"Face to Face"
Writers: Dan Slott; Ty Templeton
Artists: Rich Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Lee Louridge; Zylenol(c)
The conclusion to Batman Adventures animated style foray against Black Mask's False Face Gang reinforces Batman's identity and his sanity while offering a few surprises. Much of the credit goes to Dan Slott who does that rare thing few writers seem to be capable of doing. He thinks.
Previously, Mr. Slott set up Bruce in his Matches Malone identity to infiltrate and dismantle. During Batgirl's terrific escape from a deathtrap last issue, Bruce cements his relationship with Black Mask as well as throwing suspicion on the Black Spider--who either must be the Bat or an agent of the Bat. Now if this were a continuity book, I have no doubt that the writer would stretch out Bruce's infiltration to three boring issues of padded twaddle. This however is Batman Adventures where good sense and style prevail.
Mr. Slott shows the efficacy in Batman's methods--not to forget Batgirl's resourcefulness--catalyzing Black Mask's utter downfall. At the same time, he displays how Batman retains his personality even when deeply buried in disguise; the gun scene in particular shows no matter whom Batman pretends to be his psychology still prohibits him from doing certain things. Take that Mr. I just bought a gun to see what it would feel like so that I could be a contrived suspect in the who killed Vesper Fairchild nonsense!
When Batman portrays Matches Malone you can almost feel the pressure he's under. When he finally ends the ruse and returns to himself as Batman, his relief is palpable. The reaction from his confidants at his return is a welcome reward this hero who risks his life each night in the name of justice. Rather than dark, dark, more dark and yes, dark, Batman Adventures functions on rhythm where there is light in the cave and within Wayne Manor.
Mr. Slott does not earn Batman a total victory. He continues to cloud Phantasm's rationale, and it comes to no surprise that Batman allows her to escape. No surprise also that she does not assume his kindness will last and when she beats a hasty retreat. By the end of the story, her state of mind further muddies her intention. I still tend to think Andi is on the path of redemption and probably works for Interpol to ferret out the international head of the False Face Gang--whose identity provides one of this year's greatest shocks.
The back up story by Ty Templeton reveals the origins of Matches Malone. Originally created in the pre-Crisis by Denny O'Neil and Irv Novick, Matches was really just a two-bit punk who bought it by his own ricocheting bullet. Batman assumes his identity to derail the schemes of Ra's Al Ghul: a story available in the recommended trade paperback collection Tales of the Demon.
Mr. Templeton's Malone gains more weight of character as an informant, but the author does not stop there. Through his partnership with Mr. Burchett and Beatty, he adds one more element to the myth that gives a deeper explanation for why Batman continues to resurrect this low-life hood.
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