Welp, Detective Comics #11 is out, and with it comes the conclusion of Tony Daniel's Two-Face story! ... Wait, it's over? I thought there was still supposed to be one more part! *checks* Yep, the solicitation for the next issue says that the Two-Face story continues there in 'Tec #12! That's damn confusing considering that the story pretty clearly ENDS here. I think.
Well, unless something comes along to prove me wrong next month, let's take this at face value and treat this as the grand conclusion. Now is the moment of truth for Mr. Daniel's take on Harvey, where all of the potential he's been building must pay off. What will happen with Harvey's goal of becoming D.A. again? What will the Leader do to "fix" Harvey's mind? Will we actually see Harvey's good side emerge through his actions rather than be given lip-service that he still has good inside him? Am I really going to give this story more attention and critical analysis than it really deserves? Does anyone--least of all Mr. Daniel and his editor Mike Marts--actually give a damn about this story either way? Probably not, if they're willing to release a story riddled with inconsistent dialogue, muddled motivations, and even typos.
QUICK RECAP: Harvey has found himself embroiled in a trap set by a corrupt prosecutor named Dominic Sterano and a rival gangster named Freakshow Tommy, who hired a group of Buddhist monk assassins to kill off Harvey, like you do. However, the Leader of the monks (who has psychic powers or something why not?) goes against orders when he discovers Harvey still has good inside him, and he takes Harvey into their fold for a short time. After mysteriously declaring that he can do no more to help Harvey, the leader releases Harvey to go his own way, and our hero decides to celebrate his new-found freedom with good old-fashioned revenge against Sterano and Freakshow.
So this issue begins right after Harvey burst into Freakshow's office, crushing Sterano's mistress underfoot. Since she's not seen again in this issue, I think we're to take it that Harvey squished her underneath the door. The other possibility is that Daniel just forgot the character, which is depressingly likely. We also finally meet Freakshow himself, who at first seems far less interesting than his monicker would indicate. I was expecting that he'd at least look bizarre in an appropriately "Batman villain" way, but instead he looked more like the Kingpin on dialysis. That is, until Tony Daniel decides to indulge in a rare moment of glorious comic book ridiculousness by revealing that Freakshow's wheelchair is a souped-up wheelchair of mass destruction, loaded with about a half-dozen robotic machine guns!
This leads into one of Daniel's favorite quicks: a wasteful two-page action spread, made all the worse by artist Szymon Kurdanski's stiff and bizarrely-arranged artwork.
I guess they're trying to go for a bit of John Woo here, but it fails hard, and not just because there are no random doves in slo-mo. First of all, Harvey was standing in that doorway when Freakshow fired, so how the hell did he get all the way up there? Secondly, Harvey's pose looks less like he's dodging bullets mid-air and more like Kurdanski's five-year-old son just stuck a random Two-Face Colorform over his Dad's artwork.
In classic stupid-action-movie-fashion, Harvey manages to dodge ALL of the hundred-something bullets coming his way courtesy of Freakshow's state-of-the-art high-tech wheelchair machine guns, only to end up taking single shot in the chest from Dominic Sterano's own pistol. After making a feeble attempt at a citizen's arrest, Sterano is killed by Harvey, and thus, so much for that entire plot thread. We don't get any more information nor headway on Harvey's inexplicable goal of becoming a D.A. again. Feh. Harvey shoots Freakshow, who in turns cries that "You've killed him! You've killed my brother!" His shirt opens up to reveal the real boss: an undeveloped conjoined twin attached to the body of the larger man in the wheelchair. I guess Daniel's an X-Files fan?
This brings up another recurring problem with Daniel's writing: nonsensical dialogue that almost makes sense but still fails. What does the final destination of the Freakshow twins have to do with one of them being a saint? I guess the idea is that one goes to Heaven and the other to Hell, but there's still no reason for Harvey to be saying what he says. This, once again, is not just bad writing but also inexcusable editing. Time and time again, Mike Marts has dropped the ball with really basic shit, and I'm really getting sick of seeing it, especially when it happens with Harvey. It's like even they think that nobody cares, so why should they?
And so, Harvey ends up wounded and stumbling towards the monks' hideout, which brings us right up to speed with the opening pages of the first part. Here, do me a favor a quickly reread those pages. As you'll note, the Leader ordered his men to clean up Harvey's wounds while he himself would tend to "the most corrupt portion: his mind." Since this moment was what led directly into the flashback, their entire story's progress hinged on those words. What would the Leader do to Harvey's mind? Would he heal Harvey's mental illness just as the monks would heal his physical injuries? Did he have another goal? These are the questions that have been hanging over Daniel's entire story.
In the final part, we're treated to a recap (one which takes up an entire page with just five sparse panels, once again displaying Daniel's wasteful storytelling) of the wounded Harvey stumbling to the Leader's hideout, only this time, no mention is made of healing his mind, just his body. "He's back, Leader," one of the monks says, standing over the passed-out Harvey. "What shall we do with him?" The Leader replies, "We save his life. There is no other choice."
So, is Daniel sticking with the mind-healing and just isn't mentioning it, or has he forgotten about it entirely? Honestly, I have no goddamn idea. Here, let's look at the last two pages and see if you can figure it out either way. Harvey wakes up, bandaged and alive, and realized that the "old kook couldn't bring himself to kill me after all" since it would go against his "damned principles." He then confronts the Leader, whom he still suspects of trying to get Harvey killed one way or another, since he's still an honorable man who made an agreement with Freakshow.
So okay, what was the Leader doing in this story? So the Leader was hired to kill Harvey, decided not to kill Harvey when he discovered the goodness within his soul, took him in to be a monk, decided for some reason that he couldn't help Harvey anymore, sent Harvey off knowing that he would end up in a gunfight with Freakshow and Sterano, and then patched up Harvey's wounds, even knowing that Harvey might try to kill him? Is his ultimate goal to test the nature of Harvey's soul, forcing him to make an actual choice between good or evil? If so, why does the Leader care? What's his motivation here?
But okay, so let's assume that his goal was to get Harvey to choose between good or evil. If that's the case, I'd find that really interesting no matter which way Harvey went, because it would mean actual character development. Instead, Daniel takes the super-predictable route. Without another word between them, Harvey flips the coin, looks at the result, neutrally says, "Looks like your lucky day," and then he fires his gun, presumably shooting the Leader. I say "presumably," because the last panels look like this:
... "End?" Wait, what? No! No "end" there! What in the hell just happened? What is this ending?! I'm genuinely at a loss to analyze this here.
So Harvey just goes, "Yeah, you want me to choose? LOL, no." *flip* And when the coin presumably comes up scarred, he tells the Leader that it's his "lucky day" because... um... why, now? If that's meant to be irony, it doesn't make any sense. And then, the Leader pulls an Obi-Wan and vanishes, leaving only his perforated robes? Did he slip away using, like, mystical Buddhist sorcery, or did he become one with the Force, or could it be possible that he--whattatweest!--was never there at all? And what's with the "cheat" line? Did the Leader "cheat" by cheating the coin's judgment, or does Harvey perhaps mean that he himself cheats by using the coin instead of choosing between good and evil himself? Maybe Daniel is going for ambiguity here, but ambiguity only works if there's enough else going on that people would actually care about debating the possibilities.
Because seriously, what can we come away with from this story? What was the point? Look, I know that the nature of superhero comics is retaining the status quo, so I can forgive Harvey not changing in any big way, but did we at least learn anything new about the character? Were there any great moments that showed us what this character's like in any new or refreshing way? WHY was this story told? It wasn't particularly well-written, it wasn't especially clever or original in any way, it didn't really do anything with Harvey that we haven't seen before other than putting him in monk robes, and even when the story introduced elements with interesting potential--such as Harvey wanting to become D.A. or the Leader planning on healing Harvey's mind--they went absolutely nowhere.
Furthermore, it didn't even follow through on Daniel's explicit intent to flesh out "every part of Two-Face's history," and "reveal how he came to be the iconic figure he is today," with the end result that would "hopefully leave people with a new understanding of Harvey Dent and Two-Face." So tell me, folks: what new understanding do you have of Harvey and Two-Face? Anything? Anything at all? Do any of you think that editor Mike Marts lived up to his own promise that "This is Harvey Dent as we’ve never seen him before—a new threat, a new troubled soul for DC COMICS-THE NEW 52!"? I'm seriously asking, here. Do you folks think that Daniel and Marts followed through, or can you at least see evidence of them even trying to tell the kind of story that they were talking about months ago?
Now, there's still the possibility that there's at least one more part of the Two-Face backup story to come next issue. After all, it says so right there in the solicitation for Detective Comics #12: The TWO-FACE backup story continues! Then again, the last time there was a Two-Face solo story, the descriptions in the solicitations were proven to be highly unreliable, with the final product in no way resembling the solicit. And guess what, Mike Marts was the editor on THAT piece of shit as well, not to mention every single contradictory, irreconcilable, poorly-through-out Two-Face appearance of the last three years.
I'm starting to suspect that Daniel isn't entirely to blame here, which I like to think anyway considering that he seems to be a pretty nice guy, something which sadly counts for a lot when it comes to comics creators these days. As such, I wasn't really overjoyed to learn that he's leaving Detective Comics as of the next issue! While I don't think that he's a particularly good writer, I'm not sure how much of his subpar stories are his own fault given the sloppy, careless editing of Marts. So even there will be a Two-Face feature in 'Tec #12, it won't "continue," but will rather end with Daniel's departure, unless of course some other writer takes up the reigns and Harvey gets a second storyline. God knows I'd love to see someone try to make it work, or at least come up with an epilogue that makes this pointless waste of a backup story into something of worth, so that maybe I can feel less incredibly-ripped-off for shelling out $3.99 per issue just to own the eight-page backup story. That's $15.96 for a goddamn twenty-four-page comic. And people wonder why no one buys comics anymore!
As it currently stands, this story--which was never even given a title--is a poorly-written nothing of a comic that only serves to further the idea that characters like Two-Face are uninteresting, boring, and outdated. It's because of stories like THIS that some fans reacted to the story's initial announcement with, "Really? Two-Face? How incredibly dull and uninspiring." Even Batman review sites like GothamSpoilers.com were left so cold by the Two-Face story that the entire review for this last part and the story as a whole consisted of "Ha, yeah. No. Read three pages, and that was enough."
With many people passing this story by sight unseen and others being left so cold that they ignore it entirely, I dare suspect that I have given the DCnU Two-Face back-up story more scrutiny, attention, and critical analysis than anyone else would have the good sense to spare. As such, I hope that I can be forgiven for abandoning all creative eloquence and ending this exhaustive review with a meme that I hope DC in general will take to heart.