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Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

Welcome back! As I said at the end of the first part, the Two-Face subplot is Batman: Dark Detective is one of the oddest damn Harvey stories I have ever read. To this day, I'm still not sure whether I like it or not, which is one reason I wanted to examine this story in full. I just put it off for years because I expected that it would be a pain to parse out.

What I hadn't expected was that I'd also be giving Silver St. Cloud's subplot just as much attention, which is one reason why this review is spread out over three rather large parts. Why would I devote so much additional time and energy to a character and storyline which only drags down this story as a whole? Well, I recently discovered something about that storyline which is actually very relevant to our interests, but before I can explain what that is (and what could have been), we need to examine what Englehart was trying to do with his OC love interest and her bland but dutiful fiancé, Evan Gregory.

The odd man out of this story is the Scarecrow, whose inclusion here serves as more of a way of furthering the plot along rather than anything having to do with the character himself. Whereas Harvey and Silver/Evan's stories are seemingly-unrelated plotlines with connections I will eventually explore, Scarecrow is here solely to motivate Bruce. That said, Englehart does have a couple of his own... unique ideas of what makes Professor Crane tick, so let's look at that too, and then you can let me know whether or not you think Englehart's interpretation holds any water.

As I said before, I'm not terribly crazy about the schlubby way that Marshall Rogers draws Harvey, but the writing more than makes up for it, especially once we get to Harvey and the Joker's confrontation at the latter's hideout shortly after the Joker's announcement to run for governor:

Oh man, I have SO much to say about this scene! *dances excitedly*

For starters, the eyedropper is a nice touch for anyone who has wondered about how Harvey copes with not having no or limited eyelids on his scarred side. Robert Kirkman recently introduced a character in The Walking Dead who had similar facial scarring and had to use eyedrops as well, thus making it look like he's both scarred and always crying on that side. Pretty neat effect, but just like Harvey having a drooling or speech problem due to having no lips, I'm not sure that it's not the sort of thing I'd like to see in every version of Two-Face. Then again, maybe there is something to be said about a Two-Face who is perpetually half-weeping.

Man, I find this whole sequence utterly fascinating, not to mention a refreshingly different take on Two-Face that's still in keeping with his character. Best as I can tell, this is pure Harvey Dent speaking, not the monster who is Two-Face. Even as a boss who has given himself over to crime as a "release" (and man, the implications raised by that alone could totally redefine Harvey's characterization, motives, and mental state), he still hasn't entirely lost the Harvey who was. This truly makes Harvey seem like a complex character with feet on both sides of the law, a wild card character who can easily jump from good to evil and back again on the flip of a coin.

I also love how this plays into the weird ongoing frenemy feud between Harvey and the Joker that's been going on between them since the early 70's. It's cool that Harvey should here display his adherence to the law channeling it through his hatred for the Joker, fearlessly confronting the greatest monster in Gotham on his own rigged turf and wisely avoiding walking into any traps.

That said, wasn't he going there to kill the Joker? I guess that Harvey decided against his whole "The Joker must DIE!" plan in favor of "The Joker must be STERNLY WARNED!" I mean, really, have had him dead in his sights and he didn't even try! Maybe he just knew that the Joker would be prepared for that too, somehow, and just had to settle for the idea of just ticking off the Joker. Hell, Harvey managed to actually wipe that smile off the Joker's face, which itself is a pretty impressive accomplishment! Too bad he's going to pay for that one hard later on.

As Steve Englehart himself once wrote in the narration transition from a Joker scene to one featuring Silver, "A man that mad is worth more space... but we have other men to meet before the dawn!" And thus we have to leave both the Joker and Harvey behind for now, seeing as how Englehart wants to waste no time tackling the heart of his story, which is all Bruce/Silver drama over at Wayne Manor.

If you're wondering why Bruce is still at home rather than trying to protect Haney from being killed by the Joker, he justifies his inaction by blaming the police who would be trying to arrest him at every turn. While it makes sense that his work would be compromised by the cops, I think Haney would still stand a better chance of surviving with a compromised Batman rather than a regular GCPD. Bruce's logic boils down to a sulky, "Meh, just you wait, they'll see how much they need me!"

Ditching her oblivious fiance on the campaign trail, Silver--wearing an awful power blue leopard-print spandex-pants thing--secretly goes to visit Bruce at Wayne Manor.

For a second there in the last panel, it almost looked like these two would have tension and chemistry, but don't worry, it quickly dissipates. Even when Silver calls out Bruce for his petty line there, Bruce Wayne actually instantly, apologizes! And he's even MEEK about it too!

Yeah, so while there really wasn't too much chemistry between Bruce and Silver in the first place, what little there was is gone now in favor of tedious hand-wringing and introspective wankery out of a bland soap opera. In some ways, I feel about this comic the way I feel about David Lynch's Twin Peaks: it's awesome and funny and bizarre for the most part, but the relationship drama is BOOOOOOOORING. Why yes, I am likening Bruce and Silver's romantic chemistry to James Hurley and Donna Hayward. Oh yeah, I went there. In fact, here, I'll provide the soundtrack for every single Bruce/Silver moment in this story:

This is now what I hear in my head every single time I read Bruce and Silver talking to one another. And so agreeing to just stay friends and swallow their burning passion for one another in favor of just supporting Evan, Bruce pretty much says, "Hey, before you go, can I show you my room? I got tons of cool toys!"

Okay, admittedly, that's a pretty sweet image. Detailed Batcave spreads are always fun to see, and Englehart and Rogers bring in a few new items that we don't usually find in other depictions. I don't even know where the giant chessboard and pipe/ashtray combo are from, if they are indeed canon! I love to think that on some level the Batcave is like that world from Super Mario Bros 3 where everything is huge. Also, let's take a moment to pity poor Joe Coyne, since Batman seems to have forgotten that the Penny Plunderer was the name of the one guy, not his whole gang. The statues of the villains are also great, especially Hugo Strange (who sadly doesn't return for this storyline) and Impostor Hatter, whose real name seems to be "Jarvis Trent." Hey, maybe somebody could use that detail to reconcile the two Hatters! Somehow! All that said, oversized novelty objects aren't the only new things which Englehart has brought into the Batcave:

Yeah, I'm not sure that shoe thing could be anything other than creepy. "And right here, next to my dead boy sidekick's costume, I have my lost love's shoe preserved in a glass case." (Pause) "It still smells like her."

But that's not important right now! There's an intruder in the Batcave! Who is it? Well, no one, really, since what's actually happening is that Bruce and Silver alike are unwittingly entering into a huge existential hallucination induced by fear toxin! Yep, we're bringing Scarecrow into the Englehart/Rogers/Austin-verse too! After battling visions of Joe Chill and the various villains, Bruce nearly suspects that Silver has somehow betrayed him to the Scarecrow, but he soon comes to his senses just in time for us to get an even better shot of the trophy room.

"Fearomone Gas?" That's cute, that really is. It's ridiculous, but hey, it's no more ridiculous than anything else in a comic about a guy who dresses up like a bat to punch the mentally ill in their disfigured faces. If nothing else, give Englehart credit for trying something new with some classic villain elements!

So we have another view of the villain statues, even if it's still odd to consider that Batman would have a whole room of statues for his enemies, even minor ones like the Tweeds and the Cavalier (not to mention the foreshadowing appearance of Dr. Double X, back in his original Starman-like costume). Where did he get all these statues? Did he sculpt them himself? Has he hired Gilda Dent on the sly? Well, no matter what, it's nice to see the whole rogues gallery as depicted by Marshall Rogers, including Harvey and the giant coin, even if that's way more of a Paul Sloane thing.

So where the hell did Squishy find both the time and the opportunity to expose Batman to fear tox... er, I mean, his "Fearomone Gas?" Well, go back to that first two page spread of the cops attacking Batman, and you'll find a stealth appearance by a disguised Squishy!

Aaaaaaaand boom goes the dynamite. Well, that didn't take long! Hmm, this is awkward. Um, say, I wonder how Haney is doing? Still alive, maybe? Let's find out! Yep, he's still alive indeed, thanks to the watchful and surely-effective protection of Detective Redshirt! I've got a feeling that those two will be juuuuust fine!

Heh, nice updated reference to the classic Golden Age story where the Joker sent his victims LPs that would release Joker Venom when touched by the record player needle! That said, I gotta rant about something that's been ticking me off: what the hell is up with the tendency over the past few years to depict Joker Venom victims as getting white skin, green hair, and red lips when they die?

I've seen this done in stories like Joker's Last Laugh and Brubaker's The Man Who Laughs, and it never fails to annoy me, because it take away from the horrifying nature of the Joker Venom. Instead of people dying with a twisted monstrous grin, they die turned into clowns, as if they wandered into that episode of Freakazoid with the evil cloud that turns people into Clown Zombies. But anyway, this is a complaint with the colorist, not Rogers/Austin and certainly not with Englehart either, whose Joker is still pretty damn perfect:

Few things make me happy like the Joker in a fez swinging a dead cat, but the Scarecrow snorting with laughter comes pretty close. Poor somber Harvey, he doesn't get to do anything funny in this sequence, but then, he doesn't have fun with crime anyway. So, as promised, Haney and the Detective were killed, and even the Bat-hating Commissioner Akins asks, "Wait, so Batman wasn't here? WTF?" And where is the Batman? He's at home, washing his tights shining his Silver!

Yes, "HMMMM..." indeed! But if you really want "HMMM...", check out Rogers' original rejected version of this piece:

On sale here for only $750.00! Cheap!

Well, if there's anything positive to be said about this turn of events, I guess we should at least appreciate how Englehart's Batman is very much a Bronze Age Batman with human feelings and emotions rather than the fascist high-functioning sociopath dickhole of Frank Miller onward. Having spent my entire adolescence in the 90's, reading various takes on Batman that absorbed and amplified the very worst aspects of Miller's Batman, I really appreciate seeing a Batman for whom "Bruce Wayne" isn't entirely a facade, and I'm glad to see it here too.

That said, this event took what was already a boring, flaccid romantic angst subplot and turned it into a full-on affair, thus causing me to actively lose all sympathy for all parties involved save for Evan. The next issue, Englehart tries to soften the selfish infidelity of this moment by having Bruce and Silver explain that they were under the influence of the Scarecrow's gas and they're totally not gonna live a lie, etc:

"I'm no two-timer," says the woman in the open bathrobe sitting in the lap of the non-Evan guy she just slept with. I mean, I'm glad that she wants to come clean rather than maintain an ongoing affair, but even still, it's hard for me to really care about the goings-on here. Silver spends the rest of this chapter swooning from the realization that she's now girlfriend to both Bruce Wayne and Batman, each of them amongst the most famous men in the world. She further realizes that she's now actually up to the challenge of living with the baggage that comes with being Batman, that she has to be strong enough to be with him, and most of all, that she wants this life. But first she needs to call things off with Evan, who is still obliviously going about his successful campaign. It's only when he calls her up that we see her show any real signs of regret or sorrow:

I wonder if the beret is meant to be a callback to the movie version of Vicki Vale?

Meanwhile, Batman is on the search for the Scarecrow, presumably to thank him for supplying the emotional roofie that led to him and Silver finally getting it on. Either that or to kick Squishy in the face. Whatever works. After we finally get a brief glimpse of Crane himself in action--wherein we see him depicted as less of a giggling madman and more as the consummate scientist positing his theories about how Batman reacted to the toxin--Englehart then has Batman deliver his own analysis of Crane as a character, one which displays a rather... unique take on the Scarecrow and his motivations:

"Jonathan Crane, brilliant psychology professor until his brilliance brightened into paranoia. Now the fear in his own mind drives him to create worse fear into his enemies. He became the Scarecrow because it comes fear and poverty--and his paranoia comes from poverty. He haunts the slums when in town-- but he likes the country fine as well."

So yeah, Englehart pretty neatly delivered his own take on what makes the Scarecrow tick, and I'm not sure how I feel about these ideas. On one hand, I think it's fantastic that Englehart depicts the Scarecrow as being a man of science who also happens to be a costumed criminal rather than having him be a raving lunatic and obsessive revenge killer. In fact, Englehart even has the Joker outright say that the Scarecrow isn't insane, but rather "just paranoid."

I'll leave you to decide whether or not that holds up under scrutiny, although wouldn't "paranoia so extreme that it leads one to murder" actually COUNT as insanity? Either way, on the other hand, I'm not sure there is any canon depiction of Crane's brilliance turning into paranoia. It almost sounds more like the classic origin for Doctor Octopus, where his brain injury led him to suddenly become convinced that everyone was jealous of his brilliance and that he had to strike back. It's all very interesting, but I'm not so sure that it works for the character.

So while on the search for the Scarecrow, Batman happens to notice that the local baseball stadium is having a double-header between the Knights and the Yankees and pretty much thinks, "A double-header? Sighhh, Harvey's gonna show up, isn't he?" Yes, Batman. Yes he is. At that very moment, Harvey (looking even rattier than before!) and his goons rob the stadium's office. He claims that he had to strike, not just because it's such an obvious target, but also because his coin came up scarred, thus making this "my night for EVIL! I know--you understand me, I know--that I'll come out on top!"

So yeah, this is Two-Face as a religious fanatic for fate, which is most in keeping with the "Blind, stupid, simple, doo-dah, clueless luck" Two-Face of Batman Forever. While he claims that the scarred side means that his evil side runs free, his personalty doesn't seem at all changed from the Harvey we saw clash with the Joker.

As such, Englehart's Two-Face seems to be less of a man caught between good and evil and more of a once-decent man who has found a way to vent his darker impulses through means which render him essentially blameless and without personal responsibility. Naturally, this isn't an invalid take on the character, and while it's not my preferred version, I'd certainly take it over him being the sneering utter monster we've seen in comics like those by Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench.

What I find especially interesting/odd is his line, "I know--you understand me, I know--that I'll come out on top!" He's so fanatical about the coin's ruling that he actually sees it as a sure bet and guarntee of his success and safety because Fate is apparently in his favor. You'd think that this faith would be shattered every single time that his crimes was thwarted by Batman. Which, of course, is what nearly happens all over again this time when Batman bursts in and a fight scene breaks out, but Harvey manages to escape with the money. Hey, maybe Fate really was on Harvey's side this time! Either that, or I guess it's just a testament to the power of positive thinking! Believe in yourself, Harvey!

Having thus escaped, we find out that Harvey was stealing the money to fund the services of a certain obscure villain whose presence was foreshadowed earlier on:

I've gotta say, it's refreshing to see a writer take an obscure character who has something to do with duality and actually use him with Two-Face! I can't tell you how many times I've seen stories (often by the likes of Moench) where they introduce an original character who has something to do with duality or fate or any of the other ideal Two-Face themes while still not actually using Harvey at all! It's wasteful, and what's more, it just shows how misunderstood the character is that writers can keep getting so close to these perfect Two-Face themes only to miss the mark by a wide margin again and again. So major points to Englehart here!

Furthermore, I love the idea that a costumed villain should give up supervillainy in favor of other, more lucrative areas of expertise, especially ones which could keep him clean in the eyes of the law. After all, Dr. Double X isn't doing anything illegal here, so no matter what Harvey's plans are, his own hands are clean. That's a pretty good gig! I'd love to see more neutral parties active in the war between good and evil in Gotham, and it's especially neat that such a neutral party would be another villain obsessed with duality.

This brings us back to the question of just what Harvey is paying Dr. Double X to provide, and I'm gonna warn you right away, this is where shit gets weird. This is the point where Englehart may just lose you completely if he hasn't already. You see, Dr. Double X has provided Two-Face with his very own, brand-new, mint-condition... Harvey Dent?

Once again, this is one of the oddest damn plot points for a Two-Face story I've ever seen. It's also one of the more weirdly--dare I say--poignant. This isn't Harvey wanting to redeem himself, because he's gotten to a point where he's accepted that it'll never happen. Fate has spoken, as far as he's concerned, and it cannot be undone. But at least this way he can see what could have been, and that's an angle that no one has ever come close to exploring, much less in such a wacky way as this.

Now, this is nonetheless not my preferred take on Harvey: the vanity aspect is very much intact, what with his self-worth wrapped up in his handsomeness and how women fawned over his looks. There's no mention of a deeper motivation, nor of Gilda, who should be the only woman whose interest Harvey would care about. But okay, let's accept that this is a Harvey Dent who represents a guy who wishes to at least vicariously recapture all of the potential that was lost. In that respect, this is kinda moving in a weirdo offbeat way.

After all, this isn't a glowering, monstrous Two-Face we're seeing here, but rather a meek and awkward man coming face to face with the promise of seeing the literal best of himself flourish in some capacity:

Who is that shadowy and presumably-sinister figure? We'll find out in due time, but suffice it to say that Dr. Double X is no stranger to double-crossing (hurr). Of course, considering the unreliable allegiances of his client, one can hardly blame him, eh? In any case, Batman bursts in to ruin Harvey's day, and a fight scene breaks out, during which Two-Face makes a nearly-fatal mistake:

I like how this is one of the only examples of an artist giving Harvey a scarred hand but still distinctly showing that the scarring doesn't go over his whole body. It's just a nice touch that makes sense.

With a moment like this, I really can't decide if this take on Two-Face is touching or laughable, much less whether or not it's in-character. Hell, there's also a part of me--a part that's spent far too much time in certain circles of the internet--who wants to suggest something... untoward going on between Harvey and his own clone here. Not saying that I'm actually thinking that, it's just... well, if fandom actually cared about comics the way they care about movies and TV shows, I can guarantee you that there'd be SO MUCH FIC about this subplot.

But okay, let's presume that this IS at least applicable to the Two-Face we already know and love. If so, then once again, we see how this clone brings out a whole different side to Harvey than anything we've ever seen. His absolute horror in this moment shows just how much he values the life of his better half, the half he could have been, and how important it is for him to at least know where his life might have gone if it weren't for the acid. Man, hopefully this Harvey never learns about Elseworlds, because yeah, um, most of those don't really work out for the Harvey Dents there either! But maybe things will be different for Harvey and Harvey, especially since they're now here to watch each other's backs!

Once again, this is very much Harvey in control for the majority of this story, even if he's a Harvey who has given himself over entirely to his faith in Fate. All of a sudden, the usual "good and bad sides" aspects of Two-Face get blurred indeed, all the more so when the supposedly "all-good" clone knocks out Batman in order to save Harvey's life.

Once again, Dr. Double X is one of the most sensible damn villains in Gotham.

And here's where the distinctions between good and evil, the duality that Harvey himself represents, get blurred. Theoretically, you'd assume that Clone!Harvey would be a pure embodiment of all the goodness within Harvey without any of the darkness that needs the "release" of crime. But no, by setting his loyalty to Two-Face over the cause of justice by helping Batman arrest a criminal, it seems more apt to suggest that Clone!Harvey represents the part of Harvey which actually loves himself. Considering that Englehart is drawing from an old-fashioned take on Harvey that hinged upon the idea of physical beauty equaling acceptance into society ("Be at least normal or GTFO!"), it's fitting that Clone!Harvey seems partially created as the part who will always accept Harvey, even as he himself will always be accepted by society more than the hideous criminal Two-Face.

So yeah, this is a really interesting idea, but that still doesn't take away from the base weirdness that Two-Face ordered a clone of himself with whom he could be buddy-buddy. I can't fault anyone for thinking that this might be a ridiculous and even stupid idea for a storyline. Just try describing this premise out loud and listen to how silly you sound!

One more thing before we continue: I find it interesting how stunned Two-Face is that Clone!Harvey acted of his own free will. At least, that's what I took out of Harvey's line, "You did that on your own," and it's elaborated further on in the very next page. Notice how that idea leads directly into the one and only moment in this story when even the fanatical Two-Face falters on the idea that everyone is rules by Fate, and that maybe it's better for one to be ruled by oneself... in one form or another:

I really want to try and pick apart all the implications of what this clone represents to Harvey and how he plays into the idea of Fate, but I'm having a hard time nailing down any cohesive thoughts. Like, okay, so Clone!Harvey doesn't really have free will any more than Two-Face, since they're both ruled by the external dictates of something else. And yet, by being loyal to Two-Face and acting as he desires in his service, Clone!Harvey represents the closest thing that Two-Face has to any ability to act for himself rather than through the coin. At the risk of being even more slashy and weird here, Two-Face even admits that Clone!Harvey is the better man because he is ruled by love (it's explicitly said later on that Clone!Harvey loves Harvey) rather than than the coin.

Think about that: Clone!Harvey is literally Harvey Dent's own self-respect made flesh. Well, that just won't do, will it?

The Joker is an ASSHOLE. So yeah, Harvey's living representation of goodness was killed and turned into a grinning corpse mirror of himself, and the only reason why Two-Face survived was because he listened to the coin. The Joker has succeeded in ruining Harvey's happiness and actually making his insanity worse in the process by giving him the perfect cause to intensify his fanaticism. I imagine that the Joker is all like, "Wait, I just wanted to kill the guy! But this? This is so much better! Go me!"

And so, with Harvey out of commission (we're told that Batman found him badly injured and lying "face down in the rain"), we get the next phase of Scarecrow's fear toxin Fearomone Gas, which Squishy himself reckons should be hitting Batman's system riiiiiiiiight about now. Yeah, get ready for a bit of story whiplash, because we're gonna plunge straight into another fear toxin hallucination!

But while Squishy can't be there to appreciate it in person considering that Batman could be anywhere, he's already got a fair enough idea what torment awaits Batman, and he dictates the possibilities from the safety of his own barn hideout:

Because sometimes, after a hard day of spreading terror in the name of evil science, you deserve to enjoy a large glass of booze, light up your corncob pipe, and kick back in your incredibly-flammable hay-bale easy chair.

As with most other Scarecrow stories, the fear toxin forces Batman to confront whatever deep, dark fear the writer wants to explore this week, which he will then overcome and thus prove himself to be stronger and more well-adjusted than ever. Well, as well-adjusted as Batman can ever get. More than any other Batman villain, the Scarecrow lends himself to introspective Bruce-centric tales. Take Nothing to Fear, the B:TAS episode which directly gave way to "I AM VENGEANCE, etc." In this case, the fear toxin unearths a heretofore-unmentioned, long-repressed memory from Bruce’s past:

So yes, Bruce is now forced to relive the time that he was stalked and nearly killed by Joe Chill's unnamed friend shortly after the Waynes were murdered. In a neat trick to remind everyone who's really involved, Englehart actually has the Scarecrow replace the no-name killer in Bruce's memory, thus creating a slasher-movie sequence of little Bruce hiding from a knife-wielding Squishy.

This is an effective idea, but at the time, I was confused and worried that Englehart was making it so that it was actually Jonathan Crane who was friends with Joe Chill and who tried to kill little Bruce, or something. Ultimately, the flashback served to show how this was the first time that Bruce overcame his fear, a moment which would be far more effective if this weren't yet another goddamn instance of a writer going back to the well of Bruce's childhood around the time of the Waynes' murders.

Everyone wants to either flesh out the past, put their own spin on things, twist the knife even more for Bruce, or pull yet another "everything you know is WRONG!" Hell, we're still seeing it to this very day in stories like Scott Snyder's Court of Owls stuff and in the new prose novel Wayne of Gotham, which depicts Thomas Wayne as a well-meaning fraud who kinda sorta teamed up with a Nazi scientist to accidentally create all of the evil in Gotham that Batman fights to this day. Whoops! Remind me to actually review that book one of these days.

So yeah, I feel like someone needs to do a massive compilation of all the times that writers have tried expanding (and presumably "improving") upon the legend of the Waynes' deaths. Until then, I’m just kinda getting tired of everyone trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Bruce, especially while there are so many other characters--especially the villains--going undeveloped.

But wait, wasn't there someone else besides Bruce who was exposed to the Fearomone Gas? Shouldn't the second phase be kicking in with her now too?

Hold on. Silver has no other fears other than whatever it was that scared her the first time around? She really has absolutely zero character depth, doesn't she? By the way, I forgot to mention what big fear of hers was. You ready for this? It was a fear--you ready for this?--of commitment. Oh Jesus Christ, seriously! Even her own epiphanies are entirely based around her relationship with Bruce! God, she really is nothing but a love interest to Bruce even in scenes where Bruce isn't even there! Which finally brings us to the confession:

Much as I feel sorry for Evan, I feel like Englehart is really letting her off the hook far too easily, at least where Evan's feelings are concerned. Maybe he's just that consummate a politician than he can mask his actual feelings behind a carefully crafted spiel, and that he also knows when to fight and when to concede. And Silver herself even describes Evan as a "fighter" elsewhere in the story, so to just go, "Well, okay" isn't at all consistent with what little information we're getting about the guy!

Either way, it's little questionable that they're planning on sticking together to maintain the facade of being the happy couple for the sake of his career, but then, that's politics for you. Furthermore, it makes me wonder if there actually was a good reason why we got that panel of Evan in the mirror, showing both sides of his face. But put a pin in that for a moment. I know, I know, I'm still jerking you around about that whole thing, but we'll get to that at the end of the last part.

For now, the truth has come out between the love triangle, and while it's bittersweet all-around, at least everything is now settled... right?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand HOSTAGE! Right on time! She's hitting all the "Batman's love interest" beats just like clockwork, isn't she? Also: goddamn, how I love the Marshall Rogers tendency to have the Joker's laughter spin around him like ribbon. That's pure happy-making fodder for me.

On that cliffhanger, I think this is the perfect time to end this review. In the next and final part, we'll take a look at Harvey's recovery from these events, plus we'll see what I consider to be some of the greatest Joker moments of all time. We'll also witness the literal fall of Evan Gregory, how it would have led to the sequel that never was, and how Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight might--or might not--have been "inspired" by this story.

Edit: Part 3 is up! Go go go!


( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2012 05:28 am (UTC)
Jeez, who switched lettering duties on those pages with Bruce tripping on Fear Gas? It looks like the dialogue balloons came from some terrible B&W independent comic book from the 90's.
Sep. 15th, 2012 06:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's weird, right? I couldn't find an opportunity to mention it, but man, half the time, the lettering here looks bizarrely amateurish. I don't mind because I've kind of accepted it as part of the whole story's overall weird tone, but still, I'm not sure what's up with John Workman's lettering at times.
Sep. 15th, 2012 09:49 am (UTC)
If it's the *thought* balloons on the page where Scarecrow's head is transplanted on the would-be killer's, I take it that it's supposed to reflect either Bruce being immature or tripping badly.
Sep. 15th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
I love this series. Thanks for spotlighting it!

Sounds we had very similar takes on Wayne of Gotham. Here's my review in case you haven't heard it yet!
Sep. 15th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Thanks for reading it!

Oh, it's audio? Nuts, I can't listen to it just now. I'll try to get to it sometime this week! Short version, though, what'd you think?
Sep. 15th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
Worst Batman story I've ever read!

By the by, are you and Henchgirl planning on going to the 'Batman Live' stage show? I'd love to read your review of that!

Edited at 2012-09-16 12:02 am (UTC)
Sep. 16th, 2012 04:30 am (UTC)
I dunno, the author is clearly a fan of Batman comics from the era I grew up reading them, throwing in everyone from Lady Spellbinder to Scarface's gallows origin to Mallory Moxon, so I appreciate how he's drawing in all sorts of different canon. But man oh man, what he did with Thomas Wayne... Jesus!

By the by, are you and Henchgirl planning on going to the 'Batman Live' stage show? I'd love to read your review of that!

I wish! Oh man, how I do wish! But it ain't gonna happen. For one thing, the tour is pretty much entirely sticking to the West Coast with some Midwest stops, whereas I'm out here on the East Coast. On top of that, we can't afford such a splurge. I'm pretty much having to resist making any major fandom purchases for the next few months at least, if not way longer. At the very least, 1mercystreet reviewed it for me about a year ago! Besides that, I'll just have to count on the reviews of others as well as whatever bootleg videos make their way to YouTube.
Sep. 15th, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
-Forget Harley. Fluffy the stuffed cat should be the Joker's permanent sidekick.

-You know what would have made the clone thing more poignant? If it had lived but ended up with amnesia, but Two-Face decided to leave it alone to live the life he never could. Still, I gotta say, it's a great surreal moment.

-Out of place as I've always found him, I kinda like Dr. Double X here. Villains who stay under the radar are indeed the smartest.

-I actually like the idea of Crane as a paranoiac. It ties in all the other versions; the cold man of science obsessed with his work, the bullied kid, etc. It actually makes him tragic without becoming sympathetic, because he COULD have been a great scientist and pscyhologist if he wasn't so paranoid and insecure.

Also, yay! Someone remembered that Crane sees himself as a symbol of poverty as well as fear! That's an aspect which should be played up more.

By the way, if Crane laughs like Beavis, does this mean Jervis laughs like Butthead? Joke potential for a TLH review.
Sep. 16th, 2012 06:07 am (UTC)
You know what would have made the clone thing more poignant? If it had lived but ended up with amnesia, but Two-Face decided to leave it alone to live the life he never could. Still, I gotta say, it's a great surreal moment.

Oh man, that would have been fantastic! I'm actually really sad that's not what happened! Of course, that opens up the possibility of Clone!Harvey meeting Gilda and the subsequent drama fallout that would follow...

By the way, if Crane laughs like Beavis, does this mean Jervis laughs like Butthead? Joke potential for a TLH review.

Ugh, don't remind me, I still have that looming ahead for a Halloween deadline, if I can manage it.
Sep. 15th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
I ... I love this story! There's more character here than almost every other place I've looked! Damn, for a moment, I was even close to liking Silver here! I want this saga!
... but I should probably not say that for certain until I've seen the last part. For now, I'm digging every moment, every single (silly) detail.

Also, I'm not gonna lie, I kinda like Two-Face best when his suits aren't that fancy-lookin'. I think it makes sense that he, who hates himself for what he's become plus kinda-sorta being the most down-to-earth of the Batman-villains (in my opinion, at least), wouldn't wear something that screamed as much of super-villainy as Joker, Penguin or the other rogues.

I promise that I will not leave a strain of pointless comments this time around. Of that, you have my word.
Sep. 16th, 2012 06:11 am (UTC)
If you've been liking this so far (and YAY for that!), I think you'll still want the whole collection once you see what happens in the final part. There's some great stuff there, even if the ending is--by necessity, as you'll see--a bit lacking. I'm really glad you've been digging this! I wasn't sure what people who hadn't read it (and there are many) might think about it!

Y'know, you do have a point, with the shabbiness playing into his own sense of self-loathing and poor self-esteem instead of him flaunting it in a fancy, tailored, loud split suit. Maybe that's what Englehart and Rogers were going for there.
Sep. 16th, 2012 10:37 am (UTC)
I just wanted to add that I'm not completely new to Roger/Englehart; bought The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told earlier this year. I think I might like this story a bit better. (In The Laughing Fish, it wasn't the Joker-stuff or the Batman-stuff who I loved the most, but rather the subplot about Strange hauntig Thorne.)
That is all.
Sep. 17th, 2012 05:41 am (UTC)
Ooh, which volume did you get? Was it the old late-80's one, or the recent collection with the Alex Ross cover that also includes stuff from The Long Halloween and Hush? I hope it was the older one, as it's the superior collection by far. That book was one of my earliest comic collections, and I still treasure my old, ratty, dog-eared copy.

Oh-ho, you actually preferred the Hugo/Thorne stuff? Hey, god knows I'm not going to complain about that! I know I've mentioned it before in these reviews, but just in case, I actually gave an in-depth look to that entire subplot, as well as the sequel from the early 80's! I'm not sure if you knew about that, but just in case you didn't, oh, do check those out! I love those stories and that character so much!
Sep. 17th, 2012 10:30 am (UTC)
It was the one with TLH and Hush and the Alex Ross cover. It's sad, because I've already got TLH (and to answer the question you didn't ask, I thought it was overrated even when I was 16) and I'm not interested in Hush. And why did Dini get that much space?

I think I've skimmed through your reviews earlier, but I'll do it again just for you! ;) I thourougly enjoy the way the good doctor/professor terrorizes the crap out of Rupert Thorne seemingly effortlessly. By the way, this was just before Killer Croc made his entrance in the underworld, right? I think he took over soon after Thorne's breakdown.
The rest is enjoyable, especially the artwork and the coloring, but I don't like the way Silver is written and as I recall, I didn't have that much love for the story in general. I gotta read it again sometime.
Sep. 16th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
I've got to say, smoking right on top of a hay bale with a cup of alcohol, while wearing a suit stuffed with hay, is just begging for the fire department's eventual attention.
Sep. 16th, 2012 06:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, for a brilliant scientist, he's not too smart there, is he? Clearly, the Joker hasn't teased Crane with enough Wizard of Oz fire jokes, or else he'd already know why this is a bad idea.
Sep. 16th, 2012 03:22 am (UTC)
Has anyone else noticed the way Joker grabs his own word balloon in the first scanned page? It reminds me of the way he turned the page for the reader in The Laughing Fish.
Sep. 16th, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
I'm still waiting for the day when he pulls one of his sound-effect "HA"s out of the air and hurls it at Bruce like a shuriken.

Oh, Emperor Joker and all your wasted potential... for every door you opened, you left ten uber-obvious ones ignored.
Sep. 16th, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
Good catch, I didn't see that! He does that again more blatantly in the next part. I love how the Marshall Rogers Joker is always just one foot into meta, but not quite as far as, say, Deadpool.
Sep. 16th, 2012 03:30 am (UTC)
So yeah, I was almost done typing out a nice long response when my computer froze, and I lost the whole shebang. I'll try and recapture what I wrote, but please forgive me if the comments aren't quite up to my usual standard.
Regarding the pipe and ashtray, it's possible that those are a reference to the Pied Piper, a one-shot Golden Age villain with a pipe theme. I haven't read the story in question, mind you, but someone else brought him up in the comments to an earlier post - I think something to do with the Mad Hatter. In any case, he's the only guy I can think of who has anything to do with pipes, so...
Also note that two of the cave's exhibits have made previous appearances in Englehart/Rogers - the chess board (where Bats and Robin had a sparring match), and the typewriter, on top of which Batman fought new-and-improved Deadshot for the first time. (In fact, given that her company installed it as the centerpiece of a convention, that latter one technically belongs to Silver. I guess there's no tactful way to ask for your giant typewriter back...)
I'm almost certain I've seen the term "Fearomones" used to refer to Scarecrow's gas in some other context than this. It may have been somewhere in Knightfall; I'm not sure.
Given Harvey's philosophies, is it possible he thinks of Batman as a sort of cosmic interrupter of fate - an agent of anti-fate, as it were? Like, 'if fate were allowed to go interrupted, then the coin would always lead me to victory, but Batman keeps fouling up what it has predestined', something like that? I'm not sure what you'd call that, but I'm sure there's a term for it.
Also, what the Joker did to his clone was particularly cruel not simply because his scarring was replicated, but because it was perverted as well. Think about this - Harvey has always hated the Joker, and now the clone's face is half-Jokerized. In other words, half pure evil, half murderously insane - in short, no good side. It's no wonder that Harvey is particularly freaked-out by that - his 'past' has not only been killed, it's been violated.
And while I get that the Scarecrow's pipe is actually yet another reference (to the first story in which his fear-gas was featured), it doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense given how severely vulnerable he is to fire. Of all the people who might be smokers, he's among the least likely.
Sep. 16th, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)
So yeah, I was almost done typing out a nice long response when my computer froze, and I lost the whole shebang.

Ohhhhhhh god, I HATE when that happens! Ouch! :(

As for the pipe thing and how it might have something to do with Mad Hatter or something, I just suddenly realized how grateful I am that the likes of Grant Morrison (or any other writer who is really into drug culture) have never tried writing the Scarecrow. I could so imagine somebody making him addicted to hallucinogens of his own devising, making him into a kind of super villain fear-based Timothy Leary or some shit. Bad enough that people have toyed with that sort of thing with poor, misused Jervis.

(In fact, given that her company installed it as the centerpiece of a convention, that latter one technically belongs to Silver. I guess there's no tactful way to ask for your giant typewriter back...)

Heh, so far, Bruce owes Silver one giant typewriter and one shoe. All right, then.

Given Harvey's philosophies, is it possible he thinks of Batman as a sort of cosmic interrupter of fate - an agent of anti-fate, as it were? Like, 'if fate were allowed to go interrupted, then the coin would always lead me to victory, but Batman keeps fouling up what it has predestined', something like that? I'm not sure what you'd call that, but I'm sure there's a term for it.

Interesting! If that idea were more fully explored, then Harvey (or this Harvey, anyway) might have a decent motivation for hating Batman!

Think about this - Harvey has always hated the Joker, and now the clone's face is half-Jokerized. In other words, half pure evil, half murderously insane - in short, no good side. It's no wonder that Harvey is particularly freaked-out by that - his 'past' has not only been killed, it's been violated.

True! And not only that, the scarring's on the opposite side, thus turning the scarred half-Joker clone into a mockery mirror image for Harvey! He really should be seriously traumatized by this.
Sep. 16th, 2012 06:50 am (UTC)
Uh, no; I wasn't saying the pipe has anything to do with the Hatter - I was saying it might have something to do with the Pied Piper, an unrelated villain. The Hatter only came up because someone brought him up in a previous conversation involving the Hatter. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that.
I could be wrong, but I think the Scarecrow has been portrayed as at least semi-addicted to his own fear-gas once or twice. I remember reading something on Wikipedia about how at one point he couldn't feel fear anymore because repeated exposure to his own gas had deadened it in him, and he was desperate to feel it again. As for Morrison, I seem to recall something by him on scans_daily where it basically was being treated like a drug - the Joker requested Crane to (I'm paraphrasing) "hit me up with some of that fear-gas", which resulted in him handing over a pipe which the Joker took a long puff on - said request being initially answered by a sibilant "Yesss..." emitting from a cloud of smoke. Seemed awfully drug-like to me...
Sep. 16th, 2012 02:07 pm (UTC)
Apparently, you can get addicted to Scarecrow's fear gas, yes. In the first issue of Brad Meltzer's Justice League America, a minor villain (I think it was Signalman), is mentioned to have been hooked on it.
Sep. 16th, 2012 09:55 pm (UTC)
Signalman? Aw, Signalman, what happened to ya, buddy? Once you hobnobbed with the cream of the crop, and now you're a fear-gas junky? That's just sad.
Sep. 17th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)

I keep hearing people sticking up for the guy, but between Identity Crisis and this, it's pretty hard to not hate his writing.
Sep. 17th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC)
I'm actually a friend of Brad's from back in the day when he was a customer at the comic shop where I worked, and I can attest that even his worst mistakes come from a place of him being a genuinely excited old-school fan. This doesn't excuse his flaws, but I'm far more willing to cut him slack because of that. I feel pretty much the same way about Geoff Johns. But even still, I think his actual WRITING is pretty damn solid. There are some parts of Identity Crisis that are actually quite powerful, even if the actual plot is problematic as hell.

That said, have you read Green Arrow: The Archer's Quest? It was his first comics work, as he was brought in for the impossible task of following up Kevin Smith's run that put GA on the map. I think that it's not only the best comics work that Brad's ever written, but I firmly believe that it's also the best Ollie story of all time. It's really solid stuff that played up his excited fanboy aspects in great ways, as opposed to character-ruining ways.
Sep. 17th, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. One of the greatest Joker/Two-Face interactions of all time, if I do say so myself. And those last two panels of the Joker staring at Harvey are more chilling than anything today's crop of comics, torn-off face or not, ever put out.

"THIS AIN'T FLORIDA!" So dated, yet so, so awesome.

Y'know, the first time I read this story, I didn't realize that Fluffy was dead and stuffed. I thought he was a living, breathing cat that was simply smart enough to know not to piss off the Joker, even when Joker's touching him or swinging him by the tail.

I wholeheartedly agree on the Joker Venom bit - and I think that the whole "turn people into Jokers" thing was actually invented by The Killing Joke. Yet another legacy of Moore and Bolland, it seems. In any case, I'm actually waiting for a writer/artist to take it to the opposite extreme: Joker Venom that makes people smile gentle, totally natural-looking smiles instead of giant, toothy grins. Fool people into thinking the victims are still alive.

Pulled off right, it could be downright bone-chilling.

On Harvey's robbery scene:.... are those henchmen a set of Archie Goodwin caricatures?

(Speaking of Goodwin, have you read The Primal Riddle, Hef? Englehart apparently devoted it to Goodwin's memory, and it's another weirrrrrd-ass story. If nothing else, it has the honor of coming up with a truly impressive Riddler deathtrap.)

The Harvey-clone's ultimate fate, quite frankly, makes no sense to me - even for this story. Did the Joker cross-breed a bomb with a Joker Venom dispenser?

That Scarecrow image is awesomesauce, and I once used it to start a thread on CBR's Batman board dedicated solely to various Bat-characters smoking. Yes, you heard that right. Go ahead and judge me. Though I have to say: the Scarecrow hallucination sequences in this story are by far my least favorite part. Not only do they make no sense, but they're kinda boring.

On Evan's campaign... Matches Malone, what the heck are you doing here? And why are you calling yourself Murray?

Having spent my entire adolescence in the 90's, reading various takes on Batman that absorbed and amplified the very worst aspects of Miller's Batman

Once again, I find myself obliged to defend 90s Batman. I don't think that it was 'til NML and the early (and late) 2000s that writers truly began lionizing all the "coolest" aspects of Miller's Batman (perhaps as a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that Miller started going nucking futs around then). I mean, Alan Grant was one of 90s Batman's most prolific writers, and I'm pretty sure that no one would call his take on Batman cold or inhuman. Dixon's Batman was also no stranger to banter and snark with the likes of Dick and Alfred, and even Moench's Batman took the time every now and then to deliver an Aesop or two (see: The Face Schism) to bystanders.

So yeah, I feel like someone needs to do a massive compilation of all the times that writers have tried expanding (and presumably "improving") upon the legend of the Waynes' deaths.

Goddammit, don't give me ANOTHER time-sucking project to work on when I should be filling out my college apps! :P
Sep. 17th, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC)
bleh. I hate the love-interest-as-characteristic trope. It's so inefficient and boring. That's why I stopped watching Chuck, actually. right around the point I realized Sarah wasn't going to get any development beyond being Chuck's mysterious hot ubertalented girlfriend.

-snort- That first Bruce and Silver picture had me staring, wondering where all the limbs were going and what that lump was on Bruce's back. The second picture makes a lot more sense.

I really enjoy the sound effects in here. And this Joker! He's just being evil and having a ball.

Dr. Double X is amazing. And sensible, as you mentioned. I bet he runs a very successful clone business.

Aww, Harv. You're very much in need of sane friends. Two-Face just doesn't fit the bill, does he?

...Question. What would you think of a Harvey who was triggered into switching personalities based on how his coin came up?
Sep. 20th, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
Oh no! I've been dying to read Waynes of Gotham, and now you've spoiled it for me! Ah well. Sounds like maybe you just saved me a bunch of wasted time. I mean, obviously Thomas Wayne could not have been as perfect as Bruce believes he was, but making him into someone who worked with Nazi's is just unexcusable.

But on another note, I've always thought that Dr. and Mrs. Wayne deserved to be explored fully as characters and not just as the reason that Bruce became Batman. So I'm interested in fiction about them. Does Waynes of Gotham have good character development or not?
Sep. 20th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
Sorry! If it helps at all, I didn't spoil the actual twist. The Nazi thing comes about a quarter into the book, but what it actually LEADS to, and the truth of what Thomas' actions really created, that's the real twist.

I'm not sure if this book counts and good character development seeing as how so much of it is rooted in "everything you know is WRONG!" It's not quite the same thing as fleshing out the glimpses of Thomas an Martha as we've seen them from Bruce's memory. It's certainly an interesting and in-depth take on Thomas and Martha, but I'm not sure I'd call it "good." It's more of a mixture of interesting and fail.
Sep. 20th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
It's okay. I actually just listened to Killer Moth's review, and now I'm extremely glad that I didn't read the book.
Sep. 24th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
Just one thing: Did Harv seriously use a line from The Long Halloween? The .22 line? I sincerily hope not.
Sep. 24th, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
I know the .22 gag coud easily be used by other writers (James Owley, for instance), but I distinctly remember that Loeb used a veeery similar line when SPOILERS Harvey killed Falcone in The Long Halloween. Just a hunch, that's all.
May. 13th, 2014 08:31 am (UTC)
It's going to be end of mine day, however before finish Iam reading this wonmderful article to improve my knowledge.
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Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

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