about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

Two-Face Tuesday! NML, Part 4: The Trial (the extended cut)

Here we are: he fourth and final part of this epic NML comic/novel post! Thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting. These posts haven't exactly been skimmable, so I appreciate everyone who took the time to read and chime in! For those who haven't, here are the links to Part One, Part Two, and Part Three!

In this all-Rucka finale, we compare the comic and novelization versions of the climactic mock-trial of Jim Gordon at Two-Face's hands, with Renee Montoya in the middle. But while these two versions are largely similar, they've gotten to this same point from rather different roads around the stuff in Part 2.

By this point, one version of the story is a thriller about two innocent people forced to play the games of a madman, while the other version is a more character-focused piece surrounding the trial of one man's soul.

We start with the comics version (BATMAN #572 and DETECTIVE COMICS #739), wherein Two-Face kidnapped Renee Montoya and her family in response to Jim Gordon trying to break off their partnership after Harvey tried to have him killed by David Cain (it's always the little things). Five months have passed since then. Let me repeat that: five months have passed since then, and in all that time, nobody (particularly not Jim Gordon) has done anything to save them.

The scene opens in a pair of holding cells, where Renee is summoned by Two-Face's henchman, the Tally Man (an obscure Alan Grant character who has a Victorian Tax Collector motif).

Back when I first read this issue, I thought it was rather sweet. Adorable, even. Crazy-pants Harvey likes her! Hell, it's implied (and then made explicit in the novelization) that, for the first time, both Harvey's good and evil sides have come to agreement over their mutual affection for Renee!

My love of moments like the above were what made me subsequently dislike GOTHAM CENTRAL: HALF A LIFE for destroying the unusual character dynamic going on here. But rereading these, wow, it's not a stretch at all that this is the same Two-Face who would eventually ruin Renee's life on the logic that she'd love him if she had nothing else in her life.

Now, any sweetness is--for me--soured every time he touches her when she clearly does not want to be touched, or when he goes from being kind to issuing thinly-veiled threats: "But you and I both know you'll do what I want. For Poppa. And Momma. And Benny. We understand each other, don't we, Renee?"

And yet, Rucka goes out of his way to offer Renee's mother as the voice of sympathy for Harvey (in a scene that takes place right after Harvey breaks into Gordon's house, knocks out his wife, and "arrests" ol' Jimbo):

He takes her out into the courtroom, where a shackled Jim Gordon is brought in.

All the way up to the fallout in HALF A LIFE, I'd really, truly hoped that Renee had a certain amount of genuine affection (or sympathy, or pity) for Harvey, which would be in conflict with her fear and disgust of Two-Face, and her struggles to see the difference between the two. Essentially, as a midway point between how her mother and father sees him in the above scene.

But reading it now, it seems clear that she pretty well entirely takes her father's side, and all she's doing is playing along with Harvey's games until she can save them and escape. Which, I fear, robs these scenes of complexity and boils them down to "How long will I have to keep doing this before I can escape?"

It should be noted that, aside from the last page, none of the above is in the novelization.

Remember, in the book version, Harvey doesn't kidnap Renee, much less her entire family. As a result of a whole different chain of events (see Part Two and Part Three for details), Harvey ends up kidnapping Gordon, and then holding him hostage, demanding that they send Renee--and only Renee--in to save him.

God, I wish that TallyMan scene could be canon in the comics. A.) He's something of a useless character who's already been replaced by an even more useless character, and B.) that's one of the all-time great depictions of poor Harvey's twisted sense of fairness and justice.

"You scare me." Three words, and they cut Harvey right down to earth.

A major difference between the comic and novelization versions of Rucka's Two-Face is that the comic version is oblivious (willfully or otherwise) to Renee's dislike of him. The comic Two-Face is rather stalker-like in his inability to hear or see that she has no interest in him that way.

But the novelization Harvey Dent? When she said, "You scare me," he heard her loud and clear. That's a full-on Ralph Wiggum moment for Two-Face, where you can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half. Poor Harvey! I'd Choo-Choo-Choose You!

Compare that with the comics version:

No reaction to the "You scare me." He just plows on ahead as if he never heard her, because he hadn't. It's the same kind of crazy creep stuff that Rucka carried through to HALF A LIFE.

I mean, look at how creepy the stalker Harvey of the comics is through this next sequence:

I mean, does anyone else get uncomfortable vibes from that? The way she look up at his lips just seems to scream, "UMMMM PERSONAL SPACE BEING INVADED BY SCARY-ASS CRAZY PERSON HERE."

In his closing statement, we have a classic scene of Two-Face being little more than a paranoid madman, imposing his actions on others to absolve himself of blame. Which makes a certain amount of sense for a character who flips a coin to surrender the burden of free will, absolving himself of the consequences.

But consider how Gordon's reacting to everything here. It's clear that he's not buying this farce for one second, and any halfway-valid points Harvey's making about his own "guilt" are pretty well negated by the fact that these accusations come from an insane murderer like Two-Face.

This Jim Gordon seems to take Two-Face's over-the-top insanity as a perfect excuse to absolve himself of blame, whereas for the Jim Gordon of the book, it feels like his soul is quite literally on trial. And even if Harvey's justice is insane, Gordon's guilt can be his own rope.

Eh, don't mind my random hair that got on the scanner there. Sorry.

I find it odd that Rucka changed the comics' "The prosecution rests" to "I rest my case," in the novel. Yet another SIMPSONS moment comes to mind, this time with Lionel Hutz. "You rest your case?" "What? Oh no, I thought that was just a figure of speech. Case closed."

But more to the point, notice how the novelization gives Gordon something that the comics did not: inner turmoil. Harvey's accusations may stem from his insanity, yet they still hit Gordon right where it hurts to the point that, yes, maybe Harvey is right.

Everyone's on trial here. Even Renee, for having to confess the truth of her non-feeling for Harvey. It's a powerfully cathartic sequence for all characters involved, whereas in the comics, it's just a kangaroo court by a creepy deranged madman who needs to be stopped.

And while I find the novel superior in almost every way, prose itself cannot convey the excellence of this final sequence. At the very end, at least, the comic version comes out on top.

And here, we find what might be (if one chooses to see it that way) the first moment of genuine kindness from comics!Renee to comics!Harvey that we've seen since they first met in "Two Down." But at this point, that's just how I read this scene. Your mileage may vary.

So yeah, the whole transcript thing wasn't in the novelization. We never got back into Harvey's head, but rather it was kept from the perspective of Jim and Renee. It makes sense, as the novelization is more about Gordon's inner turmoil, and thus it would have been a belabored exercise to go through the whole Harv vs. Two-Face debate. All that matters is that Harvey faced off against himself, and won/lost.

Nonetheless, I adore the way the comic does that whole scene. Going from comic to transcript for the third time in the story (the first two being when Harvey interviews Jim and Renee), then boom, sudden reveal that it's all in his head in that single silent panel. That's pure comics. That can ONLY be done in comics.

Thus ends Harvey and Renee's arcs in the story, although she remains as an active character through the rest of NML. But Jim's arc is far from over, reaching its climax in the very next issue in the wonderful story where Batman and Gordon talk in the garden. That's one of the all-time great Batman stories, in my opinion. If anyone wants to post that one (or can find when/if it's been posted before), they're more than welcome to do so.

Otherwise, you can read that story and all these others in the NML collections, or the out-of-print novelization by Greg Rucka, if you can find a copy. Good luck!

Hope you enjoyed this obsessive little side project. Thanks to everyone for reading!

Tags: greg rucka, jim gordon, reading list: harvey and renee montoya, renee montoya

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