Saturday, 1 August 2015

Batman and Robin, Volume 5: The Big Burn Review (Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason)


Has there ever been a good Two Face story? Peter Tomasi tries for one in Batman and Robin, Volume 5: The Big Burn - and fails. I’m not sure I even like Two Face as a character. He’s a wacky gimmick, like so many Batman rogues, but beyond the name and the image, there’s not much to him. 

So even though Ra’s Al-Ghul has stolen Talia and Damian’s bodies, Bruce decides to postpone the retrieval until after he’s dealt with Two Face’s latest nonsense and a bruhaha between the Gotham Crime Families. 

In the New 52, an Irish gangster called Erin McKillen killed Harvey Dent’s wife Gilda and burned the left side of his face, turning him into Two Face. Erin’s back for some reason and Harvey’s gonna kill her - or try to. Batman’s gotta do something because it’s his comic. 

The story is this dreary battle between Two Face and Erin, neither very interesting characters, as Batman saves Erin from Two Face and the cops, and then saves Two Face from Erin and the cops, and I kept wondering what on earth this was doing in a Batman and Robin book. I suppose Damian’s dead (for now) so Tomasi’s gotta do something. Shame this story is so boring! 

Tomasi doesn’t do anything original with Harvey’s origin besides Erin McKillen. Oh, Harvey WASN’T the White Knight of Gotham everyone thought he was? You mean like in every Two Face origin? Come on, man! 

Erin’s origin story is just awful. Of course she went to private school with Bruce - EVERYONE went to private school with Bruce! Of course she was at the party where Bruce introduced Harvey to Gilda! Her twin sister Shannon (gotta hammer home the theme of duality!) dies in the most contrived manner and then she blames Harvey because she needs a shaky motive to go and turn him into Two Face. 

The plot is as corny as ever. Like when Two Face has Erin on her knees, gun to her head, he just blah blah blahs about how he used to dream about putting a bullet in her head - instead of actually just doing it! D’you think she escapes Two Face’s gun?! Duuuh! Tomasi stealing a page from the hack Bond writer’s handbook. 

While the plotting is shoddy, the writing is even worse. The script is riddled with cliches: 

Harvey: Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, hmm? 
Harvey: Well, food for thought. 
Bruce: You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem, Harvey… only you can decide which one… because remember, for evil to flourish, good men have to do nothing. 

Those are all quotes from one single page! 

And why is there a convenient retractable roof on the courthouse?! AND a convenient water tower!? WHY!?!? Ohhhhhh, because Tomasi’s a hack writer! 

Surprisingly, there’s an actual Batman and Robin story at the end of this volume of Batman and Robin! It’s about Dick Grayson’s first time out as Robin and ties into a package Damian sent him before he died. It sounds sweet except for that conclusion which just leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Tomasi strikes again! 

Patrick Gleason’s art is generally fine but, thanks to Tomasi’s script, he overdoes the duality theme: there’s a panel of Bruce in the shower, half his face in water, the other not; there’s Gordon shaving, half his face in lather, the other not, and so on. We get it, this is a Two Face book! 

Also, there was a sloppy error in one panel: Gleason moves the damaged side of Harvey’s face from the left to the right. It’s compounded by the fact that it’s a wide panel with Harvey’s face front and centre. Rookie mistake (it’s the bottom panel on p.10 of the final issue of the arc, Inferno). And the villain, Tusk, from Dick’s story - that character design was dreadful. It looked a turd in a suit with two tusks sticking out of that mess he calls a face! 

Batman and Robin, Volume 5 stinks. Tomasi spins a tedious yarn about a tedious character full of bad dialogue. The Big Burn? The reader for having read this crap!

Batman and Robin, Volume 5: The Big Burn

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