Imaginary Story 10: The Batman and Robin Adventures vol. 1 #1-2

 

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Immediately following the end of The Batman Adventures,  the follow-up comic, The Batman and Robin Adventures, began. The title change corresponds to a shift in the responsible creative team, including a significant increase in  Paul Dini’s involvement–he wrote the first three issues and multiple thereafter. And who else would Dini make the villain of a two-parter comprising the first two issues of the second Batman: The Animated Series tie-in comic than Two-Face?

In discussing “Two-Face,” I suggested that Batman is a creature of both hope and guilt. I also suggested that Grace, Harvey Dent’s fiancee, was precisely what her name implied, a symbol of the possibility of forgiveness and healing. Now we have “Two-Timing,” the story which closes off that possibility. At a regular weekly visit from Bruce Wayne and Grace (because of course Two-Face’s visitors come in a pair), we learn that Harvey feels he is improving, that he might be able to have the operation to fix his face and, possibly, eliminate the Two-Face personality forever. But the Joker, for his own amusement, starts planting the seeds of jealousy, suggesting that Bruce and Grace are having an affair, and Bruce is only paying for Harvey’s treatment to keep him out of the picture.

There follows a curious scene in which Bruce and Grace attend a society function, and their conversation is fairly easily readable as Grace coming on to Bruce pretty intensely. It’s not quite blatant enough to be the only reasonable reading, but it’s certainly plausible, in which case we can read this as Grace giving up on Harvey. It’s understandable that she would: it has been months or years at least since he became Two-Face, in which time she has been presumably alone (romantically speaking), while Bruce is right there, emotionally available, attractive, single, familiar, and going through the same stresses regarding Harvey that Grace is. On the other hand, for those same reasons she might reach out to Bruce not because she has chosen to give up on Harvey, but simply out of momentary confusion and grief. Regardless of her reasons, she kisses Bruce, and Harley Quinn snaps a picture, gives it to the Society editor at the local paper of record, and then flees. The fact that she then runs straight into Batman means Bruce must have abandoned Grace immediately after the picture was taken.

So on the one hand we have Grace–the possibility of redemption and healing–abandoning Harvey (at least momentarily), and on the other we have Bruce abandoning that same possibility to become Batman. In other words, Two-Face has been abandoned by Grace, redemption, and healing, and Bruce has similarly abandoned that possibility. Where Two-Face is concerned, Bruce’s hope and friendship are a grace he will no longer receive; now there is only the judgment and vengeance of Batman. Certainly that would explain the second part, where Batman refers to Two-Face by that name, prompting Two-Face to say that Batman has given up on him. Batman doesn’t argue; the implication is that Two-Face is right. Later still, when Two-Face is taken away in a scene that parallels the ending of “Two-Face,” Grace isn’t crying as she was in that episode, but glaring after him, a clear rejection.

Two-Face can never be healed. We know that, have known that since he first appeared. Once a villain, always a villain, or at least eventually back to being a villain, because that’s generally how the characters are most interesting and memorable. But, crucially, Batman didn’t know. Bruce Wayne never gave up on his friend–but now he may have. The ending of this story at least implies, even if it stops short of outright declaring, that he and Grace will no longer be visiting Harvey weekly. This is largely confirmed by Grace’s next and final appearance 20 issues later, which suggests that she has not visited Harvey since–he states that he hasn’t heard from her in a year.

Grace offered herself to Bruce Wayne, and he rejected her to become Batman, who no longer hopes that Two-Face is redeemable.  There is no longer grace or hope for Batman’s  villains, and therefore none for himself. This is a step on a long road that leads to his falling out with Robin, his refusal to fully join the Justice League, his eventual withdrawal from it, from crime-fighting, to a bitter old age alone–and Beyond.

There is only darkness left for him. We must seek elsewhere for light. Fortunately, we know how to find light, the same place from which it always comes: Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…

The End of Volume 2 of the Near-Apocalypse of ’09


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