Writer Scott Snyder is only a couple issues into his much-anticipated All-Star Batman story with artist John Romita Jr., but he's already used more Batman villains than most titles use in a year.
But with issue #3, the story take a moment to establish some surprising history (and brand new continuity) between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent - a relationship that was formed when the two were children.
Snyder, whose ongoing Batman title during the "New 52" era was consistently in the top sellers for DC, launched his new All-Star Batman series as part of DC's "Rebirth" initiative. The titles gives Snyder the chance to work with a series of different artists, in both a feature story and back-up story. (See our discussion last month with Snyder about his current back-up stories with artist Declan Shalvey, which details the training of young Bat-character Duke Thomas.)
In both the feature and the back-up, there have been plenty of surprises — including a betrayal by Alfred Pennyworth and a "wheel" that helps Batman train his allies (and even one of his villains, according to Snyder's story - although readers don't yet know who).
Newsarama talked with Snyder to find out more about this week's All-Star Batman #3, why the theme he's exploring made sense for a story featuring Two-Face, and what readers can expect next.
Newsarama: Scott, if there's one thing about this story that kind of sticks out as unique, it's this almost unstoppable drive that Batman has to get Harvey to their destination. What's driving him?
Scott Snyder: It's much bigger than Harvey. It's Batman saying that, I know it's tough right now for all of us, and that all of us feel like the problems we're up against are insurmountable. And also, we worry that we're too small to overcome them, and we're ugly in ways we don't want to admit.
And Two-Face is celebrating that, saying, we're all monstrous. Deep down, we all want the money, we all want to make our lives better. We think about things that affect us and not other people.
But Batman is trying to prove a point. Bruce wants to say, as children the two of us - without giving away too much about their story - believed in each other and you kept me from becoming something and falling into the more monstrous and selfish side of my own psychology.
Nrama: Because we see in the preview pages that Harvey and Bruce knew each other as kids, right?
Snyder: Yes, but there's more to the story - you'll find out some of it in this week's issue, but you'll learn even more later in the story - there's part of the story that Batman isn't quite telling yet.
But what it's ultimately come to represent for him is this sense of goodness and hope that he has about not just Gotham, but about all of us.
Nrama: And that's what this has all been about, right? About Batman's hope and belief in humanity, and Two-Face's opposite view?
Snyder: Yeah, Batman's making a bet with Two-Face here. He's betting on us.
That's what the story is about. Harvey says that the coin lands ugly-side-up more often than not - not just because it has less surface area because it's burned away and it's physics, but it's really what the truth is about us. Ultimately, we're the sum of our worst parts.
And Batman says that isn't so.
Nrama: This is a story that only works with Two-Face - or works best with Two-Face - because what you're basically talking about is the two sides of the coin in all of us.
Snyder: Exactly. As Two-Face says, we have a public person we show the world, and then we have the person we really are.
One of the reasons I wanted to use the character that kind of pops in here from continuity, without spoiling anything…
Nrama: A character that shows up in All-Star Batman #3?
Snyder: Yeah, he kind of returns from obscurity.
The reason he's in here is that I wanted to give examples throughout the story who, in their private lives, are good - and have no reason to be good. But they're people who were touchstones in Batman's life as well.
And that's also what Duke is, and he play a part in this issue as well.
So there's an argument to be made the other way, but Two-Face is saying, most of us have this smiling exterior where we say what we think people want to hear, or we act certain ways in public, but deep down, we're going to go a different direction.
And this is a moment in time, he says, where it's getting worse and worse. And the things we're up against are causing even more private selfishness. And we're at more of a crossroads than ever before. He thinks of it as his time.
Nrama: You've told us a bit about what's going to be in All-Star Batman #3 - a character who sort of comes back from obscurity and a role for Duke in the story. Anything else you can tell us about what's coming up?
Snyder: Well, I will spoil and say you'll see Bat Knuckles, which are my favorite invention. They're blunt and really silly and not particularly high-tech gadgetry, but when John drew them, I was like, I love those more than anything.
You're going to see the return of a couple villains that I think you'll be surprised by. And you'll see KG Beast being out of control. You'll see Penguin get gas, which I think is really fun.
But above all, I think, what you'll see is that this story is a little bit deeper and darker than you might have thought on the surface.
It's only going to speed up, in terms of the dynamism of it, or the kinetic feel. It gets crazier and crazier every issue, with bigger and bigger set pieces, but that said, I think this is where you maybe start to see that it also has a sort of deep, emotional resonance for Bruce.
The journey means more than just curing Two-Face. It has to do with his past. It has to do with the way he thinks about us, the way he thinks about our capacity for good.