1/09/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: DC Comics. 192 page graphic novel. Price: $14.99 (US), $16.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-2134-8.
check out website: www.dccomics.com
With each of these 'Batman Chronicles', I always like to point out anything really significant that should make you want to go after a particular volume. With this one, 'The Crimes Of Two-Face', it's rather easy cos here is the origin of Two-Face and other than a change in his original name from Harvey Kent to Harvey Dent - no doubt to remove any association with that other Kent fella, this origin has been kept intact over the years. It is also important to note that this is the first new member of Batman's rogue gallery for some time and probably owes more to the Dick Tracy newspaper strip villains in his looks or rather half-looks.
The sequel, 'The Man Who Lived A Double Life!' enforces Two-Face's MO of deciding everything on the flip of a coin and, interestingly, showing a benevolent side in a somewhat distorted fashion occasionally. Even from the start, writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane added the touches about Two-Face's nature, including normal and, shall we say, grotesque living quarters. Must have been a bitch flipping a coin on the colour scheme.
The Joker is still up to his tricks in 'The Wizard Of Words' in which he disguises his crimes under the literal meaning of words. When he paints the town red, he gets out the red paint. He even has a Moriarty moment with Batman at the end. In 'The Harlequin's Hoax', he isn't beyond a bit of judicial blackmail to get his way.
There's a morality issue with 'Brothers In Crime' when one of the Rafferty Brothers is determined to go straight when released from jail gets pushed back into it by his elder siblings. With brothers like these, you would want to give up on crime as well and he ultimately does do a bit of good.
Considering these comics were coming out in the middle of WW2, it's interesting to see Batman and Robin promoting the sale of US War Bonds although it's a shame no explanation is give as to how Bruce Wayne missed the war draft. I know there has been some speculation on that over the years and think I have a solution to that. As Dick Grayson is his dependent and ward, Wayne might be considered his father surrogate. 'Around The Clock With Batman' shows a day in their lives and what they get up to showing them involved in a couple cases at once.
The duo also step in to solve cases that the FBI are otherwise pre-occupied to do, as with 'The North Pole Crimes' which is also the first recorded use of them their Bat-costumes being dyed white for camouflage. Considering the problems that this case caused them, including snow blindness, I suspect they learnt a lot from this mission.
'The Batman Plays A Lone Hand' is also the first time when we see the caped one stop Robin working with him although the rather obvious reason is spoiler territory. It doesn't say much for how much of a boy wonder is that Robin didn't figure out why.
There is even a variation on the Orient Express with 'Destination Unknown!' where things aren't always quite what they seem and you have to really pay attention as to what is going on and not take anything at face value.
A couple things are interesting to note. The Batman logo never has 'Batman And Robin' but 'Batman With Robin' which could be good for correcting anyone who thinks otherwise. There is always an abundance of cover or opening splash pages where either Batman or the villains are illustrated at a disproportionate size to each other. Of even more interest, in 'Comedy Of Tears!', Joe Siegel is one of the celebrities asked for his autograph and Dick Grayson is selling copies of 'World's Finest' in 'Destination Unknown!' on board the train as part of his cover. A riveting read from the 1940s.
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