Written by Joel T. Lewis
The dramatic conclusion of the Batman and Two-Face road trip from hell reveals some sinister details about the lengths Harvey Dent will go to accomplish his goals. Facing an angry mob of ordinary citizens who have come to stop Batman’s mission, Batman, Lark, Two-Face, and their captors are at a bit of a disadvantage. Not that that fact deters KGBeast from brandishing his automatic weapon hell bent on mass murder. Batman, in a desperate attempt to free himself, Lark, and Two-Face while also protecting the citizens on the shore, severs the mooring lines that keep the riverboat casino docked with a batarang. Depriving the Beast of his long-awaited messy massacre, Batman sends his former soviet foe into a rage while escaping his clutches aboard a giant floating poker chip. As Batman and company float downstream towards a waterfall, he triggers an explosion which sends the riverboat, with KGBeast, Penguin, Great White, and Black Mask careening into the shoreline, safe from a deadly plunge while Batman, Lark, and Two-Face are able to survive their tumble over the waterfall using Batman’s cape.
The trio finally arrives at the Arkham family estate after a brief appearance from Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum who succumb to an impatient thrashing courtesy of Batman. Meanwhile, Alfred pleads with Gordon and Bullock to not descend the staircase hidden behind the clock in Bruce Wayne’s study. Gordon takes the butler aside and asks one final time for him to contact Batman and call him off. Alfred tells the commissioner that that is impossible and Gordon responds with stern resolve. Tonight the Batman must be exposed. Batman uncovers Harvey Dent’s hidden cure but before using it he runs one final test to insure it is indeed what Dent promised. It is not.
Batman turns on Two-Face, who is in the process of transitioning over to the Dent personality and the three of them clash over their current predicament. Harvey developed a formula that would allow the personality within him that was strongest to triumph while chemically burning away the lesser identity, effectively committing suicide as Harvey Dent. Also, it was Harvey, not Two-Face who unleashed acid rain on Gotham in the first issue of All-Star Batman which kick started this whole storyline. Harvey, weary from the endless struggle with Two-Face didn’t develop a cure for his worse half, but a solution to his conflict. Batman calls this solution a surrender and is appalled. Dent makes one more startling revelation, pulling out a cell phone and calling Alfred. Finally, the reason behind Alfred’s betrayal in issue one is revealed! At the beginning of Batman’s career, in a rare moment of weakness, Alfred approached and hired someone to kill the Joker. Though he came to his senses and called off the hit within hours, the money he had wired to the assassin came from the same dummy fund that they had used to construct the Batcave. Dent was able to track that information and apply the leverage that led to Alfred shooting down the Batplane.
Alfred begs and Dent demands that Batman administer the formula immediately or Gotham will be showered with the same formula, chemically dividing the citizens into camps of saints and monsters. Seemingly trapped by Dent’s scheme, Batman hammers him into the ground outside the Arkham Estate. Beating Two-Face and Dent out of disappointed frustration, Batman injects Dent. Surprised by the Dark Knight’s agreement, Dent calls off his biological strike and waits for the final transformation to begin. But something is wrong, the formula doesn’t seem to be working.
Batman, unbeknownst to Harvey Dent, anticipated an incomplete formula or some tampering by Two-Face getting in the way of curing his friend so he took certain precautions. While laid up in Harold Allnut’s workshop Batman and his old ally worked up a booster that, when taken with Dent’s formula, would burn away the Two-Face persona. Since he did not anticipate the sinister lengths that Dent had gone to in order to end his inner conflict, Batman deals out a just and fitting fate for his two-sided foe. Instead of Dent’s formula, Batman injected Two-Face with just the booster. Taken alone, this booster would prevent one personality from ever being burned away chemically as Dent had planned and would chemically shift how Harvey Dent and Two-Face would transition from now on. The conflict between Harvey Dent and Two-Face would now be a matter of will alone. If Harvey fights harder to gain control of their body on a certain day, he will win and if Two-Face fights harder he would gain control. Batman takes away Harvey’s ability to surrender to Two-Face and leaves them in a constant struggle of sheer willpower; a fitting reminder of how Harvey Dent’s force of will inspired Batman. Batman and Allnut also added a sedative to the booster which makes Harvey drop to the ground when he realizes his fate.
Batman has little time to bathe in the glow of victory though because as he turns to Lark to help him take Dent back to Arkham, KGBeast appears once again. This time the ex-soviet assassin appears at the end of a spear driven through our hero’s back. Snyder jumps back and forth between Gordon’s SWAT strike team descending the hidden staircase at Wayne Manor and Batman and KGBeast’s brawl. Batman is saved from Beast’s promise of capture and torture by gunfire coming from the angry mob of citizens they left at the dock just a few pages before. This new attack enrages Beast but before he can open fire on the mob Batman tackles him, sending them both over the edge of the cliff behind the Arkham estate. The mob, grateful to their savior and horrified at what they had planned to do to him, peers over the cliff to discover Lark holding Batman’s cape. Snyder then cuts back to Wayne Manor to reveal that Gordon and Gotham’s finest have descended the hidden staircase only to find a mundane man-cave. Gordon seems relieved as he responds to one of his men, “What do you think, Edmunds? He has some mechanism that takes you down the wrong stairwell if you’re not the Batman. Something his own butler doesn’t know about?” Gordon smiles as he orders his men to leave the mansion. Narrowly escaping the rocky plunge Batman and Lark turn towards home and the once-angry mob parts to let them pass in peace.
In the “My Own Worst Enemy” arc Scott Snyder delivered a fresh and fun Batman story with enough fan service and innovation to satisfy veteran fans and newcomers alike. All-Star Batman is accessible enough for you to jump right in and pays tribute to the history of Batman in a unique way which makes it a lot of fun to read. Developing an intimacy between the young Harvey Dent and troubled Bruce Wayne was a brilliant choice which enriched the history of those two characters and I’m excited to see what Scott Snyder does with the villain Batman faces next: Mr. Freeze! Until next time, Geek On!