Those who’ve been reading my Detective Comics reviews already know how I feel about the Two-Face arc. But for those who came in late, here’s a recap: The arc started out strong with a focus on an internal struggle between the Two-Face and Harvey Dent personas, and there was the mystery of Two-Face’s cult that Batman had to solve with detective work. I really enjoyed that. But then this “Joker War” stuff started happening, and essentially Joker invaded the Two-Face story out of nowhere, took over the narrative, and the whole thing fell apart due to a lack of focus. The Two-Face story was going somewhere, but before it could reach its climax, the “Joker War” prelude upset everything and now we’re left with…this… SPOILERS AHEAD!
There’s barely any story in this issue. For the most part, it’s an extended fight scene. The final pages present a rushed conclusion to the Two-Face story. It’s like the creative team is rapidly trying to change course at the last moment, and it creates a jarring reading experience. Granted, during the fight scene Harvey Dent gets his heroic moment, and Walker’s art does make the fight pretty entertaining because it’s bombastic and full of energy. But, really, it amounts to nothing more than Batman and Harvey, together with the disciples of the Two-Face cult, beating up a bunch of Talons, with the dialogue consisting mostly of taunts, insults, and Joker’s commentary.
Tomasi’s always had a knack for dialogue and character voices. Batman, Harvey Dent, Two-Face and Joker all sound unique, and especially Joker’s commentary as he watches the fight is creative and fun. Batman’s taunts as he smashes Lincoln March are pulpy and over-the-top, and I enjoy that. The problem with all this dialogue isn’t that it doesn’t work, or doesn’t flow, or that everyone sounds the same—the problem is that hardly any of it is truly relevant to the plot or builds to the resolution of the story. It’s just a lot of power language and fisticuffs.
But at least that can be entertaining if you’re in the right mindset. What isn’t entertaining, however, is the moment that Batman decides to perform surgery on Two-Face to get a bullet out of his head. In case any of you are missing some context, during the New 52, Tomasi and Patrick Gleason told the story of “The Big Burn” in the pages of Batman and Robin, and at the end of that story Two-Face shot himself in the head. In this issue Two-Face blows something up and, as Batman explains, “the force of the blast […] caused the bullet lodged in [Two-Face’s] brain to shift.” Because of this, the Two-Face persona has taken over again. To stop the Two-Face persona from coming back, Batman decides that he needs to remove the bullet from Harvey’s brain entirely.
Now, I’m not necessarily having a problem with the idea of the Two-Face persona disappearing, because that’s only temporary anyway. After a while, the villain will be back in full force, you can count on that. No, what I really find problematic is the way this stuff plays out. Batman literally paralyzes Two-Face by shutting down the suit that he’s wearing, and then Batman uses some kind of gas to sterilize the environment, and proceeds to drill into Two-Face’s skull…? I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. It’s right after a big fight and an explosion. There’s rubble and debris and dust all around them. How is that a sterile environment, even with that weird gas? And how can Batman just drill into Two-Face’s skull and remove the bullet so easily? It’s not cool. It’s not funny. It just sort of happens, and immediately after that we cut to the final pages where we see Harvey Dent in Blackgate working as a jailhouse lawyer, and that’s a wrap, folks!
No matter how entertaining the fight scene might be, this just isn’t good storytelling. It’s a rushed ending that makes it so the Two-Face arc can’t really stand on its own because editorial really wants this to suddenly turn into a prelude to this crossover event that they have lined up. Was it really so hard to just let Tomasi and Walker finish telling their Two-Face story, and then have one or two issues to set up “Joker War?” Because, from what I’ve seen on these pages, I really don’t think that the creative team planned their story to be like this. And if that’s true, I feel kind of bad for them.
The art is pretty good, though. Like I’ve already said, it’s bombastic and full of energy, and that’s great for a fight comic. But, at the same time, there’s only so much bombast and energy that I can take before I get overwhelmed. Every now and then it’s fun to go hard and fast from cover to cover, but here the colors, character poses, panel shapes and page layouts are relentlessly in-your-face. It’s once again definitely up to a professional standard, but all the visual input can really get in the way of the flow and the narrative.
- You don’t need a good story—just bring on the battle!
- You’re getting ready for “Joker War!”
Overall: As a conclusion to the Two-Face arc, this comic fails because it’s rushed and hinges on highly questionable comic book logic. As a prelude to “Joker War,” this comic fails because this prelude stuff happens in a story that initially had absolutely nothing to do with said crossover. Those who pick up this issue just for the prelude to “Joker War” will end up with an incomplete story—just a snippet of an arc that’s having a serious identity crisis. As such, unless you are really into fight comics or really care about “Joker War,” I recommend that you skip this issue. Other than good art and some snappy dialogue, there’s just not much of real substance here.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.