By Dan Horn
March 7, 2011 - 14:34
Dark Gems: The best Legends of the Dark Knight
I have to, of course, start with my favorite three-part arc from Legends of the Dark Knight, "Faces." It was 1992 and Matt Wagner was having a big year. Not only was Grendel a smash hit for Dark Horse, but his options were opening up in a more commercial arena: Wagner was commissioned to write and pull art duties on DC's LOTDK #28-30, which would be released just a few months before Wagner's Grendel: Warchild would hit stands, and would pave the way to the subsequent Batman/Grendel miniseries. The story Wagner created for the Batman anthology is in my opinion one of the best and most overlooked tales in the mythology of the Caped Crusader.
"Faces" does a fantastic job of juggling the dual identities of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and that of his ghastly vigilante counterpart, the Batman. We see both sides of the character, sharing nearly equal panel time, and ultimately the mystery within the stories' pages takes both personas to unravel it, not just Batman, as we so often see in other books. And the mystery is quite a doozey, harkening back to hard-boiled pulp detective stories with a splash of corporate espionage as Bruce Wayne finds himself outbid in a real estate war by a perplexing buyer, and Batman is hot on the heels of the murderous Two Face.
There's a very literary quality to "Faces," at times gumshoe detective novel, and at others a strange mix of Poe, Shakespeare, and Bradbury all rolled into one cryptic tragedy. The payoff is absolutely fantastic, if not equally weird and horrifying. Matt Wagner always works well with an ensemble cast of characters, and his additions to the Batman mythology play out their rolls in his tale perfectly, becoming permanently embroiled in the dusky fabric of Gotham lore. The real estate agent, Wren, in particular is so helplessly caught up in the intrigue of "Faces," it's impossible not to empathize with the character and ultimately lament with him the unfortunate and unstoppable trajectory his life took at the onset of the story. "Faces" is also a quintessential Harvey Dent tale, examining his torn psyche and why he is afraid to be a freak and the lengths he will go to belong. But, I suppose, if you haven't read "Faces" yet, you should scour your local comic store's back issue bins to find out what the hell I'm jabbering on about. It's very worth your while.
Next time, I'll be talking about a little known Mignola work. These articles will be mostly about LOTDK, but I will diverge from that now and then to talk about other wonderful Batman stories.
If you have anything Bat-related you'd like me to talk about, please feel free to email me your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org