Welcome to the twenty-seventh edition of Adventure(s) Time, a look back on a beloved animated series and an issue of its tie-in comic with a similar theme. This week’s entry comes from a Twitter suggestion by Gravity Falls Poland, who asks to see Two-Face’s two separate attempts at stopping crime.
Airing on October 31st, 1998, “Judgment Day” is the twenty-fourth (and final) episode of The New Batman Adventures. Written by Rich Fogel and DCAU founding father Alan Burnett, and directed by Curt Geda, the episode opens with the not-quite reformed Penguin giving Two-Face and Killer Croc the proceeds of their fenced items, chuckling to himself behind their backs over what he’s skimming off the top. Penguin isn’t laughing for long, however…he finds himself the victim of Gotham’s newest vigilante, a mystery figure garbed in a long black robe and ceremonial wig. This is the Judge, and he has an appropriately operatic score to accompany his dramatic entrances.
Soon, both the Riddler and Killer Croc become victims of the Judge, who’s far more brutal than Batman when doling out his brand of justice. The media becomes obsessed with the figure, and Councilman J. Carroll Corcoran soon declares the Judge his ally in the war on crime. The story briefly hints that Corcoran actually is the Judge, but soon enough we see the two figures in the same room simultaneously. As Corcoran points out — if Lt. Gordon can have his own pet vigilante, why not me?
Corcoran announces to the public that Two-Face is his buddy the Judge’s next target, placing Batman in the position of rescuing his former friend from the vigilante. The New Batman Adventures episodes were often criticized for focusing more on action than character when compared to the initial run, and it’s true that this episode could’ve benefited from longer conversation scenes, but the brief moment between Batman and Two-Face is rich with subtext.
It’s Kevin Conroy’s conflicted tone as Batman that truly sells the scene — he has to save Two-Face, not only because he doesn’t believe in the Judge’s harsh punishments, but because they were once friends. Even though he also knows that Gotham would be safer without Two-Face, and that Harvey Dent will possibly only find peace in death, he isn’t going to allow the Judge to kill Two-Face. The story could’ve gotten an entire act’s worth of material merely covering this moral quandary, but Conroy summarizes the emotions with only a few lines.
After rescuing Two-Face from the Judge’s death trap (his reward a cheap shot to the back of the head), Batman returns to the Batcave, where he examines the Judge’s gavel, retrieved from the police impound. And utilizing the Batcave’s rather unbelievable archive of ceremonial Gotham trophies, he learns that Judge’s gavel was once an award from the Gotham Bar Association. While Batman deduces the Judge’s identity, Two-Face is extracting his revenge against Councilman Corcoran. Facing sure death at the feet of Gotham’s Lady Justice statue, Corcoran offers Two-Face kickback money from his slush fund. Two-Face decides it’s too late for bribes, and sends his men off to kill Corcoran.
Soon, the Judge arrives and deals with Two-Face’s goons, but to Corcoran’s shock, he’s also slated for judgment, having revealed his own corruption. A batarang suddenly enters the shot, and the viewer knows it’s time for the final action sequence. The Judge is able to delay the inevitable for a few moments, before he’s knocked to the ground by Batman. Corcoran is terrified that his slush fund will become public; Batman tells him he actually has something else to worry about. The Judge’s mask is removed, revealing his identity as Two-Face.
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