Detective Comics #1020 review

I think that Tomasi has demonstrated before that he’s capable of writing a good Two-Face story. This arc is in fact a continuation of “The Big Burn,” which is a Two-Face story that Tomasi told in the pages of Batman and Robin with artist Patrick Gleason. That doesn’t mean, however, that in order to understand this Detective arc, you are required to have read “The Big Burn,” but if you have, it will likely enhance your reading experience. That said, does Tomasi manage to write another good Two-Face story? Let’s have a look.

From the writing right down to the art, this is a fine issue. The creative team has a good idea of how they want to present Two-Face to us, and the writing, art and lettering are all intricately linked to establish the character and show us who he is and how his madness works. There’s a constant discussion going on inside the character’s head: on one side we have Harvey Dent, and on the other side we have Two-Face. The tone of Harvey’s lines is more collected and, at times, even apologetic, whereas Two-Face’s lines are all rage and anguish. The lettering enhances this by showing Harvey’s lines in a clean font in standard balloons, but Two-Face’s balloons are rougher, colored green, and the font is more jagged.

Furthermore, everything that Two-Face says and does is always based on his coin, but what I tend to miss in other comics is a stronger characterization in the artwork. Here, Walker doesn’t neglect to slightly change Two-Face’s body language based on which side of the coin is up. If it’s the tails, Harvey takes over, and his body language reflects his more timid voice. If the scarred side is up, Walker draws more exaggerated and menacing body language as Two-Face lashes out in anger, sometimes killing people in cold blood. While none of this is particularly new or groundbreaking, I do really appreciate that the creative team is working together so well that every aspect contributes to developing the character. The team makes it look effortless, which it definitely isn’t. This level of cohesion requires good planning, and it’s inspiring to see that the team goes the extra mile to create a better product.

This issue also features strong characterization of Batman. In contrast to Two-Face’s rage, we see Batman taking a calm and analytical approach as he works a crime scene. Though he finds out quickly that Two-Face is the culprit, Tomasi does take the time to set things up and show us how Batman arrives at the conclusion. Each of the clues is perhaps a little bit farfetched or over-the-top, but with this being a superhero comic, I like that it’s a more exaggerated version of a crime scene investigation. Moreover, this is perhaps the most in-depth detective work that Tomasi has written during his Detective Comics run so far, because when Batman figures out that it’s Two-Face, he’s not done investigating yet. I think that numerous comics that attempt to show Batman’s detective work skip over any other necessary details once Batman figures out who the culprit is, but Tomasi has Batman work to uncover leads in order to find out where Two-Face has gone and, more importantly, what he is up to. He even shows Batman confirming his findings by having the Bat-computer analyze them. I’ve been saying that Detective Comics needs more detective work for years, and to see that Tomasi is including this more and more makes me really happy.

The detective work leads into an action sequence. Sometimes such transitions can be rough because it feels like the fight scene is strictly mandatory and takes away from the mystery. However, the fight scene here not only gives us a Batman that overpowers and scares the crap out of his foes, but it also feels like a natural, direct continuation of the preceding detective scene. After the fight, we see Batman interrogating the goons whose asses he kicked, and while he doesn’t find out exactly what Two-Face is up to by the end of this issue, he does make some progress. All in all, it’s closer to a meat-and-potatoes Batman story than something that’s entirely original, but after having been subjected to wonky, convoluted plots and needless melodrama and stories that lack actual mystery, it’s a breath of fresh air to read a Batman story that succeeds on all fronts and is, above all, incredibly entertaining.

The only thing that I see being a potential problem for some readers is that Two-Face seems to be leading a cult now. This is a departure from his organized crime/mob boss routine. However, as of yet it’s too early to judge this stuff, because in this issue we only catch a brief glimpse of it. We’ll have to see how these events play out in future episodes, but so far I’m definitely intrigued.

Recommended if…

  • Two-Face is your favorite villain.
  • You like it when the entire creative team contributes to Two-Face’s characterization—from the writing to the art, and from the art to the lettering.
  • The more detective work in Detective Comics, the better!

Overall: This is a fine issue, indeed. While Two-Face is clearly the villain, and Batman has figured this out already, there is still the mystery of what exactly Two-Face is planning, and that creates a lot of suspense. The crime scene investigation is detailed, the fight scene is powerful, and Two-Face characterization is on-point and intriguing. Even though this is a continuation of Tomasi and Gleason’s “The Big Burn,” new readers can safely jump on without having to worry that they’ve missed anything important. Recommended!

Score: 8.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.