Showcase ’93 #7: “Two Face: Double Cross,” Written by Doug Moench, Art and Colors by Klaus Janson
Dennis O’Neil, Consulting Editor
Neal Pozner, Editor
By John A. Butz
“Then we’re divided again, deadlocked, and we need our impartial arbiter to break the stale-mate…to decide the outcome.”
Waiting, it is said, is the hardest part. And when you are writing a story, how you depict waiting is a real challenge. Sure, you could just describe it in a sentence or two. Or you could go into great detail about how the waiting feels, how it drags at the people who are sitting, poised for some event, some change, some great paradigm shift. Depending on the medium and the talent of the story-teller, these can either be very strong devices, or they can fall flat.
The comic-book medium makes dealing with waiting even more challenging. When you only have twenty-two pages of storytelling per issue, you can’t devote a large portion of that time to a total lack of action. You need to give the reader something to keep them involved in the story even while you try to make them feel the passage of time.
Comics books, therefore, are ideally suited to the use of the flashback. As characters sit and wait, they can recollect on events that have already happened. If the scope of your story is large enough, these events might be ones that you didn’t have the time or space to show in prior issues, allowing your story to gain volume and depth, context and texture. On the downside, many a ret-con or improbable storyline has come out of the flashback. It is a gamble, as any form of storytelling worth attempting should be.
Two Face: Double Cross is the first part of a great flashback story written by Doug Moench. It is meant to convey Robin’s guilt and fear that his lack of action during the Arkham breakout may have lead to Batman’s debilitation and subsequent defeat by Bane. Moench uses the character of Two-Face as the primary antagonist, and a story about Batman’s confrontation with the former District Attorney.
This book marks the first time in a long time that new faces have shown up in the KnightFall by-lines. Neal Pozner was a two-time employee of DC, and was the first real production designer for the Distinguished Competition. He got his artistic start designing album covers for many well known musicians, as well as designing the first gay-themed ads for New York City. He wrote several stories for DC, including a mid-eighties run on Aquaman. Pozner would die in 1994 from complications of AIDS. His experience with the franchise and his solid head for design and the look of the characters makes this a memorable little two-part vignette.
While Pozner brings a fresh editorial take to this story, Klaus Janson brings something else – the best Two-Face in all of comics. Born in Germany, Janson worked as an assistant to Dick Giordano in the early seventies before beginning to build his reputation as an inker while working with Sal Buscema on The Defenders, a Marvel title. Janson’s fame comes from his long-time partnership with Frank Miller. Between 1979 and 1983, these two men would revitalize the Daredevil franchise, and in 1986 they would partner up for the graphic novel that would define Batman for a generation – The Dark Knight Returns.
Janson has a unique style. It is oddly rough and as far from the photo-realism of a Graham Nolan or Jim Aparo as one can be. Janson draws in an elemental style. He carves the images out of the page, using perspective and color to give weight, motion, and impact to his panels.
Janson’s Two-Face is wonderful, echoes of the original interpretations of the character – two-colored suits, a tie split cleanly down the middle with two differing patterns – leavened heavily with modern touches. Acid burns, skin that has bubbled and burst and scarred under the chemical assault, a grotesque of a face sits right alongside the blue-eyed handsome DA. The contrast is powerful and startling.
All this art and style would be nothing more than pretty window dressing without the quality writing that Doug Moench continues to bring to the table. Flying in the face of my conclusions from The Freedom of Madness, Moench proves once again that not only can he write a good madman; he can write a strongly artistic story. Double Cross is full of nods to classic Two-Face capers, with the crimes and clues revolving around the number two. It is also filled with nods to Batman: Year One and the modern origin of Two-Face. There is a strong theme of law and justice versus vengeance, a ton of important coin flips, and plenty of action.
Although this story does retread some of the ground covered in The Broken Bat, it comes at things with a fresh perspective and a lot of energy. The new art and editing combined with Moench’s excellent writing add up to one of my three favorite comics in the second collection of KnightFall. This is another work that I can’t come at with any impartiality. It is full of the things that I have always loved about Batman. Crime, old friends and broken friendships, justice, vengeance, and unexpected deathtraps abound. As the cliffhanger ending rolls around, I can’t stop flipping pages, and I have to dive right into the next part.
“Heads we win…and heads we win.”
Previously: Who Rules The Night