New Titans #60 (1989)

New Titans #60 (November, 1989)
“A Lonely Place of Dying, Chapter Two: Roots”
Co-Plotter/Writer – Marv Wolfman
Co-Plotter/Penciller – George Perez
Inker – Bob McLeod
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor – Jonathan Peterson
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $1.75

Now here’s something interesting… at least to me.  A Lonely Place of Dying is a crossover between Batman (found at newsstands and comic shops) and New Titans (direct-market only)… which means, if you’re a newsstand-only reader… or didn’t have access to a comic  shop, you wouldn’t be getting the full story!  I hadn’t considered that before… we’ll have to give it a mention when we get to that Direct Market episode of Weird Comics History we’ve been threatening for over a year now!

We open at Titans Tower, and a warning not to proceed until we’ve read Batman #440!  Starfire and Cyborg are conducting a search for Nightwing, however are coming up dry.  They call Wayne Manor, and don’t learn much.  Next, they check in on Donna and Jericho who have popped over to Dick’s apartment… and learn that they’ve been joined by our old friend Speedy!  Apparently, Dick asked Speedy to grab some files for him (as well as fill in for him while he was away).  Jericho notes a suspect path of dust by the wall, which indicates to him that there might be something hid behind it… and whattayaknow, the titanic trio finds a safe!  Roy cracks the combo, and inside they locate a photo album, with a few pages torn out… hmm.

We shift scenes and meet up with the missing man… Dick Grayson!  He’s heading into Haly’s Circus and observing how run-down it’s become.  The lions seem less interested, the elephant is filthy… the paint is chipped… it’s just an ugly little scene.  Luckily, there’s a bucket of water and a scrub-brush next to Elinore the filthy elephant, and so Dick gets to scrubbin’.  It’s not long before the carny-folk notice, and take a bit of exception… I guess they like their animals dirty.  Anyhoo, they eventually realize it’s their long-lost pal, “Little Dickie”, and a nice little reunion takes place.  It’s here we meet Harry the clown, who is having a rather rough time of it… he stumbles over to the group, drunk as a skunk, before passing out in Dick’s arms.

Dick breaks off and heads into Mr. Haly’s trailer to see what’s going on with the circus having to close down.  Haly talks about the circus being an antiquated relic in the age of video games, and cable television… and I can’t really argue with that.  Even as a kid, the circus bored me to tears… plus, on every class trip to the big top, at least one kid would always throw up.  Wasn’t a pleasant experience.  Haly mentions that since turning down a particular buyer, they’ve been experiencing “accidents”.  Hmm.  He invites Dick to hang around to see the “best show in town”… by which, I would assume he means the circus… which also means that he’s lying.

Dick walks past a talent-tent, and overhears a bit of hub-bub.  Inside, the lion-tamer is laying into the drunk clown… blaming his drunkenness for Haly’s inability to sell the show.  He mentions that his contract stipulates should Haly sell, he gets to leave this fleabag “pony show” (while the others are stuck there with the potential new owner).  When the dust settles, Harry goes for another slug of booze… before throwing his bottle at an acrobat.  Luckily, Dick (and his lightning-fast reflexes) is there to nyoink it out of the air before it busts open her face.

That night as the show is about to start, we talk a look at the set-up and the gathering audience.  I gotta say… this is a pretty impressive crowd for such a down-on-its-luck circus.  I can’t imagine these are all comped class trips, right?  Anyhoo, there’s one person in particular present… it’s the shutterbug from the previous chapter!  He’s almost positive that Dick Grayson is there.

We get to see a whole bunch of circus… stuff.  I guess this show is called “Circus 2000″… twice as boring as circus 1999!  While our enigmatic Ansel looks on, we see the lion-tamer wrasslin’ with a big cat… until he gets pounced on and eaten!

Okay, not completely eaten… the lioness only takes out his throat.  He’s still dead though, and that’s what matters here.  Crew members armed with tranquilizers enter the cage… and unfortunately they’re all pretty bad shots.  They miss the lion completely… which makes me wonder if some folks in the audience were just kayoed… I mean, the ones that weren’t already sleeping, because the circus is boring.  Anyhoo, our attention goes to a clown on the trapeze who drops a net over the lioness so they can hold her down.  Our shutterbug pal knows that’s gotta be Dick.  This is also the first look we get at the photo-fella, and we can see that he’s… a child?!

Moments later, we join Dick and Haly in the latter’s trailer.  He thanks Dick for his help… because, while that was quite the scene, it had the potential to be far worse… and quite a bit more litigious.  Dick leaves, and finds a pair of janitorial-types trying to catch… that kid!  Dick rushes in to see what’s up, and gets judo-tossed for his trouble.  Luckily, Dick Grayson ain’t no shlub, so he immediately rebounds and flips the kid.  The kid is overjoyed to see Dick and informs him that he thinks the drunken clown is responsible for the death of the lion tamer!

Dick asks the kid to ‘splain.  He says he overheard someone say that the cat was doped, and so he took to the trash to see if he could find any evidence.  What he found was Harry the Clown’s liquor flask.  Dick tells the tot to stay put while he looks into it.

We shift scenes to Harry the Drunken Clown sitting at his make-up table.  He’s approached by the circus strongman and a very nasty little guy (Samson and Pedro).  It’s soon made clear that this duo was actually behind the whole thing, and did it in a way to incriminate Harry.  The strongman is instructed to kill Harry… and make it look like suicide.  Gotta wonder how that would work… “yeah, officer, it looks like he was so overcome with guilt that he crushed his own throat!”.  Anyhoo, it’s not actually Harry… it’s really Dick Grayson in Harry’s paint!  Dick beats up the big guy… while Pedro goes to flee.

Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t make it all that far.  Turns out our new pal nabbed him and trapped him under… I dunno, some circus thing… like the thing an elephant puts it’s foot on.  Harry the Drunk thanks Dick and asks how he figured it out.  If ya remember, Dick caught the thrown flask earlier in the day… so it couldn’t have been him.

We jump back to Haly’s trailer, and learn that Dick has offered to become co-owner of the circus and keep it open.  He meets up with the kid again… who tells him that Batman needs him… and provides pictorial evidence to suggest same.  Oh yeah, he also reveals that he knows… everything.

Speaking of whom, we wrap up the chapter with Batman sitting atop a Gotham City building… while Two-Face looks on from his apartment.

Boy that was a bit too much “circus” for my liking, but still enjoyable enough… plus, we get our first look at whoever that young boy might wind up being.  I could be all cheeky and say “He’ll probably never show up again after this story…” but I’m guessing we all know the score by now.

I think if I were a reader of New Titans and not Batman… I might be a bit irritated by this little detour.  I mean, the Titans (other than Dick) only appear in the first 2-3 pages… at least they show up on the cover, I guess.  Then again, Danny Chase is there too… so we’ll just call that a “push”.

Dick saving the circus (with the help of that kid) was a decent enough story, I can’t help but to feel like it shouldn’t have taken up the entire issue though.  Then again, I can’t think of a single way to shorten it… so, I’m just talking out my backside here.  Dick gets to act heroic as well as altruistic… which is pretty much exactly what you’d want from the character.

I will say that that kid comes across as particularly obnoxious.  Maybe this was just the era of the “know it all” kid hero… or maybe I’m just projecting.  Either way, I didn’t really like him here.  He was a bit too “right on”, and hell… he wouldn’t even tell Dick his name.  Not sure if they were trying to keep him cagey, or if they wanted to save the “reveal” for a Batman chapter of this story.  Either way, he kind of annoyed me.

Perez’s art is great as usual, however, I will say that the Baxter Paper is doing him no favors.  I feel like the Baxter books always had this really “flat” look to them, never looking as “rich” as on newsprint.  Regardless of the book or artist, I almost always rather see their work printed on the “cheap stuff” than on this thicker stock.  It feels like when in the 90’s when comics switched to that glossier paper.  I mean, it was a baby-step in the right direction as far as production quality… but the art (in my opinion) suffered… instead of looking “flat” like with this, it looked “muddy”.

Overall, if you want the most out of A Lonely Place of Dying… this is an integral chapter.  This is Dick’s first meeting with… that kid, and readers of this blog know I’m a sucker for stories like that.  While I found that kid a bit abrasive, it cannot be denied that this is one of the more seminal Batman stories of the time, and shaped the title (and family) from that point on… even to today!  Worth your time… just don’t go into it thinking this is a straightforward Teen Titans story.

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