Author: Bobby Barrett
December 22, 2013

SYNOPSIS: The origin of Two-Face continues! Batman finds himself in the crossfire of a vengeful war between Two-Face and Erin McKillen! Both are hellbent on killing each other and anyone else who dares to step between them

"The Big Burn" continues in issue #26 of BATMAN AND TWO-FACE. After the death-defying chases and prison breaks of the last two issues, our characters are given some time to regroup, yielding some satisfying character and story development in the process.

Rescued from certain death at Blackgate Prison, Erin McKillen is holed up at Wayne Manor, contemplating her next move. We learn that she was a classmate of Bruce Wayne's during grade school and knew him when he lost his parents. Some light is also shed on Erin's deceased twin sister Shannon, as a few lines from previous chapters begin to take on a deeper meaning--and we start seeing not only how this all relates to the fall of Harvey Dent, but get a sense as to why Bruce Wayne feels somewhat responsible.

The drama escalates to action as McKillen is picked up by family, only to have her "escape" turn into a rendezvous with Two-Face. Luckily, Batman was counting on this outcome, and arrives not far behind. The bloodshed has already begun, however, and The Dark Knight just might be in over his head here…(probably not though).

The down time in this issue is a welcome change of pace, and will likely read even better when "The Big Burn" is collected in trade. BATMAN AND… hasn't had an arc that really got a chance to breathe since its debut story "Born to Kill", and these guys know how to pull this stuff off. Peter Tomasi is crafting a fresh legend for Two-Face: one that borrows some from previous interpretations, but ultimately stands on its own. The reverse-order flashbacks become more intriguing as we progress, and it's really a brilliant move--starting out the origin story with the acid burn forces the writer to create compelling twists and turns leading up to this event, eliminating the "Two-Face's accident is the only memorable part of his story" stigma. As this reverse history nears its finale, we can only wonder what kind of event will serve as the catalyst/climax to the story.

Visually, the star of this issue is Patrick Gleason's depiction of Wayne Manor. Vertically dazzling windows and archways capture the eye as Bruce Wayne urges Erin McKillen to eschew her mob family's ways. Backdropped by a journey through the centuries-old estate, an argument between two former friends becomes a sight to behold, with Mick Gray's rich inks intensifying the mood. While Bruce shows no hint of grief toward McKillen that would indicate the recent loss of someone close to his heart, the mansion itself casts a melancholy shadow, as if haunted by Damian Wayne.

The art changes its pace drastically at the closing, presenting the issue's lone action scene over a pair of two-page spreads jam packed with bone-crunching, bullet-spraying glory. It's a risk to take up the majority of a superhero comic book with delicately paced, moody dialogue sequences only to have the action take a small handful of pages at the end, but it's a risk that pays off greatly. Worth noting is the appearance of the "Batpod"-ish motorcycle (not sure if it's been given a proper name) frequently seen drawn by Greg Capullo over in the pages of BATMAN – yet another example of the creators behind BATMAN AND… making note of other comics around them and pulling from them to create a sense of continuity.

Conspicuously absent is Carrie Kelley, who has not made an appearance in several issues at this point, and was originally solicited to play a key part in "The Big Burn". While there's still time for her to potentially show up, it seems less and less likely as we're now 3/5 of the way in. One can only hope that editorial mandate hasn't squashed whatever Tomasi and co.'s original plans for this character were, as they definitely made waves with the in-continuity debut of the heroine earlier this year, and I'm sure I'm not the only one dying to know her ultimate purpose here. Regardless, issue #26 delivers yet another bold chapter in this book's latest saga, and you could say I'm feeling a "Big Burn" to find out where this is going! (Yes, I went there.) - Bobby Barrett


Bobby Barrett is a lifelong Batman enthusiast living in Fresno, California, with his wife and several cats.
He enjoys reading, writing, acting, and playing very loud rock music.

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