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Batman and Robin #24 - The Big Burn: First Strike Review

3

It's Two-Face's first big story in the New 52. Has his origin changed?

The Good

After a powerful conclusion to the five stages of grief story, it's time to see where Peter J. Tomasi will send Batman now that he's attempting to move forward (I still miss you, Damian). First and foremost, it's awesome to see he's following-up on Grant Morrison's conclusion over in BATMAN, INCORPORATED, but at the moment, it seems like that's just there to serve as an oh-so-appealing teaser and will lurk in the background as Tomasi gives Two-Face the spotlight. It's about time for the classic villain to get a standout story in the New 52 and, seeing as this is a 5-issue arc, there's a lot of potential for this to turn into a great crime thriller/mystery.

Tomasi uses the opening chapter to introduce a key player in the story and paint us a very vivid picture of how she's connected to Dent's new origin. Purists will likely be unhappy right away, but seeing as this is the New 52, big changes are to be expected. It's worth noting that this is merely the first chapter, so I wouldn't be surprised if the remaining issues dive deeper into the backstory and continue to develop that tale. It definitely feels like the flashback we witnessed is only the beginning of what we'll see from that specific narrative.

Tomasi's script gives Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz the chance to create some immensely powerful images. They totally sell the atmosphere and depressing vibe in the opening scene, and lightning being used to break up the panels in Batman's opening scene was a very creative and much appreciated touch. They also did an excellent job presenting the excruciating pain when acid finally hits Harvey.

The Bad

Tomasi has only scratched the surface of Harvey's New 52 origins (there are 4 issues left in the arc, after all), but as of right now, I'm left pretty mixed on it. Having his wife appear in the New 52 only to be abruptly killed off just doesn't feel necessary and comes off as formulaic. The attack on him alone is more than enough required to drive him into madness, but then throwing in the murder of his wife just feels not needed. Hopefully the following issues will expand upon Gilda's role in flashbacks, otherwise, she was literally there just to die and serve as an additional motivator for Harvey. Perhaps she was also involved in the bigger picture? We'll just have to wait and see, I suppose. Also, Erin seemed to imply Harvey was once working with her to help reduce crime elsewhere and then turned on her, so I hope we'll see plenty more of that dynamic in the following issues.

Overall, the visuals are solid but they do tend to undergo fairly strong changes in the coloring and attention to detail. And while it's common for backgrounds to be absent in some panels, it seemed particularly noticeable in this issue.

With 4 issues remaining left, I really hope Ra's al Ghul's complete story isn't crammed into the mix as well. It would be great to see it alluded to and teased, but at the moment, there seems to be no organic link between the two narratives. Hopefully Tomasi is just teasing the next big story in the title.

Minor personal gripe: I couldn't help but laugh and think of Christian Bale yelling about the trigger when Batman keeps screaming "When is it?" and "Where is it?" as he beats up various goons. Another minor gripe: it's always disappointing to see someone with zero feats and history get the better of Batman in hand-to-hand combat.

The Verdict

The cliffhanger definitely doesn't pack a punch, but that's most likely because this is an introduction that'll serve as a better read when collected. Tomasi has delivered the basics of the story and revealed a bit of Harvey's new origin, but the burden of justifying why this story deserves 5 issues falls on the next chapter. It's certainly not a bad issue -- there's a lot of potential here -- and Gleason's illustrations are always appreciated, but right now the bigger picture is somewhat lacking.