Overview: In Batman: Earth One Volume 3, the Penguin and Riddler may have been defeated and Harvey Dent may have perished but a new two-faced threat emerges.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman: Earth One Volume 3 opens in upstate Maine. A night watchman has a problem at the old asylum. Beer cans litter the grounds. Gerald believing it is just a bunch of kids goes inside to investigate. What he finds is an old man etching on the wall and mumbling that he cannot find her. The man screams where is Martha and attacks Gerald.
In Gotham, it is one month after the death of Harvey Dent. Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, and Waylon (Croc) are smashing through the walls under the streets. Waylon is leading the others to a large cavern. This cavern, Arkham Station is to be the new base of operations for the Batman.
We check in on the other allies of Bruce Wayne or Batman. Lucius Fox is working on a project involving speed boats. Captain Jim Gordon is on the phone with the commissioner. Harvey Bullock is in trouble again. Gordon asks his men to find and drag Bullock in. Jessica Dent is putting on her mask, to cover the injuries she suffered when her brother Harvey died.
Bruce reminds us that Jessica asked Bruce to help heal Gotham and thinking that the answer was Batman, he declined. Now he realizes that both Batman and Bruce Wayne can help the city. One man is not enough, he needs soldiers, people who are considered outsiders like how he views himself.
A phone call interrupts Bruce. Gordon is trying to reach Batman. Cops on the street are pursuing some crooks. The problem is that these crooks are carrying and using a flame thrower. Batman responds and intercepts the crooks. The crooks try to fire on the Dark Knight who attacks. One crook fleas and is struck in the face by a whip. He is attacked and his screams alert the Batman, who investigates. Batman only finds a cat.
Bruce arrives to pick up Jessica and take her to the ceremony. Jessica is suffering from nerve damage in her face and the ability to see color out of her left eye. Bruce asks her if she needs more time and Jessica just tells him that she is never going to heal. The two leave together. The old Gotham hotel is being renovated to the Harvey Dent House for the Homeless with financing by Bruce Wayne and Wayne Enterprises.
Alfred gets a call from the Gotham Mental Hospital. The old man in Maine has been identified as Adrian Arkham, the grandfather of Bruce Wayne and the father of Martha Wayne. Adrian wants to go home.
Some thugs carrying hand grenades talk about an arms drop at the Harvey Dent House. They are overheard by Croc in the sewers. A stray dog in the alley is kicked which infuriates Croc. He jumps out and the two thugs run screaming. Croc takes the dog in.
Bullock wakes up in the drunk tank. Gordon is there to meet him. We learn that Bullock hit his new partner when the partner said that Gordon is corrupt and he talks to the vigilante Batman. That was why he was promoted. Gordon needs detectives on the street. Bullock is reassigned to a new partner and ordered to return to AA and stay in it. He then thanks Bullock for having his back.
Bruce brings Adrian back to Wayne Manor, not his home, he lived in Arkham Manor. Adrian lunges for Bruce asking where his little girl is. Alfred responds and Bruce tells the old man that he is his grandson.
As Batman: Earth One Volume 3 continues, Bruce reports that Croc has some info on the influx of heavy assault weapons into Gotham. Elsewhere we hear that the man bringing in the weapons is Harvey Dent. He wants to burn the city. Bruce and Alfred meet the new Bat-Dog and Croc tells Bruce about the weapons drop at the Harvey Dent House. Batman goes to investigate. Batman is discovered and is attacked with the weapons. He is not alone as Catwoman jumps in for the rescue. She kisses the hero and uses one of the grenades to blow the place up. Batman grabs a thug and escapes. In the sewers, Batman and Croc interrogate their prisoner. They learn that the man behind the weapons is Harvey Dent, he is dead.
Batman visits Jessica. He tells her that when she was in the hospital, she told him to stay away from his sister in Harvey Dent’s voice. Jessica’s phone rings. It is or seems to be Harvey Dent. The voice on the line tells the two that he wants Gotham to burn and hangs up. Batman goes to report to Gordon what just happened. Gordon shares with Batman that there is a rash of robberies being committed by a woman dressed as a Cheshire cat. Batman says that she may be a friend of his. He goes to investigate another break-in and runs into Catwoman. The two fight and Batman recruits her at a price to find out how the weapons are getting into Gotham. She agrees but raises the price. Batman gives her a phone to contact him and he leaves her to her mission.
Bruce is called to Arkham Manor. Adrian is trying to jump off of the roof like he did when his wife died. Adrian tells him about the Arkham curse and that the demons want him dead too. Meanwhile, Jessica is awoken by a call from Harvey, telling her to leave Gotham. Adrian tells Bruce about the building of Gotham and the start of the curse. Bruce coaxes Adrian off of the roof.
Bruce, Alfred, and Croc along with Bat-Dog arrive at the grave of Dent. They dig up the casket and discover that the body is missing. Is Harvey alive? Catwoman calls Bruce, she has the info and he tells her to meet them at Arkham Station. Jessica has been kidnapped.
Catwoman reports on how the weapons are coming into Gotham. Batman pays her and Croc notices that she is getting paid for this while he is not. The weapons are going to every gang member and criminal in the city. When Dent lights the signal, there will be war. Batman reports to Gordon and Jessica sees Harvey for the first time. Gordon and Bullock go in search of Harvey Dent.
The attack begins as Adrian torches Arkham Manor. Jessica flees from Harvey, who happens to be near Arkham Manor and she falls into the flames. Batman responds and rescues her and then goes to confront Harvey who is very much dead. The shocking revelation is that it was not Harvey Dent attempting to burn the city but Jessica Dent being invaded by Harvey’s personality who is behind the chaos. But that is not all, Adrian attacks Batman from behind knocking him out with a shovel to the head.
Batman wakes up tied to a chair. Adrian is painting bats on the walls of the Manor. He tells Bruce that the madness came from the bats. Adrian and Bruce are not alone. Jessica with Harvey’s personality is also there, Gotham is at fault. Now Adrian cuts open Batman’s shirt. According to Adrian, the evil spirits are festering inside of him and Adrian intends to cut them out. But first, he brands Bruce’s chest with an A for Arkham. Batman has had enough and he lunges from the chair freeing himself, Jessica pulls a gun but she is interrupted by the whip of the Catwoman. Adrian is trapped by a wall collapse since the Manor is on fire. Jessica tries to flee with Batman behind her. Jessica slips and falls off of the wall but Croc is there to catch her leaving Batman and Adrian alone. Adrian, now melting, attacks Batman. Gordon shows up to put the flames out.
Adrian was hired by Jessica but it was not Adrian. The master of disguise, a Clayface, was the true being behind the ruse. Jessica is now confined to an asylum. In the epilogue of Batman: Earth One Volume 3, we see the Batman team growing with a Robin and a Batgirl among others joining the team. We also see the birth of a new Arkham Asylum with the first resident being the former mayor of Gotham City, Jessica Dent. We also see a new threat, the Joker.
Analysis: The art in Batman: Earth One Volume 3 is terrific. The character designs by Gary Frank are for the most part great, especially Batman, even the ability to see his eyes. The only character design that I was not too fond of was Catwoman. I like the color scheme and the painted mask is a great touch but the costume choice was not the best for me. She kind of looks like a sexed-up school girl, but I am grateful she was not drawn overly sexy.
The little touches here are great. The etchings in the wall of the Maine asylum depicted intricate mazes with the name of Arkham is a great touch. Even Arkham painting bats on the walls was a great choice. I liked the use of the symbol on Batman’s chest being a small flashlight. The use of the yellow colors really gives the appearance of shining light.
I really like the use of Croc in this story. He is never depicted as a villain, just an outsider. He even provides some comic relief in his bantering with Alfred and even naming the dog “Bat-Dog”. It was also humorous when he questioned Catwoman getting paid.
The choice of a villain in this story is original. It is standard Two-Face. We see one side destroyed and the other pristine. Even Jessica’s face, the left side is marred though not graphically so. The Two-Face here is more psychological. There is a definite psychosis with Jessica in incorporating the personality of her dead brother inside her mind and that personality eventually gains dominance. Jessica Dent truly is Two-Face in more than one way in this story.
I also like the characterization of Bruce Wayne here. He is not the brooding loner but a man who realizes he needs help. Yes, he does go to kids but he also relies on adults to help his venture. I would have liked to see more of Lucius Fox here but I am hoping for a possible fourth volume given the introduction of the Joker on the last page. I like that the Joker is not the first villain for Batman in this continuity faces, as it really draws on the rogue’s gallery.
Editor’s Note: You can find this new original graphic novel and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this edition digitally either through Comixology or Amazon, or as a physical copy in a hardcover form at Amazon.