Two Face 1

Despite becoming Batman’s number two villain over the past twenty years, Two-Face is still a character who runs the gamut in terms of writing quality. Perhaps he flips a coin. With Villain’s Month starting, Harvey Dent has his first real spotlight in the New 52 since the hastily forgotten Detective Comics backups from the reboot’s first year. How will the coin judge this issue? Read on to find out.

I’ve had complicated relationship with Peter J. Tomasi’s Two-Face for a long time now. On one hand, I thought that Nightwing: The Great Leap fundamentally misunderstood the Harvey/Two-Face relationship but, on the other hand, it did establish Harvey as a trekkie.

As such, I had some hesitation picking up a book that pretty much features just Two-Face, but Batman and Robin has been an extremely poignant read of late and I like giving talented writers the benefit of the doubt.

To get right to it, those who found The Great Leap lacking will be happy to hear that Tomasi’s Two-Face is much improved here. The continuity between Harvey’s life and Two-Face’s helps provide a narrative backbone for the character and keeps him feeling true to himself. Occasionally Tomasi dips a little too deep into dichotomies, but he’s hardly the first.

The story is divided rather cleanly, into two parts. The first is a lengthy discussion between Harvey and the Scarecrow and the second is Harvey’s response to the chaos around him. Little details like the two of them having educations in Latin keep the characters lively, but ultimately all the characters in this story are little more than set dressings for Harvey’s story. Perhaps that’s appropriate, after all, how much can their arguments mean when it’s going to be up to the coin to decide.

That fact plays an important role in giving this issue its greatest weakness, a lack of significance. While the worst Two-Face stories do away with the importance of his coin, the best ones examine why Harvey obeys the coin or what could drive him to disobey it. This story does neither, it’s an interesting little tale, but Two-Face’s flawed worldview has put him at the center of several of the best Batman stories of the modern era. Two-Face is simply too big a name to benefit from this issue.

It’s possible that the events of this issue will be relevant to the Forever Evil: Arkham War miniseries that begins next month or Tomasi’s upcoming Batman and Robin issues, but, especially without assurances, that seems like a cop-out.

On the bright side Guillem March’s artwork is rather beautiful. March has a deserved reputation as a cheesecake artist, but many people forget just how stunning his men and monsters can be as well.

March employs a sleeker style than usual in the last half of the issue and it contrasts nicely with the familiar sketchy lines we find in Dent’s interactions with Scarecrow. Somehow it’s not surprising that the issue is split right down the middle.

The cleaner style used in the later section of the book is especially interesting as it’s a bit of a deviation from March’s standard style. While I would hardly want March to abandon the scratchy shading he’s used so often before, I would love to see more of this. The faces are crisp and strong and March knows exactly how to get emotion out of them with the minimum number of lines

March’s work with the Scarecrow also stands out. Though Professor Crane’s costume leaves something to be desired, March gives the good doctor a presence worthy of a master of fear. His piercing eyes and gaunt features stand out marvelously in the light-soaked scene, and March instills Professor Crane with an honest joy that does a great deal to sell his shift from obsessive loner to emissary from a Secret Society.

At times proportions are a little exaggerated, but for the most part they’re all in the spirit of the scene. No, the bigger problem is Harvey. While March’s rendition of Two-Face looks lovely on first inspection, a couple more seconds reveal some pretty serious issues with Harvey’s scarred side. March seems slightly aware of this as he tends to draw the eye to the unscarred side, even when it’s not the one facing the reader. Unfortunately there’s only so much that can be done and we’re often left looking at a man who, while wonderfully drawn, looks not unlike an attempt to sculpt Doc Brown out of hamburger meat.

Thankfully all the other Two-Face iconography is splendid. The guns, the flipping of the coin, the force of the bullets, that charming Scarface suit, they all look excellent. Harvey’s unscarred side is even excellently drawn. Though emotion is somewhat lost in the snarl of Harvey’s disfigurement, it comes through loud and clear on the other side.

All in all, the issue is ably produced by everyone involved, however it fails to truly distinguish itself. Especially after the #0 Issues set the bar last year, this won’t cut it. Guillem March shines as always and even manages to innovate a bit, however it’s not quite enough to make this a comic worthy buying based on the strength of the art.

If you’re a die-hard Two-Face fan, I expect that Tomasi won’t let you down, however you can probably pick up any one of a dozen other great Harvey Dent issues for less than the 3-D cover will cost you.

Much like its protagonist, Batman and Robin #23.1: Two-Face is neither here nor there.

 

 

P.S. I know this is cool, but wouldn’t it be rather hot/blinding

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