Monday, January 16, 2017

Batman #438 (1989)


Batman #438 (September, 1989)
"Batman: Year Three, Chapter Three: Turnabout"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Penciller - Pat Broderick
Inker - John Beatty
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor - Dan Raspler
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $1.00

Still feeling the sick.  Let's get right to it.

--



We pick up right where we left off.  Alfred is now sitting on his bed and he's holding a very oddly-shaped gun.  He considers the possibility of snuffing out Zucco... he ultimately decides he cannot cross that line... not even for Master Dick.  He figures there's gotta be a better way.  Speaking of Nightwing, we catch up with him as he rides to the next hit.  Along the way he flashes back to the events of A Death in the Family, which features a Wolverine-haired Joker beating young Jason to a pulp.



At the crime scene, Commissioner Gordon is giving a statement to the press.  Nightwing heads around back and asks if it's cool for him to snoop around a bit.  The Detective on duty says it's fine, however, doubts anything will turn up... and thus, proves how ineffectual the Gotham City Police Department can be.  It doesn't take long for Dick to turn up a a silk thread from a parachute as well as a bit of glass with a fingerprint on it.  Okay... I can see the cops mayyyybe missing the thread... but a fingerprint?  C'mon...



We shift scenes to Batman as he stands before a pack of gun-wielding mobsters.  He plays it cool, and tells them if they kill him, he can no longer protect them from whoever's out there head-hunting.  Basically, he's their best (perhaps only) hope of survival.



Before we get an answer... we pop back over to Alfred.  He's at the generically named Gotham Prison, and has requested a face-to-face audience with Tony Zucco.  Surprisingly enough, it's granted.  He sits in front of the killer... and produces a checkbook.  He is prepared to let Zucco name his price... in exchange, however, he must leave Gotham upon release.  Zucco finds this rather laughable... which, if the art is any indication, appears to shake Pennyworth to his very core.



Alfred returns to the Batcave, and finds Nightwing computering away.  He's been able to deduce that the fingerprint he found belongs to a fella named Sherman Saticoy.  Before going any further, we hop back to Batman... who is in the middle of a firefight.  Looks like the baddies didn't take him up on his offer.  It's not long before the tables are turned, and they're all staring down the barrel of a gun themselves.  Hey, another "Year" story, another bit of Batman holding a gun.



Suddenly, the mobsters are a bit more receptive to the chat.  They start talking about the other "bosses" in town, and the name Zucco comes up... sending Batman into flashback mode.  He thinks back to a time that he and Robin busted up a Zucconian drug deal... and a time he stuffed several dozen bats into a tiny box to scare him.  Not sure how that worked, but we'll roll with it.  Back in the present, Batman learns about the fabled Tony Zucco book.  You know the one...



At this point, the mobsters are interested in joining forces with the Batman.  They take him to the cruddy apartment of a man called Drexel.  He's been in Zucco's employ for awhile, and he's not planning to talk... that is, until Batman introduces him to his "associates".



Back at the Batcave, Nightwing is still cross-referencing data... he is shocked to find out just who is behind it all... but we'll get to that in a moment.  He hops on his motorbike and heads to a hill overlooking Gotham Prison... where the Batmobile is already parked.  Both Batman and Nightwing have concluded that the big bad is... are you ready for this... Tony Zucco.  They've got the goods to lock him right back up at this point... though, Nightwing wants him to taste freedom for just a moment before they break the news.  I appreciate this scene, as it shows the different approaches the heroes used... kinda shows us just where they both are insofar as "head space" is concerned.



It's nearly the time where Zucco goes free... and so, we watch as the warden walks him out.  Batman and Nightwing sit in wait... Dick is kinda waffling on his stance, he'd rather just "nail him" now... Batman insists they wait.



We watch as Zucco takes his first steps out of the pen... he extends his arms, certain that with his book... he will soon be king of Gotham.  Just then... he is plugged full of holes by a helicopter.  Nightwing is furious... he believes that Batman knew this was going to happen all along...



--

I gotta say... this one just gets better as we go along.  Not that it didn't start out strong... but, at this point... we've got ourselves a really nice story.  Excellent character beats... a nice way of popping from past to present without looking forced or contrived.

I mentioned it briefly above... but this issue, to me, was all about depicting the disparate approaches of our heroes.  We've got Nightwing crossing his T's and dotting his I's as he cross-references data and evidence... doing the very thing that Batman had taught him.  On the other hand, we've got that Batman... who has definitely lost his way.  He's acting irrational... he's making deals with the devil in order to follow the mobby breadcrumbs to Zucco's door.  Two different paths... same destination.  Student becomes teacher... teacher becomes a lunatic.

Alfred's bits here were okay.  I can appreciate his loyalty and care toward Dick... but he just came across as overly dramatic here.  I think it's more the art... he is depicted as a hammy actor rather than a concerned parent-figure.  I mean, he gasped with his hand over his mouth... he made ridiculous constipated faces.  Just so hammy.

I had a little fun ragging on the ineffectual Gotham City Police Department above... but, honestly... how could they leave this much evidence behind?  Did they even sweep for prints?  I mean, wouldn't that be among the first thing the Crime Scene Investigators would do?  I'd imagine if they hadn't yet swept, there's no way they'd let a costumed vigilante go stomping around in there.

Overall... another great issue.  We've got a bit more dysfunctional Dick and Bruce... and, lordy... a pretty neat cliffhanger to boot.  Getting some more parallels to Year Two... but I'm not sure if that's just due to our discussing it so recently.  Batman holding a gun... the baddie getting shot to death by a third-party.  I doubt either is a callback, but it's still interesting... at least to me.

Gotta wonder how Dick feels about not being able to get a measure of closure from Zucco.  Not that he was going to "off" him or anything... but, hell, we might have gotten another scene like when Batman confronted Joe Chill... when he unmasked to drive the point home that his chickens were about to come home.  I suppose that's not likely if he intended to allow Zucco to leave the scene breathing air and pumping blood.

Anyhoo... definitely worth checking out.  As with the other two (and probably the next) it's available digitally for your convenience.

--

Letters Page:


 

--

Interesting Ads:


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Batman #437 (1989)


Batman #437 (September, 1989)
"Batman: Year Three, Part 2: Changes Made"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Penciller - Pat Broderick
Inker - John Beatty
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor - Dan Raspler
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

Short preamble today... been fighting a cold for a few days now, and it's starting to win.  Such is the life of a husband of a second-grade teacher, I guess.  Was actually considering just running an early-nineties DC Direct Currents piece to get me by, but I'd rather just keep on keepin' on with Year Three.  While I can still see straight, figure I may as well give it a go!

--


We pick up right where we left off last issue.  The mobby compound has just had a rocket fired into it by a helicopter hovering nearby.  Satisfied with a job well-done, the chopper pilot leaves the scene.  Nobody could have possibly survived that, right?  A-hem.  Anyhoo... we next join Nightwing as he follows the bloody and beaten trail of the Batman.  He notes that Bruce is especially sloppy at the moment... it's quite easy for Dick to trace his steps.  This first step... a bar that Batman questioned some fools at earlier in the night, should serve up a few answers.


And it does!  The bleeding goofballs give up the information pretty quick.  They tell Nightwing about an expected gangland hit at the very location that was just blowed up real nice by the helicopter.  Nightwing hops on his motorcycle, and heads on up.  He finds the wreckage of the compound, and begins to frantically dig through the debris.  He is finally able to find the Batman, who gives him quite the warm reception.  No, not really... he basically tells Dick that he doesn't need him, and he should eff off.  When Nightwing inquires about what is going on... Batman walks off without a word.  Nice.


We shift back to the Manor, where Alfred is lamenting the news that within the week, Tony Zucco... the man who more-or-less murdered the Flying Graysons, will be walking the streets a free man.  He stops in the hallway to admire a portrait of Bruce and Dick on a camp-out during happier days.


This throws us into flashback mode, and we revisit the night that Alfred arrived at St. Jude's Orphanage to pick up his Master's new ward.  On the drive home, he informs Dick that Bruce had also lost his parents to a killer when he was a child.  They arrive at the Manor, and Dick finally meets his new guardian.


Bruce takes Dick on a tour of the home, including such sights as a heated indoor pool, then the questions begin.  Not from Dick... from Bruce.  He asks the boy if he's serious about taking on Zucco.  I mean, that's weird, right?  Dick says sure... but he doesn't want to kill him... after all, it wouldn't bring his loved ones back, right?  At this point Alfred begins acting a bit squirrely... as though he isn't quite comfortable with where this is all headed.  Ultimately, Bruce invites Dick... downstairs.


Now... as if this isn't all weird enough... the dialogue here becomes rather ominous as well.  Dick stands atop the stairs leading into the cave... it's dark... it's scary... the poor kid just got here... and when he asks Alfred where they're headed... well, this is what he gets as a response...

Not too cryptic... 

... Yeah.  Let's put ourselves in Master Richard's shoes for a moment.  An eccentric stranger sends his creepy butler to retrieve you from an orphanage... then suggests you follow him into the dungeon behind the grandfather clock... and then... and then... the creepy butler tells you the stairs lead to Hell.  When you reach the bottom of the stairs... you are blinded by a light... and when that passes, you are standing in front of a 6' man wearing a bat costume,  Wha---?


What follows is a training montage... we watch as Dick and Bruce work together to ensure he's crimefighting-ready.  We see them lift weights, study, research, and computer.  I'm not sure exactly what they're doing with the computer... so, computering works just fine.

Not sure which inspirational 80's song to set this montage to...

Back in the "present", Nightwing arrives at the Manor and chats a bit with Alfred.  Bruce has taken down anything that reminds him of Jason Todd.  It's as though the poor orphan never darkened his doorway.  Dick comments that Bruce has become so violent of late... which is rather unlike him, or at least to these levels.  He heads toward the study, where Bruce is currently brooding.  First, we flashback again... this time to the moment where Bruce handed Dick his first Robin costume.  Thankfully it still has the short-pants.  Not sure why they retconned them out of existence... well, that's not completely true... I have my suspicions why they did that... still, hate when they do stuff like that.  It's almost like they're embarrassed of where they come from.


We join the dynamic duo on their first night out.  They stake out the Nebula Club, which is one of Zucco's holdings.  The pair swoop in and easily take down the mooks inside.  They give the warning... Tony Zucco has been marked!  In the present, Dick enters the study... but Bruce is already gone... but where?


We head to a fairly extravagant mobster meal taking place at a penthouse restaurant.  Batman, disguised as a waiter, listens in to the conversation... however, it seems that nobody really knows who's behind these "hits".


One of the baddies, a Mr. Fairfax, simply suggests spilling as much gang-blood as possible until they find out who has put targets on the backs of "connected" criminals.  A voice from off panel suggests an alternative... why, it's Batman... and he looks like he wants to cut a deal.  It's troubling how often he wanted to do that in his early years.


As we begin our wind down, we peek in at Tony Zucco in prison.  He's got a visitor named Taft... and we learn that he's still got his Book that we mentioned last chapter... he knows everyone's secrets... and with those secrets, he plans to take over the city.  Why, he even seems to have the dirt on the very man visiting him today.


We close out with Dick leaving the Batcave.  We then focus on Alfred... who believes strongly that Tony Zucco must be stopped... that is to say, someone has to stop him... and with that, he enters his room... on his bed, there is a gun.


--

I often struggle with what voice I ought to use when it comes to these post-synopsis notes.  Do I cover the book as if it were my first time reading it, even if it's not?  Do I allow my "experience" with a given issue to dictate the tone?  I'm not sure I have that steady of a track record when it comes to such things.  Hell, I'm not even sure what I do can be considered a "review" in the truest critical sense.

Well, I said that so I can say this... with Batman, things are different.  With Batman, I go through phases... this is very rarely a book I follow for years at a time.  I usually float in and out as the stories call out to me.  As I sit here now, I haven't read Batman since well before Rebirth.  Still collect the thing, because I'm an idiot... but don't have a whole lot of interest in following it at the moment.  That having been said... so many of these classic (and perhaps not-so-classic) Batman stories and issues have sat in longboxes for around a decade.  Reading them today is not dissimilar to reading them for the first time.  Also, this means if I make any predictions... it's because I've honestly forgotten what's coming next.

After all that Nyquil-induced mess... on to the issue in question.

I liked it.  Liked it a lot more than the first chapter... even felt as though Pat Broderick's work was more on point.  It seems as though he's adapting his drawing style for the flashbacks... though, I'm not sure who, or if, he's trying to ape any Golden/Silver-Age artist(s) here.

This issue serves to fill in/clear up more of Dick Grayson's becoming the junior member of the dynamic duo.  I really appreciate how gobsmacked Alfred seems to be here.  He's not too keen on Bruce fighting crime... now, after the introduction of a small child?  Seems pretty nuts!  I know I had a little bit of fun with it above, however, it's something I feel many of us fans simply accept, because... well, that's the way it's always been... and, lets face it... we're already suspending our disbelief anyway.

It's probably because we just finished discussing Year Two... but it feels like certain elements from that story are popping up here.  We've got Batman attempting to form something of an uneasy alliance with the underworld... just like when he was battling The Reaper.  We also have the appearance of a gun.  While it's not Batman wielding it, it's still important.  This time, it's a desperate Alfred Pennyworth who eyeballs the piece.

Now I am a sucker for the dysfunctional Batman and Nightwing dynamic from the early post-Crisis DC.  The scene we get between them is... almost painfully brief, but gives just enough to make us hungry for more.  Love any scene where Dick is trying to "get through" to Bruce.  There's such frustration... from both sides.  Some great storytelling here from Marv.

Overall, I'm still engaged and interested in how this winds up.  Of course, the end result isn't in question... but, there are certainly bits and bobs that I can't for the life of me remember.  Dunno if Zucco goes the way of Joe Chill... really looking forward to finding out.  Definitely recommended.  I feel funny calling this a "fun" story, but it is the best word I can think of to describe it.  This issue, like the one before it, is available digitally for your paper-free convenience.

--

Letters Page:

 

--

Interesting Ads:


Promises, promises...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Batman #436 (1989)


Batman #436 (August, 1989)
"Batman: Year Three - Part One: Different Roads"
Writer - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - Pat Broderick
Inks - John Beatty
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor - Dan Raspler
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

Had such a good time discussing Batman: Year Two earlier in the week, I figured why not hit up Year Three?  Here we learn that Batman didn't take on a boy sidekick until his third year... which would kinda blow that "five-year timeline" the New-52! wanted to establish outta the water, no?

--


We open with Batman watching a ganged-up party take place on a yacht in beautiful, scenic Gotham Harbor... or Bay... or wherever.  He takes notice of the WGCN-TV news copter flying overhead... he thinks it's odd, as usually this time of day that chopper is doing traffic duty over the 101.  Well, that's probably because the helicopter was hijacked by some masked folks who are conducting "gangland style" murders... and do so, in this event by apparently spitting at the yachters.  Okay, okay... they bathe them in a hail of bullets... but tell me that doesn't look like spit?


Batman hitches his bat-line to the landing gear, and goes for a ride... a rather bumpy one.  The baddies inside attempt to give him an up-close and personal introduction to an air traffic control tower... he is, however, able to maneuver so that he springs off the building and dives into the drink... I mean, from the way it's depicted in the art, he flew quite an astonishing distance... like a block and a half at least.  As he pulls himself out, Commissioner Gordon gives him the GCPD Participation Award of "You tried"... and Batman leaves the scene.


We shift scenes to the parole hearing for one Tony Zucco... anyone's ears perk up there?  Anyhoo... Tony is up for parole after having served twelve years for the murder of John and Mary Grayson... remember that number, by the way... They are all set to give him the ol' thumbs up, but understand that they are obliged to listen to any dissenting opinions on the subject... and so, a man is called in to plead his case.


Next we join Dick Grayson as he skulks around Wayne Manor... he mentions that he's been gone for two years now.  He comments how each time he returns, it feels as though he'd never really lived there... even the Batcave feels especially cold.  He wanders through the trophy-case laden area of the cave, and notices that something had been removed since the recent death of his successor-in-tights, Jason Todd.  He does not understand what has become of Bruce in the interim.


He hop back to the hearing... and we find ourselves in flashback mode... to the childhood of Tony Zucco.  Ya see, he was a weak little kid, got picked on by his bully of a father... who in turn was picked on by the street-hoods offering "protection money" to his small sidewalk produce stand.  Young Tony watched as his parents were murdered... seems to be a theme in these Bat-books, don't it?


Tony is taken to live at St. Jude's orphanage, where one day he was found by a novice-nun praying at a statue.  She approaches him to inquire as to what he's praying about... and he responds by saying he was praying for the deaths of the thugs who killed his parents.  She asks him if that would make his parents come back... which doesn't really work on this sociopath... he still wants these dudes dead.


And so... he kills them!  For real... he stabs them both, however, in his haste he left the address of the "hit" scrawled on a piece of paper that the novice-nun Elizabeth was able to find.  For her troubles, she gets slashed in the face.  Real nice, Tony...  I gotta say though, seeing Tony madly dashing through the streets with lightning flashing in the background is an absolute riot!  Over the next little while, Tony worked his way up the ranks of organized crime.  He was known as "Book" because he kept notes on just about everything.


The parole board stops the man from continuing his story for a moment.  They've heard all of this before... thank you, good day... all that jazz.  The man, however, tells them to settle down, he's not talking about the people Tony killed... he wants to tell them about the Grayson who lived.  Dick Grayson... whose parent were taken from him almost ten years ago.  Waitasec, how was Tony in prison for twelve years for a crime he committed less than a decade ago?


Another flashback... this time we're at Haly's Circus (I always thought it was Haley's... but, who knows).  Young Dick Grayson is everyone's pal... everyone's favorite tot.  He gets along swimmingly with everybody... hell, even Elinore the elephant seems to be infatuated with him.  One day, a family approaches the Flying Graysons for a photo... they have a young son named Tim, who is of absolutely no significance and we'll probably never eeeeeever see again.

Who's that boy?

Before the show, Dick overhears Tony Zucco hustling Mr. Haly for some "protection money"... hmmm.  Well, Old Man Haly tells him and his associates to hit the skids.  That night during the show... well, we all know how that goes.  The Graysons plummet from the trapeze to their tragic demise.


In the moments that follow, the initial shock sorta passes and everyone's eyes move big-topward... it's the Batman.  Dick tells him about what he'd overheard from Zucco... and Batman promises he'll take care of it.  I get the feeling for a second that it's Plastic Man under the cowl, because dude's right hand gets way swollen.


James Gordon arrives on the scene, and it is ultimately decided that Dick should reside at... St. Jude's Orphanage.  Upon arrival, he is handed over to Sister Elizabeth... whose face thankfully didn't scar.  Dick expresses a desire to kill the man who took his parents.  She asks him, like she asked Tony, if that would bring them back.  Dick begins to cry.


We return to the hearing, and we learn that the man speaking before the panel was Alfred.  He gets the whole "we'll take it under advisement" spiel... 


We rejoin Dick in the Batcave, where he is still thinking about how Bruce is dealing... or not dealing, with the death of Jason Todd.  He decides it's time to track the Batman down to chat... as Nightwing!


We wrap up the issue with Batman checking in with who he believes will be the next hit on the "gangland" killing spree.  He bursts into a window to warn the goofballs, however before anyone can flee a helicopter fires a missile into the compound, blowing it to kingdom come.


--

Well, it's Dick Grayson's origin innit?  I really like the way this one is framed.  We get some continuation of the ongoing Bat stories, while taking a look at a sorta-kinda updated Robin origin.  Not bad at all.

Could'a done without the "fleshing out" of Tony Zucco.  Seemed to be a thing, where we need to learn about the upbringing of our baddies.  I feel like this works very seldom... I don't want to empathize with Tony frickin Zucco.  I want to think he's a sociopath and a scumbag... not that he was abused as a child... or that he saw his parents killed before his very eyes.

Though, I do get why they did this.  This was a juxtapositional (if that's even a word) look at the similar paths thrust upon a young Tony Zucco and a young Dick Grayson... and from those similar paths how they wound up at two very different destinations.  With that in mind, I suppose it worked as well as it was going to.

Overall... the story was fine.  Like I said, the framing sequence is great.  I like that Dick is trying to chip away at Bruce's unwillingness to address the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd.  This was a strange time for Dick and Bruce... very tense, and a lot of fun to read.  This story is a Robin-stravaganza, as we also meet... ya know, a tiny tot named Tim.  If my sarcasm during the synopsis wasn't horribly explicit enough, that little fella is indeed Tim Drake... and this is his first appearance.

Now, where this issue really struggles... and it kills me to say this... is in the art.  This just does not feel like Pat Broderick, who I usually quite dig... I mean, in a single page we can go from excellent to ehhh to blech.  I made some pithy comments during the synopsis about spitty bullets and mutated arms... but that's really just the tip of it.  I dunno... my "takes" on art are often much different than others... but, I gotta say... a lot of this looks and feels rushed... which isn't to say it was, because the quality levels are quite intermittent throughout.  I dunno... I'm never comfortable criticizing art, but suffice it to say... this was not my cup of tea.

Now despite my few misgivings, this is great book to pick up if you're a Batfan... or Robin-fan especially.  It's always nice to read a Dick Grayson story penned by the great Marv Wolfman.  Shockingly, this one is available digitally.  Glad I'm not a betting man, cuz I'd have lost that one.

Gonna close out with a picture.  I'm a sucker for any issue where Batman chucks a batarang at a dude's head!


--

Letters Page:

 

--

Interesting Ads:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...