Batman: One Bad Day – Two-Face #1
- Writer: Mariko Tamaki
- Illustrator: Javier Fernandez
- Publisher: DC
DC’s smartest move when conceiving of the One Bad Day series was to hand the reins over to different creators for each installment (though maybe this is standard operating procedure for comics; sue me, I’m new to this). The strategy makes perfect sense for a series like this; whereas a straightforward series that focuses on one character’s origin story would benefit from a singular voice, this kind of anthology series allows more creatives to give their own unique takes on the subject. For One Bad Day: Two-Face, Mariko Tamaki is the credited writer, and Javier Fernandez provides the artwork.
While I was initially conditioned to believe that the One Bad Day series would be a collection of origin stories for Batman’s most famous villains, Two-Face takes the name of the series literally, and simply presents one day of Two-Face’s latest scheme. Which is fine with me, because I don’t know if there’s a unique way that any writer could subvert an origin for Harvey Dent. Tom King deftly explored Edward Tierney’s troubled boyhood, and how he became the Riddler. But Two-Face and Harvey Dent are a different monster entirely, and Tamaki displays their duality in a unique way. Most noticeably, Two-Face isn’t treated as an all-powerful supervillain to be feared by everyone in Gotham. Rather, Two-Face is just another facet of Harvey’s personality that he is essentially in control of.
But that’s the thing about trusting reformed villains: we never know how much their darker side is still lurking in the shadows. Harvey’s ultimate plan isn’t as downright evil as Riddler’s, but where it lacks in scale, it makes up for in its emotional gut-punch. Two-Face isn’t out to destroy the city or Batman or to a rival gang, but seek a kind of emotional vengeance on his father. As with Batman/Bruce Wayne himself, this series seems to be playing into the sins of the father as a major theme in its issues so far. The only problem is that Harvey’s deep-seeded problems with his father aren’t explored as much as they probably should be. Was he a hard-ass on Harvey? Was he absent throughout much of his childhood? Did he disappoint Harvey at some point? Some clues are given, but given Two-Face’s ultimate reveal, I would have liked to have seen this aspected expanded upon a little more.
On a personal note, I prefer the looser, watercolor style of Mitch Gerard’s illustrations in The Riddler, but Javier Fernandez gets the job done with a moody look, along with some nice splash pages and a banger of a final page. Two-Face looks as menacing and gruesome as you’d expect, but there’s an inherent sweetness to Harvey’s look that makes it easier to see why the people of Gotham would still trust the Dent name.
Tamaki could have easily taken the easy way out and given some alternate take on how Harvey Dent became Two-Face, but thankfully chose a method that gives more agency to the character. Though Two-Face doesn’t feature Bruce Wayne or Batman much, Tamaki does tangentially comment on Bruce and Harvey’s dueling personalities, and the way our darker side can sometimes take over. This installment of One Bad Day may not provide a visceral mystery at its center, but it’s nevertheless a thrilling (if brief) adventure. I wonder where Two-Face belongs amongst casual fans’ rankings of Batman’s villains, even after Aaron Eckhart’s memorable portrayal of him in The Dark Knight. Besides an investment in his garish look, I was never terribly invested in learning more about him or his backstory. Thankfully Two-Face gives an insightful look at Harvey Dent’s tortured mindset to make me want to know more.
Batman: One Bad Day – Two-Face #1 is available now at bookstores and online wherever books are sold.