By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Guillem March (art), Tomev Morey (colors)
The Story: Heads, he flips the coin. Tails, he doesn’t. Wait…
The Review: It’s a common premise that all of Batman’s villains to some degree represent an aspect of the Dark Knight himself. While this argument is harder to make for some rogues than others (Orca, anyone?), it’s easiest to see Batman’s reflection in Two-Face, who clearly mirrors Batman’s duality, a man who aspires to heroism even as he’s prone to darkness. Two-Face offers the most credible portrait of what Batman can become if he ever crosses that line.
The reverse is true as well, particularly for Two-Face. His disfigured alter-ego may have his sadistic crazy-pants pulled up tight, but even at his worst moments, Harvey Dent retains some of that tragic nobility which also characterizes his greatest foe. Tomasi doesn’t explore this part of the villain as much as you expect—which is surprising, given how character-oriented a writer he usually is—but in the brief vignettes of Harvey’s past we see him as he once was: a force of good so powerful that he almost had “Gotham looking like Metropolis.”
Those glimpses of a more hopeful past indicate that Harvey’s transformation into his current, scarred state was a crucial turning point for Gotham’s fortunes, perhaps even more so than the presence of Batman. Tomasi seems to argue that Harvey still holds that influence over the city, making his decision on whether to save Gotham or make it bleed a critical one indeed. Even with a freaky visage, he carries with him such self-assured charisma that you’re left with no doubt that he can accomplish his vision for the city, one way or another.
Of course, Two-Face leaves this sort of monumental choice up to chance. His coin-toss gimmick has become old hat to most readers by this point, and while its result does have the potential to shift the plot in important ways, the toss itself isn’t all that interesting. It’s more of a dramatic pause than anything else. What’s actually interesting are the circumstances that would drive Harvey to make the toss in the first place. At these moments, the toss signals a split in his dual personalities, a moment where his villainy and his heroism come into conflict. Flipping the coin essentially spares Harvey from taking the opportunity to save himself and to acknowledge guilt for his actions.
On the other hand, even when the coin prods him towards the path of good, his execution reveals just how much of his former nobility has gone, pushing redemption ever farther from his grasp. When you start seeing life as nothing more but a series of decisions between only two choices, say, “Heads, life imprisonment. Tails, death,” it’s hard to glean much more dimension from that. Two-Face’s simplistic manner of dealing with Gotham’s crime in the wake of the Secret Society’s takeover is so predictable, it’s almost cliché.
At the last second, Two-Face takes a small step towards complexity again when several members of the Society shows up and disturbs the smooth, if not necessarily just, system he’s set up for himself. Notice that he needs no coin toss to go Rambo on these interlopers. It shows that while most choices are beyond Harvey’s powers of decision, he does have certain bottom lines that require no extra help to resolve, and one of them is his determination to make decisions on his own terms, if not by his own self.
March’s art is the drama queen of DC’s visuals: attention seeking, in your face, and occasionally over the top. There’s nothing restrained about his work; he simply lets emotions fly freely instead of focusing their intensity to the scene. In that regard, his art doesn’t sit well with Tomasi’s style of storytelling, which often relies on the artist to subdue himself and draw the reader’s attention to small, subtle details which provide the plot its richness and complexity. In contrast, March’s art (with Morey’s flashy colors) is so loud, it sometimes distracts from the quiet tension Tomasi tries to build.
Conclusion: A bit of a mismatch, art-wise, and not exactly the most enlightening exploration of the featured villain, but between the lines, you can find some compelling commentary on Two-Face’s fractured psychology.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I did very much enjoy the references to fellow comic book attorneys, as past Harvey brags about his friendliness with Judge Nelson while simultaneously putting down an outraged Murdoch.