Peter J. Tomasi is the best writer at DC Comics right now. Between his work on Green Lantern Corps, Batman and Robin, and even his Haunted Tank story in GI Combat, Tomasi consistently delivers stories that are fun, dramatic, and well-told.
Tomasi has been hinting at Two-Face being up to something for a while in the pages of Batman and Robin, and the character will be the driving force of the book’s next story arc as it gets retitled Batman and Two-Face. So, this month, we get to see just how Tomasi tackles one of Batman’s more popular villains. How does he do? Well…
This issue is just fantastic in every way. The story is a Forever Evil tie-in, with Two-Face responding to Batman’s absence by flipping his coin. Heads, he saves Gotham. Tails, he makes it bleed. Scarecrow interrupts him and invites him to join the Secret Society, and after a long conversation and a coin toss, Two-Face accepts the invitation, on the grounds that the coin ultimately calls all the shots, not the Society. He then goes about dispensing justice in his own way.
The amazing thing about Two-Face’s vigilantism is that it’s the perfect merger of the of the man he used to be and the monster he has become; all the while Two-Face still sees the world in black and white absolutes. At one point, he goes to a courthouse and starts holding trials. Everybody is already guilty, but the coin flip determines whether they get life imprisonment or execution, regardless of the charges. Harvey Dent knows that guilty is guilty, but Two-Face knows that luck will determine the guilty party’s fate.
What makes this story so compelling is that while Two-Face is a villain, you still wind up rooting for him. He’s the lesser of two evils. We know what he’s doing is fundamentally wrong and goes against everything Batman stands for, but at the same time can see some good in it, and it serves as a reminder to us that contrary to Two-Face’s beliefs, things are not in black and white, and true to the tagline of Forever Evil, evil is relative. It’s not the most intellectual piece in the world, but it still challenges our views on good and evil, and it’s just a thrilling read the whole way through.
The art in this book is stunning. Guillem March’s pencils and inks give everything a nice, detailed, gritty appearance that really suits the story’s tone well. I think this is the first time since the Arkham games that Scarecrow has actually looked, well, scary. Take a look.
I do not want anything this man is offering me.
Scarecrow’s design in the New 52 hasn’t really been frightening. The mask is very simple and the expressive eyes, while great in their own way, aren’t intimidating. It’s good for painting the portrait of a madman, and I think in that sense, the design is fantastic. But the way most artists portray him doesn’t really inspire fear.
Here, that is not an issue. Scarecrow has this constant sense of control about him, with these inhuman glowing eyes that stare right into your soul. His face and mannerisms, even when he’s losing the argument, make him constantly seem inhuman.
While I actually prefer the design where you can see his eyes clear as day, this portrayal of the character works fantastically in the context of his conversation with Two-Face, where he has to convince him to join the Society, not showing weakness while at the same time realizing that Two-Face can and will kill him if he plays his cards wrong.
And the coloring is amazing. Tomeu Morey primarily uses three colors throughout the whole issue: black, white, and red. Other colors appear, but they’re generally very faded and low key. I don’t often think about lighting in terms of comics, but the beginning of the book, where Two-Face and Scarecrow are standing on top of the Bat-Signal is just astounding in the use of light and colors, and the book as a whole just has a dark tone to it that’s perfect.
This may just be one of the best images of Gotham City ever.
Oh, well, hmm… Let me flip a coin here.
Nope. Heads. This book is good. There’s really nothing bad about it at all.
You saw the result of the coin toss! But being serious, this is one of the best books from the first half of Villains Month, and considering the team working on it, that was a given from the start. If you were considering getting into Batman and Robin, or just like Two-Face, this is a perfect book.
Batman and Robin #23.1: Two-Face #1 is available for $2.99 USD from digital retailers and with normal 2D covers from physical retailers, and $3.99 USD for the 3D cover.