Batman And Two-Face #28 Review

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Forget what you think you know about Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent and the events that led to the creation of Two-Face.  Batman and his frenemy are back, and the New 52 has a few twists and turns in store for the Dark Knight’s scarred counterpart.  Your Major Spoilers review of Batman And Two-Face #28 awaits!

BatmanAnd28CoverBATMAN AND TWO-FACE #28
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray with Gleason
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Batman & Two-Face: As is the case every few years or so, Two-Face has a brand-new origin, this one comes with mutilation at the hands of a vicious criminal after the death of said criminal’s twin sister.  His wife was murdered, his life ruined, but the basics of the deal are still the same: Scarred face, shattered mind, life controlled by a two-headed silver dollar with one scarred side.  Now, Batman, Two-Face and Erin McKillen (the ever-so-subtle nom de guerre of the woman who scarred him, because Howitzer Explosiongirl was already taken) are all in play, about to collide in surprising ways…

NEW ORIGIN, SAME OLD PSYCHOSES

As we open, the gangs of Gotham City have taken Harvey Dent hostage, holding him in the courtroom where so many of his victories took place, planning to televise his execution throughout Gotham.  It’s a pretty cool conceit (if a bit shopworn) and throughout the issue we see various members of the city’s elite criminal coterie, such as Penguin and Killer Croc, watching the feed with glee.  Of course, the City also has a tradition of a Dynamic Duo, and one such team is rushing to the rescue, consisting of The Batman and…  the murderous criminal who took the life of Mrs. Dent and left Harvey scarred.  Not quite a year ago, I reviewed the issue of this title that came out immediately after the death of Damian “Robin” Wayne, an issue that many voiced appreciation for, but that I found to be too over-the-top in its depiction of a grieving Batman.  The same problem occurs in this issue, especially as Batman arrives to save Two-Face, and the two old friends come to terms.  They each shout their feelings at the top of their lungs (angering the Robot Devil) and melodramatically hash out their differences and psychoses in the middle of a burning courtroom (or, to be more specific, a burning movie set modeled on a courtroom).

OH, AND HARVEY *REMEMBERS*

I do love a good Two-Face storyline, and this issue provides some changes to his origin that make the character’s suffering feel more contemporary.  Unfortunately, it spins out of the Loeb/Sale ‘Long Halloween’ story, making it feel like his new and different origins are already over fifteen years old.  The addition of McKillen is a positive from a diversity front, creating a character who could be a recurring female antagonist for Batman, but everything about her from her name to her defining evil facial scar, feels very familiar.  Patrick Gleason’s art works very well for Harvey, giving Two-Face a grisly scarred side worthy of the makeup from ‘The Dark Knight’, but also making every single character in the book from James Gordon to Bruce Wayne to the late Gilda Dent, look like a goggle-eyed, squared-jawed monster.  Gleason’s art is powerful, and his action sequences are impressive, but as with the ‘Requiem’ issue, the monstrous faces undermine some of the drama, and make the portions of the story where everything stops so hero and villain can shout emotional monologues feel even more like a dead stop.  The ending of the book *IS* a huge swerve, a shocking moment where Two-Face takes an unprecedented action out of despair, and seems to wrap up his character arc for a while.  The ending of the issue features camaraderie between Batman and Jim Gordon that also helps to humanize our hero, before fading to black with a promise of Robin-related action next time.

THE BOTTOM LINE: STRONG ENDING, WOBBLY MIDDLE

While I didn’t feel like they quite nailed the tone that they wanted in the courtroom scenes, it was a bit shocking to hear Harvey calling Batman “Bruce”, and the ending (which is certainly spoiled half a dozen places already) does seem to make this an important story in the Two-Face canon, I don’t think everything is entirely as it seems.  Remember, this is set in a world where the Joker had his face ripped off in issue #1, only to return a stronger threat than ever.  Batman And Two-Face #28 is loud where it could be subtle, gruesome where it could be artistic, and chockfull of bathos, but still hits enough strong notes to earn 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Tomasi is a good writer, exploring interesting themes, but his volume seems to be stuck on eleven, which damages the drama he’s trying to establish…