Batman #438 (1989)

Batman #438 (September, 1989)
“Batman: Year Three, Chapter Three: Turnabout”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Penciller – Pat Broderick
Inker – John Beatty
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor – Dan Raspler
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00

Still feeling the sick.  Let’s get right to it.

We pick up right where we left off.  Alfred is now sitting on his bed and he’s holding a very oddly-shaped gun.  He considers the possibility of snuffing out Zucco… he ultimately decides he cannot cross that line… not even for Master Dick.  He figures there’s gotta be a better way.  Speaking of Nightwing, we catch up with him as he rides to the next hit.  Along the way he flashes back to the events of A Death in the Family, which features a Wolverine-haired Joker beating young Jason to a pulp.

At the crime scene, Commissioner Gordon is giving a statement to the press.  Nightwing heads around back and asks if it’s cool for him to snoop around a bit.  The Detective on duty says it’s fine, however, doubts anything will turn up… and thus, proves how ineffectual the Gotham City Police Department can be.  It doesn’t take long for Dick to turn up a a silk thread from a parachute as well as a bit of glass with a fingerprint on it.  Okay… I can see the cops mayyyybe missing the thread… but a fingerprint?  C’mon…

We shift scenes to Batman as he stands before a pack of gun-wielding mobsters.  He plays it cool, and tells them if they kill him, he can no longer protect them from whoever’s out there head-hunting.  Basically, he’s their best (perhaps only) hope of survival.

Before we get an answer… we pop back over to Alfred.  He’s at the generically named Gotham Prison, and has requested a face-to-face audience with Tony Zucco.  Surprisingly enough, it’s granted.  He sits in front of the killer… and produces a checkbook.  He is prepared to let Zucco name his price… in exchange, however, he must leave Gotham upon release.  Zucco finds this rather laughable… which, if the art is any indication, appears to shake Pennyworth to his very core.

Alfred returns to the Batcave, and finds Nightwing computering away.  He’s been able to deduce that the fingerprint he found belongs to a fella named Sherman Saticoy.  Before going any further, we hop back to Batman… who is in the middle of a firefight.  Looks like the baddies didn’t take him up on his offer.  It’s not long before the tables are turned, and they’re all staring down the barrel of a gun themselves.  Hey, another “Year” story, another bit of Batman holding a gun.

Suddenly, the mobsters are a bit more receptive to the chat.  They start talking about the other “bosses” in town, and the name Zucco comes up… sending Batman into flashback mode.  He thinks back to a time that he and Robin busted up a Zucconian drug deal… and a time he stuffed several dozen bats into a tiny box to scare him.  Not sure how that worked, but we’ll roll with it.  Back in the present, Batman learns about the fabled Tony Zucco book.  You know the one…

At this point, the mobsters are interested in joining forces with the Batman.  They take him to the cruddy apartment of a man called Drexel.  He’s been in Zucco’s employ for awhile, and he’s not planning to talk… that is, until Batman introduces him to his “associates”.

Back at the Batcave, Nightwing is still cross-referencing data… he is shocked to find out just who is behind it all… but we’ll get to that in a moment.  He hops on his motorbike and heads to a hill overlooking Gotham Prison… where the Batmobile is already parked.  Both Batman and Nightwing have concluded that the big bad is… are you ready for this… Tony Zucco.  They’ve got the goods to lock him right back up at this point… though, Nightwing wants him to taste freedom for just a moment before they break the news.  I appreciate this scene, as it shows the different approaches the heroes used… kinda shows us just where they both are insofar as “head space” is concerned.

It’s nearly the time where Zucco goes free… and so, we watch as the warden walks him out.  Batman and Nightwing sit in wait… Dick is kinda waffling on his stance, he’d rather just “nail him” now… Batman insists they wait.

We watch as Zucco takes his first steps out of the pen… he extends his arms, certain that with his book… he will soon be king of Gotham.  Just then… he is plugged full of holes by a helicopter.  Nightwing is furious… he believes that Batman knew this was going to happen all along…

I gotta say… this one just gets better as we go along.  Not that it didn’t start out strong… but, at this point… we’ve got ourselves a really nice story.  Excellent character beats… a nice way of popping from past to present without looking forced or contrived.

I mentioned it briefly above… but this issue, to me, was all about depicting the disparate approaches of our heroes.  We’ve got Nightwing crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s as he cross-references data and evidence… doing the very thing that Batman had taught him.  On the other hand, we’ve got that Batman… who has definitely lost his way.  He’s acting irrational… he’s making deals with the devil in order to follow the mobby breadcrumbs to Zucco’s door.  Two different paths… same destination.  Student becomes teacher… teacher becomes a lunatic.

Alfred’s bits here were okay.  I can appreciate his loyalty and care toward Dick… but he just came across as overly dramatic here.  I think it’s more the art… he is depicted as a hammy actor rather than a concerned parent-figure.  I mean, he gasped with his hand over his mouth… he made ridiculous constipated faces.  Just so hammy.

I had a little fun ragging on the ineffectual Gotham City Police Department above… but, honestly… how could they leave this much evidence behind?  Did they even sweep for prints?  I mean, wouldn’t that be among the first thing the Crime Scene Investigators would do?  I’d imagine if they hadn’t yet swept, there’s no way they’d let a costumed vigilante go stomping around in there.

Overall… another great issue.  We’ve got a bit more dysfunctional Dick and Bruce… and, lordy… a pretty neat cliffhanger to boot.  Getting some more parallels to Year Two… but I’m not sure if that’s just due to our discussing it so recently.  Batman holding a gun… the baddie getting shot to death by a third-party.  I doubt either is a callback, but it’s still interesting… at least to me.

Gotta wonder how Dick feels about not being able to get a measure of closure from Zucco.  Not that he was going to “off” him or anything… but, hell, we might have gotten another scene like when Batman confronted Joe Chill… when he unmasked to drive the point home that his chickens were about to come home.  I suppose that’s not likely if he intended to allow Zucco to leave the scene breathing air and pumping blood.

Anyhoo… definitely worth checking out.  As with the other two (and probably the next) it’s available digitally for your convenience.

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