Hi there everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending mission to read every single issue of Detective Comics that’s ever been published, in random order, and without much context. And, we have an extremely strange issue to talk about this week folks. Because this is an issue with Batman. It’s an issue without a real plot. It’s basically some fan-fiction that Harvey Dent has written. I’ve tackled a story before that completely followed the Riddler before, as he solved a mystery, and I’ve talked about a story that served as an insane in-universe comic book that purported to tell the true story of Batman that mainly revolved around demons. But, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about an issue like this, potentially because there’s never been an issue quite as insane as this one.
Things begin in the typical DC Universe, at Arkham Asylum. There’s some sort of important meeting going on, where the various doctors who run the Asylum are talking about the budget. And, due to some cutbacks, they’ve decided to end a project being run by a doctor named Russert who is running some sort of art-therapy. He attempts to fight back, insisting that the therapy has proven quite successful, naming Harvey Dent in particular as someone who is benefiting from the therapy. But, he’s shot down, and Dr. Russsert has to sadly look at the weird comic book that Harvey has apparently been making during his therapy sessions. Which makes up the rest of the issue. It’s just a random issue of an insane Doc Samson ripoff called Copernicus Dent. It’s a glimpse into Harvey’s mind, where he’s portrayed as a handsome and ripped globe-trotting genius adventurer who hangs out with his plucky girlfriend and assistant, R’Nee. You know, like Renee Montoya, the Gotham City cop who Harvey is sexually obsessed with? And, as the story begins we see that Dent is wondering where R’Nee could be, after getting kidnapped by his nemesis, Janus. And, as he’s pondering, he’s suddenly attacked by one of Janus’ henchmen. Who looks a little familiar.
Yeah, Copernicus Dent is going to be killing a whole bunch of weirdly proportioned Batmen in this story. Dent manages to take down this first goon fairly easily, at which point his home is absolutely flooded with Batmen, bursting in from every possible entrance. They all begin fighting Dent, and he just shoots them all to death. But, he leaves a few of them alive enough to get some information. And, Dent then races off to the docks of whatever city he’s in, where Janus is hanging out on his boat with a kidnapped R’Nee. And, yeah, as you can probably guess, Janus is basically just what Two-Face would look like if he was fully the scarred side. He intimidates R’Nee, causing her to faint when she sees his face. But, before he can pout too much about that, Dent comes bursting into the scene, shooting his guns and ready to kick some ass.
Dent shoots all of the various Batmen on the boat, but Janus is able to escape in the process. He and R’Nee then head back to his home, where he pumps her for information. And, based on the few things that she overheard Dent is able to realize that Janus is trying to build a machine that could split the world in half. And, there’s apparently only one place on Earth where he could use it. The lost city of Xan! So, Dent and R’Nee head off to Xan, where they’re immediately attacked by an army of Batmen. And, in the process R’Nee is kidnapped, and Dent is knocked unconscious. The Batmen then apparently leave him alive in the middle of the street, and when he wakes up he’s able to find a discarded matchbook that leads him to their hideout.
Copernicus Dent then heads to the Club Dragon, where the Batmen are holding R’Nee, threatening to cut up her pretty face to make her ugly like their boss. But, right before she faints yet again, Dent comes bursting in, guns blazing. He shoots the Batmen up, and then takes R’Nee back to their hotel room, where he once again pumps her for information. And, just like before, she over-heard one detail about a special kind of gold, and Dent realizes that could only lead them to another lost city. So, they head to Tibet, and find Janus enslaving a bunch of monks to mine his gold. But, while they’re planning their raid on Janus’ headquarters in their hotel room, R’Nee is kidnapped yet again.
And, Dent is officially sick of this shit. So, he loads up with all of his various guns, and storms into Janus’ fortress where R’Nee is held captive. Janus is trying one last time to woo R’Nee, before activating his world-destroying weapon, but she’s having none of it. In fact, she screams so loudly that Dent is able to hear her, identify her scream, and then follow it to Janus’ hideout. He then bursts in, killing another few waves of Batmen, until it all comes down to a sword-fight with Janus himself. The two duel, and eventually Janus ends up accidentally killing himself by sticking his sword into one of his machines, electrocuting himself. Dent then saves R’Nee, and they begin examining Janus’ body, finding that he’s actually wearing a mask. They remove it, and find that he looks exactly like Copernicus, which confuses R’Nee. But, he promises to explain it all in the next issue, which we’ve sadly learned will never happen, because this whole weird therapy got cancelled. Poor Harvey.
So, yeah, this issue is nuts. It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever talked about, and I kind of don’t even know how to evaluate it. It’s so totally different from any issue of Detective Comics I’ve ever read that it barely feels like it belong in this project. But, this is what was put into Detective Comics #753, so I guess it’s what we had to talk about. And, what we had to talk about was Harvey Dent’s very twisted mind. The story is very basic, and kind of repeats itself several times, but that feels more like a feature than a bug in this case, coming across as Harvey’s lack of imagination. Seeing himself as a rugged adventurer jet-setting around the world with a ditzy version of Renee Montoya, solving mysteries, and fighting a bunch of evil Batment led by a version of his worst self. It all works pretty well, it features some really fun and goofy artwork, and it ends up showing some real insight into Two-Face’s character. He views himself as a misunderstood hero, he’s obsessed with Renee but clearly doesn’t view her as anything other than a goofy object to be won, and Batman is just a dumb lug who messes everything up. It’s enlightening.
“The Janus Double Down” was written by Greg Rucka, penciled by Steve Mannion and Brad Rader, inked by John Lowe and Hilary Barta, colored by Wildstorm FX, lettered by Todd Klein, and edited by Bob Schreck and Michael Wright, 2001.
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