My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wagner’s freshman stab at the Dark Knight still held up pretty well for me after this reread. Hard to believe I bought this off the stands almost 25 years ago.
Two-Face takes center stage in this encounter that is set early in Batman’s career. Wagner’s Dent certainly seems a little more unhinged than some future incarnations of the character. He really comes off as pretty fuckin nuts in this one. That worked for me. His anger at his recent disfigurement, bizarre motives, and obsession with the freaks he now collects and surrounds himself with in this tale produced an interesting take on Ole’Harvey.
Batman’s still something of a rookie and this story would probably fit in continuity nicely shortly after Miller’s Year One storyline. Wagner’s Bats actually looks a little like Mazzucchelli’s version. Bruce is still finding his way as a crime-fighter and gets in over his head a couple of times. I always liked this younger, more fallible version of Batman.
Wagner’s uncomplicated and straight-forward story telling style that is present in many of his future Batman stories took root here. Nothing overly obscure or complicated. Appeals to a simple man such as myself. This combined with Matt’s “art deco” style of illustration is great. Wagner’s art is a little darker and rougher in this one and isn’t quite as polished as some of his more recent work, but is still really to my tastes. Also appreciated Steve Oliff’s use of a limited color palette in this book as well. It compliments Wagner’s art work perfectly. A lot of Wagner’s Batman stuff reminds me of the Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons of the 1940’s and the early Batman the Animated Series cartoons in writing and artistic style. Probably why Matt became an immediate favorite of mine.
Not as good as his future Batman stuff, but still a fun little story. While it may be a bit dated when compared to some of the more recent Batman collections, this is still a recommend for Batman enthusiasts and I would certainly give a hardy endorsement to any fan of Matt Wagner’s other works.