Review: Batman: One Bad Day: Two-Face hardcover (DC Comics)


After the triumphant Batman: One Bad Day: The Riddler, the second volume, Mariko Tamaki and Javier Fernandez’s Batman: One Bad Day: Two-Face, is shockingly poor, the unfortunate answer to whether all of these books will be able to go toe-to-toe with The Killing Joke. The editors on each book are the same, suggesting how much — perhaps too much — is left to the creative team.

I’ll venture a definitive Two-Face story is harder than a definitive Riddler story. It’s subjective, but I can’t really name a go-to Riddler tale (I’m sure you can), whereas for Two-Face I can think of two — Long Halloween, of course, but also Andrew Helfer and Chris Sprouse’s Batman Annual #14 (a classic worth checking out in Two-Face: A Celebration of 75 Years and which seemingly influenced Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight). Two-Face’s “one bad day” is already well established, for better or worse.

Tamaki’s story makes the mistake of trying to go against this grain, recasting this lore (or ignorant of it entirely) in ways far less dramatic. Further, while I like some of the modernity Tamaki injects in the story, sometimes it’s not clear whose or what story’s being told, nor whether writer and artist are quite on the same page. It all forms a disappointing coda to Tamaki’s stellar Detective Comics run, and more’s the pity.

[Review contains spoilers]

On the plus side, I liked a lot the supporting cast of Gotham City machine that Tamaki created in Detective Comics, and some of them feature here — Mayor Nakano, mainly, and also Deb Donovan gets a mention. I haven’t read Ram V’s Detective yet, but I’m guessing we’re done with all of those, so One Bad Day: Two-Face is a nice reprise. I wouldn’t have minded actually seeing Harvey Dent as Nakano’s DA in Detective.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Too, for stories that seem to have as their purpose being singular and evergreen, the fan in me admires that Tamaki puts the current Batgirls front and center, specifically Spoiler Stephanie Brown. It’s not a wise choice, and Tamaki doesn’t use Stephanie well, but I appreciate that given a role for a generic sounding board character, Tamaki went with Stephanie instead of old faithfuls like Dick Grayson or Tim Drake. Kudos too to mentions of No Man’s Land and Gotham Central, though all of that in a book like this that ought be timeless is indeed as weird as when Batman: One Bad Day: Riddler name-checks Damian.

Among the horror of Batman Annual #14 is that Harvey’s father used to beat him, using a trick coin to give young Harvey false hope of avoiding the abuse. One Bad Day also starts out talking about fathers and sons and good and evil, but here Harvey Dent Sr. is a non-abusive, nondescript businessman whom Two-Face kills just because — sadly but not inexplicably — the father isn’t too thrilled with his adult son’s weird appearance.

Not that Tamaki must hew to the continuity of a decades old story, but the proceedings here are dull when we’ve seen the same done better before. The idea that Two-Face has had a socialite father in the wings for all this time is really hard to reconcile, nor does Tamaki go to any great pains to fill in what Harvey Sr. does for a living or why he’s so lauded.

Dear reader, Two-Face’s scarred coin factors almost not at all, until the book remembers it on the very last page. That might tell you all you need to know about this as a Two-Face story.

Again, I thrilled to see Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain here, characters without much exposure to Two-Face so far. But Tamaki’s parallel of Batman and Harvey’s relationship with Stephanie and her Cluemaster father doesn’t quite work, given Cluemaster was never a good guy and Dent was. Batman and Spoiler’s sniping conversation, too, is full of strange fits and starts.

Indeed, there’s an odd break where Spoiler must move Batman from one location to another between pages in order to continue the same conversation that rather seems like the writing paving over an art mistake. There’s a couple of these — Batman on comms while someone’s attacking him, cutlery flying when no one’s throwing it — that made me wonder even if this book was created in “the Marvel way,” with Tamaki filling in words after Fernandez drew the art from outlines. That can be done, but then it’s incumbent on editorial to catch where things don’t add up. In the book’s introduction, Two-Face is dangling a kid off a building. Why? We never know.

To read Batman: One Bad Day: Riddler was to come away feeling like having read a definitive Riddler story. Batman: One Bad Day: Two-Face, particularly in bringing in other members of the Bat-family as sounding boards, never so much feels like Two-Face’s book as it does just Batman’s. One Bad Day: Two-Face starts in a hard position, but unfortunately it never finds its way out of it.

[Includes original and variant covers, black and white art section]

Rating 1.5

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Loving the excuse to go through these again, but this one is definitely one of the weaker entries. The story it tells with Two-Face could just as easily be told with nearly any other Batman villain. I had thought Tamaki was setting up a situation where Harvey didn't know that Two-Face was trying to kill his father, but it seems both were in on the caper.

    And grounding it in its time, especially with Nakano's presence, makes it feel a touch unfulfilled. A scarred Harvey as DA is fertile ground that we haven't begun to plumb since "Face the Face" and one wonders if Tamaki might have gone there in a longer run. (In a later OBD issue, there's a particularly jarring moment with Commissioner Renee Montoya - a beat that, I am sure, will not age well for the timeless crowd.)

    But huge props to Javier Fernandez. Stunning artwork, expert use of accent lines on a black background. The splash page of Harvey's scarring is note perfect. And colorist Jordie Bellaire is killing it with reds, oranges, purples, and blacks.

    Your definitive Two-Face stories are great pulls. I'd add Batman 572 / DetCom 739, which gets referenced here. That premise of Harvey Dent defending Jim Gordon against prosecutor Two-Face, with Renee Montoya caught in the middle, is one of the best things Greg Rucka's ever done in Gotham.

    1. Oh, yes, No Man's Land for the win. I was mainly thinking Two-Face "origin"-ish stories instead of just good Two-Face stories, else I'd add "Lonely Place of Dying" (nostalgic for when Two-Face did "two"-themed crimes) and "Batman: Prodigal," among others.

      OBD: Penguin's got some modernity in it ... also OBD: Bane ...


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