed" liberally from the far superior Andrew Helfer story, Eye of the Beholder, the fact is that EotB is not in print anywhere, it's not well-known, and people just aren't going to read it as much. I don't like it when somebody on a message board or a blog doesn't acknowledge EotB, giving TLH all the credit, but I understand it.

Nor, for that matter, do many comics fans realize that TLH didn't actually invent the idea of showing Harvey Dent as a crusader for justice before he became Two-Face, no more than TAS did! Nor did it invent the iconic rooftop meeting between Jimbo, Bats, and Harv, which carried its way all the way through to The Dark Knight. Nor was it the first time we'd ever seen Harvey as a man "struggling to negotiate his desire to see punishment for Gotham’s criminals with his obligation to the legal rules and procedures that he has sworn to uphold."

I don't like it, but I understand it. People just don't know any better. And why should they? Can I really expect all fans to have spent/wasted as much time as I have--and still do--reading comics? No. Of course not.

Besides, they're just fans. It's not like they're, say, an actual paid, professional reviewer for a major pop culture publication, writing as an authority about Batman to an audience of largely non-comic readers.

Because heaven forbid that a reviewer--someone who is attempting to bring a fresh, educated perspective to something in an old episode that the readers have undoubtedly already watched--actually be KNOWLEDGEABLE about a character.

Not only does the reviewer draw from a work which is incredibly derivative and so popular that many people, like him, only associate Harvey Dent from that story, but he's also wrong about his big conclusion: that the only constant in all origins is that "there’s no Harvey Dent left to believe in."

The Henchgirl Interjects: HAHAHAHAHAHA *breath* AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I'd say more, but I don't want to steal your thunder, dear.

No, no, it's okay. I don't mind sharing this one. Go nuts.

YAY! RAGE! But I don't like italics. Just a second.

Huzzah. Now, are you sure you want me to rant? Because there isn't going to be much left for you to cover once I'm done.

Girl, I spent, like, four hours working on a long, ranting post yesterday. I need a break. Please, help!


Let's start with just how many ways the above statement is wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong, just within the confines of the Batman: TAS universe. After all, this reviewer is tackling BTAS and it has a slightly different canon than the comics...and, as established, we can't expect everyone to have read every comic we have.

TAS, on more than one occasion, establishes that Harvey is still present in Two-Face. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the episodes Second Chance and, even MORE notably, his final appearance in the series, Judgment Day.

In Second Chance, Harvey Dent is given the opportunity to have his face fixed, but if there's nothing left of the Harvey Dent personality, why exactly should they bother? I mean, I realize that Arkham Asylum in the comics universe is hardly the most trusted psychiatric facility when it comes to deciding who's capable of being cured and who isn't, but TAS Arkham only ever released criminals when they actually had a chance to live normal lives--chances that were screwed up by circumstances outside the Asylum. (See: Double Talk and, to a lesser extent, Harley's Holiday).

Totally! Also, in the ending of Second Chance, where Harvey--definitely Harvey, not Two-Face, because his entire demeanor and voice have changed--tells Bruce, "Bruce? Good ol' Bruce. Always there. You never give up on me." That's because there's still something of Harvey Dent to save in Two-Face, beyond just what Bruce hopes.

Judgment Day is the even more compelling evidence that Harvey Dent still exists somewhere within Two-Face. The Judge, a third personality that emerges throughout the course of the episode, has one motive: pass judgment on Harvey Dent and put him to death for his crimes.

And okay, sure, if the Judge were an outside character--just some random vengeance seeking Villain of the Week--it could be argued rather handily that the character is after Two-Face, the whole, not Harvey Dent, the Part, but that isn't the case. The Judge is a third personality within Harvey and if this scarred psyche believes he exists enough to want to kill that part of him, who the hell are we to argue the point? Nobody knows what's inside his head better than he does and the Judge is a direct response to Harvey Dent's existence within Two-Face.

One of these days, I'm going to rant about why Judgment Day frustrates the hell out of me, but nevertheless, it's an undeniable and major aspect of Harvey in TAS canon, and thus refutes the reviewer's assertion above. Ah, I love it when even the canon I don't like can be used to support my point!

Yeah, I still think you're wrong for not liking that episode more.

And I still think you're wrong for not liking any of the other Two-Face episodes better! How the hell can Judgment Day be your favorite? It entirely screws up the whole dichotomy aspect of the character by throwing in a third personality! If the Judge had actually been Harvey, then huzzah, it would have been brilliant! As it is, it's wrong-headed and blah!

The Judge is the perfect bridge between the character of Harvey Dent and the character of Two-Face! Two-Face's ruthless nature with Harvey's sense of justice--plus it gives deeper insight--hell, insight period--into Harvey's irrational self-loathing for what his secondary personality has done, while still allowing him to be an innocent bystander within the dynamic. If the Judge had secretly been Harvey and not a third personality emerging, then everyone who ever said Harvey is nothing but a thug would be right!

And you're too attached to the two personalities thing; dissociative identity disorder doesn't have to stop with TWO personalities and in most cases, it doesn't. Sufferers can have dozens of splintered personalities. And-and-and! The Judge is the first time in TAS we got to see actual character development and progression within--

Wait. Weren't we talking about something else?

BUT HE'S TWO-FACE, DUALITY IS THE WHOLE... damn it, okay, yes, we're getting off-topic. But I swear to god, once this is done, we're watching Second Chance...

You're still wrong.


Sylvania. I win. Now!


These are two examples within TAS canon that support the idea of Harvey Dent still existing, but they're definitely not the only ones. The writer of the article above makes the blanket statement that ...while Two-Face’s origin changes depending on the medium, there is one constant: once he loses the left half of his face, there’s no Harvey Dent left to believe in.

...okay, you know what? Let me get this out of the way right now:

This line of thinking suggests that anyone with a multiple personality ceases to exist when symptoms of the second personality manifest. And while fiction--especially comic books--have never been particularly great at portraying mental illnesses the way they typically present in text book cases, Harvey is a hell of a lot closer than many other examples in the medium. Dissociative identity disorder--more commonly called 'split personality disorder'--which causes a secondary personality to emerge? Does not make you disappear. Harvey isn't a host for an alien entity, he didn't somehow cease to be (Insert Ex-D.A. Joke Here) when his personality split, he's still in there.

Great, now I'm trying to run the whole parrot sketch through my head with Two-Face.

Thank you, dear.

The best essay I've seen on this aspect of the character thus far is over here at Toon Zone, which definitely oversimplifies, given that it diagnoses Harvey as just Borderline personality and Dissociative Identity Disorder, whereas I'd probably throw a little schizophrenia on top, but the essay actually links to articles explaining how the disorder works. Is it really so hard, Mr. Journalist, to try and understand the underlying mental illness you're writing about rather than boiling it down to just Harvey Dent is broken? He isn't broken, he's damaged. BIG difference.

Exactly. And y'know, I'd be able to just let this one go if this didn't feel like a recurring theme, usually among several comic writers but also now, apparently, in fans and critical thought alike!

You're a much better man than I am.

God, I'd hope so.

Now, with that minor detail out of the way...

Wait, what just happened there? Why do I want gum?

I feel pink suddenly. DO NOT QUESTION ME. Now then.


...I'm trying to come up with something better than "It's really, really bad" but I'm coming up kind of empty. Let me try to explain why I have a problem with it being referenced in this particular BTAS article:

The Long Halloween--and its sequels/spin-offs Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome--were, for the longest time, outside regular continuity. Despite its status as one of THE big Batman storylines, it was never referenced by anyone other than Loeb. At least, until Tony Daniel took over writing Batman last year.

TLH is an aberration in its characterization of everyone and everything within the Batman universe. Examples?

The Scarecrow never recited nursery rhymes before TLH, he never did it after--except when Loeb was behind the wheel.

(Because Loeb does not believe in giving the Scarecrow a personality based on any of his established appearances or character history, but rather a verbal tic with no traceable roots to his underlying psychosis.)

But nursery rhymes are ~~~spooooooooky~~~~~

Is that the approximation of your spooky campfire voice in text form?


Yeah, sure, nursery rhymes are spooky...if you're two. Know what else is spooky? Fear toxin crammed down your effin' throat, that's spooky.

Moving on...

Catwoman was never a Falcone before the TLH spin-off Dark Victory and up until Tony Daniel's creation of the long-lost little sister of Kitirina Falcone, she wasn't a Falcone after. And guess what? Catwoman had a HUGE run of comics appearances during the publication of all three Loeb/Sale series and for many years after and yet, not ONCE were any of the events in any of the series even mentioned in passing.

Ha-ha, you act as if anybody actually READ those, compared to the people who've only ever read Loeb and Sale's work and just stopped there!

Yeah, stupid me, expecting people to walk into a comic shop to buy comic books instead of a Barnes and Noble or *gayusp* think outside Wizard's recommendations. God! You'd think human beings have free will and the ability to think for themselves or something!

Man, we're catty.

You started it.


Aside from characterization flaws, there's also the fact that in his works, Loeb pushes the idea that Bruce Wayne's parents were shot when he was twelve, when it's established EVERYWHERE ELSE that he was eight. Why THIS change? Why THAT age? Why push it when it's contradicted by every other Bat-writer ever?

Because TLH and its sequels do not belong in regular continuity.

TLH and its universe is, essentially, an Elseworld. A very down-to-earth Elseworld, an Elseworld that so closely resembles the established Batman universe that for the uneducated it looks the same, to be sure, but like an alternate universe where green means 'stop' and red means 'go', it's close, but no cigar. It's outside regular continuity. Or, at least, it was for nearly fifteen years, what with it being published in 1996.

And Harvey Dent? Harvey Dent and Two-Face were separate entities before TLH and after. There are FAR more instances that support the Harvey/Two-Face dynamic than there are to oppose it.

From "Before", we have a few notable examples of this: Two Face: Crime and Punishment, published 1995, establishes a dialogue between Harvey and Two-Face. Two distinctly different personalities sharing the same body. Eye of the Beholder, published in 1990 does the same. The BTAS episodes that establish the Big Bad Harv personality--as a SEPARATE entity--referenced in the above article were aired in 1992 and Second Chance went to air in 1994.

Well, okay then, I guess TLH just changed everything that ever came after it!


No Man's Land, 1999. Face the Face, 2006. Nightwing: The Great Leap, 2007. And, of course, the aforementioned Judgment Day from 1998. Oh, and Half a Life from 2004. And Jekyll and Hyde from 2005.

In fact, you wanna know the only thing that stated Harvey Dent was Dead, Dead, Dead and Two-Face was the only one left to mind the store?

That's right. The Long Halloween and its resulting stories have a concept in common with that cinematic masterpiece Batman Forever--a concept that is supposedly the defining trait of Two-Face, according to that review.

When you suggest that Batman Forever Two-Face is the canon Two-Face, you make Harvey emo. Er...more emo.

And please don't get me started on the fact that if you choose to accept TLH and its spin-offs as canon, then you're supporting Edward Nygma: Leather Fetish Crossdresser...which I suppose wouldn't be quite so preposterous if there were any basis for it anywhere else.

Of course, the journalist in question also suggests that in The Dark Knight Two-Face is the only personality in Harvey Dent's body...which is rather puzzling since, rather than developing a new personality, or the old one visibly splintering, Harvey just seems to decide to become a bystander to his own unfolding story, letting the coin decide between life and death for anyone who wronged him. And note that he never struggles with any decisions more complex than life/death. No pretense of good vs. evil, or right vs. wrong, or even something so simple as right vs. left; he becomes a blank, yanked around by fate. That's never been what Two-Face is; Two-Face is the struggle. Two opposing forces who oppose so strongly that the only way for them to come to an agreement is to flip a coin.

Furthermore? Two-Face is established as ruthless and malicious, especially in the instances of there being no Harvey Dent left to contend with--going so far as to not give a damn whether the coin flip is fair or not, with a "Heads, I win, tails, you lose" cheating sort of flair. If TDK's Harvey is nothing but Two-Face, then why isn't he acting like Two-Face?

I suppose since half his face is gone, we're supposed to accept that this automatically makes the character Two-Face, even if there's been no significant change to his personality beyond a human response to extreme grief and trauma? Even though there's no change in him to suggest that he's actually developed a second personality?

Soo...if it looks like a dog but quacks like a duck and lays eggs, then it must be a dog. It couldn't possibly be a duck in a dog suit.

God, I want you.

Later. Ranting now.

The thing is, when it comes right down to it, I'm ripping this article's underlying message apart and I don't even care that much. I'm not a Two-Face fan. I'm a general DC fan who cares about canon characterization and an even bigger fan of journalists who do their research thoroughly. If you're writing an article that will be seen by thousands of people for an internet publication and you're claiming to be an expert, you'd better have your facts straight. This is the equivalent of writing an article for a newspaper with a high circulation and citing one source that is contradicted by several dozen others.

Lois Lane is disappoint.

Man, that one paragraph really set us off, didn't it? I almost feel bad for the reviewer, since his fail there was just the pebble that broke Croc's tooth. The worst part is, I was really looking forward to his review, but I couldn't bring myself to read the rest. After we wrote all this, I thought to myself, "Man, I should actually read the whole review, maybe he was actually going somewhere with all this, and we'll end up looking like idiots." For a second, I thought that's exactly what happened when I read this:

In both The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent is suspected to be Batman at some point, and after having his face in the comics healed post-“Hush,” he even served as Gotham’s protector when Bruce took a leave of absence for a year. There's so much potential in Harvey for good, and Bruce will always see it when he looks at Two-Face. Alfred notices this hesitation and tries to remind Bruce that Harvey isn’t the same person, and as usual, he's completely right.

... You see what he did there? Even when explicitly citing the fact that Harvey was HEALED after Hush (again, with the canon I hate supporting my point!), he then goes, "But Bruce is still wrong to believe that Harvey can be saved, because there's no Harvey anymore, just Two-Face!" Bad enough he's trying to mix comics canon (by Loeb and ONLY by Loeb, mind you) with TAS, because they do not wholly mesh in all details, but even the canon he cites contradicts the wrong-headed point he's trying to make about the character!

After all this ranting, I still don't know what bugs me more: the fact that he displays no deeper knowledge of the character in comics past Jeph Loeb's lousy-yet-popular stories, or that in his ignorance, he makes it look like there's no real humanity, nothing to actually save, in the character of Harvey Dent, and that Batman's quest is one that is tragically hopeless.

Okay. I'm done. Any further thoughts, girl?

I want tacos. That is literally all I can think about right now. Damned pregnancy.

Tacos are good. I like tacos. To tacos! ... Oh, wait, it's almost 6:30 AM.


Goodnight morning, folks!
Tags: bloggers, dcau, guest reviewer, jeph loeb, tim sale

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