It's for those reasons I like to go back and do these 'retro reviews' from time to time, because sometimes reading an old comic book is like seeing an old friend again, sometimes it's like discovering something for the first time all over again and other times it's a harsh wake up call that when you were a kid, your taste was really bad.
This particular Batman Annual falls squarely into the second category, discovery.
This issue was written by Andrew Helfer, a DC staffer perhaps better known for his editorial stints on the late 80s relaunches of Man of Steel and Justice League than for his writing credits, and drawn by the art team of Chris Sprouse (the guy who dropped out of the Orson Scott Card 'Superman' project) and Steve Mitchell, long-time Batman inker.
What is contained within these pages is an extremely well done telling of the origin of Harvey Dent, the Batman rogue better known as Two-Face. Up until this particular annual, no writer had ever told a fully fleshed out origin for Two-Face, and Helfer handled the task admirably.
The oversize nature of this annual gave the creative team more than enough space to not only give readers an in-depth look at who Harvey Dent is, but also at how he becomes Two-Face, and even some insight into how this development will affect his psyche going forward.
It's hard to believe that a villain who had been around for 44 years when this was published had never received a proper origin treatment before this annual, but for whatever reason, that was the case. Helfer, Sprouse and Mitchell do a wonderful job here of highlighting Two-Face and developing an emotional aspect to the character. Part of the reason for the overwhelming success of the Batman character over the decades has been all of the work that creators have put in to the supporting cast, including the rogues gallery, and this is another instance of a great justice being done to the franchise by propping up each and every piece that supports the foundation.
Artistically this is typical early 90s fare, if you weren't around reading comics at the time, you will most likely scoff at the art here, but it's really just standard fare for the time period. My one big complaint about this book would be the lettering from John Cortanza. He chose to use a script font displayed in torn-paper looking narration boxes to visualize Bruce Wayne/Batman's thoughts. While these might have been okay at the time of publication, the years have not been kind to the newsprint/ink combination used for this book. The bleeding of the ink throughout the newsprint makes the narration boxes almost unreadable, and it drags the pace of the book down horribly. Granted, that's not a big knock on anything other than the dated technology used to print this book, so it doesn't take away anything narratively from the story.
If you like Batman, this is one worth hunting down in the dollar boxes next time you're digging.