Batman #453 (1990)

Batman #453 (Late August, 1990)
“Dark Knight, Dark City: Part II”
Writer – Peter Milligan
Pencils – Kieron Dwyer
Inks – Dennis Janke
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Assoc. Edits – Dan Raspler
Edits – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00

There’s that episode of The Twilight Zone people like me (compulsive comic book collectors) like to refer to from time to time… we keep buying books… fleshing out our collections… in the hopes that one day in the future we will be faced with TIME.  Nothing but time… all the time in the world.  Time, when our books will no longer go unread.

Because today… between work, school, and family… when faced with a scant few moments to read (and write about) any given comic… my choices are so vast… overwhelmingly so, that I fear I will ultimately come up empty-handed.  Like, pick a number between 1 and 10… okay, 6.  Now, pick a number between 1 and 10,000.  Ummm… err… uh…

With the amount of choices available, and so many books I want to share… it’s just so hard to pick just one.  I see a Legion of Super-Heroes book that kinda interests me… oh, but there’s Doom Patrol… and Catwoman… and, All-Star Squadron… ooh, Watchmen!  Hawkworld!  I want so bad to read everything… that it’s almost easier to read nothing at all.

Now, why in the bluest of hells do I bring this up today?  Well, I feel like I lucked out in being reminded of this story line earlier this week.  It took away all of the pressure from picking this weekend’s books.  That’s truly half the battle!

Enough of that stream of consciousness that will probably only make sense to me… and on to our second chapter.  Of course, you can still check out my coverage of the first part, right here.

When we last left Batman he was about to be attacked by what appeared to be a zombie at the Gotham Military Cemetery.  As it turns out, he’s actually about to be attacked by a good half-dozen of them!  The Riddler and a couple of flunkies look on from a nearby “control center” style van.  The toadies seem to think the Riddler may just be losing the few marbles he’s got left!

The battle continues on, and Batman winds up tearing off one of the zombie’s arms to find that it’s clearly not organic.  This “danse macabre” consists of several robo-zombies… and one Riddler thug in Walking Dead cosplay, who we’ll call Jimmy.  As the tide turns in Batman’s favor, the Riddler triggers an explosive device he’d affixed to Jimmy’s neck to keep him from squealing.

Poor Jimmy lay dead, having just had his throat blown out… and the Riddler’s other henchmen begin to protest… after all, Jimmy was their pal!  The Riddler ain’t having none of it, and threatens to do the same or worse to the rest of them.  He instructs them to drive off.

As they pull out of the cemetery, Batman flings himself onto the windshield.  The driver jams on the brakes, and sends Batman flying.  The driver then stomps the gas, with designs of making Batman into roadkill… only to be stopped by the Riddler.  The strangeness of this event is not lost on Batman, and he now realizes that the Riddler wants him alive for a certain reason… so much so, that he’d even go as far as saving his life were it in peril.

Batman returns to the site of the danse macabre to investigate.  He finds poor dead Jimmy… and thinks how much the Riddler’s M.O. has changed of late.  Nearby, he hears crying… he’s found the second baby, safe and sound laying in front of a tombstone… which sounds strange to say, but here we are.  On the tombstone is a riddle… You’ll find another little tot at the 25th who was shot.

We jump back to the late 1700’s, and the fallout of that bat-shaped daemon appearing during the unholy ritual being conducted by Thomas Jefferson’s secret society.  Being the manly men the society members were… they run out of their little underground clubhouse/temple (leaving the young woman they were to sacrifice behind with the daemon, mind you)… and hammer boards over the entrance.  We’re then treated with an awesome page (that kind of reminds me of R. Crumb’s A Short History of America) depicting how the area that the underground temple inhabited had changed over the past two-hundred years… as in, it’s now a real seedy area of Gotham City.

What next?

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce is trying to figure out the latest riddle.  He’s positively stumped, and falls asleep in mid-thought.  His dreams… okay, you know what Bruce dreams about… I know what Bruce dreams about… let’s just get into it.  He dreams about a night he and his parents went to see The Mask of Zorro… ring any bells?  It’s kind of a lucid dream this night… he remembers passing McKinley Street.

He wakes up in a panic… knowing the answer to the riddle… but this answer begets more questions.  McKinley was the 25th President of the United States… and he was assassinated… does this somehow tie in with the murder of the Waynes?  Does the Riddler know Bruce is really Batman?  Too many disparate things are lining up for Bruce to completely dismiss this only a coincidence.

We shift scenes to the Riddler and two of his henchmen.  One is testing a flamethrower, and the other is holding the (leaky) third baby.  Nigma is juggling ping pong balls, and appears to be overly concerned with their size… There is a third henchmen, however, he appears to be partially eaten by the Riddler’s newly delivered “pets”.

Batman arrives at an all-night tavern on McKinley Street… and pops in to ask some questions.  At the bar, there’s a bartender and a blotto fellow, both appear to know nothing.  Just then, a van backs through the bar’s window… and flings it’s back doors open, revealing a pair of angry, and hungry pit bull terriers.  The dogs start taking chunks out of the other patrons in the bar!

The darker furred dog gets shot by the blotto… who turns out to be an off-duty GCPD officer.  The lighter furred one, lunges right for Batman, who is able to just barely hold it at bay.  He’s handed a silver knife… by somebody (perhaps the bartender), and proceeds to plunge it directly into the dog’s heart.  When the dust (and fur) has settled, Batman notices that the bartender has beat a hasty retreat.

Thanks, citizen!

Batman checks out the van, and finds that it’s been wired for sound.  The Riddler is giving him his next location… clearly he knew the dogs would only serve as a brief diversion.  He tells Batman where to meet him, and flat out threatens that the third baby may soon be dead from choking.

Batman is led to a manhole at Hamilton and Wright.  Once descended, he is blinded by rather powerful spotlight… and beaten with clubs by Nigma’s men.  Batman narrowly beats the geeks, employing some fancy bataranging… and is then faced with the Riddler.

The Riddler has set the third baby down in a crib… and plainly states that there is a small (but not too small) ping pong ball lodged in its throat… and the baby is currently turning blue.  Nigma casually walks off to let Batman try and work his way out of this one.

Batman tries patting the baby on the back to dislodge it… and when it doesn’t budge realizes that the Riddler intended this ball to be almost perfectly stuck in the child’s throat.  There’s no time to get help, or make it to the hospital… if Batman wants to save this child, he will have to take matters into his own hands.  We close with Batman standing over the crib… brandishing a knife.

Heavy stuff here… and man, the Riddler is a scary dude.  It’s insane watching him toy with Batman… a guy who’s not used to being toyed with… a guy I’m not used to seeing anybody toy with!  Here’s this silly, campy villain… and he is just wrecking Batman… physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

I neglected to mention the art when I discussed the first chapter, as I was planning on discussing that after finishing the entire arc… but, Dwyer delivers here!  This is truly amazing stuff.  Add to that the Mike Mignola covers, and this is one damn fine looking funnybook.  Everything from the danse macabre, to the fight with a pair of dogs… looks amazing.  This (and the first chapter) are bloody books… yet, never come across as looking flat-out gory.  That’s a testament to the talents of Dwyer, Janke, and Roy!

My only complaint about this issue is the reliance on “that night”.  I know it’s just something that happens in Batman books, hell, we got a reference to it just a few days ago when we discussed the Mud Pack story line.  I really feel like each creator, when given a Batman assignment really wants to be able to include that scene… it’s not a bad thing in and of itself… but it can (and does) become tiresome.

Overall, a great middle-chapter for this disturbing Bat-tale… one that’s definitely worth seeking out.  The cliffhanger is riveting… will we actually see Batman try a perform a tracheotomy on a week-old baby?  We’ll get to the bottom of it tomorrow… 

… and next week, it’s beginning to look a lot like… something…

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