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Batman #654

Posted: Monday, July 3, 2006
By: Diana Kingston

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Don Kramer

Publisher: DC Comics

Well, that probably could have turned out better.

Considering it was James Robinson's comeback, and the big "One Year Later" story for Batman, it's fair to say I had high expectations for "Face The Face." Now that it's over, though, I've come away feeling rather underwhelmed by the whole thing.

The big flaw in this arc is that it spends most of its time turning the clock back: Batman and Robin are a team again, Gordon is Commissioner again, Bullock is a detective again, Harvey Dent is Two Face again and so on. It's certainly true that recent developments hadn't put Batman in a very favorable light, so a bit of rewinding would at least make the character tolerable again. At the same time, all Robinson really achieves here is the restoration of an older status quo (and as far as relationship dynamics are concerned, I don't see much difference between "ward" and "adopted son"). It's hard to get excited by anything that happens here, because were it not for the constant, clumsy mentions of the missing year, you'd think you were reading a Batman story from five or ten years ago.

This issue's finale is more concerned with setting up future storylines than with providing closure, as none of the plots come to a satisfactory conclusion. "Face The Face" as a whole feels like one big teaser... but since this was a crossover between Batman and Detective Comics, it's not clear whether it's teasing Morrison's run or Dini's, or something else altogether.

It's been a long time since Starman, and the time away from comics doesn't seem to have done Robinson much good: this issue is botched-up on a technical level as well, presenting stilted dialogue, a "mystery" resolved by a throwaway comment and a hunch, a mastermind appearing completely out of nowhere, and the first half of the issue jumps back and forth in the chain of events without clear transitions, leaving the whole scene a jumbled mess.

As a glorified but forgettable fill-in, "Face The Face" is merely mediocre; as the launching point for Batman's OYL stories, it's awful. Let's hope Morrison and Dini do better with their respective titles.

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