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Monday, 5 July 2010

Batman: Two-Face and Scarecrow: Year One

Writer: Mark Sable
Penciller: Jesus Saiz
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colourist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Flashback sequence art: Jeremy Haun
Publisher: DC 

Quick note:
This book contains two Year One stories, that of Scarecrow and that of Two-Face.  Both will be recognisable to anyone who's seen The Dark Knight Batman film.  Each story is completely separate and as such, this review will be focusing only on the Two-Face segment.  This is primarily because I bought the Two-Face issues when they were originally released, but not the Scarecrow issues.  However, if you can get the trade cheap, it is worth buying just for the Two-Face story.  
When the Scarecrow issues are obtained, a follow up review will be posted.

What's it about?
DC's Year One books take a look at famous heroes and provide us with stories about their first year of crimefighting.  They usually give us the background of the character, deal with their first fights and provide us with the information and events that shape them into the established characters most DC readers are familiar with.

The character of Two-Face was, for me, one of the highlights of The Dark Knight.  Aaron Eckhart portrayed Harvey Dent's fall from grace with panache and clarity.  The special effects used to create Dent's damaged face were effective and horrifying.  This book provides the in canon story of how Harvey Dent became Two-Face.  It is similar to, but not the same, as the version presented in The Dark Knight.

For those that haven't seen the film, Harvey Dent is an honest District Attorney in a corrupt city.  He works alongside the Batman to bring justice to criminals, but but he is not a vigilante.  One day he is attacked and his face is horrifically scarred by acid.  Harvey starts to call himself Two-Face and turns to villainy.

This is set against a backdrop of the early days of the Batman's career.  Gotham City at this time is corrupt and seedy, there are only a handful of honest cops on the police force and nearly everyone is on the take.  The mafia rule the underworld and woe betide anyone who challenges them.

What's good about it?
In essence there are two stories being told here.  There's the public face of Harvey Dent, who works with the Commissioner and Batman trying to destroy the mafia.  Then there's his private side, mostly told in flashback using muted greyish or sepia tones.  This shows the darkness within and the violence he tries to conceals from the world.  What is interesting is the way the public and private sides of Harvey interconnect.

The story is different to The Dark Knight film - to my mind, it provides a deeper and more thoughtful account of his journey.  For those who haven't read any DC comics this sets up the scene nicely, introduces you to a few major characters and establishes the relationships between them well.  If you were to go on to read more Batman centric books you would have gained a good understanding and appreciation of the characters through reading this story.

What's bad about it?
A lot of Gotham villains are featured and this occasionally seems a little shoe horned in.  Some of the dialogue is a bit corny.  But on the whole the faults are minor and don't really detract from the overall quality of the book.

What's the art like?
It's pretty good.  Everyone is distinct and there's not much chance of mistaking one person for another.  The art is also very clear with some striking inks, these create a similar feeling to the Huntress: Year One book.

Other Information
ISBN: 1848562470
Price: £11.99, or at time of writing Amazon is selling this for £6.89 new, and used copies are going for about £4.80.

This book has quite a lot of violence in it so is most definitely not for children.

Like these characters?  What to read more about them?  For the Mad Hatter try the Secret Six, for Batman and the Commissioner try The Bat and The Cat or Huntress: Year One.


  1. By far, the finest Two-Face origin (Two-Face story period, really) is one that's a bit hard to find, and deserves to be in print again. It's called "Eye of the Beholder," published in BATMAN ANNUAL #14 around 1990, and was collected in BATMAN PRESENTS TWO-FACE AND THE RIDDLER, a tpb which was released to coincide with BATMAN FOREVER.

    It's a crime that it's not in print, as it deserves wider recognition for being the definitive take on Harvey Dent, introducing ideas that fed directly into THE DARK KNIGHT (for example, the rooftop meeting with Gordon, Dent, and Batman). Do track it down, if you can.

  2. Thanks for the comment, I will put Batman Presents.. on the reading list!