To better understand how the New 52 Two-Face came to be we must first understand the person who created him and it’s not Sal Maroni. The third chapter of “The Big Burn” is one that takes us deeper into the past than ever before while simultaneously continuing the present day storyline in which Two-Face is out for revenge.

Erin McKillen, the latest person responsible for scarring Harvey Dent, awoke in Wayne Manor at the end of last month’s issue. The last thing she remembered was Matches Malone leading her to freedom from Blackgate Prison, but now she is face to face with a figure from her past. Over a candlelit dinner that opens issue #26, we learn more about this new character’s connection to Bruce Wayne and, more importantly, we get a flashback that answers why she hates Harvey Dent so very much. I’ve been really fascinated by the structure of this storyline so far. Each chapter has featured flashbacks to Two-Face’s origin story beginning with the moment at which he was created (the acid splash) and then with each flashback ever since then we’ve gone back further and further before that horrific event. By rewinding the past narrative from the point Harvey was burned has made the story more intriguing for me. Had writer Peter J. Tomasi started with McKillen’s backstory from the get-go I doubt I would’ve cared for her and I would’ve likely spent most of the time dreading the moment she attacked Two-Face. I would’ve maybe viewed her with resentment, “She better turn out to be really interesting and the acid burn scene better live up to expectations or else!” but instead Tomasi ripped off the band-aid immediately and ever since I’ve been left to wonder, “How did things get to that point?” It’s made me hungry to learn more about McKillen. Hungry for answers. And so far I’ve been entertained.

Am I satisfied with the New 52 Harvey Dent origin? Not yet. Losing the courthouse setting is a negative and so is the lack of Batman’s presence. Tomasi is doing a great job of establishing Dent’s attacker and we get more of an idea of what Dent himself was like pre-attack in this issue, but we’re missing our titular hero. This is quite odd when you consider how Pre-New 52 Batman or Bruce Wayne was really only present at Two-Face’s creation (and when ACE Chemical was introduced, Joker) but in the New 52 he’s been on the scene for the origin of Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and probably some others that will come to mind later. And despite there being numerous other successful Two-Face origins outside of a courthouse, they’ve all had one thing in common: Batman was too late. I want Batman to have a greater sense of responsibility for what happened to Harvey. It can be appropriate guilt or he can just be beating himself up and there was truly nothing he could’ve done– I don’t care. I like there to be something. This important element is missing from Two-Face’s New 52 story so far (there are still 2 chapters remaining).

The confrontation between McKillen and Dent that we flash back to is a deeply emotional one with some very memorable visuals created by the under-rated Patrick Gleason. However, I will say that this Dent appears to be nastier than we’ve witnessed before. Will a lighter Dent show up? We’ll just have to wait and see. As it stands, Dent’s “screentime” is mostly devoted to the present day storyline which is very explosive in this issue. After seeing the action in previous issues mostly involving McKillen or Batman, it was great to see Two-Face finally jump into the fray rather than working behind the scenes only. While the bulk of the comic is quite wordy and character-driven, the final pages are almost entirely action and show us a vengeful Two-Face on the  warpath and that should satisfy a lot of readers.

Overall it’s a really great read and one of the best Batman stories I think you can be following at the moment. On the negative side, while the imagery is often phenomenal there were a few panels that were too narrow and what with the comic being so wordy in those sections the speech bubbles got a little crowded. There was one panel in particular where readers have to follow an especially long and winding trail from the speech bubble back to the respective character’s mouth. I’d also point out that Bruce gives a speech in this issue that’s a bit cheesy. I wish writers would stop having Bruce deliver speeches, it’s just not his thing. When I want Batman to say something, especially something profound I prefer it to be to the point. I like him to say a lot with very little and these lengthy speeches like the “Cherokee Dog Speech” here and the speech from Batman #24 really do nothing for me but try my patience. The last negative thing I want to point out about this otherwise fantastic issue will go in spoiler tags:

Spoiler

Batman would’ve been there in time to save Kieron. At the end of the comic we have a little pow-wow between Two-Face, Erin, and her cousin, Kieron, who has betrayed her. (It’s a great scene and the green saturation of the landscape really reminded me of the end of the 4th Harry Potter movie which is a good thing, but I was hella-pissed that they didn’t include the line “Bow, Harry. Bow to death.”) Eventually Two-Face turns his gun on Kieron and tears him to pieces and the Batman roars in on what looks an awful lot like a Bat-Pod. Sounds cool, right? It definitely looked bad ass, but let’s consider the fact that Batman tailed Kieron and Erin the whole way here. So I think it’s safe to assume that he would’ve been at the graveyard the whole time listening in so why the hell didn’t he jump in before Kieron was murdered? No, it’s not like the guy was worth saving, there are a lot of good reasons for him to die, really. He was a bad person and not a terribly interesting character AND it was a cool moment for Two-Face, but the fact still remains that if Batman was there, he would’ve stopped Two-Face before he pulled the trigger. Not after! Saving people* and not giving long speeches** is what Batman does.

*AMENDMENT: Unless it’s Christian Bale’s Batman and the person who needs saving is Ra’s al Ghul

**AMENDMENT: Unless it’s Adam West’s Batman

Recommended If…

  • You want to learn more about Erin McKillen and why she scarred Harvey Dent’s face
  • An Alfred one-liner always makes you happy
  • You’ve been keeping up with the story so far. This Two-Face arc is one of the best things going on right now
  • You’re looking for a serious, character-driven comic with impressive visuals

Overall

This is shaping up to be one of the best arcs in the series so far and I’m about ready to declare Erin McKillen as the most interesting new bat-character of 2013.

SCORE: 8.5/10