Friday, June 09, 2006

Face the Face: Part 1 of 8 (DC comics)
Detective Comics #817 When: May, 2006
Why: James Robinson How: Leonard Kirk & Andy Clarke

The story so far...
It's been one year since Blüdhaven was destroyed by Chemo, and Batman battled a living Jason Todd.

In an effort to rebuild a better Batman, Bruce Wayne and wards, Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, go on a year long journey following the original path of the Batman, retracing the steps of his origin.

In his absence, Batman leaves Harvey Dent, whom he has trained sufficiently to ensure crime does not capitalize on the Batman's absence from Gotham.
Having undergone facial reconstruction surgery, Harvey Dent appears to be purged of the Two-Face persona, but appearances can be deceiving...

Recommended reading:
Batman #615-#619: Harvey Dent is 'cured' during his arc in the maxi-series - Hush.
Batman #649: Blüdhaven is destroyed during confrontation with Jason Todd.
The Dark Knight Returns #1: Alternate outcome to Harvey Dent's cure.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: KGBeast 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: KGBeast 4 (Tactician)
Speed: KGBeast 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: KGBeast 3 (Strong Willed)
Agility: KGBeast 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: KGBeast 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: KGBeast 4 (Arsenal)

Alright, straight away we have to acknowledge an unusual situation.
I would immediately submit a distinct lack of familiarity with the character, KGBeast. While vaguely aware of the character, I cannot ensure these ratings are at all accurate. Anyone with cases for different ratings should definitely scroll to the comments section, and clue me in.

The second curiosity in this situation is Tally Man, who, for all intents and purposes is a brand new character, not to be confused with the grinning character featured in Shadow of the Bat in the early nineties.
Thus, it's quite difficult to draw any definitive conclusion of this character's abilities. He's clearly quite proficient at sneaking around and sniping characters, but beyond that, I cannot be quite sure.

Actually, to be entirely honest, this was one of those spur of the moment inclusions. While not thrilled with the 'new' approach to Batman, this opening scene to the Face the Face storyline was just too interesting to pass up.
Plus, it also fulfilled the opener/DC quota for this month.

Ultimately, from the stats we can draw the conclusion that KGBeast would comprehensively beat this character into bloody submission. While not at all the A-leaguer he once was, KGBeast is still competent enough to battle what appears to be a normal, average, everyday human being.

What went down...
One year since the Batman left Gotham, KGBeast sits perched atop one of the many buildings of the city, with his target in sight. Just a crosshair from his objective.

Suddenly, without warning, gun fire rings out into the night, cutting through the barrel of the assassin's weapon.
Under heavy fire, the Russian leaps from his post and flees for the window - crashing to a rooftop below, pursued by a very fast, silhouetted assailant.

The KGBeast fires off a round from the wrist mounted cybernetics that replace his left hand, and unsuccesfully attempts to reload in mid-air.

Tackled by his attacker, the two struggle, with bullets flying from the KGBeast's cybernetic weaponry.
The mystery man gets in a good right hook, and ducks further fire to grapple with the weaponized arm. He pulls it tight behind the KGBeast's back, pulling until he hears a crack.

Only able to ponder who his murderer is, KGBeast is tossed backward from the roof, as the shadowed man declares himself - Gotham's protector.

The hammer...
The winner, and new kid on the block: Tallyman!

If you've been visiting the website for a while now, you know a few things. You know we're running devestatingly behind, and you know that there generally isn't a lot of regard giving to spoilers. With any luck regular readers have gotten used to scrolling no further than the title, and issue cover, so as to know where to brisk past, and were not to.

Incidentally, both issues converge with this entry. Being massively behind [writing this mid-August], it means we can identify the silhouetted character correctly, which was not possible when I first selected the issue.
Of course, this also means we've dropped a pretty big spoiler if you're a few months behind on your reading (I know I am!). Sorry about that.

As for the issue itself.
Well, it wasn't a bad read, but Batman 1 Year Later disappointed this reader.
At the risk of fulfilling the obsessive, stubborn fanboy stereotype - the problem immediately is the decision to make change.

While quite disatisfied with some of the more recent crossovers to interfere with the Bat-books (chiefly War Games and War Crimes), I actually thought Batman was just about at his definitive best. The book I most looked forward to reading from about the seven-fifties, through the eight hundreds was Detective Comics.
It had an appealing blend of influences ranging from the successful animated series, to certain Milleresque traits, and other broader strokes. It was just a really fantastic package, and with stories like Hush and Broken City running alongside, it was a fun time to be reading Batman.

The interpretation in Face the Face visually seems to draw on the influence of Brian Bolland's work on The Killing Joke. Dark colours peppered with burnt highlights, and flat blacks make up a fairly distinctive interpretation of the Batman universe.

For me, it's just not something I can appreciate. Particularly when the grey, tempered look of the Detective Comics issues already mentioned, was so in key with the kind of Batman I want to see. This, to me, was a distinct step backward, rather than an homage to that which worked.

Thematically, I'd say similar steps backward were taken.
Interviews and reports seemed to suggest 1 Year Later would be about softening, and lightening Batman up, which personally, wasn't something I was interested in either, pointing again to those favoured issues of Detective.

A fairly cartoony, and dull appearance in the follow-up issue by Poison Ivy immediately highlighted an approach almost reminiscent of the sixties television series, if a little wiser and contemporary.

Among the atmospheric problems, I'm also disappointed to see another character rising from the dead. Poison Ivy, who died during the Hush hangover in Gotham Knights, returns alive, and perhaps more powerful than ever - another disapointment.
Not only have her powers bloomed to Swamp Thing proportions, removing her somewhat from the typical Batman street-level nemesis, but she has also returned to her hollow, afterschool special crusade against pollutants and other environmental threats.

All of that said -- what an opening scene!
The only thing disappointing about the opening of this new storyline is that the KGBeast had to be among the Tallyman's victims!

While not exactly an A-list villain these days, this was a character with all the potential in the world. Straight off the bat the redesigned costume was a treat, and was even complimented by the flat blacks of the art direction!

Assassins are the characters I feel that are the most regularly mistreated characters in comics. Many a-time I've come up with treatment for various characters in both the Marvel and DC universes, and the common trait is to have on-going agendas and interaction amongst the assassin community. They are, after all, supposed to be regularly working.

In a time when Batman, under Judd Winick, had been operating in an agenda-filled Gotham, and in a time when villains were united, it's a shame to lose a worthy addition. Likewise, it is a shame to lose this versimilitude that was injected into the Batman title, in favour of more traditional superheroics.

I'm yet to see Grant Morrison's efforts, but maybe we can put Face the Face down to filler, rather than new editorial mandate. Either way, Judd Winick, surprisingly-so, will be sorely missed on the title. As will Dough Mahnke, and the tremendous colouring and inking team.

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 3

NEXT: Hulk smash puny villains in disguise! The Thunderbolts tackle the green goliath, as Hulk month continues!

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