Friday, November 11, 2016

Batman #416 (1988)


Batman #416 (February, 1988)
"White Gold and Truth"
Writer - Jim Starlin
Penciller - Jim Aparo
Inker - Mike DeCarlo
Letterer - Agustin Mas
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

Once upon a time... one Robin met another.  Today we're going to go back in to the early post-Crisis era to check out the first meeting of Dick Grayson and Jason Todd.

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We open on a rooftop with Robin (Jason Todd) gazing into a skylight window.  Inside is a cocaine lab with a general assortment of shady folks lingering about.  What Jason does not account for is that security is top among this drug den's priorities.  He gets sucker-punched from behind and winds up falling through the skylight into the lab below.  The baddies, as you may assume, do not take kindly to interlopers.


Luckily, young Jason had himself something of a guardian angel on this night.  The rooftop bouncer soon plummets into the lab, thrown in by Robin's predecessor... Nightwing.


Rather than starting a bruhaha, Dick just tells the gang to stand down.  He apologizes for Robin's transgression, and tosses a wad of bills at the boss... which should cover all the damages made.  He grabs the new Boy Wonder by the elbow and proceeds to drag him out... despite Robin's protests to the contrary.


Ya see, Robin struck this particular den a day too early.  There were no drugs in the house... yet.  They were set to deliver the following day... at which point, Dick assumes they will bug out and find new digs to process the powder.  In other words, Robin screwed up his sting.  No Drugs = No Bust.  Dick tells Jason to go home and tell Batman how bad he bungled things tonight... then tells him that he will talk to "Bruce" in "the cave" the following day.  Jason is shocked to find that this Nightwing knows Batman's secret identity.


The following morning we join Jason and Bruce in the middle of their daily workout.  It is here that Bruce informs Jason that Nightwing was in fact his predecessor.  Bruce does not appear to be all that thrilled that Dick is going to pay him a visit.  Jason heads off to school, and Nightwing arrives in short order.  Bruce comments that it annoys him that Dick still appears to treat the Batcave as though it's his home.


Dick and Alfred have a brief reunion before our "main event".  I gotta say, it starts out preeeetty chilly.


Nightwing removes his mask, and begins what is perhaps his first true man-to-man talk with the man that raised him.  He wants to know why Bruce has enlisted a new Robin.  Batman seems incredibly displeased with the conversation right off the bat (pun!).  He faces Dick and implies that he owes him no such explanation.  It's really quite powerful, and we haven't even gotten to the "big" stuff yet.


Dick reminds him of what they'd been through together over the years, including the time he (Dick) was shot in the shoulder by the Joker.  That was the event that kinda knocked some sense into the Batman... where he realized that he was endangering the life of a child in his war on crime.


It was after this encounter with the Joker that Bruce dumped Dick as a partner.  To which, Dick decided to finally leave home.  With only a bit of cash Alfred had "forced" on him, he went about living life.  He enrolled in college, though was unceremoniously asked not to return after only a single semester... he worked with the (old) Teen Titans... he adopted a new identity... and is the leader of the (New) Teen Titans.  He's been a rather busy boy since leaving the manor.


Dick continues... he expresses disappointment that Bruce himself never told him about the new Robin, instead he found out while reading the newspaper.  Again, he asks why Batman took on a new sidekick... and again, we get no reply.


Dick demands Bruce take off the "damn mask" and tell him why he kicked him to the curb, and then took on another boy sidekick.  Man, I hope my commentary doesn't ruin the flow... but, the first time I read this, I got a bit goosebumpy.


Bruce tells him the only reason he "fired" him, was because he'd already learned everything Bruce might have taught him.  This really sets Dick off, as it appears as though young Grayson is seeing patterns in Bruce's M.O. where he always hurts the people around him before they have the chance to hurt him.


As for the new boy, Bruce recounts Jason's (post-Crisis) origin... stolen Batmobile wheels and all.  He talks about Jay's self-destructive tendencies, and makes the rather bold statement that by taking him in, he just might have saved Jason Todd's life.  A-hem, 'fraid I got some baaad news, Bruce.


Dick sees right through this, and calls Bruce out on it.


Bruce seems incredibly rattled by Dick's call of "B.S."  After a moment of silence, he fires back... he claims Gotham is too big a job for just him alone.  Again... and this is great... Dick calls him out.


What follows is an amazingly powerful page.  Bruce lashes out, smashing a glass table.  He finally breaks down and admits... that he brought Jason in because he was lonely.  He missed Grayson.  Dick reaches out, however is stopped.  Bruce asks him to please leave... and so he does.


We jump ahead to the evening.  Nightwing is camped out on the rooftop of the new drug den.  He is shortly joined by his successor.  Dick suggests the two of them team-up on this caper, and even gives Jason his last (and largest) Robin uniform.  More importantly, he gives him his phone number.  He knows what it's like to be a Robin... and he wants to be there if the kid ever feels the need to talk... or vent.


It isn't long before they witness the drugs being delivered... and then it's time to kick butt.  They make extremely short work of the gang members and even partake in some witty banter as they do so.


We wrap up with the Boys Wonder shaking hands and celebrating a job well done.  What neither of them notice is they are being watched... by the Batman, who for the first time in this issue, perhaps the first time in a long while... cracks a smile.


--

Damn.

Damn damn.

This was one helluva comic book.  I mean, I expected it to be good... but to say it exceeded my expectations would be an understatement.  This is such a wonderful examination of the Bruce Wayne / Dick Grayson relationship... all leading up to Bruce admitting that he experienced something of an (heh) empty nest syndrome when Robin "flew the coop".

I appreciate there being a contentious relationship between Dick and Bruce.  There is that concept that familiarity breeds contempt... and with these two... they were the only other person with which they could relate on a deeper level (in the post-Crisis anyway).  On a personal level... you know like there are those times you can joke around with your boss... like you're real pals?  Then suddenly something comes up... rank is pulled... and you're back to being a subordinate?  That's kind of how I look at Bruce and Dick's dynamic.  Bruce can (and will) "pull rank".

Now Dick has grown into his own man.  He assembled and leads the Teen Titans... and he's even gone so far as to shed the Robin identity.  Not only is he an adult, he is someone that Batman sees as an adult.  Having Dick call Bruce out on his BS excuses for taking on another sidekick was such a powerful scene.  You'd figure someone as smart as Batman would realize when he can and cannot get away with lying.

The bits between Dick and Jason were also great.  You really get that big brother-little brother feel... which I think is the best way to play it.  I really like how it seems that Dick feels a measure of responsibility for the welfare of his successor.  I dug Dick giving Jason his number... hell, I swear I'd read an entire issue filled with nothing more than a phone conversation between the two of them.  You gotta figure they've got a whole lotta Bat-venting swelling up inside of them.

This is definitely one of the best comics I've read since starting this blog... nearly a year ago, jeez!  I'm not sure if it's collected anywhere, but as luck would have it... DC's got it up on their digital site.  This gets one of my highest recommendations.

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1 comment:

  1. Both Bruce and Dick came off as jerks in this issue in relation to the subject of Jason. Perhaps it was this issue that started the downward spiral for Jason Todd's career as Robin? Though something tells me that it started going down a lot sooner than that.

    ReplyDelete

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