Review by Ian Keogh
The Big Burn is the reintroduction of Two-Face to DC’s “New 52” continuity, and it’s also a good old-fashioned gangster story. The appeal of that possibly depends on whether you view Batman as the master tactician who’s prepared for any threat up to and including Superman, or if you find him more believable when he’s merely a human in peak physical condition.
Until half of his face was hideously scarred by acid Harvey Dent was Gotham’s District Attorney, yet in a revised origin the scarring occurred not in the courtroom, but personally administered after the murder of his wife. The perpetrator Erin McKillen is an evocative new creation, a festering vicious career criminal, but it’s a seemingly pointless tinkering to set up a personal vendetta against her that could have been otherwise arranged. Two-Face has since made all life decisions based on the toss of a coin.
Given the events of Requiem for Damian, The Big Burn features no Robin, which may breach strict terms of honest selling for Batman and Robin, but readers are unlikely to complain too greatly about that given what Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason serve up. Gleason’s Two-Face is appropriately gruesome and his art is becoming slightly more stylised where Batman is involved, but not to the point of distraction, and as ever, the imaginative page layouts offer cinematic vision.
Tomasi ties McKillen in with the idea of Gotham being home to an elite of founding families whose wealth and status accompanies privilege, and that there’s a measure of loyalty between them based on position alone. He weaves the events that formed both Two-Face and McKillen into the present day crisis for a formidable thriller containing horrific elements based on human drama as well as criminal acts. There are places where it seems Two-Face is being sidelined, but his part is eventually major, allowing for some qualms about another continuity implant whereby he wasn’t entirely clean before his criminal career began, even if mitigating circumstances apply. It adds some depth to his personality, but was it strictly necessary?
The entire Tomasi and Gleason run has belatedly been released as an Omnibus, and the series continues with The Hunt for Robin.