Batman #430 (February, 1989)
Writer – Jim Starlin
Penciller – Jim Aparo
Inker – Mike DeCarlo
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Assistant Editor – Dan Raspler
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $0.75
Hey, it’s more Starlin Batman! Love this run, but I’ll save my usual “begging for a trade collection” for after the synopsis.
Before we do hit the synopsis, however… I wanted to mention that today was supposed to be a requested review… for a book I was about 98% certain that I owned. You probably know where this is headed… I went to grab it this morning and lo and behold, I don’t have it! I’m going to procure it this weekend, and make good next Friday. Sorry Jeremy, barring extraordinary circumstances, I’ll have it up in seven days time.
It’s morning rush hour in Gotham City… 5:10 AM to be specific. Tim Conrad arrives at his familiar place of employment… and seems to be a bit preoccupied, not even noticing a co-worker/friend/dude who knows him giving him a friendly greeting. He takes the elevator as high as it will take him, and from there proceeds to take the stairs to the roof entrance. Once outside, he opens up his briefcase… assembles his sniper rifle… and proceeds to take aim and murder a woman walking on the street below.
He’s not done yet, however… it’s open season on Gothamites this morning. He takes out several more over the next few moments. Forty minutes pass before Batman arrives on the scene. He is given the quick ‘n dirty from Commissioner Gordon. Evidently, our shooter was recently fired from the Banking Firm in that very building. The casualty count is at five, with the wounded at three… there is also a woman currently trapped on the street.
Batman decides that he will create a diversion in order to allow Gotham’s Finest to rescue the woman. Before he heads into danger, Gordon asks if Robin is with him. Now, let’s remember that in the issue before this, Jason Todd was murdered by the Joker. This is Batman’s first mission since the loss. It’s a pretty powerful little scene, Aparo’s faces here are really quite well done.
Batman charges in, dodging sniper fire with nearly every step. This allows the GCPD to save the trapped woman. As Gordon and company watch, one officer asks why Batman would continually put himself in danger for people he doesn’t know. Gordon’s answer is quite intriguing… he says he has “suspicions” but no “proof”. This lends to the theory that Gordon knows Batman’s dual-identity… which, well… I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think it’s only natural that he’d know… but at the same time, I kind of hope he doesn’t.
Back with Batman… he’s now inside the building, and tracing Conrad’s path up to the roof. Our sniper is ready for him though, and fires a few rounds through the roof-access door. Thankfully, Batman instinctively stopped before getting there. From here, Conrad begins ranting about how nobody deserves to live… even going as far as saying “I wish you were all dead!”, which is important…
… because it triggers a flashback sequence! Batman exits the building through a window, and begins scaling up to the roof. While doing so, he is overcome with memories of his childhood. He thinks about how he was not unlike a Prince, wealthy, carefree… living in the moment. His flashback focuses on a particular day in which his father Thomas’ stocks weren’t doing so hot.
Young carefree Bruce persisted in asking his father to play catch with him rather than stew over the ticker tape. Hell, he’s just a kid… he doesn’t know what they represent. Thomas, not having the best day, strikes Bruce… slapping him across the face. He almost immediately shows remorse for losing himself in the moment.
After giving Thomas a tongue-lashing, Martha chases after a fleeing Bruce. She tries to instill in him that his father didn’t mean to slap him, and that he still loves him. Well, young Bruce ain’t havin’ none’a that. He not only says he doesn’t love his father anymore (c’mon kid, it was just a slap!), he in fact hates his father and… get this, wishes he was dead!
Batman reaches the roof and begins creeping across the ledge. The flashback continues… to later on during the day of the “slap”. Thomas is able to make Bruce understand… and to make up for his behavior, he even suggests a night… uh-oh… at the movies. I hear Zorro‘s playing! We know the rest…
Anyhoo, back to the present. Conrad catches Batman out of the corner of his eye and fires a shot. Batman is able to dodge a number of shots, and manages to get close enough to kick the baddie in the mush. To help “even the odds”, Batman drops a few smoke pellets.
Batman closes in and throws a wild punch… which misses! Conrad stumbles back and fires another shot… which also misses! Unfortunately for Batman, however, the muzzle flash from the gunshot blinds and disorients him. From here, Batman stumbles around sort of like a wounded or frightened animal… his movements are erratic and panicked. Such a great sequence.
As the smoke (and blindness) clears, Conrad backs up to the edge of the roof. Batman suggests he step away from the edge… which seems to be lost on the shaky and disoriented sniper. A member of the GCPD on the roof of a nearby building sees he’s got a clear shot, so…
… and, so…
… and to the close. Batman, still perched on the rooftop thinks about how, despite all the bad Conrad did that day, he did not want him to die. He considers the power of a phrase like “I wish you were dead”, reflecting on how he uttered those words on a very fateful day. Just the power of those words… and the thought that sometimes wishes come true, despite one’s truest intentions. We leave with Batman… well, Bruce… because this is definitely Bruce’s thoughts… wishing he could have apologized to his father for having said it.
Okay… let’s get it out of the way. This run is quite good and really ought to be collected. If anyone from DC somehow stumbles across this site… and this post in particular, please pass along that Jim Starlin’s contribution to the Bat-mythos extends past A Death in the Family and Ten Nights of the Beast. Give the entire run a nice chunky volume that we might place on our Bat-shelves.
Now, on to this issue.
I suppose I could complain a bit that this issue takes us back to “that night”… but that would be silly. Seasoned Bat-fans know that anytime they crack open a Bat-book, there’s… what, a one-in-three chance that there will be a nod to the night the Waynes went to see Zorro. Complaining about that would kind of be missing the point.
Plus, I’m a big “lore” guy, and if a story can add to the existing lore of a history we are already familiar with… more the better. I appreciate Batman hearing something of a trigger phrase and flashing back to a cataclysmic event in his life. It illustrates to the reader that Batman can be effected… can be shaken… hell, can even perhaps take his eye of the ball for a moment. Especially when we take into consideration that this is Batman’s first mission following the death of Jason Todd.
Gordon’s scene(s) here were great as well. I thought it was interesting that he would notice Robin not being alongside Batman… and actually inquire about it. You’d figure maybe we’d get a thought bubble from a confused Gordon… but for him to actually voice the question was interesting. It also led to a wonderful sequence where Batman sorta-kinda has to process the question. The bit where Gordon notes that he has “suspicions” about why Batman is an all-around altruistic dude was pretty great as well. It really plays up questions that had been raised since Year One as it pertains to just how much Gordon “knows”.
I also dig that the big-bad here is just a man who has nothing to lose. This is one of those things that speaks to me as a reader, and as a flesh-and-blood human. A character like Tim Conrad can be far more terrifying than the Joker or Penguin… simply because Tim Conrad could be anybody. These are the kind of stories I love to hate… or hate to love… because they keep my wheels spinning. I try to connect dots and process what might have driven him here. I would figure/hope it was something more than simply losing his job. Ya take enough Forensic Psyche, it’s sometimes hard to just see something as a story… whattayagonnado, eh?
The art here is Aparo… and, what can I say… Aparo is definitely among my “definitive” Batman artists. He’s always just so good! The sequence where Batman was scrambling around blinded by the muzzle flash… wonderfully done! He’s acting not unlike a scared animal… jumping, falling… just totally disoriented. Great bit!
Overall… duh, read this one. It’s Jim Starlin… what’s more, it’s Jims Starlin and Aparo… and if I’m not mistaken, this is Starlin’s final issue. Helluva swan song, eh? I think we’re gonna have to start a letter-writing campaign or something to get this collected. Remember gang, we want this and Prez turtlenecks! Luckily this bugger is available digitally, if that’s your scene. Well worth checking out.
Oh, by the way… if we trim that poignant final page to just be the top half, we’ve got the pic that keeps on giving!
Letters Page (and 1989 Movie news!):