In the wake of his meltdown with Silver St. Cloud, Batman tries to distract himself by going to London, where Killer Moth has supposedly been on a crime spree. However, both Batman and Killer Moth were being manipulated by the Penguin, who wanted to ensure that Batman would be too distracted to thwart Ozzie's scheme to unleash bird flu upon all of London in a mad bid to finally be taken seriously. After being beaten up by both Batman AND the Penguin, Killer Moth decides to high-tail it back to Gotham, while the Penguin's hired gun—Deadshot—teams up with Batman to prevent the pandemic, because even an assassin has his scruples.
Meanwhile, the vampire Dala is trying to kick the blood habit, but there's only so much that she can do without Batman's help, and he's been rather preoccupied as of late. And back in Gotham, there's still a whole other major subplot which I've barely mentioned, one which will have a major impact on Gotham City and Batman's life, assuming that he survives his London adventure (spoiler alert: eh, probably). So let's get back to the Penguin's descent into full-blown evildom, already in progress!
Ozzie continues to advance his plans to infect London with bird flu, inoculating his loyal butler Fowler (heh) with an experimental vaccine and calling up one old flame after another to discreetly offer them the chance to "renew our acquaintance" before London will becomes "inhospitable." When each one rejects him, he just shrugs and calls up another to try working his non-existent wooing talents. It's a rather cute touch, one rather reminiscent of Birds of a Feather (still one of the greatest depictions of the Penguin, and certainly his best TAS episode), in that it plays up the idea of the Penguin as a consummate romantic who is just wants a partner with whom he can share his grandiose life and appetites.
As Deadshot and Batman discover the methods of the bird flu dispersal, Deadshot continues his penchant for shooting innocent animals by blowing away the penguins which are carrying the egg bombs, glibly justifying his actions as "Shooting birds. It's an ancient tradition of the aristocracy." It's another little reminder of how wealth and status is a major character theme that unites Batman with Deadshot, Penguin, Killer Moth, and even Dala, give or take a few centuries.
Batman swiftly puts Floyd in his place, pointing out that there were other options to thwart Penguin beyond avian murder, and that his callous approach to murder makes him "no better than the Joker," despite all of Deadshot's pretensions and world-weariness. Before they can hash this out enough to properly address the threat of the Penguin, however, they are interrupted by another subplot, one which neutralizes Deadshot (so much for their short-lived buddy comedy!) and leaves Batman to face off alone against the Penguin.
Annoying sidekick and bumbling henchmen not included.
Let's get that battle out of the way first. After being welcomed into the Penguin's lair by Fowler--Ozzie's own Alfred, just to add to the mirrored relationship he has with Bruce--the Penguin proceeds to engage Batman in battle with his various rigged umbrellas, from blowtorches to propellers, all classic weapons of the Penguin of old who may now be gone forever.
"You were never a killer, Penguin! Why are you doing this?" To which Ozzie replies, "That's why, Batman. 'Penguin.' I will have my revenge on those who never, ever accepted me." Not only is this Oswald Cobblepot defined by his persecution, but he's seemingly reached a point of no return. "I'm not to be dismissed so easily! I'm not a funny bird!"
It's another rather meta take on a Batman villain, especially for one who is often seen as a toothless relic of the Silver Age even today, something which is acknowledged in Englehart's script directions which describe how "it should be shocking to see funny little Peng fighting like a tiger against Batman." While I agree that the Penguin should be physically capable of handling himself in a fight with Batman, that script direction just made me think of this:
I admire Englehart's attempts to make the Penguin a major threat, but again, I think that it would have been more convincing and compelling if he had stuck with the concept of the Penguin as the ultimate gentlemanly gamesman whose schemes never crossed over into outright full-scale, indiscriminate murder. Such indiscriminate endangerment of nameless civilians seems rather sloppy for a character who prides himself on being such a meticulous tactician who specifically targets the peers who scorned him.
Regardless, Englehart wraps up the Penguin subplot in a satisfying way. First, Batman tells Penguin that "your world's just gone a little crazy," echoing an idea that Batman said about himself earlier and thus reenforcing the mirror theme. Secondly, he trounces the Penguin while condemning him for not having "the slightest idea what it means to be a gentleman," an accusation which Oswald accepts—along with his defeat—with dignity. "You... have the advantage of me... sir..."
Even though this Penguin is a twisted portrait of the genteel high society ideals, his dignity at the end there indicates that his gentlemanly trappings aren't entirely for show. This is really nice, since it doesn't waste the full potential of the Penguin as a villainous Bertie Wooster, whereas most other writers would probably have used Ozzie's defeat to reveal his "true" nature as the crude, cruel, nasty, vicious little monster he really is underneath the pretensions of refinement. See also, a recent issue of Batman: Eternal.
Much as I've come to love Batman Returns and its take on the Penguin, I still hate the filthy union suit, so thank GOODNESS someone thought to incorporate it into the comics!
Unfortunately, his triumph against the Penguin is short-lived once a much deadlier threat emerges, one which Batman had failed to handle before it was too late. So, hey, funny story about that whole Dala subplot... y'know how it was a whole allegory for substance abuse? Well, the thing about substance abuse recovery stories in fiction is that they tend to go one of two ways, and I'm sure you can guess which way Dala's story went.
It's sad because she had only started to believe that maybe there could be a new life... er, unlife for her as a recovering bloodsucker, but those hopes were dashed when Batman didn't show up at the clinic for his daily dawn visit. Whether or not she realized that he was preoccupied saving the city, Dala nonetheless felt abandoned and embittered by Batman. To her credit, she tries to channel that resentment and spite to prove to both Batman and herself that she can manage without him, that she's strong enough, and she forces herself out into the still-painful daylight, telling herself that soon she'll be able to enjoy all the simple joys of humanity and perhaps even find love.
And that's when she sees a meal that she cannot resist, one whose death would surely hurt Batman. And that's when she decides to eat Killer Moth.
Yep, poor, pathetic Killer Moth was just minding his own business, flying through London on his way out, only to find himself tackled by a starving vampire who gave him a neckful o' fangs. Needless to say, this solidified my suspicions that DD3—and the whole DD saga—largely takes place in its own continuity, which may or may not tie into our own. Hey, works for me! Too bad it didn't work out so well for Mothy.
Next thing we know, Dala has reverted to a bestial vampiric state, and poor, scared, confused Killer Moth—whose last mortal thoughts were probably a pitiful, John-Locke-ian "I don't understand"—lies cold and dead on a slab. But don't worry, folks, he gets better! Well, assuming that you consider him becoming a monstrous vampire Killer Moth in Dala's thrall to be an improvement. The question, now, is what his new vampire name should be. My Henchgirl suggested "Lunar Moth," which is certainly better than my suggestion: "BLOODFLUTTER." In any case, I'll certainly take this version of the character over what they did to him in the 90's.
Dala and Mothy—who now says things like "Now I am of the endless world!"—had earlier on attacked Deadshot and Batman on their way to stop the Penguin, and Floyd had been selected as the newest addition to her budding collection of Undead Rich Boys With Problems. Presumably, the Penguin would have been next, which would explain why she and Mothy (carrying a comatose Deadshot) show up just in time for the Penguin's defeat to crush the weary, weakened Batman.
Of course, what she really wants is the death she's been craving from the very start, challenging Batman to finally break his oath now that he sees what a lost cause she truly is. Ultimately, though, the one who finally stakes her for good is not Batman, but Killer Moth, who was apparently not so enthralled after all! Described as looking "creepy but it's more pitiable than scary now," he briefly explains that he did it to stop Dala from attacking anyone else, and in what may be one of the saddest Moth moments ever, he says, "All I wanted to do was go home."
Wow, Tim Sale's redesigned costume here actually works for poor ol' Bloodflutter.
He then escapes into the city, wanting to live whatever life he has now, despite the Penguin's protests to kill the monster. "If ever there was a case for killing...!" he starts to say, but Batman cuts him off, and we're treated to the usual explanation that Batman would "fall into darkness," unable to stop at just one death. This justification has been explored time and again by writers, possibly because it's rarely ever been a truly convincing argument, as if the idea of Batman killing (say) the Joker is tantamount to trying to eat just one Lay's potato chip.
With DD3, however, Englehart actually made this reasoning work for me precisely because of how it parallels Dala's tragic allegory for substance abuse, since it took just one Moth-flavored lapse for her to spiral into her own literal darkness. Of course, Batman himself isn't a recovering murder addict like Dala, but since he was traumatized by murder as a child, it's only natural that he—much like the child of abuse—would live in terror of becoming everything he hated.
This is still the simplest and most perfect explanation for why Batman refuses to kill
As such, it was deft of Englehart to incorporate Batman's Golden Age execution of Dala and the Monk and reimagine it as Batman's sole lapse into the darkness which he fears will consume him, and to turn Dala into the very symbol of both his past crimes and what he could become unchecked. Personally, I think those fears are groundless (at least with THIS Batman; I can't speak for every writer's take on the character), but that's not the point. It's the fact that he's afraid of what he might become that makes his refusal to kill so poignant.
With one villain dead, a second one undead, a third almost undead but actually fine, and the fourth one trussed up for the London police, Batman reflects on how his life could have followed any of those four other paths, and how he stands apart from them all by saving people rather than preying upon them. Me, I'd see this as proof of Bruce's fundamental goodness, about how a life of pain doesn't have to result in becoming an asshole, but Englehart instead takes this moment to have Batman examine whether this choice of his is "rational—or crazy?" With Penguin and Deadshot both staring at him "in fascination— the Batman draws all eyes," Bruce concludes, "rational."
With that, Bruce's existential crisis is over and he's seemingly made peace with the loss of Silver from his life (because that's what this story is really about at its core), having assured himself that his adherence to rationality—the dominant trait which led his fallout with Silver—is the right choice for him, regardless of the cost to his love life. But Alfred doesn't let him off so easily.
In the private jet back to Gotham, Batman remarks on how everything this adventure (especially the actions of the villains) seemed "out of kilter," as if "I was off-balance the whole time." To this, Alfred posits that the only thing off-balance was Bruce himself, since he's so focused on "rationality" that he never stopped to consider how irrational it is to refuse to love. Sometimes, the dynamic between Alfred and Bruce is rather like Picard teaching Data how to be human, isn't it?
Unless, of course, Bruce is actually aromantic, in which case his disinterest in love isn't a fault that makes him any less of a human being. I can certainly imagine Bruce being aromantic in most versions of the character, but in the case of Englehart's DD3, let's accept that he actually does harbor romantic feelings, but he smooshes them deep down inside lest they interfere with his holy mission. This is very much the Bruce of Mask of the Phantasm who can't reconcile the possibility of being content as Bruce Wayne with his determination to be Batman.
Still, the explanation that Bruce was the only off-kilter element is all well and good, but it still doesn't address Batman's point about the villains' unusual behavior, such as why Penguin went inexplicably "over the edge" and became an attempted mass m... well, mild-pandemic-unleasher-guy. Are Batman's rogues so inextricably tried to him that any major upheaval in his life would bleed out to affect them as well? If Batman suffers heartache, does everyone else in Gotham share his pain to some degree? It's certainly an idea which I can imagine that some writers would explore, especially in the wake of Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder toying with the idea of Gotham City being its own living entity.
Regardless, Alfred points out that while Batman may not be able to afford love, Bruce Wayne certainly can, and despite decades of opinion that Bruce is merely a facade for Batman, Englehart affirms via Alfred that "you are most assuredly Bruce Wayne." It's because of moments like this that I love Englehart's Batman, as he's firmly rooted in the Bronze Age version of the character who was still in touch with his humanity and would actually do things like occasionally smile and apologize when he's wrong.
Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy the modern, humorless, control-freak jerkbag that he's become since writers let Frank Miller's TDKR version define the character, but that version of Batman is best suited as a foil for the Bat-family as well as making the villains more sympathetic by comparison. But it's hard for me to really give a crap about that Batman as a person. As such, I feel like the Dark Detective is almost its own alternate universe, an offshoot from 1978 that bypassed the Post-Crisis era entirely and continued to develop solely in Steve Englehart's mind, becoming stranger and more bizarre in places while still staying true to its Bronze Age roots.
As such, this Batman in uniquely Englehart's while still being a perfect Batman in spirit, as evinced by Bruce's attempt to disregard Alfred's sage advice in favor of going off to brood in the batcave. Somebody should really put a post-it note on the Bat-Computer that reads “ALFRED IS ALWAYS RIGHT” until it finally sinks into Bruce's thick skull. However, just when it looks as though DD3 will end with yet another instance of Bruce going off to sulk in solitude, the mansion's security system goes off. Somebody is inside Wayne Manor! And that somebody is... Silver St. Cloud?
This brings us to the last subplot of Dark Detective III, something which I've deliberately withheld until this point. Throughout all six issues, there have been "meanwhile, back in Gotham City" scene focusing on Silver and Evan Gregory's recovery from the fallout of DD2. In Englehart's script directions, he wanted "the Silver stories in this arc to feel like separate stories, because there is no connection between Bat and Silver now. They will always begin on a new page." Indeed, they do feel like entirely different comics, breaking up the usual Batman action with a subdued domestic drama/tragedy set amidst the backdrop of politics. Doesn't sound like much fun, does it? Well, don't worry, it doesn't last.
First, though, let's do a quick refresher about Silver St. Cloud's whole deal, for the benefit of anyone who hasn't read DD1 or DD2. Back in DD1, Silver was created by Englehart to be Batman's one true love, a woman better suited to Bruce than even Catwoman or Talia, whom he viewed as “devices” who were used in order “to give Batman some sort of female romantic thing to play off, but there was never any romance.” By creating Silver St. Cloud, Englehart explained, “I set out to give Bruce Wayne a fully developed adult woman with whom he could have a fully developed adult relationship — they even slept together, can you believe it! I think she is the only real woman in Bruce's entire chronology.”
Despite her status as one of Batman's most notable love interests, she vanished from comics after the end of DD1 for unknown reasons. She was to have appeared as the love interest in the 80's Batman film, but by the time the script got around to Sam Hamm, Silver was replaced by Vicki Vale in the final 1989 film, and she thus continued to make no appearances in either comics nor other superhero media (not even any of the animated Batman shows!) until 2000, when she appeared in a Legends of the Dark Knight story called Siege. Despite Marshall Rogers being on that art, Siege was unremarkable, and Englehart ignored the events of it entirely when he brought Silver back in DD2.
There, we learned that she was engaged to Senator Evan Gregory, a handsome and charming politician who was running for Governor. Ultimately, Silver ended up getting kidnapped by the Joker, and Evan—poor, stupid Evan—charged into an obviously evil lair to try saving her life, only to end up having his left arm and leg sliced off by the Joker's spinning blades of doom. Because what's the point of having an evil lair without spinning blades of doom, I ask you? In agony and suffering blood loss, Evan made a desperate, miserable request from Silver, one that she might have turned down if she hadn't been ticked off at Batman's "rational" suggestion to loan her out to Evan for the time being. And thus, she agreed—however reluctantly—to stay by Evan's side, at least for a little while.
Because DD3 was never published, the continuation of this storyline fell to none other than filmmaker and former geek deity Kevin Smith, who brought Silver St. Cloud back in the pages of his misbegotten maxi-series, Batman: The Widening Gyre. Much as I adored Kevin Smith back when I was a fourteen-year-old geek who love poop jokes and was desperate for even the merest mention of comic culture in mainstream entertainment, I always found his Batman work to be crude and juvenile, and I especially dislike how he was allowed to usurp Englehart's story for his own purposes, especially where Evan and Silver were concerned.
You'll also notice that Smith forgot that Evan was running for Governor, and that he already WAS a Senator
As you can see, Evan eventually died from his injuries in Smith's version (and thus in the most recent official DC canon), leaving Silver free to rekindle her romance with Bruce, with disastrous results on several levels. I wasn't a fan of that story to begin with, but I'm more frustrated than even now that I've read that story that Englehart had intended to tell all along, one which may never see the light of day because of Smith's (still-incomplete) mess of a story.
In DD3, we learn that Silver kept her promise to stay by Evan until he got back on his fe... uh, foot, at least until the election. Over the next two months, they do their best to maintain a strong professional relationship with the election only five days away, with her going above and beyond her duties to oversee that everything at the campaign office is running smoothly. Via Silver, we learn that Evan will likely be earning "a sympathy vote for your injuries, and the hero factor for taking on the Joker," but there's also a pervasive mentality amongst Gothamites that he's not up to the job, the reasons for which are never specified.
Evan, meanwhile, is only focused on his relationship—or the lack thereof—with Silver. He feels shame for guilting her into staying with him at the end of DD2, as they were wheeling him into the ambulance. Through both the dialogue and the script directions, Englehart stresses Evan's likability, painting him as a decent guy who has been through far more anguish than he could ever have possibly deserved. It helps to convey why Silver has stuck with him out of friendship, but she cannot bring herself to love him any more than she can fall back in love with Bruce Wayne, or so she tells herself.
To my knowledge, this is the final page that Marshall Rogers ever drew. Sigh.
As I've said before, I'm not crazy about Silver St. Cloud as a character, despite Englehart's best intentions for the character. While she may once have stood out against the superficial depictions of Catwoman and Talia of the Bronze Age, she's still kind of a “device” in her own right, since her every action and thought seems to revolve around the men in her life. Sure, she's depicted as intelligent and perceptive (she figured out Batman's secret identity in, like, two seconds), but she only seems to exist to be the Love Interest just like Vicki Vale, Chase Meridian, and Rachel Dawes, who—I hate to say it—actually had some character agency outside of a man.
That said, DD3 finally takes Silver's character in the right direction to making her a more independent with more going on than just romantic angst. What mainly helps set this off is that Batman is nowhere to be seen, since physically relocating Bruce to another country gives Silver an opportunity to be a more proactive character than she might have been otherwise, watching Batman from the sidelines while pondering about the future of their relationship and maybe also getting taken hostage at some point.
I could also have posted this piece that some fan commissioned from Rogers featuring both Silver and Joker in bathing suits, but I figured it was better to stick with the canon kidnapping.
The first signs that something may be amiss in the Gregory household start in the second issue, when Silver goes to visit Evan only to hear a small "heh heh heh" emerge from his room. When she goes inside, she finds Evan alone and acting perfectly normal, without a trace of anything amiss. It's an unsettling moment, especially once Evan denies that anyone else was in the room before she arrived, a bit of gaslighting on his part to make this subplot even more unnerving.
Getting back to business, we learn that Evan's opponent "Harry Thorne," a known "crook" who leads the "Thorne Cartel" which was briefly mentioned way back in the start of DD2. Obviously, Harry Thorne is a relation of DD1 arch-villain Rupert Thorne—who is presumably still locked up in Arkham Asylum at this point, having been driven mad by the ghost(?) of Hugo Strange—but if Englehart mentioned any familial connection, I never noticed it. Thorne is a... well, a thorn in Evan's side, a criminal rival on par with what the likes of Vincent Moroni (or Sal Maroni, if you prefer) was to Harvey Dent.
"HALF-measures," Evan? Hrmmm...
Just as with some versions of the Dent/Moroni rivalry, the cracks are starting to show with Evan, who flies into sudden bursts of anger before swiftly reverting back to "the truly good-at-heart guy we know." Of course, we can all chalk this up to the stress of his election, but then, we made the same mistake with Harvey in Batman: The Animated Series, didn't we? Perhaps not so coincidentally, there's also a moment when he lashes out at Silver after she makes some innocuous suggestion about how to handle Thorne. "Sorry, I didn't mean to step on your—" she apologetically starts to say before he bitterly cuts her off: "Toes? I only have half as many now." Half? For a second time, I must express a suspicious “hrmmm...”
Another big stresser in Evan's life is the knowledge that, one way or another, Silver will be leaving his life forever come election day, when she becomes a "free agent" again. She stayed out of guilt, and Evan feels guilty for exploiting that guilt in a moment of limb-deprived weakness, so there's a whole lotta angst and misery to go around here. Instead of letting her go and moving on with everyone's lives, though, Evan makes the same choice that he always makes: the stupid, short-sighted, kinda selfish choice.
Remember, this is a guy who—even after knowing that Batman was off to save Silver—ran into the Joker's death house, got a bunch of cops killed, and then kept going ahead until his arm and leg were gone, all to impress Silver enough to keep her from leaving him. If Bruce is too "rational" and distant, then Evan is too passionate, too romantically foolish, too goddamn stupid. Just like Bruce, Evan is fundamentally selfish where Silver in concerned, but instead of following Bruce's lead and staying noncommittal and unwilling to change himself, Evan is emotionally dependent on Silver and keeping her in his life. It was romantic to see him as a guy who will fight to save her, but now it's getting twisted up in a fight to keep her.
On Election Day eve, Evan urges Silver to reconsider, that he loves her more than Bruce ever could, and that life with him as "first lady" (or whatever governors' wives are called) would be a life of comfort where she could still have her own life while sharing it with his. "I'm trying to be rational, Silver," he says, which surprisingly doesn't raise any red flags for Silver. When she refuses to live that lie and tells him that "We're friends. That's all," Evan pulls a Nice Guy™ and lashes out at her, his temper spiking without warning. "DAMN YOU! Get out, then! Let me get started on living alone!"
And so she does, leaving Evan alone with his bitterness... and a mysterious figure standing out on the alcove. Have you figured out where this is going yet? I mean, assuming that you haven't already read the description of DD3 over at Englehart's website, in which case, yeah, you know where this is going.
Right before Englehart gives us the big reveal, the election takes a bizarre turn the next morning, when Harry Throne's campaign suffers a crippling blow. Much to Silver's horror, she learns that Evan's campaign office sent out political mailers featuring a scandalous image, under which read the words, "They say a man who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas." Accompanying this adage is a photo of Harry Thorne, "having, ehhh... with a dog!" Yes, you read that right: the campaign of Evan's opponent is sabotaged by photos of Thorne fucking a dog. Geez, did Garth Ennis write this part?! Because I sure as heck wasn't expecting the story to go in that direction! What's more, it's never explained if these photos are doctored or legit, and if they're the latter, one wonders how they were obtained in the first place. I'd imagine that Thorne family reunions would be pretty awkward between the corruption and the bestiality.
While Evan's campaign manager makes a crack about "screwing the pooch," he and Evan both deny having any idea where these fliers came from or who authorized them. Acting appalled, Evan asks Silver to fetch his suit so that he can go on the morning news and denounce this smear campaign at once! But once she's out of the room, Evan's personality changes from indignant to delighted, and he turns to his closet to commend the mysterious figure within on a job well done. With Thorne on the defensive and disgraced by those photos (which were apparently not doctored?), Evan knows that the election's in the bag, and he shakes the hand of the man who made it all happen.
"You just have to make the other guy look worse than you," Two-Face says. "I've been there, brother."
So yes, in an unusual twist, Two-Face is involved in the downfall and corruption of a decent, upstanding politician, exploiting him emotional vulnerability and feeding his insecurity about his deformity. Normally in these kinds of stories, it's Harvey who's the manipulate-ee while the Joker is the manipulator (as was the case in The Dark Knight, much to Englehart's chagrin, as I'll explain later), but in this case, Harvey is acting not from a sense of sadistic glee, but from a twisted place of empathy. Sure, he also gets power from this deal, but he seems to genuinely care for Evan and wants to help, and unfortunately for Evan, he's broken and desperate enough to accept.
What's more, this partnership works as a dark twist on Harvey's partnership with Batman in Batman: Year One, the two operating outside the law in order to strike more effectively at their opponents while one of them hides behind furniture whenever somebody else enters the room. Harvey has Evan's closet, just as Batman had Harvey's desk. I don't know how much thought Englehart gives to Miller's work, but I like to imagine that Harvey sees himself as the Batman figure in his partnership with Evan, in whom Harvey sees himself, as we'll soon learn.
Really, any excuse to post this panel is good by me.
Later that afternoon, when Silver unsuspectingly walks in on Evan and Harvey hanging out together, Evan seizes her with his good arm and gagging her with his prosthetic hand, and Harvey explains that "My friend Evan took me in, when no one else would." Geez, if only Doctor Double-X had just invited Two-Face to stay, we could have had a wacky villain sitcom situation AND Evan wouldn't have been corrupted! Or there would have been a bloodbath and Evan would have fallen apart anyway, I imagine that's just as likely.
While tying up Silver, Evan explains how Harvey (with whom he shares some unspecified history) is the only person in the world who can understand what he's going through. "He never lost an election. He was as popular as I am now. But he shows what will happen to me. Even if I win, no one will ever look at me the same way. Power's no substitute for being normal—but with you leaving, it's all I have." Ah, so Evan is a parallel to the classic, insecure Two-Face who believed himself to be so hideous that society would shun him. Or rather, more to the point, he was afraid that Gilda would abandon him, and the horrified reactions he got only reenforced that fear and insecurity, until he felt like he had no other viable options but to turn to crime.
As an aside, it's interesting how Englehart, throughout the entirety of the DD saga, has never once mentioned the existence of Gilda. Heck, from the way Harvey lamented in DD2 how his good looks used to draw the attention of women, it almost sounds like he was a swingin' bachelor like Bruce Wayne pretends to be! From the way Englehart's handled Harvey thoughout DD2 and DD3, we're given no reason to believe that Gilda ever existed in his universe, and I think that's a big problem, especially given how Silver's now in the Gilda role opposite Evan.
Both men were tormented by the idea of being abandoned by their fianceés, the main difference being that Harvey just kinda assumed that Gilda wouldn't love him, whereas Silver's been upfront about her intentions to leave Evan ever since she came clean about the affair with Bruce. That part's also interesting to me, given how similar themes of Harvey Dent being the Baxter of the relationship between his lover and Bruce have shown up in Batman and Robin Adventures, the newspaper comic strips, and of course, in The Dark Knight.
The parallels between Evan and Harvey don't stop there, though. Their ultimate goal is not merely power for power's sake, since Evan isn't so far gone as to suddenly become a supervillain. At heart, he still wants to see justice done, explaining to Silver that he and Harvey are "both fighting believed in, and that he still wants to fight the "scum" in his own way. That said, I think it's ironic that he's going to corrupt the government through Evan given how he threatened the Joker in DD for trying to make a "mockery" of the system.
I can't tell if this is hypocritical of Two-Face or somehow still in keeping with his twisted mentality. In retrospect, perhaps he was also trying to protect Evan, assuming that Englehart had always intended for Harvey and Evan to have been friends. Or maybe he just really, really hates the Joker, which certainly seems to be a major factor here for both Harvey and Evan. Man, I would have loved to have seen Harvey, with all of the state's resources at his disposal, versus the Joker. Sure, they would have lost that battle and lost hard, but given that this is Englehart's Joker, you can't tell that me that it wouldn't have been entertaining as hell!
In any case, it's depressingly fitting that Two-Face continues to pervert everything that Harvey Dent once stood for, even when he genuinely believes that what he's doing is for some greater good or higher purpose. In this case, he's actually outdone himself, because now he's dragging another innocent man down with him! Through Evan, he can watch another man fall the same way he did, justifying his actions in the same way. Wait, this all sounds a little reminiscent of something that Englehart's Harvey did back in DD, doesn't it?
So here's my theory: Evan Gregory is effectively Two-Face's replacement for the Good Clone that commissioned from Doctor Double-X so that he could see what his life might have been like if he hadn't become Two-Face. With no Gilda in this Harvey's life, Good Clone was treated as the only person in the world who actually loved Two-Face, which made his murder at the hands of the Joker all the more brutal.
Enter Evan Gregory, who is every bit as much of a reflection of Harvey Dent as the Good Clone was, perhaps even more so. Here was a sterling White Knight politician who was beloved by both the Gotham City and his own beautiful fiancée, and in the course of his fearless crusade against crime, he ended up mutilated on the left side of his body. Evan Gregory was always Harvey Dent 2.0, but he might not have fallen so far as he did without Two-Face's influence.
If Harvey can't vicariously live through Good Clone to see the happy life he might have had, then he can at least validate his own choices that led him to becoming Two-Face by nudging Evan Gregory onto the same path of corruption and insanity. For that reason alone, Evan's downfall makes a far greater case for TDK's (nonetheless bullshit) assertion that "madness is like gravity: all it takes is a little push."
Not ready to give up on Evan entirely, Silver makes a last-ditch effort to reach the poor schmuck, but it's clear that he's resigned himself to his actions and has given up on her. When she says that he's "not like this," he replies, "I wasn't. But I've changed. I am sorry you had to find out, though. I loved you." This is the final interaction they share in this story, and when Two-Face flips the coin to decide whether or not to kill Silver, it's disturbing to see that Evan seemingly shows no concern nor protest. I can't believe that Evan would be that far gone to not even care anymore, I just can't.
The good side of the coin comes up, meaning that "Fate says we don't kill her," so they just shove her in a closet to wait until the polls close. And after that, what, were they just gonna keep her trapped in the closet forever? Well, whatever they were planning, it's clear that they were going to stick together, as Harvey tells Evan "It's two against the world now, governor," which is almost touching. Sure, they're terrorizing an innocent woman and plotting to corrupt state government from within, but on the other hand, Harvey made a friend!
And they can even have their friendship serenaded by the Penguin!
Silver, meanwhile, "refuses to be helpless" and thinks, "No! No way! I am not gonna spend my life being tied up by freaks!" Under the circumstances, I suppose I can forgive her insensitivity to the deformed and disabled. Working her way through the ropes and described by the script as being "righteously pissed and, as usual, strong-willed," Englehart takes this opportunity to have Silver defy her previous role of being a helpless damsel in distress, having her think, with steely resolve, "I may not be the Batman but by God I will get free—!" While Silver is still not the most rounded character who has agency beyond the men in her life, I appreciate that Englehart wants to show that can at least CAN take care of herself, at least when it comes to saving her own bacon.
Can you tell that I wrote this part on day ten of the twelve-day Simpsons marathon?
Once she slips her bonds, Silver's next task is to elude Two-Face and Evan, which doesn't go as smoothly when they walk in and try to stop her. When Harvey warns her to "quit while you're ahead," she wallops him with a chair and says, "Not this time, freak show! You won't catch me twice!" Geez, between that quip and the literal Harvey-bashing, she could be sidekick material! Perhaps Harvey also sensed her Robin-ness, as he decides that this situation warrants a new coin flip, which turns out the way you'd expect: "Fate said don't kill her before! But this time Fate demands it — and I will happily obey!" Again, Evan displays no compunctions about endangering Silver, which doesn't fit the character at all. Even a stray thought balloon of internal conflict would be helped!
Silver heads to the Javits Convention Center (a nod to the real-life Javits Center that holds New York Comic-Con), which Englehart describes as seeming to be "having a computer convention with giant computer keyboards and screens all around." Because what's a good, old-fashioned Batman story without oversized novelty objects? What's more, it's a nice nod to DD1, where Batman battled Deadshot atop a then-modern typewriter, updating the classic Bat-trope for 1978!
Silver hopes to find some shelter in the vast center of her employment, but instead, she finds Harvey, who anticipated her arrival and murdered all of the security guards. Or at least, that's what was implied. Maybe he just sent them all out for donuts or something, who knows? Either way, the scene then becomes a battle between Two-Face and Silver, which might seem laughable except that "The Batman inspired me to learn self-defense! I'm my own security!"
She proves this assertion by kicking the gun out of Harvey's hand and performing moves that, as Englehart describes in the script, "they taught her at the YWCA — and she's good." Well, even if Silver's not Robin material, Englehart is establishing that she's becoming a character who can hold her own in Gotham. But while she may be "good," she's not yet good enough, as Harvey manages to counter her attack and hurl her aside, saying "Stupid broad! I have the speed and strength of two men!" This might be the most dubious boast on Harvey's part since that time he bragged about how well he could run down stairs.
Levity aside, what happens next reveals the most frustrating, disappointing aspect of Englehart's take on Two-Face. Advancing his attack on Silver, Harvey says, "That may not faze the Batman, but it's plenty to finish a woman! Your kind used to love me, when they called me 'Apollo' — now you all hate me — and I return the favor!"
I can see what Englehart was going for here, since it's all perfectly in keeping with his focus on Harvey's insanity being tied to his vanity, a motivation which—up till now—Englehart used to good effect, despite my misgivings. I don't think Harvey should ever have been vain in the sense that all his self-worth was wrapped up in his looks and the fawning attention he used to receive, since even Bill Finger's original story indicated that his psychological trauma stemmed from his fear of being ostracized, both by society in general and by Gilda in particular. It's a subtle but important distinction, and the fact that Gilda isn't even mentioned in Englehart's stories only makes this worse, since it implies that this Harvey thrived on the adulation of women.
As such, Englehart's Two-Face is now revealed a rabid misogynist, channeling his twisted post-scarring bitterness upon the women of the world. Oh sure, part of his hatred of Silver is also tied to his defensiveness of Evan, as he calls her "a two-faced bimbo who two-timed my friend Evan." Combined with his "two against the world" line to Evan, this Two-Face is apparently of the "bros before hoes" variety of douchebag, but even that's just an excuse for Harvey to unleash his deep-seated resentment of all women everywhere.
New headcanon: this movie is now an alternate-universe prequel of TDK with Aaron Eckhart as DD's Harvey Dent
While turning Two-Face into a murderous member of NO MA'AM does make him a more loathsome foe (one who would make the reader root for Silver to trounce), it betrays his tragically romantic roots as a man who only cares about the opinions of one woman, which I think is one of the most interesting, important, and essential aspects of the character. What makes this choice even more frustrating is how much the acknowledgment of Gilda would have perfectly played off of the Evan/Silver subplot!
I think this is a huge missed opportunity all around, one which hurts both the story and Harvey's character. Just imagine what might have happened if Gilda had been brought in to be a parallel to the relationship with Silver. What if Gilda showed up to set Harvey straight (as she is uniquely capable of doing) and he tried to fix the situation with Evan, only to discover that Evan had fallen too far off the deep end to be saved? It would have been fascinating if Evan started off as the surrogate for Good Clone, only to have him become a monster due to Harvey's influence, turning Evan into a Bad Clone of Harvey's own making. Oh well, I shouldn't lose myself in hypotheticals, especially when this isn't my tale to tell.
Back to the actual story: Harvey and Silver—who is entirely prepared to kill Harvey, thus knowingly setting her apart from Batman's oath—fight "on the edge of the abyss" overlooking the arena, struggling for the gun. As she invites Harvey to "flip your coin up your—" the gun goes off, and the scene cuts out abruptly. We don't find out what happened until the very end of DD3, which brings us back to Bruce and Alfred in the Batcave, recovering from the London adventure and wondering about their mystery intruder who has shown up in Wayne Manor. Naturally, it's Silver, who still has the key that Bruce (apparently) gave her in DD2.
A Marshall Rogers commission from the collection of John Burk
As Bruce stands by, stunned and silent, Silver recounts how she had nowhere else to go and explains how Evan—who has officially won the election for governor—and Two-Face are in league and trying to kill her. "I wounded Two-Face, but I didn't kill him, and Evan has sweeping power already! I tried to solve it myself, but I know what he can do!" As she rambles on frantically, Bruce is only half-listening, having finally realized that he loves her. "He is not suffering, torn, whatever, any longer," the script describes. "He is set," and "making a command decision: the hero choosing his course of action."
The final page of DD3 brings the core of Englehart's epic—Bruce and Silver's love story—full circle by echoing the narration from the ending of DDI back in 1978 (and to a lesser extent, the final panel of DD2). In one of my very favorite single Batman pages ever, DD1 concluded with Batman swinging off into the sunrise after his burgeoning romance with Silver fell apart the first time around. It was a powerful image of the Dark Knight, triumphant and alone at the same time, losing the girl but saving Gotham for another day. Top it off with a stunning lens flare effect by Marshall Rogers before J.J. Abrams ruined lens flares for everyone, and you have a pitch-perfect finale for one of the best Batman story arcs of all time.
The final panel of DD2 echoed this finale with Silver thinking the final words of story, "He's gone..." a connection I hadn't made until just now. But while that nod may have been a bit too subtle for the likes of me, there's no mistaking Englehart's intentions for the end of DD3, as Bruce finally gives into everything he'd been trying to ignore this whole damn time, taking her into his arms with a kiss, "his cape swirling around them." Englehart is also careful to distinguish this embrace from the full-page sex scene from DD2, which his script describes as having been "a passionate release," whereas this scene is "two adults discarding all the bullshit for the sake of love. It is, in its way, rational—as rational as love ever gets."
The narration, the final words of the story, reads, "But in the dawning of the love-light in her beautiful blue eyes — he is gone!"
It's a little... purple for my tastes, and I'm still not sold on the relationship, especially since this reunion only happened because Evan's heel turn drove her back into Bruce's arms out of desperation. What's more, by turning Evan evil, I fear that it absolves Silver and Bruce of the emotional consequences of their affair. It's a convenient "out," and it leaves me uneasy.
But even with that in mind, I think this ending was a beautiful way for Englehart to tie his epic right back to the beginning. What's more, I applaud his intentions to have Bruce finally see the light and give into a healthy, stable relationship, especially since it defies the toxic belief that continues to infect everyone from Dan DiDio to Joss Whedon: that true love is boring and heroes shouldn't be happy because being a hero means sacrificing your happiness and relationships with others. Putting aside how this spits in the face of real-life heroes everyone who have happy personal lives (as Greg Rucka perfectly pointed out through Daredevil), I find it interesting that Englehart's first two Dark Detective runs reinforced this stance only to be subverted entirely by DD3! With this ending, Englehart defiantly dashes the "loner hero" trope, and for this reason above all others, I would have loved to have seen how he would have written Bruce and Silver as happy, functioning partners in romance, life, and crime-fighting alike.
But alas, it'll never happen. I'll be honest, when I got to this ending, my enjoyment was mixed with frustration, because while it works perfectly well as a happy ending for Bruce and Silver's relationship (thus making it a satisfying finale for Englehart's self-contained DD-verse), there are still so many dangling plot threads that I wanted addressed! Like, what will Evan and Harvey do, and how will Batman stop them? Can Evan be redeemed? What will the Joker do when he recovers? Will Doctor Double-X survive when he does? Will Vampire Killer Moth get his groove back? Are we sure that the Monk isn't going to come back as well? Because there's still that plot hole that Englehart's retcon opened up. All in all, my enjoyment quickly turned into exasperation as I thought, “But where's the REST of it?! It can't just END there! It can't!!!” Really, it's like the Twin Peaks series finale all over again.
In truth, this wasn't meant to be the original ending to DD3, nor was it meant to be the final installment in Englehart's DD series! According to supplemental writer's notes which Englehart supplied with the script (an awesome bonus, that!), it was supposed to end on the cliffhanger of Silver and Two-Face's struggle. In this version, however, the battle would have ended much differently, without the gun going off and Harvey being wounded off-panel. In the original script, Silver succeeded in knocking out Harvey by dropping a huge banner on him, but when she ran up to the mezzanine level to escape, only to run into Evil Clone (!), who is standing in the shadows so that both Silver and the reader are led to believe that he's the real Two-Face.
What the heck is Evil Clone doing there and why does he attack Silver? No idea, as that would have presumably been explained in DD4. In their struggle, Silver tosses Evil Clone over the edge, and he spins "in mid air like a flipped coin" before slamming into the concrete floor, his head splitting open. Eww, clone brains! Except that readers wouldn't have known who died at the time, so the brains might well have been Silver's It would only have been in DD4 that we'd learn that Silver had survived and that it was the clone who died, not the real Two-Face, and that would probably have been the end of the clone subplot.
Man, what a disappointing end for Evil Clone that would've been, and just as he was really starting to show real potential as an antagonist for Harvey. It would have been especially fitting if Evil Clone teamed up with the Joker to go up against Evan and Harvey! Heck, he could even have tried to redeem Evan just to spite his genetic father-self! Ach, but there I go again, dreaming about a story that isn't mine to write. If nothing else, I can take comfort in the knowledge that the revised version of DDIII left Evil Clone alive, so there could still be some potential continuation to that storyline.
What matters is that the reunion between Bruce and Silver wasn't meant to be the end of DD3, but rather the opening of DD4! While I think it worked better this way to give the arc some sense of closure, the questions that naturally arose for me were "Wait, there would have been a fourth part? What would have happened to it? And why wasn't DD3 published in the first place?!"
The "next issue" blurb that ran in the back of the final issue of DD2
The natural assumption is that the project died with Marshall Rogers' passing, as if no other artist could have possibly replaced him. Turns out, that's not quite true. According to Englehart, there were two rather capable artists who had offered to draw DD3. The first is Paul Gulacy, penciler of the fantastic Batman: Prey and its abysmal sequel, Terror. While I run hot and cold on Gulacy's work, I would have been totally fine with him penciling DD3 since it would have reunited him with his Prey inker Terry Austin, a true master of the underrated art that is comic inking.
Fittingly, Prey was directly influenced by DD1 in its development of Hugo Strange
The other artist who offered to draw DD3 was none other than Walt Simonson, a living legend of comics who was also the FIRST artist on DD1 before dropping out! Not only is Walt Simonson one of the greatest creators of superhero comics, but he was also the original penciler on Englehart's run, drawing the issues that introduced both Rupert Thorne and Silver St. Cloud!
Not only could DD3 have benefited from Simonson's fantastic artistic skills, but it would have brought the series full circle, replacing Marshall Rogers with the artist whom Rogers himself replaced decades ago! Bringing Simonson back to Englehart's Batman would have been as fitting as it would have been brilliant, and hell, Dan DiDio is a big fan of Simonson's work and helped to bring The Judas Coin into being, so surely that would have been a winning prospect all around, right?
Apparently not. In the aftermath of Rogers' death, Englehart says, "Not a single person from DC returned my calls," not even after he went straight to DC VP Paul Levitz, who "booted some people in the rear," all to no avail. Englehart was ditched and ignored at every turn, having to hear the news secondhand from series inker, the great and underrated Terry Austin, who said, "There are some people up here who want that series dead, and Marshall's death gives them their excuse."
Sighhhhh. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it would all came down to opportunistic meddling from people (editors, I'm assuming? It's anyone's guess) who didn't want Englehart's old-fashioned style of Batman. Then again, even this explanation might not be the entire truth for why DD3 was quietly swept under the rug.
"I used to think 'some people' disliked the series because some other people prefer it to the standard DC Batman," Englehart says, "and because they don't control it." In keeping with the complaints railed against DC by the many creators they've alienated over the past few years, the days when writers like Englehart could enjoy a certain amount of creative free reign were long gone, and now "everything is controlled from above." He further theorizes that they killed the project because their idea of what Batman shouldn't be didn't fit with "my personal vision of the best the Batman can be, taking him where he's never gone before." This certainly makes sense given how DD3's ending defied the aforementioned edict that "heroes shouldn't have happy personal lives," which is why they broke up the Lois/Clark and Aquaman/Mera marriages and canceled Batwoman's engagement to Maggie Sawyer.
But while this theory holds water, Englehart believes that there's another factor at play here, one which I mentioned at the end of my DD2 review: "Then, of course, I saw The Dark Knight and found the Evan Gregory plotline in that weird last half hour, so now I know why they, a publishing company, did not publish it. They like my vision; they just don't want me taking credit for it." He's discussed his reasoning for this theory over at his own website, noting the eerie physical similarities between Evan and Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, the love triangle with Bruce Wayne as the other man, and comparing Two-Face's seduction of Evan with Ledger!Joker's seduction of Harvey.
"In my version, it’s Two-Face talking to another guy who’s been heavily damaged on the left side, and who is another 'golden boy' politician, so it makes sense that Two-Face could convince Evan Gregory. They share a bond. In the film version, it’s the Joker talking to Harvey Dent. Those two have nothing in common, and Dent has hated the Joker the entire movie. It was a storyline in search of a reason to be there."
Well, I can certainly agree with Englehart on that last count. Seemingly everyone adored the Joker/Harvey hospital scene, and admittedly, it was a really great speech for the Joker, one written and delivered so well that you could be forgiven for not noticing that it doesn't make a lick of goddamn sense from Harvey's perspective. Given Harvey's hatred and insane rage, there was simply no reason why he should have given one ounce of consideration to the Joker's obvious, obvious manipulation, which might have worked if literally ANYBODY ELSE had suggested going after Gordon and the cops.
Add to this that, as I recall, the original plan for TDK was supposed to end with Harvey's scarring, and I think there's a case to be made for that whole subplot being tacked on at the last minute to serve Nolan's big plot ideas. As Englehart added, "DD3 was written two years after DD2, which is why the last half hour of The Dark Knight feels so tacked on. It didn't exist when they started the film."
So did WB/DC knowingly cancel DD3 while using it as a partial basis for TDK? I don't know, but anything's possible, especially given how the 1989 Batman film had started life as a DD1 adaptation before all of Englehart's original characters were scrubbed in favor of ones DC already owned, substituting Boss Thorne for Boss Grissiom and turning Silver St. Cloud into Vicki Vale, even while retaining the central conflict of the Bruce/Silver relationship by having Vicki try (and fail) to handle Bruce's double life.
No matter what the reasons were for DD3's cancellation, I hold out hope that the continuation of the DD-verse will see the light of day. After all, regimes change, and even if the people who are currently at DC are against the DD saga, perhaps the next regime will be more interested. If so, then hopefully it'll happen sooner than later, as the surviving greats of DC's Bronze Age sure ain't getting' any younger! As much as I love the attention this blog gets, I'd rather not have this review be the final word on the Dark Detective saga.
From the collection of Aric Shapiro, who commissioned this piece just weeks before Rogers' death. As such, this may well be Rogers' final completed Batman artwork. RIP Marshall.
No matter what happens, I'd like to issue one last "thank you" to Steve Englehart for sharing the script and artwork of DD3 with me. If you'd like to read the script in full for yourselves, you can purchase it from Mr. Englehart himself over at his website, along with a number of his other unpublished Batman stories like a Mad Hatter tale, plus an Elseworlds take on Batman as Hamlet!