By various (DC Comics)
This themed collection re-presents some of the best clashes between the Gotham Guardian and the tragic lawyer-turned-criminal Harvey Dent – the visual embodiment of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde known as Two-Face.
To get you up to speed, the book starts with the most recent interpretation of the character’s origin, an impressive two-page recap by the Marks Waid and Chiarello, first seen in Countdown #27 (December 2007), before the book proper begins with the classic original trilogy of tales from Detective Comics #66, 68 and 80 (August and October 1941, and October 1943).
Written by the inimitable Bill Finger, and illustrated by Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos they told the tragic tale of Harvey Kent (yes that’s right, his name was only altered to Dent in the 1950s) a brilliant and fearless District Attorney driven insane when a mobster destroyed the left side of his gorgeous face with vitriol (that’s Sulfuric Acid, if you weren’t staying awake in Chemistry).
His life destroyed in the very courtroom of his greatest triumphs, Kent embarked on a crime-spree throughout Gotham City, taking the number “2” as his inspiration and using the toss of a double-headed coin to make all his key moral decisions for him. It took all of the dynamic Duo’s efforts to stop him, but he kept turning up like a bad penny until the fledgling science of plastic surgery cured his uniquely visual form of split personality.
He more or less returned in Detective #187 (September 1952). ‘The Double Crimes of Two-Face’ (by Don Cameron, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris) is a classic “fair-play” mystery featuring the character’s return so I’ll say nothing about it and let you solve it yourselves, but he returned for keeps in ‘Two-Face Strikes Again!’ (Batman #81, February-March 1954), by David Vern and the immaculate art team of Sprang and Paris.
As comics become increasingly more anodyne in the 1950s Two-Face faded from view, but with the return of a grimmer, moodier hero in the early 1970s the scene was set for a revival of Batman’s more warped villains. ‘Half an Evil’ (Batman #234, August 1971) is a spectacular action packed mystery, one the absolute best collaborations of Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.
By 1989 a revitalized post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC were busily revising their internal history and from Secret Origins Special #1 Mark Verheiden, Pat Broderick and Giordano produced a new take on the tragedy of Harvey Dent, which served as a basis for the following 1996 two-part tale from Batman #527 and 528. ‘The Face Schism’ and ‘Schismed Faces’, by Doug Moench, Kelly Jones and John Beatty is a slick and ghoulish carnival tale of twists, turns and double crosses, but in all that cleverness it rather forgets to be clear and entertaining.
The penultimate yarn is also rather disappointing, but not for any storytelling deficiencies. ‘Face the Ecaf’ is from Batman #653, and is by James Robinson, Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher. It’s set in the “One Year Later” period following the Infinite Crisis event when all the Bat heroes abandoned Gotham and Two-Face was given the job of protecting the city by the Dark Knight.
It’s part Six of Eight.
Surely such a major storyline should be left to its own collection and not simply truncated and shoved in any old how? It’s not as if there isn’t plenty of other fine material around to fill those twenty odd pages. Or was the temptation of one more major name on the package too much for Marketing to resist?
Rant over: the book does end with possibly the best modern Two-Face tale yet produced. ‘Two of a Kind’ is a short piece of Noir perfection by Bruce Timm that first appeared in Batman: Black and White #1 in 1996. Rendered in the style of the Batman Animated TV show it is suave, sultry, steamy and shocking. You’ll love it!
All the tales have been lavishly recoloured (except that last one, of course) and quibbles notwithstanding, this is a great book stuffed with quality reading entertainment. As an introduction to one of Batman’s best baddies, or simply as a wonderful way to spend some downtime, this is highly recommended.
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