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Review: Batman and Robin #24


Batman and Robin #24The times they are a'changin'. And it's every fanboy's prerogative to resist change with the most violent of outcries. So I'll be surprised if this issue isn't the center of a massive storm of outrage. But perhaps I'd best explain what exactly happens in this issue before I start talking about why I think this will be such a controversial issue.

 

The book starts with Two Face going about his morning routine, flipping a coin to decide whether today is the day he ends himself. Odd. I normally start the day off with a shower and wishing I was dead, but that might just be me. We then cut to a page that must be read in Christian Bale's voice to truly appreciate, and we're then introduce to a certain Ms. Erin McKillen, the absentee head of the Irish mafia in Gotham. We further learn that the cops are so hellbent on finding her that they put in an almost inordinate amount of effort to capture her. One can't help but think that if a fraction of that effort was put into dealing with the other crime bosses of Gotham, and the various Super Criminals then Gotham would be a metropolitan paradise.

 

Erin escapes from the cops, and we flash back to the cause of her infamy. The scarring of District Attorney Harvey Dent! Wait…what?

 

Turns out that in the New-52 Dent's scarring and transformation into Two Face is a little different than it was in the beloved The Long Halloween, rather than being splashed in the face during the testimony of Salvador Maroni. From here on out this brand new character, Erin, instead murdered Gilda, restrained Harvey, and then pour acid on half his face in a symbolic gesture of sorts.

 

And here's where we take a break from the recap and discuss this here issue. It's been said in the past that everything that happened to Batman pre-New-52 still happened. As of late it's become clear that is not the case, and it looks like we get to toss The Long Halloween out of continuity, right alongside Batman: Year One. I try to be as forward looking as possible, but this issue, along with the most recent Batman issue, hit me a little closer to home than I'd like. To really explain this I must beg your indulgence as I get into a bit of my history as a Batman fan.

 

I've always loved Batman, ever since I was a little boy. But I only ever watched the animated series, which was much more accessible to me than the comics ever were. Not having grown up in the US made finding American comics difficult, especially considering everyone but me was more interested in Belgian and French comics. It wasn't until I was in college that I had a chance to get my hands on some trade paperbacks. The first two that I picked up were The Long Halloween and later Batman: Year One. Before then I'd only read a couple random issues here and there that made no sense without the whole story they were a part of. This was the first time I saw how great Batman comics really were. This was the start of my true love of Batman. So to see that both those books have been put out of continuity in the same month hurts just a little bit.

 

But what about those that don't have the same emotional attachement that I have to The Long Halloween? What would outrage them so much about this change? After all, Two Face's origin story has never been the same across different media. In the animated series he was injured by an exploding chemical plant. In The Dark Knight half his face was doused in gasoline and then a building exploded next to him. It was only in the comics that his face being splashed with acid was the prevailing origin story. So why would it matter so much that his origin has been changed yet again? After all it's not like he ever had a consistent origin in the first place.

 

The main reason, I feel, is that the comics have always been the true canon material for most Batman fans. Who cares if it's changed in a movie or a cartoon, as long as it's still the same in the comics they can change the origin elsewhere however they want. But with the comic origin story changing it's a completely different matter. We can't shake the changes off as alternate retellings, this is supposed to be the canon story. Until they inevitably change it in a few years.

 

And to top it off, such an iconic character was influenced so dramatically by a brand new character. I know it's a bad habbit some of us have to lash out against new characters. After all, how will the stories grow organically if we refuse any new characters. The problem is that new characters tend not to stick around. They serve a purpose in the plot and then they disappear. Only the legacy characters seem to ever stick around. So to have a brand new character involved in such an iconic moment is puzzling to say the least. Were this a fanfiction and not an actual DC approved story then I would be tempted to label Erin as a "Mary Sue". Granted this may not be completely fair, but the elements are there and I can't ignore that were the situation different that label would be thrown around immediately.

 

Changes are sometimes necessary. But before we judge whether a change is good or bad we have to decide why the change was made. Was there a problem with the original version? If not, then why exactly change it? And why involve this new character. Is it just lazy writing to give a brand new character infamy by having her leech onto the popularity and backstory of a beloved villain? Perhaps, but perhaps there is a legitimate reason behind the change. I for one just can't see it after only one issue. So, until then I'll give them the benefit of the doubt before I start any kind of fanboy outrage.

 

I will say, though, that this might be the only origin for Two Face that properly explains how only half his face got burned. Granted some versions explained it well enough, but this is the first comic origin that explains how the acid burned a perfect line across half his face. As great as The Long Halloween it neglected to explain how exactly that worked. I'd have thought that tossed acid would have burned the entire face.

 

I have to admit that I find it odd that Gilda Dent is straight up murdered in this version. Rather than disappearing and coming back years later as part of an admitedly lame story. What's so strange about this is that it comes on the tails of an announcement that DC has a chip on their shoulder against marriage in general for some reason. So what, either marriages are undone or the spouses are shanked? Seems a bit harsh. Though it might explain why Batman on Earth-2 had to die, he clearly had to pay for the serious crime of actually marrying Selina.

 

The story for this issue is good enough, but it has problematic implications. Hence I cannot rate it any higher than…

 

Batman and Robin #24:

 

2.5 out of 5 Batarangs

 

Reviewed by Derek Bown

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