Retold for the Post- Crisis/ Batman: Year One continuity, the story of heroic District Attorney Harvey Dent’s transformation into the villainous Two-Face gains a new layer of tragedy when we learn the true cause of his madness.
After a cunning murderer escapes justice, the crime-fighters of Gotham have had enough. A rooftop pact is made between District Attorney Harvey Dent, Captain Jim Gordon, and the vigilante known as the Batman. The partnership is simple: Batman catches them, Gordon books them, and Dent puts them away.
This plan proves to be more successful than any of them could have anticipated, accomplishing more than either man had done on their own. Two major indictments stand out among the dozens they’ve handed out: a brutal extortionist by the name of “Mad Dog” Pike, and Gotham’s number-one mob kingpin, Vincent “Boss” Maroni.
Everything is going so well... but unbeknownst to Batman and Gordon, Harvey Dent’s mental state has been slowly unraveling ever since he visited his elderly father, back when the Senior Citizen murders began.
Worried that his father might be another victim, Dent wanted to make peace with the old man. Against the advice of his wife, Gilda, Harvey went to visit the perpetually-drunken Christopher Dent, living a destitute life in his filthy apartment. As token of love or cruelty--or perhaps both--the elder Dent gave Harvey a gift: his lucky coin. Or rather, one of the many such coins he owned.
Dent was horrified, because he knew this coin all too well from childhood. His father used it to play a “game,” wherein he’d beat little Harvey senseless if the coin came up tails. Harvey was always tails, at his father’s insistence, and he always lost. A part of Harvey suspected--no, knew--that the game was rigged, but Christopher Dent insisted that it was fair and square, that Harvey lost and deserved this punishment for losing, and Harvey couldn’t bring himself to consciously question this. After all, this was his father. The man he loved, the man he worshiped. His father wouldn’t do anything so cruel as to lie and abuse his own son.
But once the elder Dent gave his son the coin, and once Harvey saw the coin itself, the truth was too horrifying to bear: the coin had two heads.
Harvey still managed to hold it together for a while, even after the nightmares. He focused on his job, and even began entertaining the idea of having children with Gilda. Then came the news that Batman and Gordon had captured the “Senior Slasher,” who turned out to be a prominent and respected internist named Dr. Rudolph Klemper. Dent, Gordon, and Batman all knew Klemper was the killer, but the evidence was circumstantial, and Klemper never once let his mask of strained, innocent sanity slip during the trial. When Klemper was acquitted, riots broke out in the courtroom, and Dent slipped away to hide in the Judge’s Chambers... only to find Klemper waiting for him.
Seeing a bit of himself in Harvey, Klemper saw no harm in sharing his great secret with Harvey. The Doctor was actually two men: the respected Rudolph Klemper, and mischievous, murderous “Little Rudy.” Singing the virtues of living a life split into neat order of business and pleasure, Klemper taunted Harvey, insisting that Dent give in to his darker side, to give it free reign. Shaken, sweating, and nauseous, Dent collapsed as Klemper calmly sauntered off to freedom. The next day, Klemper was killed in an explosion. No one was caught, and no one was suspected. It’s unclear if even Dent consciously knew that he did the deed, since after that, he seemed to show no further signs of instability.
That is, until his assistant, Adrian Fields, “accidentally” released “Mad Dog” Pike. Frustrated beyond belief, Dent tries to get Batman to frame or--better yet--kill Pike. When Batman refuses, Dent’s becomes increasingly unstable, ranting about how the scum needs to be eliminated, all the while flipping his father’s coin. After Batman grabs Dent with a furious “STOP!”, Dent drops the coin, and his rage vanishes into sober apologies.
While Batman conspires with Gordon to look into Dent’s past, the nightmares return in full force, and Harvey scrambles to leave his house, lest he unwittingly endanger Gilda. Tormented and rambling to himself, Harvey is ambushed by “Mad Dog” Pike, who tries to crush Dent’s windpipe with a club. Something awakening inside Harvey, he flips Pike over and beats the criminal senseless with his own weapon. With that attempt on Dent’s life a failure, Maroni plots his next move with his spy in the D.A.’s office: Adrian Fields. Knowing that he’s going to prison for life, Maroni wants to bring Dent down with him, with “something that’ll leave an impression...”
On the big day in court, Dent fantasizes about blowing Maroni away on the stand, followed by Fields, followed by everyone else, before the Judge brings him back to reality. While Batman watches from the gallery in disguise, he wonders if maybe Dent just sees reality more clearly than he does. On the stand, Maroni freely admits to various crimes, then feigns indigestion and goes for the bottle of “medicine” in his pocket. Before Dent can react, Maroni lunges, splashing the D.A.’s face with acid. As Dent falls to the ground burning and screaming, Maroni taunts the bailiffs, who shoot the mobster dead. Dent survives, but is horribly scarred and traumatized.
After two weeks in the hospital, the doctors prepare to remove the bandages from Dent’s face. Gilda drops by and gives Harvey back the coin, which was in his pocket when the acid hit, leaving one side scarred. His dark side finally emerges, and Harvey waits for the right time to give it free reign. Shortly thereafter, Batman shows up to tell Harvey that it was Fields who gave Maroni the acid.
The next day, Dent escapes the hospital and attacks Fields, who’s already being groomed by the Mayor to become the new District Attorney. Fields bargains for his life by offering Dent a “rainy day” file with incriminating evidence on hundreds of criminals, with which Dent could control half the underworld. Batman bursts in, and in the scuffle, the vigilante is knocked out and Harvey kills Fields, crossing the point of no return.
Having lost the coin, Harvey heads to his father’s apartment and gets a new coin from his father. Manually scarring this one, he forces his own father to play the game, which the drunken man claims not to remember. Dent explains that he can no longer choose between the parts of himself that love and hate his father, that he’s now half and half, opposite yet equal, deadlocked forever. And thus, he flips the coin. It comes up good heads, just as Batman bursts in, and Harvey lets himself be taken away.
Six months later, Harvey’s recovery at Arkham Asylum is going well. After much therapy, he successfully undergoes plastic surgery, and spends his days reading up on law, planning to open a private practice, and finally have a child with Gilda. But then the voice emerges, reminding Harvey that he already chose to give it free reign. Against his protests, he claws his own face open with his bare hands, undoing the plastic surgery.
Covered in blood, Harvey Dent knows, now and forever, that the choice he made was no choice. No choice at all.