Sunday, January 6, 2013

COMICBOOK REVIEW BATMAN FALSE FACES

BATMAN FALSE FACES is a collection of DC comics stories all written by Brian K Vaughan.


Brian K Vaughan is famous for working on three seasons of one of my all time favorite shows,  Lost and also more importantly for writing on one of my favorite comic book series of all time Y THE LAST MAN

Brian K Vaughan introduces Batman False Faces himself and sets up the context of the book and the many stories it pulls from. All the stories are gloriously self contained so they don't really need to fit into any certain continuity. I assume Vaughan does this so that they are, as Batman should be, easily accessible to all audiences. There are four stories in the collection of varying lengths. Three of the four are pulled from issues of Batman he did, and the other story is a two parter from a Wonder Woman run that happens to star a Batman villain. All four stories play with the themes of identity and metamorphoses as the title False Faces hints at. This article will review the middle story, then the last, then I will cover the Wonder Woman story, and then a review of the first and longest story in the Close Before Striking. CLICK READ MORE TO DO JUST THAT








MIMSY WERE THE BOROGOVES

Mimsy Were The Borogoves was penciled by Rick Burchett inks by John Lowe Colors by Jason Wright and John Costanza on lettering it also features a fantastic cover by Tim Sale that I refuse to ruin, by putting it on the web. The story is a one-shot that Vaughan wrote as a filler issue in case he needed a story to meet a dead line. It is essentially a Mad Hatter story, although it features an appearance by Kirk Langstrom aka the Manbat, the Mad Hatter's psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Yorkes, and of course the titular Batman.

The story starts with Batman breaking into a warehouse reminiscing about his father giving him a St. George Medal which had an engraving of the Saint slaying a dragon. Bruce wonders if he has what it takes to slay a dragon, this of course leads to Batman slaying a dragon. The dragon that the Batman must slay is in the form of the Jabberwock from the Alice books that the Mad Hatter is obsessed with. This fearsome beast was also featured in Tim Burton's underwhelming film starring Johnny Depp. This Jabberwock is not magical in origin, as the story will explain.



The Jabberowock is the result of a gene altering serum that Jervis Tetch has forced Kirk Langstrom (inventor of the Man-bat serum) to create against his will. The cool DC touch they gave to the serum is that Langstrom created the Jabberwock out of the DNA of some of Batman's worst foes Killer Croc, Langstrom's alter ego the Man-bat, and one of my all time favorites Solomon Grundy.  It's a simple Bat-story that is elevated by the unique characterizations and details infused by Vaughan. The layouts are some of my favorite parts of the story especially this two page spread.

 Burchett brings the dcau style to the issue that makes it feel a natural part of the Batman universe. The story closes with  Batman staring into the St George Medallion his father left him. As Batman stares into that coin he wonders if he has made his father proud.




 








SKULLDUGGERY
Skullduggery has pencils by Marcos Martin, Inks by Mark Pennington, Colors by Tom McCraw, and Letters by Tim Harkins. In the final story in the compilation that is essentially a five page teaser for a villain that Vaughan would have made a central part of his run. The villain is impersonating several of Batman's rogues and pulling off crimes in their disguises to cover his future plots. He is the Skeleton. I love his design and the way his internal monologue about the characters feels so spot on to the complexities and personalities of the Arkhamites. I would love to see Vaughan continue a story line in the future with his The Skeleton character.


A PIECE OF YOU

A Piece of You has pencils by Scott Kolins, Inks by Dan Panosian/Drew Geraci, Colors by Pam Rambo, and Letters by John Costanza. Vaughan is ingenious for realizing that Clayface is made of clay and Wonder Woman is made of clay. So what happens if Clayface ever touched Wonder  Woman? The answer: Clayface gets her powers a
can now impersonate meta-humans.  This bonding with Clayface leaves Diana weakened and younger so she looks like her clone in the DCU of yester year Donna Troy. Vaughan is great at pulling DCU characters in to fit and fill his story needs as he also gets Nightwing, Robin, and  Oracle involved in solving the Clayface problem. With the story Vaughan is able to capture the complexity of Diana's character and her unique relationship with her own identity. Clayface also explores the types of crimes he can do impersonating Wonder Woman and Superman. Scot Kolins art is fantastic and serves the story perfectly.













CLOSE BEFORE STRIKING



 Close Before Striking is the first story by Vaughan in the collection with pencils by Scott McDaniel Inks by Karl Story and Letterer John Costanza. This story is a three part story that Vaughan says in the introduction he did as an audition to see if he could get a regular run on Batman. He didn't get picked up for an entire run but these stories show an  fun and ballsy attempt at adding to the Dark Knight Detective's mythology. The story plays upon an old Batman character Matches Malone who for the uninitiated is the guise that Batman puts on to get information from the criminal underworld of Gotham. He was alluded to in a couple of episodes of Batman The Animated Series.


The story opens with Matches Malone in a bar trying to get some info. Only to be told that the criminals of Gotham think he's a rat as the crimes he commits are routinely thwarted by the Batman. Just then right on cue Batman shows and puts a whooping on Matches. Then Batman and Matches leave the bar only to reunite and reveal that Nightwing/Dick Grayson was posing as Batman so that Bruce could reestablish his Matches Malone persona's credibility. Matches gets in with the Ventriloquist who is bringing cop-killer bullets into Gotham.

Batman uses the intel he has acquired as Matches and busts up the Ventriloquist's operation. However, Scarface is sure that Matches is an informant for Batman and wants him dead. Bruce is at home training, chilling, doing his out of cowl Batman chores, when he is interrupted by Oracle who has news that his cover Matches Malone is shot and bleeding out in a bar. Batman Rushes off to investigate with Nightwing who he then has to inform on the history of Matches Malone and Batman.
Bruce tells Dick how none of the fictional aliases he concocted could hold up to the scrutiny of  Gotham's criminals.Vaughan shows in the story the failed identities Batman tried before he used the Matches Malone identity successfully. Vaughan plays the Gotham criminal underworld as the type of place one needs referrals and real credibility to commit crimes on a professional level. Bruce has no luck gathering his on information until a small time arsonist from Hoboken named Matches Malone came to town.

Matches is involved in crime with his brother until a job goes wrong and his brother dies. Batman suspected that Matches had killed his own brother. Stricken with guilt Matches appears to blow himself up in a suicide attempt. Batman being the first on the scene decides to conceal Matches death from authorities and begins assuming Matches identity to gather information on the criminal underworld. By this time Nightwing and Batman have arrived at the bar where Matches is bleeding out and in his last moments Matches tells Batman his side of the tale. Matches had gone back home to Hoboken and changed his name and look. He continued a life of crime until he should happen to hear some fellow crooks chatting. The two mention his old name Matches Malone and that he's a rat. The real Matches is furious that some one has assumed his identity and has been dragging his family name in the mud. So the real Matches decides to pull out his old wardrobe, shave a signature Matches style 'stache, and return to Gotham. Upon entering Gotham he's gunned down by the Ventriloquist.
 Matches makes Batman promise to avenge his death and Batman eerily accepts the promise in Matches voice. The Bat-family is worried about how Bruce is reacting to Matches death. Batman intensifies his pursuit of the Ventriloquist and his gun smuggling operation. Bruce is seemingly getting lost in anger and in his Matches head space. He starts smoking and using more of Matches affectations in his Bruce and Batman life.
Vaughan does a great job of subtly showing a character skills and personality through performance. Having Nightwing and Oracle train as they converse on Bruce's mental state, is both cool and informative to the nature of their characters. Batman tracks down the Ventriloquist and whoops his ass. Ultimately using the power of quick change to blind him and switch into his Matches persona and burn Scarface, Matches style

I love Vaughan's take on The Dark Knight Detective. I would love to see how he'd handle Gotham's other villains like Two-Face, the Joker, or even Killer Moth.