Detective Comics #577 (1987)

Detective Comics #577 (August, 1987)
“Batman: Year Two – Chapter Three: Deadly Allies”
Writer – Mike W. Barr
Penciller – Todd McFarlane
Inker – Alfredo Alcala
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Letterer – John Costanza
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

Who’s ready for the wackiest issue of The Brave and the Bold yet?  Today we’ve got the strange team-up of Batman and… Joe Chill?

We open with Batman visiting the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  We get a brief revisit to Year One where the bat crashed through the Manor window, and son tries to justify to father why he’s gone down the path of aligning with the very man who put him in the ground.  He is approached by Leslie Thompkins… and though, I might be reading too far into this… he instinctively reaches for his firearm… they briefly chat, and part with Leslie informing Bruce that she’ll be praying from him.

We shift to later that night where Batman meets up with his partner (in crime)… Joe Chill.  They are seeking to infiltrate a building… one that is topped by a pair of armed sentries.  Chill’s first instinct is to start picking them off with his pistol, but Batman coerces him to try doing it “his way”.

Batman swoops in and disarms the baddies… and yet, Chill still squeezes off a few rounds.  Batman is able to knock the sentries out of the path of the bullets… and thus far, nobody had died.  The pair enter the building and approach the door of their “bounty”.  Chill admires Batman’s gun… and mentions that he once carried a piece just like that.  Ya don’t say…

They access the situation… and kind of discuss strategy… then Chill kicks in the door and starts a’blastin’.  Batman fires off a few shots himself… but all are aimed at the blunt weapons of the folks in the apartment… he’s definitely not shooting to kill, or even injure.  Chill… well, he doesn’t seem to care who or what he hits.  With all the hippies in the pad “downed”, Batman and Chill approach a door graffito-tagged with the ominous warning “Keep Out”.  A bald fella guards the door.

Batman approaches the thug… trying to reason with him so he steps aside.  He doesn’t get all that far, because Joe Chill decides this is the time to “take that shot”.  Batman is pretty ticked off… but not so mad as to divert from their mission.  They continue along together…

… into a room inhabited by a… hippie… named Sunshine!  Our men twist his arm to do a “job” for their “bosses”.  We’ll find out more about that in a bit.  Batman and Chill part ways… with Joe commenting that they “make a pretty good team”.  That is, of course, something Batman doesn’t wanna hear.

Chill reports to his masters and shares the news of their successful mission.  They convinced “Sunshine” to work a drug deal big enough to attract the attention of the Reaper.  The boss-baddies express their distrust of Batman… and unease in working with him.  Chill is given the okay to take him out just as soon as the Reaper is “done”.

We briefly pop in on Commissioner Gordon, where he and Lieutenant Bukowski are discussing their briefing on the hippie drug deal… they will be ready to roll on Friday.

Next thing we know it is Friday… and we catch back up with Bruce as he and Leslie are about to arrive at the Caspian home for a dinner.  In the car Bruce mentions that he cares for Rachel more than any other woman he’s ever met… which, ya know… kinda sounds like a latent codependency problem.  Shouldn’t really be this stuck on someone he just met, right?  And remember how she was about to join the convent?  Yeah… that’s not happening anymore.  Maybe these two are meant for each other.  Anyhoo… Bruce meets Mr. Caspian, and they appear to get along swimmingly.  That’s not much of a surprise, they are both quite charismatic when out of costume.  The evening ends early though, as both gentlemen have plans later that night.

It’s hippie time, and Batman and the Reaper are both en route to the drug den.  Batman meets up with Joe Chill… and the Reaper, well… he kills an undercover officer who is posing as a drunken vagrant.  Whoops.

We watch as the Reaper infiltrates the building, leaving a path of bodies in his wake.  Batman and Chill are on his tail… as well as Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD.  Batman and Chill burst into the room the Reaper is in with their guns blazing.  Chill’s got a semi-automatic that he is pumping directly into the Reaper’s chest, while Batman appears to be firing the hinges off a door.  They’re pretty careful not to show Batman actually shooting anybody… but it’s strange that he’s perfectly okay standing alongside Chill as he pumps lead into a man’s torso.

The bullets do nothing to stop the Reaper, and he begins returning fire.  During the gunfight, the Gotham City Police Department enter the fray… led by Jim Gordon.  Batman shouts a warning to his old friend, and even throws himself at him to knock him out of the path of fire.  Gordon’s response is to sock Batman in the jaw and proclaim him “under arrest”.  Yeah… right.

Batman grabs one of the fallen officer’s flare guns and fires it skyward.  Joe Chill, being a complete asshat, opens fire at a barrel full of ether (which was part of this drug deal, apparently)… which causes an explosion.  The blast knocks Chill to the edge of the floor… he is barely hanging on.  If he were to let go, he’d surely fall to his death.  He calls out to his “partner” Batman… who, after hesitating for a moment… saves Joe Chill’s life.

We wrap up this chapter with Batman carrying Chill to safety.  Even though tonight wasn’t a success (The Reaper got away), he’s still pleased that they “iced” some hippies and cops.  Whatta jerk.  Batman fondles his gun, and vows to his father that once The Reaper affair is behind him… he will kill Joe Chill.

Well… this is more like it.

Definitely not a perfect issue… there’s stuff I don’t dig about it, but we’ll get to that in a bit.  I feel this was a much stronger chapter than the last one though… in just about every way.  The art is much more “Toddy” than the second part… which may be due to it being a bit of a rush job.  Can’t be sure, but in the letters page Denny O’Neil mentions that Alan Davis (along with inker Paul Neary) left due to a shift in their priorities… which, I think might have to do with Marvel’s Excalibur title at this point… and there may have been a scramble, or simply not enough lead time for McFarlane… or hell, maybe he just needed to get his feel for the cast of characters.  Either way… the art here is a big step up.

The writing, while still the high quality we expect from Barr, did something pretty interesting… at least to me.  I never expected that a highlight of this story would be… Joe Chill.  He’s written with this strange charisma… I’d almost compare it him to Guy Gardner… but I think that would tick off the Guy fans… It’s just that aloofness, and means to an end approach to things… and the fact that he is an unrepentant a-hole… he’s just interesting to read.

Speaking of a means to an end… that’s kinda how I would define the story that unfolded here.  I mean, let’s face it… there really isn’t much of a “best case scenario” here.  People were always going to die, or at the very least, be hurt.  Despite Batman’s best efforts… this might be his highest indirect-casualty count to this point in his crime fighting career.  Just like Chill said… Omelettes and Eggs.

I appreciated Batman actually having to save Joe from certain death.  I’d like to think that it’s just his style to save anybody without prejudice… but, we get a better indication as to why he saved him as we closed out.  He wants to take care of Chill himself… it’s (obviously) personal… and he wants him to know why.

Where it kind of falls apart for me is Bruce being so attached to Rachel Caspian.  Bruce has always kept folks at arm’s reach… this kind of feels like him inviting Vicki Vale into the Batcave in the 1989 film.  Just… too soon.  Like, I’m cool with them being in a relationship… but this nonsense about never caring about anyone like he cares for Rachel just rings super hollow.  Keeping with Rachel… she sure threw her convent hopes aside quickly, right?  That’s like dropping out of college with two classes to go… sorta something that should be explored a bit more than a throwaway comment during a dinner party.

Small nitpicks aside… a strong chapter as we approach the end of Year Two.  Still worth checking out if you can find a copy.

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