Not gonna lie, I had absolutely zero recollection as to what happened the first part of Tony Daniel's new Two-Face story, Welcome to the Dark Side, running as a backup in Detective Comics. I mean, I actually REVIEWED that comic in depth, and even still, none of it stuck with me. Maybe that's just a symptom of the Hef-Baby stealing my brain (He's crawling? CRAP, HE'S ADORABLE AND WE'RE SCREWED), but somehow, I don't think it's all on me here. Even before the baby, I had a hard time remembering anything that happened in any new comics, which just goes right back to the annoying decompressed nature of storytelling which I ranted about, and from which Daniel's first chapter suffered greatly.
Finally, with part two, stuff actually started happening. And surprise surprise, I actually kinda liked it!
Quick recap: the first part opened with a wounded, dying Harvey stumbling into the care of Buddhist monks who seemed to be familiar with him, and they proceeded to fix his wounds, both physical and psychological. The story then flashes back to Harvey torturing a messenger from Dominic Sterano, a prosecutor who has been building a case against Harvey. Turns out that Sterano and Harvey have been enemies since Harvey's D.A. days, when Sterano tries putting the moves on Gilda. Now Sterano wants a meeting to call off their war, which could open the door to what is apparently Harvey's ultimate (if implausible) goal: to be reinstated as District Attorney! Hmm, I gotta say, it sounds better as a plot synopsis than it was as a story!
So how badly does the meeting with Sterano go? Who or what beats the living crap out of Harvey so thoroughly? What the hell is up with those monks?! Let's see if the substantially-better second part has any answers!
Oh, and apparently, the storyline is now called 50/50. Or at least, the chapter is, and the storyline doesn't actually have a name yet. Maybe they'll figure out a title in the next chapter.
Ooooh, he said "bull spit!" I didn't know that Two-Face was starring in a Scorscese movie redubbed for basic cable! What will he say next? "Hey, forget you, mother-lover!"
As if we needed any more proof, we now know (assuming that we believe Harvey) that Sterano is a vindictive, corrupt sleazebag who is out to get Harvey for pretty much out of a petty grudge. I have to say, I love the idea of Harvey's nemesis being a corrupt lawman/politician. I find that far more interesting than seeing him in yet another gang war with the likes of Falcone or the Penguin or even the FBI. Those all emphasized Harvey as a power-hungry, turf-protecting crime lord, but Sterano is the first to challenge Harvey as a lawyer. It would be one thing if Sterano was, like Kate Spencer, an honest lawyer who was trying to bring down his fallen ex-colleague by the book, but instead, he's a corrupt liar, a genuine two-face. In essence, he's a perfect enemy for Harvey, someone so worthy of contempt that even Two-Face can shine as an antihero by comparison.
So even though Harvey doesn't trust Sterano one bit, he agrees to the meeting, waiting to hear what kind of deal the sleazebag has to offer. Sterano claims that he's tired of the chase and is ready to surrender, and what's more, he claims that he can actually help make Harvey D.A. again.
Well, at least now there's finally an acknowledgment of the complete and utter implausibility of Harvey ever becoming D.A. again. Although I'm now a bit confused as to whether this was Harvey's goal from the beginning, or if this was something that Sterano suggested at some earlier point and has been hanging over Harvey's head. All in all, it's a goal which doesn't hold water, much as I'd love to see Harvey Dent in the position of having the law on his side again. And of course, just as Harvey guessed, there is a catch, although the nature of that catch isn't entirely clear due to sloppy writing and/or editing:
So okay, did anyone else read Harvey's last line there and wonder, "Wait: 'who has her?' Who said anything about anyone 'having' anyone?!" Is the idea that the blackmailer is holding Sterano's mistress hostage? If so, why? How would keeping her hostage assist in blackmailing Sterano when there's already photographic evidence of his infidelity? There's clearly a key piece of information missing, and I don't know who's to blame: Tony Daniel for writing the mistake, the letterer for possibly not including important dialogue, or editor Mike Marts for missing such a basic mistake either way. I mean, really, this shit is Freshman Creative Writing 101, people!
In either case, Sterano's story stinks to high heaven, but Harvey agrees to the proposal anyway because of the coin. He goes in search of the blackmailer (and maybe kidnapper?), a guy named Freakshow Tommy who has been known to hang out at a certain bar. Harvey and a couple of his men head to the bar, but they run into friction when a woman (A patron? The manager? It's unclear) tells them that it's a "private party," which leads to the only sequence to actually make me chuckle.
Maybe it's just because Daniel's writing is so gosh-darn GRIM AND SERIOUS all the time, but that actually amused me. I'm not proud to admit that.
Having made his point, Harvey meets with the manager, Maurice, who may know Freakshow's whereabouts. While Harvey's questioning goes from civil to aggressive, his men in the other room are attacked, with one getting cut in half and the other beheaded. Yikes! In the ensuing chaos, Maurice flees, and Harvey gives chase.
Whilst leaping across rooftops like the mighty Tick, Harvey narrates about how Freakshow has been consolidating power and stealing much of Harvey's business. Even before Sterano's offer, Freakshow has already been on Harvey's radar, and now he wonders if maybe he's been on Freakshow's as well.
I like how this scene actually raises the stakes even higher. Before, Harvey was just trying to get out of Sterano's crosshairs and maybe even get his old job back. Now, he's risking a full-on gang war with his most powerful criminal rival. I'm not gonna lie, I really love the idea of Two-Face having to deal with the worst on both sides of the law. This has the potential to be a rather good crime yarn in the classic mode, with one guy getting sucked into a situation way bigger than him and trying to work his way out by playing whatever angles he can, even as he himself is being played. So yeah, it looks like the setup for a classic noir until Harvey catches up with Maurice, or what's left of him...
... and that's when then the ninjas show up. Well, not really. Except kinda.
Instead of answering, they knock him out with a tranq dart, and one monk tells another to inform the leader of their success. End of part two! Wait, what?
Much to my surprise, the presence of the monks has now become even more WTF! For some reason, I just didn't expect that they'd be Action Monks. What the hell kind of Buddhist monks are they supposed to BE, anyway? So Shaolin monks use swords? I don't think they do! And while they seem to be modeled after Tibetan monks, those are clearly Japanese katanas they're wielding. Do Tony Daniel and/or Szymon Kudranski have any idea what they're doing? I guess we'll see.
So yeah, the story's still not exactly good, but at least something's happening, and there's plenty of potential for greatness in several directions. If even one of them pans out, this story could end up being quite worthwhile, but again, we'll just have to wait and see.
If you'd like to read the issue in full, you can buy it digitally here for the still-ridiculously-expensive price of $3.99. The main story is a Night of the Owls crossover which also brings in the DCnU version of Roman Sionis, who is still alive and also now pretty much a completely different goddamn character. You can see for yourself over here at this exclusive preview of Detective Comics #9 over at Maxim.com. Yes, you read that right: DC gave the exclusive preview of 'Tec to frickin' MAXIM. Now you know exactly what kind of readers that DC is trying to court these days. How nice.