Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

*tap tap* Anyone still there?

Hey everyone, since the last couple posts didn't get many comment beyond three or four of the ol' regulars, I've been a bit concerned that most people have fled this LJ for greener, more active pastures. I'd understand why that might happen, given my lack of activity over the past six months, plus LJ's tendency to be hacked and shut down on a semi-regular basis, but I certainly hope that isn't the case, especially since I have a few big posts coming up!

So if you're reading this, even if you're normally just a lurker, would be you so kind as to comment with a "here!" or something to let me know that there's still an audience? It'd mean a lot to me. In the meantime, I'll get back to work on the next big two-part post which I've been working on for a couple months.
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

News: The cover and solicit of "Batman '66: The Lost Episode," the debut of '66 Two-Face!

As you may have heard from the annoucement at Comic Con, there's a major Batman event coming up in November centered around Two-Face! No, it's not the follow-up to The Big Burn (dang it), but it's every bit as awesome in its own way: the "lost" Two-Face episode of the 60's Batman show will be adapted to comics with an all-star roster of talent!

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In anticipation of this event, I've taken down my previous reviews of the '66 scripts and will revise them into two separate reviews before the issue's release, reviewing The Lost Episode as the third and final part of the series. Maybe I'll also give a full review of Wein's Batman: Black and White story, but only if I can make the time for a story which may not even deserve that much attention. In the meantime, I'll get back to my reviews just as soon as I send my laptop off to Dell to see if it can be fixed, because it died this morning and I haven't backed up my files and ha ha ha ha ha I'm stressing like hell oh god. So, yeah. We'll see.

By the way, sorry if the formatting on this blog is off. LJ changed stuff around and I still haven't figured out how to go back a plain white background for the actual posts. Eh, maybe it's high time that I gave this whole blog a facelift (so to speak).
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

State of the Fanblog: Still Not Dead (Again)

Geez, it's been five months since I last posted anything? I guess I kept holding off until we found out whether or not Harvey actually survived the cliffhanger ending of The Big Burn, which we still haven't yet. Damn it, I need closure! Knowing DC, they'll probably just forget about TBB entirely and Harvey will pop up alive and well just in time for Batman: Arkham Knight. And that's if we're lucky...!

In the meantime, I've been working on a lengthy review for a major unreleased Two-Face appearance which I've managed to read thanks to its author, a legendary DC writer from the Bronze Age and one of the greatest Batman creators of all time, who graciously agreed to let me review these scripts. What's more, he's even allowed me to go into extensive detail, revealing all the spoilers, since this blog may, regrettably, be the only place it'll ever get coverage. I sure hope not, but I'm nonetheless excited and honored for the opportunity to review a Story That Never Was (man, I need a snapper term), despite it being a deeply bittersweet experience.

I've also been slowly working on the Long Halloween review. No, really, I swear! I'll try to have the first part out by Halloween, and maybe we can post them in real time if I can stick to the schedule. That's a big “if,” of course. Thanks to everyone's continued understanding and patience on that front, and thanks in general for your continued support and contributions to this blog. You folks are the lifeblood of about_faces, and I would have abandoned this long ago if it weren't for your comments and insights.

There have been a lot of little Two-Face-related stuff in the media over the last few months, so I'll try to make a short post here and there just to keep things active between major posts. In the meantime, though, I'd like to give a quick plug to stalwart commenter psychopathicus, who has launched a YouTube channel dubbed WEGAF (“Wild-Eyed Golden Age Fanatic”) Reviews, a webshow wherein he reviews obscure Golden Age comics with the same combination of insight and smartass geekery which has made him one of the most thoughtful contributors to his humble blog.

Finally, just to bring this back around to both Two-Face and my own personal life, Henchgirl surprised me with a fantastic anniversary present: this print of a Two-Face portrait by collage artist Alec Goss. I've had this piece proudly hanging over our bed for the past month now, and I'm still blown away by how perfect a gift it was for me, considering everything I love about Two-Face.

For one thing, Mr. Goss has made the surprising, wonderful choice to go with the Jim Aparo turtleneck version, a design which I hold very close to my own heart given that my very first comic-reading memories were for the third part of A Lonely Place of Dying and the second issue of The Untold Legend of the Batman. Combined with the use of panels from Eye of the Beholder, it's a beautiful synthesis of my favorite Two-Face story with the design that caught my attention for the character in the first place. I also love the use of that quote from Matt Wagner's Faces, because 1.) I never realized how great a line it was, and 2.) it's a quote from something other than The Dark Knight, which is the only story that anyone ever seems to use when it comes to quoting Harvey. I don't know about you folks, but for me, there's so much to love about this piece.

My only real question is who the model is, or if he's anybody at all. When I posted this on Tumblr, some people likened him to Hugh Laurie and Christopher McDonald, who voiced Harvey in Beware the Batman (don't get me started). Whoever he is, he's not the ideal model for Harvey in my mind, but that's a very minor nitpick. I'm also both amused and bemused by the subtle inclusion of Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face, especially since Aaron Eckhart's influence is nowhere to be seen. Overall, I'm impressed with the unusual choices that Goss has made here, which has resulted in one of my favorite works of unofficial Two-Face art ever.

With that, I shall get back to work on my next review. As always, I look forward to your thoughts! Thanks for sticking with me through the doldrums!

EDIT: Oh, you may also have noticed that my LJ's format has changed. Yeah, that's because LJ changed it FOR me at some point, and I don't know how to get it back the way it was. I don't know about you, but I kinda preferred the plain white background for the posts. Well, maybe I'll take this opportunity to play with new layouts to try and zazz things up around here a bit.
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

REVIEW: The Doubly-Shocking Finale of "The Big Burn" (2014)

Note: This is the second half of my latest review which I've had to split because it was too long, which I believe is a first for me. If you haven't read the first part, read it here now and follow the link at the bottom back here! And as with the last part, I'm adding a trigger warning for suicide, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm.

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If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend picking up these issues, which you can purchase digitally at Comixology. For my part, I will continue to follow Batman and Robin to see what Tomasi has in store, and even if he never does follow up on Erin or Harvey’s stories, I’m sure whatever comes next will at least be more interesting than almost any other Batman book coming out today.

Seriously, though, he’d damn well better have a sequel planned. You can’t leave us hanging like this.
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

REVIEW: "The Big Burn," Part 2 (2014): Erin McKillen returns to Gotham City

Note: Due to the size of this post, I shall be splitting it in two parts. Click the link at the bottom to read the rest! Needless to say, I have a lot of thoughts on this particular story. Also, I should probably slap a trigger warning on here for suicide, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm.

Now, finally, let’s take a look at the first true major Two-Face storyline in the New 52 continuity: The Big Burn, from Batman and Robin Two-Face #24-28 (2013-14). This is the third and final review in my trilogy quartet of posts examining TBB, starting with my examination of the original abandoned version of the story followed by my review of Harvey Dent's new origin. Please be sure to read both if you haven't yet, as they'll be vital to understanding this... very interesting finale.

Despite the tagline, this never actually happens in this issue

As with the last post, I should warn you that this review won’t do justice Peter Tomasi’s full story, which I’ve hacked in two pieces and Frankensteined the hell out of the first piece in order to review the new origin on its own merits rather than its place in the context of the complete work. While I stand by that decision, I nonetheless urge everyone to read The Big Burn on its own first so that you can get the full impact rather than relying on my butchered version of events. Much of The Big Burn’s full impact—when read in order—is how the backwards-running flashbacks play off the unreliable information we get from the likes of Erin McKillen.

As you’ve already seen from my review of the new origin (which is literally half the story right there), this is a rich and fascinating new take on Harvey with much for us to chew on and discuss, but nothing there compares what Tomasi has in store for us in the finale.

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This seems like as good a place as any to cut this post in half. Click here to continue to the next part!
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

REVIEW: "The Big Burn," Part 1: The All-New (52) Origin of Harvey Dent (2014)

Right off the bat upfront, I'll say this much for Harvey Dent's new origin The Big Burn from Batman and RobinTwo-Face #24-28: it sure as hell is not what I had expected. Even as I was reading it and kept thinking that I knew where it was going, the damn story kept subverting my expectations and surprising me. Which, as it turns out, was probably by design.

Batman and Robin writer Peter J. Tomasi made the unusual choice to reveal Harvey's new backstory through flashbacks that run backwards scene by scene, ala Christopher Nolan's arguably best movie, Memento. As such, the first issue showed how Harvey got scarred and gave some clues about what led to that moment, and then the next issue showed what happened right BEFORE the previous scene, with information that fleshed out what we'd already learned. In this way, Tomasi was able to set up expectations and toy with the readers' assumptions.

Frankly, I resented this kind of open manipulation. At least in Memento, it served a very specific purpose that was directly relevant to the main character's affliction. Here, it serves only to screw with the reader. I'm not saying that this choice wasn't effective on a certain level, as it kept me on my toes and I was genuinely surprised a couple times there. I suppose that garnering an emotional response should be the basic goal of every storyteller, but I can't shake the suspicion that those reactions were empty, and that there was no depth behind the twists. A twist for twist's sake is one of the cheapest forms of writing, with little more worth than a "BOO!" scare in a horror movie. 

Thus, at the risk of betraying the integrity of Tomasi's story, I want to review this one a little differently. Rather than examine the origin as presented, via backwards flashbacks in between the modern day stuff, I'm going to do like I did with my review of Two-Face: Year One and examine the origin's events in chronological order.

You’re going to begin at the beginning? How pedestrian!

This is not the way that Tomasi intended you to read this story, and the truth is that, yes, it's more emotionally effective to read it in context. However, the real test of this origin's worth is if it can still hold up when read chronologically, without any of the twists and misdirects. My goal is to examine how TBB works as a character piece for Harvey Dent and as an origin for Two-Face (NOT as a story as a whole), and if it doesn't hold up when told as a linear narrative, then it's a failure. So let's tear into it together, shall we? 

Note: All that said, if you are able to read The Big Burn yourself, I highly recommend that you do so first. Just start here and read on. Seriously. It's worth reading for much the same reasons that Tomasi's Nightwing: The Great Leap is recommended: it's flawed as hell but filled with so much great stuff for Two-Face fans that I'm tempted to put it high on my list of recommended stories despite some huge reservations. Don't just rely on my reviews here if you can help it, as I'm going to tear this story apart and piece in back together in a way that will fundamentally alter the intended reading experience. Again, I'm reviewing the ORIGIN more than the STORY, so please try to approach this review with that in mind as much as possible.

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This concludes the first half of my Big Burn review, and the look at Harvey’s new origin. Keep in mind that there are one or two important wrinkles to this which we won’t learn until the modern-day plot, but I’ll save that for the second half. For now, I think we already have enough to make an assessment about whether or not this new backstory works.

Personally, I think it all serves as more evidence that Tomasi is greatly influenced by The Dark Knight. Just as with Christopher Nolan’s film, The Big Burn’s origin is a lousy story for Two-Face while also being a rather powerful one for Harvey Dent.

Next time: Part 2 of my Big Burn review, wherein Harvey confronts Erin, Erin confronts Bruce Wayne, everyone confronts the mob, and it all ends with a stunning one-two punch that I can’t even begin to describe here but just trust me on this OMG holy crap.
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

Stories That Never Were: The original "Big Burn" with Carrie Kelley and Harvey Dent?

Just replace her with Harvey, no one will know the difference.

I'm still reeling from the finale of The Big Burn, the current storyline in Batman and Robin Two-Face #24-28 which serves as Harvey Dent's new origin and first major storyline in the DCnU continuity (the less said about whatever the fuck Tony Daniel was trying to do, the better).

The short, spoiler-free version is that it was a surprisingly different take that I mostly found very interesting, occasionally wonderful, and sometimes frustrating and even upsetting. I've been drafting up reviews all week in preparation for the finale, and now that it's out, I fear that all my plans and criticisms have been shaken to their very core. I'm going to need another week or three to write up the reviews.

And yet, even after all's said and done, and I can't help but wonder what the original plans were for The Big Burn. Because there's one thing of which I'm certain, and it's that this isn't the story we were supposed to have gotten, the story that writer Peter J. Tomasi originally intended to tell.

At this point, I'm convinced that The Big Burn was originally supposed to go very differently, and that it was drastically changed at the last minute for reasons we can only speculate. The prospect of Harvey getting a rebooted origin for the Ne2 52 was stressful enough in the first place (look at what the hell they've done to Penguin, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Mister Freeze, Clayface, and the Joker so far), but it's mind-boggling to consider that Harvey's new history is something that was sabotaged and then Frankensteined back together from the scraps of the original plans.

Bizarrely, this whole mystery seems to be centered around the appearance (and then disappearance) of Carrie Kelley: the Robin from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns who had been introduced into mainstream DCnU back in April 2013. There had been big plans for Carrie Kelley, whose origin was to be revealed in The Big Burn and tied to Harvey Dent's own origin in some way. She even appeared on the covers as they were originally solicited, but when the actual issues came out, she'd been scrubbed and replaced entirely.

Just replace her with Harvey, no one will know the difference.

So before we delve into The Big Burn as it is, please join me in retracing the past year of hints and foreshadowing to try and determine that The Big Burn was originally supposed to be, and how much has potentially affected this new version of Harvey Dent that we're stuck with, for good or ill.

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And for poor, ever-misused Harvey Dent, this is yet another case to be filed away under "Stories That Never Were," with the character, as always, at the mercy of capricious, fickle fate in the form of DC Comics' writers and editors.

Coming up next, I shall be splitting my review of The Big Burn (which I'm going to finish as soon as possible, because OH MY GOD WHAT) into two parts, separating them into flashback and modern-day storylines. What's more, I'm going to do like I did with my review of Two-Face: Year One and edit the flashbacks to review them chronologically rather than in the backwards, Memento-esque way they were originally written and published. This is not the way that Mr. Tomasi intended them to be read, but I'm mainly interested in examining what this new origin means for Harvey Dent and to see if it holds any water, so I hope that I may be forgiven for any creative critical liberties I take here.

See you folks whenever the hell I manage to get both reviews finished! And from there, I promise to finally get back to work on the reviews for The Long Halloween!
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

The long prelude to THE LONG HALLOWEEN: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Early Collaborations (Part 2 of 2)

In the last post, I examined the pre-Long Halloween comics of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, glancing at their little-appreciated oddball gem Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! followed by Fears (aka Choices) and Madness, their first two Halloween specials for Legends of the Dark Knight. With this second part and conclusion of my overlong prelude to TLH, I'll not only look at the final part of their Haunted Knight trilogy, but also their first--though most assuredly not their final--foray into Marvel Comics, and while it's technically not a Batman story, it's still TOTALLY a Batman story in all the ways that count when it comes to Loeb and Sale's Bat-tales. I would go so far as to call it the "lost chapter" in Loeb and Sale's Batman saga, just in terms of themes and character if not actual plot details.

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Whew, that was one long-ass introduction, wasn't it? It's crazy to imagine that my actual review of TLH will end up being much, much longer, so I'm not even more excited to have the help of everyone who will be joining me for guest reviews! It took me over a month to write this and it'll take me even longer to crank out those TLH reviews, so in the meantime, I wholeheartedly suggest that everyone follow-up this prologue with a movie marathon of all the films that Loeb will use as the basis for his next work and beyond!

Before we examine Batman: The Long Halloween, everyone here should see (or have already seen) the following films:

1.) The Godfather trilogy. I just rewatched the first one recently and took many screencaps, because oh my god, Loeb lifted SO much. I will soon be rewatching Part II and will then subject myself to the infamous Part III for the first time.

2.) Silence of the Lambs, mainly for all of the Calendar Man stuff. Also worth watching: Manhunter, for all the reasons listed above, and also because--again--it's one of my very favorite movies.

3.) The Long Good Friday, a classic 1980 British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins (in his breakout role) and Helen Mirren. From what I’ve found, no place online has caught on to the idea that Loeb got the title of TLH from TLGF, but considering that they’re both centered on mob bosses who lose everything over the course of a holiday to a new wave of criminals they don’t understand, I suspect that a connection between the two is pretty fucking likely. Warning: this film is filled with incredibly thick London accents, so watching with subtitles is recommended, plus it's worth refreshing your memory on certain phrases from British slang.

4.) Presumed Innocent, the legal thriller starring Harrison Ford and Raul Julia. The twist ending of TLH is entirely ripped off from this movie, right down to the setting. If you don’t know the (stupid, senseless) twist from TLH and don’t want to be spoiled, then DON'T watch Presumed Innocent. As with Red Dragon vs. Manhunter, this is another case where Loeb drew "inspiration" from the movie and not its original book, so as such, I think it's simply an interesting coincidence that Loeb based a crucial aspect on Harvey Dent's storyline on a movie that came from a book that had this cover on the first edition:

So that's it for the movie recommendations. Also, if you haven’t read them yet, check out Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, as well as “Eye of the Beholder” from Batman Annual #14 by Andrew Helfer and Chris Sprouce. Loeb lifts stuff from both of these comics constantly, using them as the foundation for his work both here and in his Batman stories before and after TLH.

But of course, I would expect that most everyone here has read both of those comics already, as they are must-reads 'round these parts. When I get a chance, I'm going to give a full overhaul to my review of EotB with better scans, better commentary, and even a few great new finds I've discovered recently! I think I will need to reexamine my favorite comic of all time before revisiting how Loeb built upon its foundation in several respects.

If anyone else knows of films or books that TLH references, lifted from, and/or outright ripped-off, let me know! In the meantime, happy watching, and hopefully I'll see you with a review of TLH #1 sometime before next Halloween!
Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

The long prelude to THE LONG HALLOWEEN: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Early Collaborations (Part 1 of 2)

While working on my first review for the epic review of Batman: The Long Halloween that we'll be doing here over the next year or so, I'd wanted to give a quick overview of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's earlier work. I primarily wanted to focus on their Haunted Knight trilogy of Halloween specials from Legends of the Dark Knight, as they were all direct precursors to TLH, while also giving nods to a couple other, more obscure collaborations between Loeb and Sale.

So I reread these stories, and I dug around and found some interesting interviews with Loeb which shed some light on his creative process, and thus, in typical long-winded Hefner fashion, these "nods" and "quick overviews" exploded into an incredibly long prologue that deserved to be its own post. I think it's important to look at all five of these early collaborations between Loeb and Sale, with a special focus on Loeb himself and how he writes all these stories with similar (or repeating) themes, motifs, quirks, and bad habits, especially his tendency to reference or outright steal scenes from movies. These traits are all present within TLH, but I believe that they're less obvious when that book is read on its own, whereas they become glaring when compared with his earlier stuff which lay the foundation for TLH is more ways than I can count.

So join me as we examine not only the early collaborations between Loeb and Sale, but also look at Loeb's career and creative process from its humble beginnings way back, even earlier than you expect. Be warned: this post is a bit stream-of-consciousness, but I always manage to get back to the point. Well, almost always.

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From here, I was planning to mention some of the actual differences between these stories before delving into their third and final Halloween one-shot, but I'm afraid I must abruptly stop here. Why? Because my full post was too big for LJ to post! Geez, that's never happened to me before! Well, considering how lengthy this one was already, I'll just let this one be for the next day or two and post the rest of the prologue after we've had time to digest this along with our Thanksgiving leftovers.

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

So who wants to help me review "Batman: The Long Halloween?"

At one point over the few years that I've been putting off reviewing Batman: The Long Halloween and writing about my love/hate relationship with Loeb and Sale's most famous work, lego_joker proposed that I review each of the thirteen issues separately with a different special guest reviewer per issue in the vein of my epic tag-team reviews with Henchgirl here and here. Well, I'm finally (though very slowly) working on my review of TLH, and I've noticed a few of you have been showing interest in doing this project, so let's start up a tentative sign-up sheet for which issues anyone would like to cover!

Image source: Allyson's Attic

Now, some have already been claimed. surrealname has called the Christmas Joker issue, which promises to be a very entertaining and profanity-laden review. crows_talon, I know you expressed interest in the Scarecrow Mother's Day issue, but captaintwinings already called that one, so maybe you could do the Scarecrow's other big appearance in the Independence Day issue?

As for Henchgirl herself, she's on the fence about which issue she'd want to review, or if she's up to reviewing it at all, as she suffers from the same kind of aggressive apathy towards TLH that kept me from reviewing it for years. I'm thinking that maybe the Valentine's Day issue would be great for her, so unless anyone else really wants that one, let's keep that open for her for the time being. And if she does decide that she wants to do another one, she gets top priority. Finally, the first and last issues (the actual Halloween ones) are also off-limits, as I want to solo those myself.

All that said, the following issues are therefore open: #2 (Thanksgiving), #4 (New Year's Day), #6 (St. Patrick's Day), #7 (April Fool's Day), #9 (Father's Day), #10 (Independence Day), #11 (Roman Holiday), and #12 (Labor Day). Eight issues to choose amongst yourselves! So yeah, if you're interested in co-reviewing an issue with me, feel free to hash out who would like to do what! I may also try to reach out to a couple cool people outside of this blog to see if they'd be interested as well, and if so, I'll update this accordingly!

How will these co-reviews work? Well, I was thinking of writing up a draft with my thoughts, then I'd pass it along to you to add your own, and then you'd pass it back to me and we'd smooth it out together. As such, you should all remember that it takes me a very, very long time to write reviews these days, so not only it will be a while before I finish my first review, but it could also take me months--maybe even all year!--to finish my first draft reviews of the rest. If you're so inclined, you may want to start drafting any initial thoughts you have now and keep them on ice until I finally get my own written up. This is going to be a review for the long-haul, but I'm certainly up for it if you are!