October 26th, 2010

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

"Two-Face: Year One," The Hefner Cut

Two-Face: Year One was a mess.

I don't know any other way to describe the most recent retelling of Harvey's origin, released to coincide with the release of The Dark Knight. The odds were against it from the start, as the main problem with retelling origins is that you've got to interest people in reading a story they already know, or at least think they know.

They may have read it multiple times in flashbacks and expositions, or maybe they just have one specific version they adhere to as the definitive version. For me, the definitive Harvey story is Eye of the Beholder, by Andrew Helfer and Chris Sprouce. For most others, it's The Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Either way, TF:YO was met with opposition and apathy before it was even released, and in the years since, it's shown no signs of being embraced by fans nor creators nor canon any more than Michael Green's recent Joker origin Lovers and Madmen (BUNNY!) managed to escape the shadow of Alan Moore's Killing Joke.

This isn't to say there shouldn't be new attempts at retelling origins. If they held steadfast to the Golden Age or Bronze Age origins of Two-Face, we never would have gotten Eye of the Beholder in the first place. The question is always "What's this new take going to bring to the old story?"

To its credit, TF:YO had a couple novel and intriguing aspects to bring to the table. Unfortunately, for a slew of reasons, the final story was problematic to say the least. Maybe that's why it was seemingly ignored upon release, getting virtually no coverage from comic sites/blogs (I don't recall seeing a single review), or maybe the truth is more depressing than that: maybe people just didn't care.

But while I certainly cared, I also found myself alternately annoyed and bored, particularly by the poor pacing and awkward misuse of flashbacks. It read like a movie hacked apart and frankensteined together by a bad editor.

So in the interest of a cohesive story, I've decided to try something a bit different with this Two-Face Tuesday, and present the story edited into chronological order. Thus today, I offer you Two-Face, Year One: The Hefner's Cut!

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All in all, what we have here is a story that wants to be many things: a detective story, a psychological thriller, a character tragedy, a courtroom drama, a political satire, a companion piece to a more famous work, and a fresh look at a classic origin, not to mention a springboard for an intended spin-off series featuring Gotham Central characters.

They're all noble goals, certainly more of the sorts of things I want to see in comics, particularly if they give Two-Face a chance to be utilized properly. But in my opinion, it sadly failed in all these accounts, and the story seems to have been relegated to obscurity before it was even released. Time will tell if any of these ideas will carry on in future stories, even perhaps to better effect than they were used here.

Maybe in the next retelling of the origin in about a decade. As I'm sure Harvey would appreciate, all I can say is, "Better luck next time."

Again, if you're interested in reading it yourself, it can be found in this collection: "Batman: Two-Face/Scarecrow, Year One. Also included is Scarecrow: Year One, which was rather good.