Batman #439 (1989)

Batman #439 (September, 1989)
“Batman: Year Three, Chapter Four: Resolutions”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Penciller – Pat Broderick
Inker – Michael Bair
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor – Dan Raspler
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00

I come to you today in recovery mode.  I think I’ve got full smell back in one nostril… which is a step up from the past few days.  With things looking up, let’s jump right into the final part of Year Three.  I’m experimenting with adding “pages” to the humble blog, and look forward to putting one together for the Batman “Year” stories in the very near future.

Picking up right where we left off, we see the bloody and perforated body of Tony Zucco sprawled on the ground.  Nightwing is laying into Batman… certain is he that his old partner knew this was what was waiting for Zucco’s first steps as a free man.  Batman assures him this wasn’t the case… he didn’t want to make a move on Zucco because he was afraid he would have killed him for what he did to Dick.  Before the two can properly hash things out, Batman leaves.

We join Batman on his ride home.  Along the way he is listening to a radio story discussing the pending closure of St. Jude’s Orphanage… he then switches stations to hear an address being given by Zucco’s pal and parole boarder, Mr. Taft.  He brings light to Zucco’s ledger in front of the press… playing it real cool.  He’s acting as though he is truly concerned, however, Batman realizes that he’s trying to spark something in the gangsters to, well… find that book.

By now, both Batman and Nightwing are back at the Batcave.  Batman decides he’s going to follow up on some of his theories and go about fetching that book.  Dick asks if he wants company… and, Batman makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t.

Batman leaves Dick and Alfred in the Cave.  The two reminisce about the former’s custody hearing all those years ago.  We watch as Bruce Wayne takes the stand and pleads his case.  He believed he would be the best person to raise the orphan because they both lost their parents to criminals.  Mr. Haly, Sister Mary Elizabeth, and Dick himself agree that Bruce is very likely the best man for the job.  They end their conversation with Dick setting out to try his own luck tracking down the Zucco ledger.

We catch up with Batman… who is just wrecking fools left and right.  He’s kicking in crotches, and busting up jaws.  He finally comes across his bounty… Mr. Drexel… the same fella from last ish.  He roughs him up quite a bit… and gets him to spill a very cryptic line about Zucco’s “beginning” being the rival gangs’ “ending”.  The Bat’s got no time for this crap, and so, he tosses Drexel into a wall.

Batman’s next stop is a bar where some of the rival gangs are killing one another to find the book.  Batman tells them to call off the search… and go about their normal lives, otherwise there’s gonna be trouble.  Initially, they are resistant… but after a few broken bones, they come around.  Batman’s brutality knows few bounds at this point.  Without the gangs snooping around, Batman feels as though he can conduct his own investigation unhindered by nonsense.

We meet back up with Dick who is in Mr. Drexel’s bathroom while the man himself is taking a shower.  Nightwing alerts him to his presence and starts asking the tough questions.  Drexel’s confused… he already spilled whatever beans he has to Batman.  Nightwing’s all… me and him don’t talk too much these days… and he gives him the same hub-bub about beginnings and endings.  Dick, having his head on straight, immediately considers the Orphanage.  He voices his thoughts out loud, unfortunately, because Mr. Taft is lurking behind the door.  After Nightwing leaves, Taft makes poor Drexel very dead.

We rejoin Bruce at the Manor where he is talking to Alfred.  He shares Drexel’s “riddle” with his butler… who, thankfully is quite up on his Tony Zucco trivia… he suggests the Orphanage might be the key to it all… after all, it’s just about to be demolished… if Zucco wants his book, now would be the time.

Speaking of the orphanage… Dick Grayson is already there.  He comes across Sister Mary Elizabeth who offers him shelter from the rain under her umbrella.  He introduces himself as Nightwing… from the Titans.  The Sister tells him she him… very well.  Hmm… wonder what that can mean?  And that’s not me being cryptic… I do not think this comes up again.

The subject of Zucco comes up, and she mentions seeing him with a bucket heading away from the bell tower.  This makes Nightwing wonder if he might have hid the ledger there… and wouldn’tcha know it… he did!

Unfortunately, Mr. Taft sneaks up behind him as he’s thumbing through the book.  Dick dodges the first few blows, but a well-timed whack with a tire iron puts him down.  At this point, Batman has arrived on the scene.  He watches in horror as Taft relentlessly beats Nightwing with the iron… flashing back to the Joker doing something similar with a crowbar.

Nightwing is able to get his footing, and starts taking the fight back to Taft.  He knocks the goof to the ground and goes back to the ledger.  Taft returns to his feet and charges at our man… luckily, Batman is there to get his attention… though, rather than call out “Nightwing!” he yells “Dick!”  That’s pretty sloppy, no?  Anyhoo, Dick is able to sidestep Taft who plummets off the belltower.  Amid the chaos Nightwing drops the ledger… the wind takes the pages every which way.

We wrap up the issue, and the story… it’s clarified that Taft wanted the ledger because it held secrets about him in it… which, we already knew.  Bruce expresses great pride in Dick’s detective skills… and recognizes that he has become quite a man over the years.  As for Dick himself, he’s sharing the story with two very important people.

That all came to a head pretty quick, eh?

Sometimes it feels as though I have to retrain myself to read these older stories.  I have very little doubt had this story been told today it would fill at least six issues… and, hell… probably wouldn’t have had any closure.  Wrapping up this story so swiftly almost makes me feel… I dunno, underwhelmed.  After so much build over the past four issues, we get our big climactic fight in just a scant handful of pages.

I was kind of hoping that the Zucco hit was going to be proven to be a fabrication… and he’d still somehow be the big bad of the story.  Maybe give Dick a measure of retribution… or at least the opportunity to get some stuff off his chest.  Instead, we get some stuffed suit… ehhh.

Speaking of the stuffed suit, I really dug the parallels between Jason being beaten by the Joker and Dick getting whacked with the tire iron.  It was very well done, though Broderick’s Joker is still just a bit too Wolvie-looking for my tastes.  I thought it was interesting that the very sight of the offense caused Batman to lose his objectivity and rationality… he actually yelled out for “Dick” (minds outta the gutter, please) within earshot of the bad guy.  That seems pretty sloppy for our Dark Knight Detective.

While on the subject of “detective”… I thought it was cool that Bruce accepts that Dick has become one helluva detective in his time.  He’d actually sussed out the ledger before he did.  Hell, we’ve been following this story for four issues by this point, it seems like Nightwing’s been one step ahead of the Batman the entire way.  I mean, I know our writer might have a Titan-ic bias here… but this was told in a way that shone a light on Dick’s experience and Bat-education.  It wasn’t done to show that he is in any way better than Batman (now, there’s a terrible name for a story)… it was done to show how effective a teacher the Batman is… and what an apt student Nightwing had been.

In conclusion… this is a story that bat-fans should familiarize themselves with.  Now that they’ve re-retconned the Titans back into Dick’s history, this one very well might sorta-kinda still be in continuity… it’s well worth tracking down and checking out.  It is, of course, available digitally… perhaps one day we’ll see a collection.  Gonna put this on my “TPB wish-list” right next to Wild Dog and Angel Love.

Interesting Ads:

We used to stop in at a deli on our way home from the comic store when I was a kid to buy a mini-bag of Doritos and a Snapple Tru-Root Beer, that had this arcade machine in it.
Never played it though.

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