Friday, July 21, 2006

A Lonely Place of Dying Chapter Five: Rebirth (DC comics)
Batman #442 When: 1989
Why: Marv Wolfman & George Perez How: Jim Aparo

The story so far...
Somewhere in space Superboy-Prime is pounding on reality, eventuating in some dramatic changes, but for the time being, Jason Todd is recently deceased.

The Batman has retreated into himself, and a young man named Tim Drake, who has deduced the identities of Batman, Robin and Nightwing - Bruce Wayne, Jason Todd and Dick Grayson, respectively - believes the Batman needs a Robin to remain in tact.

Thus, sponsored by Alfred, Tim Drake dons the tights and cape and goes to save Batman and Nightwing from certain doom at the hands of Two-Face.
With Batman and Nightwing trapped in a collapsed building that Two-Face has blown up for double-good measure -- can Tim Drake - Robin - save the day?

Recommended reading:
Batman: The Long Halloween #0-#12: One of the greatest Two-Face stories ever told.
Batman #647: Batman & Jason Todd team to take on a trio of members from The Society of super villains!
DC versus Marvel #1: A disorientated Bullseye takes Robin hostage in the Batcave. KAPOW!

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Robin 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Nightwing 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Batman 2 (Projectile Weapons)

Not a single category. Two-Face is totally fucked.
Seriously, taking on the entire bat-family, let alone one of them alone is just totally ridiculous. Especially when you're Two-Face, whose insanity revolves around duality, indecisiveness, and a pistol.

There is no math in the world that makes this seem like a good idea. Not even the Anti-Life Equation itself could save a lone Two-Face's bacon against the terrific trio.

Being that Two-Face was one of the very few classic characters never to appear in the sixties series, this logic might not apply, but there's always the three Ls: Luck, lackeys and location.
If Two-Face can somehow get some thugs to pull a fast one on ol' Bat-boob, knock him out, and drag him into an elaborate set-up device, he might have a chance. The odds of Two-Face having something like... I dunno... a giant perpetually spinning coin, which, once exceeding a certain speed will spin Nightwing's pretty face off, well... Those odds aren't great.

Especially since we're travelling to the eighties this week.
This is the era of some respectability for the Dark Knight detective. There's no way something that cornball could work... or could it?!?

What went down...
Okay, yeah... Robin saved the day, and there's probably a fight there to be featured another day.

Meanwhile -- despite being shut down, distraught, and reluctant to take another ward in the wake of Jason Todd's death, Batman decides to postpone further deliberation until Two-Face is defeated, and brings Tim Drake along for the ride anyway.

Being the world's greatest detective, it doesn't take long to track Two-Face to a vehicle scrap yard. There, Two-Face can hardly believe his bad luck, and desperately seeks advice from a 24-7 news radio network.

Batman orders Drake to stay in the car while he and Nightwing spring into battle, but just as he does a wrecking ball comes swinging in their direction.
The ball strikes a pile of crushed car bodies, sending them tumbling right before the Batman's eyes onto the Batmobile. Onto Tim Drake!
Or so he thinks!...

Though the car is crushed, the quick thinking Tim Drake hopped out of the vehicle to hide beneath it escaping certain doom, much to the approval of the Dark Knight.

In the wrecking crane control seat, Nightwing discovers Two-Face has disappeared, only to feel the rumbling of a bulldozer heading right for him!
Two-Face charges through the broken scrap heaps, and rams the crane, but Nightwing is able to sommersault free.

Batman tries to keep a concerned Tim Drake clear, while former the former Robin, Nightwing, springs into action.
He scales a stack of wrecked vehicles, and then leaps onto the out-of-control wrecking ball, using it's frantic sway to swing across the yard to swoop down on the dastardly DA.

Nightwing meanders too long, and Two-Face gets the drop on him with a piece of junk. Right to the face!
Nightwing's survival rests in the fate of the coin toss, but as the coin makes it's descent, a dark blue glove snatches the coin out of the air and delivers a stern message; "No, Harvey, it's your mistake."

"Or Robin?" "Or Robin!"

Awwww, it's an arse whooping the whole family can appreciate.

The hammer...
The winner, and still champion, Batman, with some fine assistance from Nightwing and Robin. Hah, but honestly, was there any doubt?
For those playing the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths home scoring game, you'll know that Batman is not only the monthly reigning number one, but he's also undefeated.
Should that change? Write in, drop a comment, and maybe let us know.

Meanwhile, everyone party. Yes, it's actually September 26th, but this post was scheduled for July 21st - my birthday! Hussah!

It was this special event that inspired the pseudo-themed selections for this month, and this stop is probably the most special. Mostly because I was in my formative and happiest comic reading years in the eighties and nineties.
Which was a fantastic time to be comics fan, because they were quite literally available everywhere. I kick myself now in hindsight for not buyin that one issue of Wolverine with Deadpool in it from the service station. They were just everywhere.

I don't know what the American equivalent is, but we have stores we call newsagencies. They're stores that chiefly sell magazines, newspapers, stationery and maybe some other crap, these days.
You're slowly seeing comics coming back to these places, but when I was a kid there was an entire wall at one particular store, and it was just the coolest thing. I mean literally, this must have been the biggest section in the entire place.

So, here's me, all two, three feet of me, staring up at this mountain of colours, and characters, and just sheer excitement and wonder personified. It's something, deep down, that I kinda miss.

I was a terrible reader as a kid, too.
I had a lot of different interests, and over the years I've connected with firends through sports, or music, or movies, or whatever -- but comics has rarely been the common ground. It's just been one of those things I've always done, and that made for a unique experience.

I kind of went through my comics years in a vaccuum.
There was no internet, and even when I went to the comic store proper, I didn't really stop to talk to people. So, I just bought comics based on what I liked the look of at the time.
There was no allegiance to a title, or a writer, or an artist, or anything else. I just bought characters I liked, and whatever felt interesting at the time.
So, in that respect, I missed out on some of the good and some of the bad. For example, my first Image comic wasn't until the very recent Powers #11, because they just carried the stigma, for me as a general fan, of those early Liefeld-ian stories.

It was an interesting way to grow familiar with comics, and I think it's maybe given me a little bit of a heads up over other readers. I'm usually not too fussed by mountains of continuity, and I'm not particularly interested in the trends.
Hopefully some of that reflects on this site, which maybe has some diversity, and showcases some genuine interests that you might care to share.

But, to talk a little bit about this issue (before the readership dies off completely)... Wow, what a strange issue as a youngster.
It actually contains many of the things I despise as a Batman fan. It's got Robin, which, y'know, I don't hate, but prefer to keep in small doses, while the kid goes off and plays with the Titans.
Equally frustrating is the blue and grey, and the yellow Bat-symbol. Things I was glad to see go after the change was made in the animated series.

Actually, I don't really come back to DC comics [since childhood] until Batman loses the yellow symbol. It's more coincidence than anything else, but you damn sure don't see me clamboring for nineties back issues.

Anyway, despite those misgivings, it's actually a pretty decent issue.
When I was growing up reading comics I read a combination of various eighties (and nineties) new releases, with a combination of sixties/seventies/eighties back issues and reprints.

For whatever reason, that meant I mostly missed out on Jason Todd, and through new issues I met Tim Drake, and through the reprints, I lived Dick Grayson.
Always regarding Dick Grayson as the Robin, this issue provided a way for my young brain to accept and acknowledge the new Robin for all he could [and would] be.
I probably don't regard him as such, but if I have a Robin, Tim Drake is probably it.

One of the things that stuck with me as a kid was how eerie this issue kinda felt.
It's not murder and zombies and the grotesque, like other scary Batman comics. This just has a very spooky, frightening reality to a young Mike.

Two-Face has trapped Batman and Nightwing in a collapsing building, and then just for crazy-psycho kicks blows the rubble up. So, you have this blue tinted dark comic with an inexperienced Robin trying to free a buried Batman and Nightwing from the rubble.
And all of this comes after Alfred and Tim confronted Two-Face, and got bricks and shit smacked around with a crowbar. Even just the threat to Alfred felt very real, and very grim, and not in the catchy marketing grim 'n' gritty sense, either.

So, Alfred's almost been killed. Batman and Nightwing have almost been killed. Young kid who wants to be Robin is probably going to be killed.
It's a pretty dark premise, and then Robin manages to free a disorientated and confused Dark Knight, and it gets spookier.

Again, this isn't the over the top Miller Batman, or other marketable grim Batman interpretations. This is a closed off, and very stern father-figure like Batman.
He's got this scowl on his face the entire time, and he's kind of peeved about this strange kid running around dressed like Robin -- who died not long ago.
It was again, kinda scary as a kid.

The final element of the spook is a touch, presumably from Aparo to signify the damage sustained in the blast, is these little cracks all over Batman and Nightwing.
They're not just isolated to cowl, cape and costume either. They have these little spooky, stone-like cracks laid out sparsely all over them.

I can't tell you why, but it was spooky, and made the violence seem unusually real.

So, there you go. A flashback of some fond memories from the past.

The Fight: 2.5 The Issue: 5

NEXT: It's Clobberin' Time! The Thing goes out for a stroll, and finds himself frightfully outnumbered - four to one! Time travel July winds up in the seventies!

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