Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's The Big Burn is finally coming to an end. While this arc has spent a lot of time building a dynamic between Batman, Erin McKillen and Two-Face, this finale pushes McKillen aside (for the most part) and instead opts to focus on Harvey Dent. Tomasi jumps into Dent's mentality as we see Dent struggle between who he was and the man he's become. Can he start anew or is he too far gone? It's a topic Tomasi attempts to bring front and center and does a fine job making the villain struggle with the dilemma. The writer also makes two major developments with the character. Needless to say, if you're interested in Dent, you need to read this conclusion. Although, odds are you already were since his name is slapped on the cover, right?
Despite there being a big shootout in a studio, the action here isn't anything particularly special and ultimately we just see two guys get clocked in the noggin by batarangs. However, Tomasi compensates for that by making the narrative itself and the interactions far more potent. The focus is on these two characters, not necessarily what's going on around them, after all.
Patrick Gleason (artist/inker), Mick Gray (inker) and John Kalisz (colorist) put a hell of a lot of passion into this finale. Gleason utilizes a lot of close-ups and the tremendous amount of effort put into faces (most notably Harvey's) really brings the intensity front and center and produces more than a few powerful images. I especially appreciated the creativity behind one of the... um... "stains" on a picture towards the end. I hate using this idiom, but Gleason really does "knock it out of the park" when it comes to creating a disturbingly detailed Two-Face. It's also great how Kalisz is able to use bold coloring to help convey Tomasi's script during a critical scene with Dent. The shift from panel to panel really helps emphasize what's going on in the character's head head.
The Big Burn had so much build-up and this conclusion has some major developments with Harvey Dent, but the finale with him comes off as not necessarily earned. So much of the story seemed dedicated to establishing a new villain -- Erin McKellen -- while only making small changes to Dent -- changes which actually take away one of the most compelling parts of his character. So, when Gordon drops a line taken directly from The Dark Knight, it doesn't feel appropriate because Dent wasn't noble. But, more importantly, there's a development here which could have delivered a major switch-up to the relationship between the two, but naturally, that potential is cut short. This was obviously intended to be Tomasi's swan song for Dent and I understand how Batman somewhat "shatters" his world in this issue, but it doesn't come off as his story until the very end of the entire story arc, so the final developments will definitely be both shocking and upsetting to Dent fans. When there's a new timeline where they can explore so much more with these characters (especially with this new reveal), killing Dent off in a story where he almost feels like a secondary bad guy is disappointing to say the least. Ultimately, I'm left with the feeling that this story exists to introduce Erin as a new Batman rogue so she can essentially serve as Two-Face's replacement. She too lost a part of herself and now she has a "scarred half" as well. This conclusion also makes me question when this takes place since Dent is playing a role in Forever Evil, but that's hardly a big deal.
Minor gripes: it felt a bit odd having Batman lecture Two-Face as they're facing heavy fire and are pinned down (behind a seemingly cheap set, no less). Perhaps saving that big conversation for a more personal moment between them would have been a little less awkward. For example, if the two grappled after the fodder was dispatched. Additionally, the title page has one massive panel of Batman busting into a location. It's a very close-up shot, and while that lets us appreciate the character's presence, it doesn't set the stage or make the overall scene feel epic.
Love or hate what goes down, this is an undeniably massive issue for Two-Face and it's certain to get some very passionate conversations going. However, the forceful nature of this issue's developments are countered by the fact that Dent didn't feel like a big player in this story -- at least not to me, that is. It feels like a somewhat abrupt conclusion with Dent and that the truly critical elements with him were saved up until the very end. Regardless, opinions are certain to be mixed on this one and I find myself primarily left down the middle on it, but at least most of us are likely to agree that Gleason and company created some legitimately commendable images in this issue.