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!

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