Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: Batman vs. Two-Face by B. Finger et al.

Batman vs. Two-Face written by Bill Finger and others with art by Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos and others

This anthology presents ten Batman tales featuring my favorite from his rouges' gallery, Two-Face. The first story is his origin, when as handsome District Attorney Harvey Kent (later changed to Dent) prosecutes crime boss Moroni, who throws acid on Harvey's face during the trial. Half his face is hideously scarred. People, including is fiancee, are horrified at his appearance and Harvey has a mental breakdown. Moroni had a lucky two-headed silver dollar; Harvey scratches up one side of it so that the coin mirrors his own duality--handsome and hideous, good and evil, Jekyll and Hyde. Harvey adopts the name Two-Face and starts on a crime spree. The coin makes decisions for him--if he flips the clean side, he will do good with what he steals; if he flips the scarred side, he will do evil. His crimes often involve the number two or some sort of duality, like robbing the box office from a double feature or a person who has two faces, like an actor (his own and his character's). The most interesting stories involve his sense of justice and his history as district attorney, punishing criminals he couldn't prosecute because of lack of evidence.

He's a fascinating character as a villain. He has a moral split between good and evil that is resolved almost at random. He's a brilliant guy (he was a top district attorney) and extremely willful except he lets himself be governed by the coin. So he talks a lot about Fate for himself, his victims, and Batman. Sometimes he is cured or on the verge of being cured and he lets Fate (in the guise of the coin flip) take him down the wrong path--I found myself wishing at times he just wouldn't flip the coin. The dramatic pathos of his character is riveting to me. The writers don't always catch that (there's plenty of 2-centric capers that don't delve into his psychology) but when they do, it's storytelling gold.

Recommended, highly if you are a Two-Face fan like me.

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