Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comic Book Report: Batman: False Faces

As comic book writers go, Brian K. Vaughan has a pretty solid batting average. He created the Eisner Award-winning Y: The Last Man, the singular Ex Machina, and Marvel's Runaways, all of which are great titles. (I have some quibbles with the current state of affairs on Runaways--and, to a lesser degree, Ex Machina--but I'll save that for another post.)

This book collects some of BKV's earlier work in the DC universe. As he says in the introduction, all these stories were designed to be "standalone," so they could be dropped into a monthly title without affecting continuity too much. That doesn't necessarily limit a storyteller's choices, and in some ways, it can help to sharpen the focus on the most fundamental, unchanging aspects of an established character.

All these stories deal with identity in some way. The opening tale, comprising three issues of Batman, is the strongest, telling how Bruce Wayne dons a disguise to infiltrate Gotham's criminal underground, and the consequences of doing that long-term. It treads some familiar superhero ground with the question of which identity is the "real" one--Batman, or Bruce?--but manages to spin it in an interesting way.

The closing tale is the weakest, despite having a killer premise: Clayface, a clay-based Batman villain, versus Wonder Woman, a heroine born from magical clay! But the payoff doesn't quite match the setup. To be fair, it's always been hard to write Wonder Woman; there's the costume, and the magic, and the entire Greek pantheon to deal with. Even Greg Rucka and Joss Whedon couldn't quite get it.

Overall, Batman: False Faces is worth a read, especially if you're a Batman fan or interested in seeing how Vaughan's writing has improved since he wrote these stories.

Buy this book: Powell's, Amazon


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