Batman: Jekyll & Hyde
by Paul Jenkins (DC Comics, 2008)

The theme of Jekyll & Hyde is a gimme in a story featuring the Batman, whose caped crusader and playboy alter-ego are the result of a psychological schism caused by a childhood trauma, and Two-Face, whose deep facial scars are only the outward manifestation of his tortured split personalities. Writers in recent years have tended to focus more on an actual multiple-personality disorder in Harvey, rather than the rather silly fixation on the number 2 that was the extent of his earlier capers.

But now writer Paul Jenkins has taken it all a step further. Harvey once again escapes from Arkham Asylum, which has the worst security in the nation, and goes on a murderous bender using a serum developed to separate the good and bad sides of a person's personality. In short, good people who are unknowingly dosed with the serum turn homicidal. The goal, of course, is to lure the Batman into Two-Face's clutches so he can be the guinea pig in a twisted experiment.

What could have been a fascinating psychological thriller suffers in part because the concept has been overdone. Batman has addressed his own "dark side" more times than Robin has used the word "holy" in a sentence. Jenkins has merely taken yet another path to a very hackneyed destination.

As for Two-Face, the dichotomy between his scarred and unscarred sides has been defined and redefined so often, it's hard to consider him the same villain from story to story. Now we're asked to consider, not just a second personality, but the "ghost" personality of someone -- you'll figure out very quickly who -- in Dent's past who now inhabits his consciousness and makes him do bad things ... usually over Harvey's milquetoast protests.

Oh, and once again a villain with the upper hand "kills" the hero, then disposes of the body without first checking to be sure he's really dead. Ho hum.

Two-Face fanatics will enjoy this story simply because it's Two-Face. Batman fans will once again find themselves wishing the guy would lighten up a bit now and then.

review by
Tom Knapp

17 January 2009

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