about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

Is Doug Moench's second Two-Face story is a kinda-sorta sequel to "Eye of the Beholder"?

Today, we look at a bit of Doug Moench's next Two-Face appearance... but NOT the whole story. I have a specific goal in mind, one inspired by Henchgirl's awesome, definitive look at Catwoman's origin (which you've ALL checked out, right?), wherein she set the following guideline:

Events must be either CONFIRMED by another comic or UNDISPUTED throughout continuity to make it onto the timeline as canon.

Considering that I'd like to create a similar timeline for Two-Face, I'm faced with the problem of reconciling stories I don't particularly like, such as The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, both of which were confirmed by the very first issue of Tony Daniel's current Batman run. I just don't want those events to supersede the events of Eye of the Beholder.

Y'know, I think I mention and/or link to EotB in every other post here. I can't help it. EotB is not just my favorite Two-Face comic, but I truly believe that, objectively, it's one of the best Batamn comics ever published. And yet it's painfully obscure, kept out of print for unknown reasons, and its contributions either going ignored or credited to lesser works.

As such, I was afraid that Loeb's legacy now ruled the character's timeline (as far too many fans already believe). But then I recently discovered that EotB was, in fact, confirmed three years after its publication, in Showcase '93, written by--of all people--Doug Moench! You might know which story I mean:

The story is better than average, but ultimately hindered by the fact that it's tied into Knightfall. What really intrigues me is that it's the only story to DIRECTLY follow themes and motifs established in EotB, making it--in my view--a spiritual sequel! No other Two-Face comic so explicitly references EotB, not even DeMatteis' Batman/Two-Face: Crime and Punishment, the only story to tackle the issue of Harvey's abuse as a child.

So with your indulgence, I'd like to look at just the strongest part of the story (the first half), which I trust will prove that EotB is true canon. It gets especially interesting (to dorks like me, anyway) to see where this version is subsequently taken by Moench and, later, Dixon.

Note: scans taken from Showcase '93 #7

Maybe this doesn't count as the first direct reference to EotB, but I dunno, it strikes me as awfully similar:

What do you guys think? Does that count as a reference?

Okay, back to the story, and perhaps one of my favorite Two-Face reveals ever:

I really run hot and cold on Klaus Janson (for one thing, I wish to god that Miller has just inked himself for The Dark Knight Returns, because Janson's inks made the story just that much more grotesque and blocky), but in this story and with that page? *kisses fingers* Mwah!

Part of it might be Janson's own colors, mingling sickly green bathed in lurid, Gotham nightlife neon pink. It's garish and jarring in a way similar to an Argento film, or the original (superior!) coloring for The Killing Joke. It's the colors of madness and horror. Hot pink should not be horrific, but it works here.

Let's ignore the story itself and focus on the fact that those two panels are direct references to EotB, which was the story that *invented* the "rooftop pact between Gordon, Dent, and Batman" which is more well-known for being in The Long Halloween and, subsequently, The Dark Knight:

According to Henchgirl's rules, the events of EotB are now officially canon because they were referenced in another story by a different author! To a lesser extent, let's also compare the "breakup" between Bats and Harvey with the original scene:

That's one slight but importance difference: Batman doesn't break things off with Harvey right then and there. In EotB, he makes the decision on his own, but doesn't get a chance to tell Harvey before the Maroni trial and the acid. In the original story, Harvey has *already* snapped when Batman tells him that he was thinking about dissolving their pact. At no point does Harvey give any indication that he feels betrayed, since by that point, he's far more interested in revenge against Adrian Fields, who procured the acid for Maroni.

Thus, Moench has taken a creative license with EotB in order to give Harvey an actual motivation to hate Batman. It's not too far of a leap from EotB, but that motivation will become warped when Moench tries to use it in his next story, getting even worse by the time Dixon used it for Robin: Year One.

Here, it still works... especially if you consider that Batman kinda actually did betray Harvey Dent by condemning and *abandoning* his own ally who was in the midst of an emotional and psychological meltdown. Way to go, Bruce!

Back to Moench's story:

The idea that he flips to break the "deadlock" between his warring sides is also from EotB, and is one of the most ingenious interpretations of why exactly Two-Face uses the coin:

No other Two-Face story has ever used that wonderful reasoning, falling instead back on the general idea of choosing one of two options, or doing something good or evil. Abstract concepts like that are easy to fuck up, which is another reason why we have so many crappy Two-Face stories.

That said, let's not start singing Moench's praises just yet! "Heads we win... and heads we win." Perhaps Moench isn't completely falling back on his previous take by having Harvey flip to choose between two evil choices, but even if that coin came up clean, I suspect this Two-Face would still try to find a way to kill Batman. He's too single-mindedly obsessed with revenge.

Harvey's little "other" voice is another reference to EotB, namely the voice of Harvey as a child.

Perhaps, now in Moench's context, Two-Face isn't split between good and bad sides of Harvey Dent, as much as evil Two-Face and the good inner child of Harvey Dent. That's kind of twists the ideas of EotB, but what other meaning would we take from how Two-Face reacts to the little squiggly voice?

Last reference, I swear, but I'm willing to bet that the file Harvey's had stashes away is the same one given to him by Fields, who was bargaining for his life:

I took Helfer's original scene to indicate how provide a believable explanation for how the former D.A. could rise to become a powerful mob boss. It makes perfect sense that the best way to do that would be to use the file's information for blackmail, which is exactly what Harvey is now doing with Mr. Lyman.

Harvey "requests" a meeting with Lyman at the mobster's club, and makes it a point to add, "Bring your enforcers." Lyman quickly deduces that the game is blackmail:

I'd consider that one of the most badass things Harvey's ever done if I weren't wondering why the hell the enforcers didn't shoot him dead the second he went for his gun. Seriously, Harvey, THESE are the kinds of enforcers you want backing you up? Never mind that they're duplicitous, they're also bad at their jobs!

I'm not certain that it's worth posting the rest of this story. From here, Harvey proceeds to put an exhausted and bestubbled Batman on "trial," which I believe is the first time anyone's written Harvey staging his own insane kangaroo court scenario. For my money, that trope never gets better than the one in No Man's Land in both the comics and novel, for different reasons.

Moench's is good, but ultimately, I think it's undone largely because the focus permanently shifts away from Two-Face and is put entirely on Bruce and Tim, reducing Harvey to being a raving madman. Disappointing, considering how promisingly this story began.

If you would like to read this whole story, it can be found in the second Knightfall trade paperback, which is hopefully still in print. I wish that it, along with Eye of the Beholder, had been included in the abysmal Batman VS Two-Face trade paperback instead of crappy stories like... well, like the NEXT time Doug Moench wrote Harvey. We'll get to reviewing that infamous tale in due time.
Tags: andrew helfer, chris sprouce, doug moench, klaus janson

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