Nobody likes an asshole, and for the past few years that’s exactly what Batman has been in both Detective Comics and his self-titled series. With the culmination of Infinite Crisis, DC Comics took the opportunity to change a few things about the Dark Knight, including his attitude. “Face the Face” takes place one year after Infinite Crisis. Events that took place during that missing year are alluded to and needless to say, Batman was not the only thing to get a makeover. During that year, James Gordon once again became Commissioner and Harvey Bullock is once again a Detective on the police force. In other words, Gotham City and the Batman universe in general are back to the way they should be.
Batman as a character has changed dramatically over the years. He began as a dark avenger in 1939, transformed into a lighter character in the 1950s, became absolutely absurd and camp in the 1960s, began to return to his darker roots in the 1970s, and then became the truly dark and brooding Dark Knight in the 1980’s, only to continue to get darker from there. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns redefined Batman and from then on in, he was grim, to say the least. It seems like over time, writers and artists tried to see who could create the darker Batman. DC finally realized that this had been played out, and with “Face the Face”, they decided to lighten things up. Just a bit though, as too much and we would all be having bad acid flash-backs of the 1960’s and Adam West.
James Robinson is no stranger to comics. His seminal work on Starman in the 1990s showed the potential of what a superhero comic could be. Robinson has been quiet in the comic world since that series ended a few years back, but his short return is ever so sweet and shows that not only does Robinson get comics, but he most definitely gets Batman.
Right away, Robinson removes some of the brooding over-tones of the character, and yet does not entirely lose Batman’s grittier side. He is still a very closed-off character to those who do not know him, but there is a human side to him as well, witnessed in his behavior behavior towards Robin. Throughout the tale, Robin is at Batman’s side working with him closely rather than being shut out like he had in the past. In fact by the end, a major event occurs that brings Batman and Robin that much closer and changes the dynamic of the characters for the better.
Since “Face the Face” was the tale of Batman’s return after being missing for one year, Robinson brings him back in a worthy fashion, making the Bat-Signal never more important, and showing that Gotham City not only needs, but also wants Batman in their lives. An interesting aspect to this is how Robinson not only shows the joy some people feel to the Dark Knight’s return, but also those who are not to keen on him returning as it puts a damper on their illegal activities. Robinson also weaves a tale that reduces the number of villains in Gotham, but at the same tame makes some older villains much more deadly than they had been, including Two-Face, who figures prominently at the center of this story.
The artwork is done by two art teams, as the story originally crossed over between Detective Comics and Batman. Both are talented and convey the grittiness of Batman’s world, but remain distinct enough that you can enjoy each artist’s strengths and style. The artwork gives a very noir look and feel to the tale, showing that while perhaps Batman’s attitude has lightened up a bit, his world still has its roots in some very dark and troubling realities.
When one is attempting to alter an iconic character, it is necessary to pay respect to not only what has come before, but what works best for the character in general. Robinson and crew are able to do this, depicting a Batman that is still dark without coming across as someone suffering from severe bouts of paranoia. Batman before Infinite Crisis was a mistrusting character who kept everyone at distance and spied on those he called friends, all for the greater good. This revamped Batman is now a kinder, gentler Batman who has a closer emotional tie to Robin and Gotham’s supporting cast than ever before. While Batman will forever be recognized as a dark character, there is a fine line between that and just plain old depressing, and hopefully DC is able to keep Batman on the right track. Regardless, “Face the Face” is a wonderful tale of Batman’s return to Gotham City and one of the better Batman tales from the past few years.