Not enough people are talking about what happens in this comic!

I know I’ve been getting a little more relaxed in the pace I release reviews. I think I deserve it after cranking out 4-8 reviews (clocking in at around a thousand words an article, this one’s 1,900+ by the way) per Wednesday, but I feel ****ing bad about not getting a piece up about Batman and Two-Face #28 first thing Wednesday morning. Holy hell. I didn’t even read this until Friday night and when I did I swore (loudly), posted a confounded and alarmed tweet, and then just sat there looking at a blank page for a bit. I was at a loss. So I took a drive, saw a lady-friend, came home, made a burger, and then at around 2 in the morning I felt that I had wrapped my head around this comic just enough to write something for you folks– but I’m starting with an apology: I’m sorry I didn’t tackle this review sooner. You want my recommendation? You have it. Go pick this up. We have a lot to discuss. First, let’s start with a brief spoiler-free rundown of what makes this comic good and bad.

Point One: It’s a phenomenal ending to an incomplete story.

Despite each chapter of this 5-part re-imagining of the Harvey Dent origin being under the header “Batman & Two-Face” it has featured surprisingly little Two-Face or Harvey Dent until the finale. This comic borrows a lot of the themes of Batman: The Long Halloween and even lifts lines directly from Nolan’s The Dark Knight when addressing the relationship between Gordon, Batman, and Dent. “You were the best of us!” –But did we ever see any of that? No. How exactly was he the best of you? What we did see of Harvey in the past 4 chapters didn’t appear to be a White Knight at all. In fact, I question how long their triumvirate even lasted when the first case Dent wanted to take on was Erin McKillen who scarred him soon after being convicted. Issue #28 would be an epic ending in every sense of the word to a Two-Face saga that actually emphasized the White Knight who was lost, but instead we’ve focused primarily on Erin McKillen. That was great, she’s a character I’ve grown to accept and even like– I wouldn’t drop a single scene showing her past and how she’s connected to Bruce and Harvey. BUT this story feels like it came up a couple of issues short of telling all the essentials. It’s as if it became so obsessed with making sure that Erin was a strong enough character to dethrone Maroni as Harvey’s attacker that it forgot to flesh-out Dent himself for a New 52 world. This truly felt like Batman & Erin McKillen until this chapter. The only evidence we have of Harvey being a close friend to Gordon and a powerful ally to Batman is what we saw in the old continuity and that doesn’t count anymore! “The Big Burn” saga, as it is called, should have been an issue or two longer with more flashbacks that dealt with Harvey Dent, specifically his relationship with Batman and Gordon. Any sort of emotional weight the scenes carry in this conclusion can only be effective if we pick and choose integral moments from other favorite Harvey Dent origins and pretend they fit in the new continuity.

Point Two: It’s gorgeous and perfectly paced

This is the perfect example of a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down. Artist Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz continue to astound. The visuals in this issue are off the charts and not just because things get shocking in the final pages. There’s something captivating on nearly every page. There are comical shots, scenes of raw emotion, explosive action, and truly iconic splash pages and two-page spreads that I’m sure will be popping up all over the internet over the next week. We even have a few added villains making cameos that didn’t feel superfluous and the action and drama acted in perfect harmony. Fighting back the fire and the gunmen in the opening sequence felt just as important as the argument between Dent and Batman– at least until one of them said something that we’ll discuss in spoiler tags later! John Kalisz’s color palette is at its absolute most versatile in this issue. Just flip through these pages quickly and watch the entire spectrum dash in front of you. The flashbacks, the firefight, the streets of Gotham, the alley, the prison, etc. etc. all have a very distinct look. I was most fond of the alleyway scene between Gordon and Dent and how every other frame was saturated in red or blue as the distant police lights flashed.

Spoiler

Gleason also added some great callbacks to issue #24. Look at the flashback of Dent kissing Gilda for the first time and then look at the flashback of Dent kissing Gilda for the LAST time.

Point Three: Spoiler City

I’m just going to be ranting about the ending from here on out, folks. I’ll talk about what happened and I’ll spout off my own theories. Read this section only if you’ve finished the comic.

Spoiler

Before we get started, I just want to say that this book has probably the best use of ejector seat I’ve seen in a long-ass time. It was so no-nonsense, too. Batman was just like “B****, I’m done with you.” and ejected her from the batmobile without a moment’s hesitation. The ejector seat has become such a joke, ya know? It’s always a “Don’t make me touch the red button” or “Don’t push the red button” but here it was actually used for its intended purpose. It’s also interesting to note that Erin now sheds tears of blood like Le Chiffre from Casino Royale. Anyway, Harvey Dent knows Bruce is Batman AND he killed himself, let’s talk about that!

Harvey Knows Bruce is Batman

Harvey Knows

Yeah, so that happened and should have some pretty major ramifications as long as the next writer to use Two-Face doesn’t use the gun-to-the head finale as an excuse for brain damage that wipes out the knowledge of Batman’s identity (it’s likely, but only if we think this story takes place AFTER Forever Evil).

Dent’s a smart enough guy that of all the Batman villains, he really should know that Bruce is Batman so I’m surprisingly cool and even satisfied by this revelation. However, even though Two-Face does make his decisions with a flip of a coin, when the coin does fall the way he wants it to he’s an incredibly pragmatic nemesis who I think would make great use of the secret identity. Ya know? Anytime he has a plan in mind he would naturally consider the Bruce Wayne factor and if not kill him, at least hinder him in some way. I’d like to see this explored more in the future, but for now the line “If you only knew the battles I’ve fought in my head to keep you alive these last few years.” is good enough. Still, I’m curious to know how long Two-Face has known and how he knew.

As their conversation progressed it was addressed that Bruce’s guilt (something he should definitely have in regards to Two-Face) now stems from him letting Erin escape after attacking the Dent home rather than failing to stop Maroni before he attacked Dent in the courthouse. I still find the original version of that aspect of the origin story to be the most satisfactory.

Two-Face Killed Himself

Lucky Day

It’s off-screen, but the blood splatter that follows makes the end result clear. “The Big Burns” ends how it begins, with Harvey on the loose and living in a dirty and dank apartment where he plays a twisted version of Russian Roulette-meets-coin-toss as he gazes at a portrait of his wife. The difference is that this time the chamber aligns perfectly and we see a cascade of crimson on the apartment walls. We follow this up with a gorgeous couple of pages where Batman delivers a brand-new batsignal (a nice touch, I always wondered how they got new ones up there) and then shares a moment with Jim as they gaze up at the giant bat cast against the night sky– an image that will go down as one of the best this month and maybe the whole year. It’s a haunting end, but as I said, it would’ve been better if we had given the same care to Harvey and Gordon in a few extra chapters.

Two-Face Did Not Kill Himself (A Practical Reason & then Andrew Theorizes)

Reason #1

I’m reasonably certain that Batman & Two-Face takes place BEFORE the events of Forever Evil and Two-Face is alive and well throughout Forever Evil. Therefore, he is alive. This doesn’t explain how though.

Reason #2

*ahem* I don’t do this too often, I think I went the most into fan-fic territory when I reviewed Batman #17 and did a “how I would’ve done it,” but hear me out: One of Dent’s many enemies found him alone in the apartment and shot him before Dent could pull the trigger himself. He’s someone’s captive again just like he was at the start of this issue. Why do I suspect that? Here’s why:

Let’s look at Harvey Dent’s morning ritual from Batman & Two-Face #24

Morning Ritual 1

If we know anything about Harvey, it’s that when he flips the coin he does what it says and this sequence shows us that his daily suicide routine is decided by just such a flip. It lands in his palm good-side up and it’s a good day to die. CLICK, damn, guess we’ll try again another day, right? Now let’s look at the “death” of Harvey Dent in issue #28. It starts with the image of him spinning the quarter (much like how he decided to kill Detective Wertz in The Dark Knight) and then in the next page we see this:

The Quarter

The quarter had not stopped spinning! There it is next to the portrait of Gilda, still finishing its rotation. A good-side coming up in the toss decides whether or not the gun is fired and we’ve yet to see a result. Harvey would not make a decision before the quarter has had its say. Take into account the fact that we never actually see Two-Face perform the act and I’d say my theory holds some weight. Somebody else shot Harvey before he had the chance to attempt suicide. Thoughts?

Recommended If…

  • You’re looking to get in on an interesting fanboy discussion
  • You’ve been reading “The Big Burn” from the start
  • You want to see some absolutely jaw-dropping artwork. Gleason might draw the best Two-Face there is and the level of action in this comic is terrific
  • You’ve been on the hunt for a bat-book that’s emotionally gripping

Overall

I’m struggling to decide on the score for this one. I think you should buy it just because it brings up a lot of fun things to gab about and the artwork is out-of-this-world. I suppose what I’m really supposed to be judging here is the comic on its own and by itself this will blow you away (it did me). But if we take into account all the parts? Well, then things get a little murkier. As a whole, the New 52 Harvey Dent origin came up short– there just wasn’t enough Harvey Dent until the final chapter. But this issue proves that the re-imagining could have been great if Tomasi and his team had provided 1-2 more parts that paid greater attention to Harvey than his attacker, McKillen, who stole the show from “Batman & Two-Face” and had the greatest arc of them all. As for a score… pfffff… I hate picking a number. Let’s say 9? I’d say if it gives us a lot to talk about and it’s not all vitriol then it deserves a pretty high score. By the way, have you seen the scores I’ve been posting lately? February’s either a good month or I’ve gone soft!

SCORE: 9/10