I am a fan of both Peter Tomasi and Brad Walker. Tomasi has written some of my all-time favorite comics and I always really appreciate Walker’s dynamic and upbeat art style. But…I really don’t like this issue. I don’t entirely blame that on the creative team, though—it’s this Joker War nonsense that completely interrupts a story that I was invested in, and now makes me resist whatever the story has turned into. SPOILERS!

When this story began, it was marketed and presented as a follow-up to Tomasi’s “The Big Burn,” an arc that appeared in Batman and Robin, illustrated by Patrick Gleason. I enjoyed “The Big Burn” and was pretty excited about this follow-up. Two-Face is my favorite rogue, and I think there haven’t been enough stories in recent years that center around him. It makes me sad that this story is being swept up by a crossover that I am not at all interested in. The Joker War stuff seems convoluted and boring to me, and I’m tired of the idea that Joker is behind everything, and I’m disappointed that DC currently seems unwilling to spotlight rogues such as Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, or, you know, Two-Face! At best these characters show up for a couple issues only to get pushed away by another character, or they merely appear in the background of a handful of panels with barely any speaking lines. Joker is cool and all, but this is getting predictable and dull.

Reading this issue in particular, I get the strong sense that Tomasi and Walker didn’t originally intend Joker to be part of this, but that it was an editorial mandate. I have no proof of this, so don’t take my word for it, but this is my opinion, and this is what it looks like to me. For example, the creative team was carefully setting up this arc at the start. The creative team was establishing Two-Face’s character through the delivery of his lines, his body language, the way people around him reacted to him, and in the way the story revolved around him. There was the mystery of a Two-Face cult that Batman had to look into. There was detective work. There was intrigue. There was the clash between the Harvey Dent and Two-Face personas. Clearly, this story was building to something. But now that buildup feels wasted. What was the point of all of that good storytelling if the creative team suddenly takes a 180, ignores all that buildup, and makes it about something else entirely? Finish what you started, or don’t bother at all!

Yes, there’s an attempt to connect the previous Two-Face stuff to the current Joker stuff, but it falls flat. Revealing that Two-Face has been a pawn in Joker’s game is merely the illusion of a connection, because whatever it was that Two-Face was up to, is now ignored and forgotten. This issue states that Two-Face’s cult is scattered and gone, and the showdown between Batman and Two-Face is incredibly lackluster seeing as it’s nothing but a mindless brawl. I would ask questions about the logistics behind that brawl, such as, why is Two-Face in the robo-bat-bunny suit, or whatever it’s called, but I honestly don’t really care anymore. Whatever was left of the Two-Face story has degraded to a brawl that lasts for six pages and then ends in an abrupt cliffhanger that just leaves me thinking, “Seriously? This is it?” And yes. It is. Maybe, just maybe, Tomasi can pick up some loose ends from Two-Face’s arc in a future issue, but I’m not counting on it. At this point, I honestly believe that this story has fallen apart, and it’s a real shame.

To be a bit more specific: the only truly relevant stuff that happens here is setup for Joker War. It opens with five pages where we see Joker reveling in pointless monologue…only to finally open up the grave of Lincoln March (the villain from Snyder and Capullo’s excellent “The Court of Owls” storyline) to resurrect him as a Talon. Everything that happens between these opening pages and the brawl between Batman and Two-Face is just filler. All we get is Batman trying to find out where Two-Face has gone, which ultimately boils down to him beating the crap out of Hugo Strange and Mad Hatter, but all that stuff just leaves me cold because there’s barely a story here. What this issue really is, is quickly wrapping up the Two-Face beats, in a very rushed manner, to make room for Joker.

I’m disappointed. Very, very disappointed.

As for the art, it’s all right. Walker’s great at sequential action scenes, his page layouts at least make the pages look dynamic and interesting, his character designs are pretty cool. But even the art seems a little bit rushed in the sense that there’s no life to these scenes. It’s just the one scene after the other, like we’re just going through the motions, just to get to the end. The first two issues of this story were great, there was so much energy to the art, and there was so much attention to detail, and the art enhanced characterization and really carried the story…but the cool Batman poses and well-choreographed fight scenes that we get here, while definitely up to a professional standard, just don’t have that same magic touch.

Recommended if…

  • At this point, you just want to get through this arc, hoping that Tomasi’s next arc will be back to his usual quality storytelling.
  • You disagree with me and are totally into the idea of Joker invading a story that he has nothing to do with.

Overall: What else is there left for me to say? I think I’ve made myself clear. I don’t like this. I love Joker just as much as the next guy, but he has nothing to do with the story that Tomasi and Walker seemed to be building, and I think it’s just a lot of wasted potential and missed opportunity. I just wish DC had committed to telling a genuine Two-Face story. So, no, I don’t recommend this issue.

Score: 4/10

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