Monday, June 30, 2014

Batman and Two-Face by Peter J. Tomasi issue #28

I think I finally have a better understanding of how Tomasi writes Batman stories. He always builds up a good premise and then the next issues will either be decent follow-ups or shaky ones. But he always sticks the landing when it comes to the endings of his arcs (except perhaps with trash like Terminus and zombies). For his writing for the new origin story for one of the Bat-villain A-listers Two-Face, The Big Burn certainly ended as a phenomenal albeit an essentially incomplete story. 

The grand finale Inferno is so good in pacing, execution and artistic style that you simply lose yourself in the pages therein. Readers are provided with the right balance of action and dramatic elements, even if we are still haunted by Tomasi's failure to characterize Harvey Dent as a White Knight in the flashback sequences from the last issue which I discussed in detail here. I also talked about how I believed Tomasi did not want any comparisons with his work here and with that of Nolan's film The Dark Knight when it comes to how he interpreted the trinity relationship of Batman, Gordon and Dent. However, that line "You were the best of us" was unmistakably a callback to said movie. But as I've expressed in my review of the last issue, this was not the case, is it? 

Harvey Dent was not that of a stand-up guy to begin with, it may seem, seeing as he was a criminal defense lawyer for the Irish mob family McKillens, and that his run for the distruct attorney's office felt like a self-serving move because he had no other options left. So that line did not have the kind of impact Tomasi expect it might have because his Harvey Dent was a callous and pragmatic man of law as opposed to the idyllic and optimistic one we have seen in the Nolan film.

But this is not where my criticisms end, though I'm not sure if my next one should even be considered a critique, since it's the most wonderful highlight of this five-issued arc, to be honest, and that is no other than Tomasi's original creation of the villainess Erin McKillen who is the dark horse that certainly won a place as a formidable foe (that I have a feeling could appear in other issue of the B&R run soon enough). I really enjoyed her. I enjoyed her relationship with Bruce Wayne. I enjoyed her sadomasochistic tango with Harvey Dent/Two-Face. And I enjoyed her personal backstory. She was the one who truly shone in this story--which defeats the purpose of the title. As great as the Irish rose was, The Big Burn shouldn't be more about her, but Two-Face. That growing unevenness between their character's appearances was the most confusing development for me because on one hand I like reading about Erin; but on the other I really wish we're focusing on Two-Face because this is his damn comic book in the first place.

And when we do zero-in on him, it's by this last installment which are rife with great character interaction moments between him and Batman as well. This exchange and panels shots are the ones I completely devoured:

After thinking more about it, I decided to cut this review short and not talk about the ending itself because that one I believe is purposefully ambiguous. I refuse to believe that it really happened because there are some great points to raise that would invalidate what seemed to have occurred. Great, I'm sounding very cryptic right now but I don't want to spoil any more of you because this is one comic book you should read for yourself. If anything, the top-notch illustrations of Gleason, Gray and Kalisz should pique your interest since I personally think that they can rival those of Capullo, Miki and FCO from Synder's BatmanZero Year. I'm constantly pleased by how much Gleason is surprising me as an artist. His artwork has come far since Born To Kill first volume of B&R. He has finally learned to be more expressive in his details of character's faces and the action panels. So his artwork for this issue may earn the biggest share of my rating for it overall.

So in a nutshell: Peter J. Tomasi's The Big Burn was definitely one of his strongest arcs (which is saying something because we were served by his weakest before), and that fucking ending will thankfully be resolved soon enough. I'm also looking forward for whatever larger role Erin McKillen will take to what I assume will be the Gotham's mob rise to relevance in the New 52 Batman storylines. This has been a great journey with its equal share of ups and downs, and I'm still definitely hopeful and positive about what's to come for Tomasi's continuing Batman and ____ stories next time.


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