thehefner: (Two-Face: FOREVER!!!)
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Last week's Two-Face Tuesday--focusing on the early days of NO MAN'S LAND, the epic story where Gotham was reduced to a lawless wasteland following a massive earthquake--featured just barely a cameo by ol' Harv himself.

Over the course of these posts, it should be clear that the true focus is Jim Gordon. He's the one who makes the hard decisions here, and it's his soul ultimately on the line. But with today's Part 2, he pulls Renee Montoya into his drama, taking her as his partner as they deal with the devil: Two-Face.

But just how much of a devil is Harvey? After all, Renee saw a very different side of Harvey when they first met, which was the last we'd actively seen of Harvey since NO MAN'S LAND actually began. Renee Montoya was around, but no mention was made about what happened after she extended her hand and offered to help Harvey, who trusted her so much that he even let her keep his coin.

So what did happen? The actual comics offered little by way of explanation, but Greg Rucka's own novelization of BATMAN: NML offered a unique "director's cut" version of their saga. By and large, I vastly prefer the novelization, but it's hard to explain why without comparing to the comics.

So for those who don't mind a bit of reading, I've made scans of both as my own personal super-edit of the NML saga, including what really was going on in poor Harvey's head when it came to Renee Montoya:

These scans are from BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #119, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #87, and the novelization, BATMAN: NO MAN'S LAND, all written by Greg Rucka.

Quick catch-up: Gotham has been divided up into rival factions ruled by Rogues like Croc and Mr. Freeze, streets gangs like the LoBoys and the Xhosha, the Gotham City Police Department, and the Bat-Clan, who currently claim the largest chunk. Below them, the second-largest factions are possessed by the Penguin and Two-Face, who finally emerges from out of the shadows to make his move.

Notice that Harvey is not wearing a split-suit, but rather something more suited for regular pre-crazy Harvey Dent, although his ruthless behavior matches more up with Two-Face. I assume this was an astethic choice on Rucka's part, as he once told me at a convention that he never liked split-suits. Since then, I've been inclined to agree with him. I've said it before, but there's something so unnerving about someone who looks normal in every way except for that face.

Jim Gordon and the Blue Boys plot out how best to defend their territory from the Penguin's incoming attacks. Gordon suggests that the best defense is a good offense, and proposed actively taking Penguin's territory, while putting Robinson Park to their backs. Foley, ever the Doubting Thomas, takes issue with this.


... "Sold our souls?" Bwuh?? Back up a sec.

Okay, so for folks who remember Part 1, we can figure out that Jim sent Renee to make a deal with Two-Face, who had already made a deal earlier to help slaughter some of Gordon's enemies. Jimbo and Harvey are already in bed together, but now he's brought Renee to be their intermediary.

But why would Jim choose Renee? Did he know about their brief history together?

And for that matter, what was their history after Harvey let Renee keep his coin, and they both went off to help survivors of the quake? What happened between then and now? I suppose there was a falling out, as this Renee Montoya now seems to feel the same way as she did before she saw past Harvey's monstrous side and found what was left of the good man that used to be Harvey Dent.

Thankfully, Rucka's novelizations sheds some light on what happened (although it screwed up continuity): after they'd finished helping survivors, Harvey let Renee take him back to Arkham, but let he keep the coin. I cannot stress the importance and rareness of this action: he let her keep the coin.

After he escaped (or in the comics, was released from) Arkham with the rest of the inmates, he picked up a regular coin to use it as a substitute, while Renee still had the real scarred two-headed silver dollar, right up to the point when Jim Gordon asked her to see Harvey.

Start reading from the paragraph break beginning with, "The Tally Man..."

What's most significant about this entire scene is what it means for Harvey: this is the first time that his two sides ever agreed on something. All of a sudden, the endless internal struggle of Harvey vs. Big Bad Harv takes on a whole new dynamic as we see what it's like when one of Gotham's most fearsome and tragic figures starts crushing like whoa.

There's something so refreshing in seeing those sides not warring, but instead bickering, discussing, weighing the options, or just having conversations, all in his head. They're no longer antagonists, but dysfunctional partners both trying to win a girl over. It's the sweeter side of Mad Love.

And yet, what is it to Renee? How much genuine affection does she feel for him? She seemed to feel something, even just pity and kindness, but I fear even that seems mostly replaced by distrust, disgust, and fear towards Harvey here. When she reports back to Gordon, she has the same thought as she had in the comics: we've sold our souls.

And while Gordon attacks Penguin from the South, Ozzie himself attacks Batman's territory in the North, having to fight its sole protector: Batgirl (really the Huntress in the costume soon to be worn by Cassandra Cain). She manages to shoot an arrow into the Penguin's leg, which is when Harvey arrives with his troops...

Another thing to notice: in all these comic scans, Harvey has not once used his coin. I'm not even sure what to make of that. Combined with the lack of a crazy costume suit, it almost looks like this is less crazy Two-Face and more a sane, calculating, ruthless Harvey Dent. I'd almost argue that this would be the case, if events later in the same story would prove horribly to the contrary.

Heh, I love the li'l grin-and-wave he gives Batgirl there.

Incidentally, losing Batman's to Two-Face is Helena's greatest failure in her short career as Batgirl, which leads to a fallout I'll get into in Part Three.

Consider what just happened here: Jim Gordon made a deal with Two-Face for protection and reinforcement, successfully securing a strategic perimeter and reclaiming more land from Penguin, at the expense of eleven good men (and the scare of seeing his wife get shot).

In the above scans, Jim seems rather full of self-loathing for his actions, even though he pretty clearly felt that there was no other choice. And apparently there still isn't, as he's about to send Renee out to strike another deal with Harvey.

But in the book, Gordon reacts quite differently. And here's the point where the arc of Jim Gordon most significantly diverges from where it goes in the comics:

And thus, Harvey now has a strong motivation to do what he does next, taking an action that was arbitrarily motiveless in the comics: hire an assassin to kill Jim Gordon.

From here on out, the entire chain of events is subtly but significantly different between the novel and the comics, the biggest differences of which I'll be discussing next week. After that, the true cost of Gordon's actions comes to light... depending on which version you read.

Next week, Part Three: two sides of the same story, a girl named Cassandra Cain ruins Harvey's day, and things REALLY start to go downhill for everybody involved.


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