Once again, I'd completely forgotten what the hell happened in last month's installment of Tony Daniel's Two-Face story in Detective Comics. And once again, I find myself not disliking the direction in which it's headed. I'm still not loving it, but there are some interesting ideas at play, and so far they continue to build up into something with the potential to be quite good.
Sheesh, don't I just sound glowingly enthusiastic? In truth, there's still not much here to really care about. Not yet, anyway. Honestly, I can't imagine anyone really caring about this story if they didn't already care about Harvey in the first place. Honestly, the one thing that really is interesting about this story is the possibility of--gasp shock horror--actual character development for Harvey, and if this story just ends with everything going right back to the status quo (as it probably will), I doubt that there will be anything to recommend at all.
But for now, there's that potential. That's what I'm holding onto with each installment, and it hasn't been wasted yet. Might Mr. Daniel really be going somewhere with all this beyond your standard gritty noir tale?
Recap: Harvey's been targeted by Dominic Sterano, a prosecutor who's had it out for Harvey since his D.A. days. Sterano approaches Harvey with a deal: he'll call off the charges and even find a way to reinstate Harvey as D.A. (seriously?) if Harvey takes out a gangster named "Freakshow" Tommy, who's blackmailing Sterano with evidence of an affair. When Harvey went searching for Freakshow, he ran afoul of ninja-like Buddhist ninja monks who killed his henchmen, knocked him out, and took the unconscious Two-Face to their leader.
In Part 3, The Big Fall, Harvey awakens from a cold splash of water in the face, finding himself in the company of the monks, who have him tied up and at their mercy.
Baldilocks? Seriously? Where's that Neil DeGrasse Tyson "Watch out, guys, we got a badass over here" image when you need it?
Perhaps realizing that Harvey wasn't going to be cooperative, the leader has him drugged and knocked out again. As the monks strap the drugged Harvey to a chair, the Leader confesses his concern for Harvey's well-being. "So much anger. Hatred. Fear. He will not live long enough for me to attempt purification." It turns out that the ninja-like Buddhist monk leader is actually psychic! Or something!
Once again, I really do like the way Kudranksi draws the scarring. It's got the right classic elements like the bulging eye and the exposed teeth, but it's not a clean burn down the middle.
The Leader does his Vulcan mind-meld thing (I now have this horrible fear that Henchgirl or another Trekkie will read that and shout, Morbo-style, "VULCAN MIND MELDS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!"), falling silent and wincing as if pained. Then his eyes pop open with a "?!" and he collapses.
Egad! Are we actually going to have a Two-Face story that examines the good sides of Harvey instead of just the bad? I sure as hell wasn't expecting that here, considering that this whole story so far has been about a pretty standard mob-boss Two-Face versus corrupt officials and underworld scum. That is, it was standard except for the random Buddhist monks who then became kick-ass assassins or something. All of a sudden, their involvement and interest in Harvey take him in a direction that I hadn't expected:
What's in the pipe? No idea! But when Harvey smokes it, things apparently don't work out so well. He falls over with smoke trailing from his mouth, and his own narration says, "But even after all that, after being tricked into feeling like a normal freakin' human being again, I took a turn for the worse."
I'm really interested in what the hell's going on here. It reminds me of the abrupt ending to the only other Two-Face backup story, Ivan Brandon's The Long Way Down, where a recuperating Harvey was taken in by a priest. As you recall, that story went bloody nowhere, but Daniel once again seems to be improving upon aspects of that story in this one. This is by far the most interesting aspect for the story for me, especially with how Harvey's reacting to the whole thing. I think that line "after being tricked into feeling like a normal freakin' human again" is one of the only glimpses into Harvey's character we're getting here. To me, it indicates that this Harvey is someone who still wants to get better and redeem himself, but he's long since abandoned hope that it'll ever happen.
Hey, a rare moment of humor from Harvey! Kinda! We could seriously use some more of that in this kind of story, lest it completely fall into gritty tedium. Also, I find it interesting that the leader actually described his actions as being a "violation." I mean, that's exactly what I'd call it when someone goes jabbing around in my head without my permission, but I find it odd that the violator himself calls it as such. In any case, this mind-meld doesn't seem to go so well. The leader closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them again and apologies to Harvey.
The exact nature of the Leader's "helping" is the part I'm most interested to see. Remember, this story began with a flash-forward of a bullet-ridden Two-Face being treated by the monks, with the Leader himself vowing to heal Harvey's mind. Does he succeed in any way? Or does he just help turn Harvey even more towards his own inner darkness? Hard experience as a Two-Face fans leads me to expect the latter, because writers seem to really prefer treating villains like Harvey as monsters rather than people. Besides, the Leader's own agenda becomes even more suspect when it's revealed that they were actually hired by Freakshow Tommy to kill Harvey! So why didn't they?
So Leader is mainly interested in rooting out people "infested with darkness," and he was hired by Freakshow, an evil, evil crime lord. Freakshow REALLY didn't think this through, did he?
The person talking to Freakshow is none other than Dominic Sterano, who of course has been in bed with Freakshow this whole time, presumably helping secure the latter's place as the new kingpin of Gotham crime. Not exactly a shocking twist or anything. In fact, not only are they in cahoots, but so is Sterano's supposedly-kidnapped mistress, a femme fatale named Lydia. Everything seems to be going so well for the forces of evil until a force for sorta-evil literally bursts through the door, and subsequently pins Lydia herself under said door:
I don't know what hurts more: the thought of Lydia being crushed underneath that door, or the anatomy. People who know artistic technique and anatomical structure better than I do, please feel free to correct me here, but that image looks all kinds of awkward and wrong.
I'd be a lot more engaged in this cliffhanger if we didn't already know that Harvey would end up getting riddled with bullets at some point after being released from the monks to find self-enlightenment. Unless Daniel really has a surprise in store, I anticipate that the entirety of the next part will consist of a gunfight which ends with Harvey being wounded and stumbling back to the monastery. Or at least, wherever it is that the monks are hiding out.
As such, I strongly suspect that we won't see any real progress in this story until Part 5 in Detective Comics #12. Two months for more story, how appropriate. Still, let's see what's in store for next month.