Mikyzptlk: Origin stories. We are getting a lot of origin stories from DC Comics these days. I suppose it’s only natural given the relative newness of the New 52. It’s been a few years now, but there are still a lot of lingering questions and a lot more room to reinterpret certain origins. Still, I’ve been suffering from “origin-itis” lately, especially with Villain’s Month throwing a ton of new origins our way. While Peter Tomasi didn’t use the Two-Face Villain’s Month special to explore the origin of the villain, he’s certainly using this current arc to do so. So, how does he do? Well, Tomasi brilliantly circumvents my origin-overload by tying Harvey’s past directly into his present.
We open with Two-Face as he wakes up from a night of what I can only imagine being unpleasant dreams. As he gets out of bed, he plays a game of Russian Roulette, which I must assume is a usual morning habit…half of the time at least. Meanwhile, Erin McKillen has returned to Gotham City for a secretive meeting. Who is she you might ask? She’s head of the McKillen clan, an irish mob family. Oh, and she created Two-Face. The meeting is comprised of various mobs who discuss ways of reclaiming Gotham from the “psychotics,” “crazies,” and “freaks.” The plan is to take Two-Face out first in order to send a message. Later on, Batman and the GCPD track McKillen down. Utilizing a clever escape plan, McKillen rabbits, but Batman catches her shortly after. It’s too bad he couldn’t keep this guy from finding out about arrival though.
Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are back, and oh boy am I excited. Two-Face’s Villain’s Month issue was fun, and it got me excited for this one. I’m happy to say that they didn’t disappoint. Erin McKillen is an interesting new character. She is the last of her biological “clan,” but she is also responsible for leading the remnants of her crime family. Not only that, but she is vicious as hell. I didn’t get into it above, but the new Two-Face origin is brutal. Harvey Dent wakes up to find his wife stabbed to death with McKillen, who Harvey has put away, standing above her in one of his wife’s outfits. Tied up, Harvey has no choice but lay down and take it, as McKillen pours acid down the side of his face. McKillen escapes, leaving Harvey, well…in a state.
Maybe I just have a soft spot for ol’ Harvey Dent, okay I definitely have a soft spot for the guy, but Tomasi avoids the pitfalls of many origin stories by making the events of the past relevant to the present. Not that tying the past into the present is a requirement for a good origin story (as Batman is currently proving), but it is certainly a great way to make an origin story more exciting. Another interesting thing about the new origin of Two-Face is in regards to his trusty coin.
Now, Two-Face has had a few origins in his time, so the coin has taken on different meanings depending on the interpretation. This time around, it involves the death of his wife Gilda (or “GILLLDDAAAA” if you are screaming it in a psychotic rage). If my interpretation is correct, then Harvey makes his choices based on the bloody (bad) side or the clean (good) side. I mean, that’s simple enough, and Tomasi certainly forges a very personal connection between Harvey and his coin.
Of course, I question if this is the same coin Harvey uses today since traditionally the “bad” side of the coin features numerous scratches. That aside, the other question I have is why Harvey needs the coin to make his choices for him in the first place. I’m not sure if the next issue will continue to explore his origins, but since we are already in the ballpark, I figure they may as well dig into that too.
So Spencer, what did you think of Batman and Two-Face? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Do you have a different interpretation of the coin? What of the present day story, is McKillen an interesting enough villain for you? Take it away.
Spencer: I am enjoying this story! As for McKillen, I don’t know if she necessarily has a lot of depth yet, but she’s more than entertaining enough to make me excited to read more about her.
McKillen starts out as a standard tough businesswoman, but quickly evolves into somebody much more twisted.
Soon afterwards we discover McKillen’s role in creating Two-Face, then we’re treated to the issue’s highlight: McKillen’s daring escape attempt. It’s like something straight out of James Bond; a motorcycle into the river, where she scuba dives to a jet ski, is caught by Batman on a glider, stabs Batman to crash it, attacks him with a knife in her boot, and then, when she’s finally captured, spits in Batman’s face.
McKillen is hardcore! I like this take on her because the mobsters in Gotham are usually portrayed as fat men with guns, boring, slightly stuffy, very behind on the times; all the better to contrast them with Gotham’s new brand of Arkham supervillains. McKillen, however, seems like she might just be ready for a little trip to Arkham herself. She’s just as crazy-prepared as Batman, and there’s a streak of frantic insanity within her that’s just fascinating to watch, and it’s a unique take for a street-level Batman villain. Yes, I like her quite a bit.
As for Two-Face, I continue to be impressed by Tomasi’s take on the character. You’re right that his origin story for Harv’s coin is a little confusing (the coin we see at the beginning of the issue has the typical scars on one side, so does Harvey scar it himself later?), and we don’t get to see any signs of Two-Face’s split personalities or the duality that drives him, but I love what we do see of him, especially that opening scene you mentioned, Mik.
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever given that much thought before to what it must be like to be Two-Face, but Tomasi and Gleason show me that it must be a living hell.
Years after his accident Harvey is still bleeding on his pillow at night, he has to sleep with no eye-lids, flies land on his bare eye in the middle of the night, and then he wakes up and promptly plays a little Russian Roulette. I shudder just thinking about it, and Gleason’s pencils really sell the horror that is Two-Face’s current condition.
If that wasn’t enough to make me sympathetic to Harvey, we then get the story of what McKellen did to him, and, well, honestly, I’m completely on Harvey’s side here. She attacked him when he was still an upright public crusader then fled the country; Harv deserves a little payback, and if I was Batman, I’d have a hard time stopping him.
Speaking of Batman, he was in this issue! Of course, he only spoke one line while in costume, and instead spent the rest of the issue chasing McKellen and terrorizing Gotham’s underworld—and looking absolutely terrifying while doing it, thanks to Gleason’s, as always, stellar art.
Bruce Wayne, however, has his own issues to deal with. Someone—presumably R’as al Ghul—has stolen Damian and Talia’s bodies from their graves—as seen in Batman Inc.—and Bruce is not only determined to bring R’as to justice, but to leave the graves open as yet another reminder of his many losses.
Yeah, Bruce is pretty bad at grieving, but if you’re reading this title, you probably already know that. After spending the bulk of Batman and Robin building up the relationship between Bruce and Damian, Tomasi then spent the next six months showing us how Bruce deals with the loss of his son. This element has been such a fundamental part of this title that it was almost a little strange to see this issue largely devoid of it. I have slightly mixed feelings on the matter; on one hand, it’s nice to move on a little, but on the other, I’m happy that it appears we’ll still be dealing with the ramifications of Damian’s death even as the title starts moving on to new adventures.
I’m definitely looking forward to those new adventures. Tomasi knows how to write Batman, knows how to write Two-Face, and has created a terrifying new villain, and Gleason’s dark style is perfectly suited to portraying all three. Really, this arc has all the potential to be outstanding; let’s hope it lives up to that potential.
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