Batman #442 (1989)

Batman #442 (December, 1989)
“A Lonely Place of Dying, Chapter Five: Rebirth”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Co-Plotter – George Perez
Penciller – Jim Aparo
Inker – Mike DeCarlo
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Associate Editor – Dan Raspler
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00

Well, here we are… creeping out of that Lonely Place.

We pick up right where we left off in New Titans #61.  Tim and Alfred are in the Batcave… with the former going into full-on panic mode.  Alfred’s used to this kind of thing… well, as used to this kinda thing as one can get anyway.  Tim continues his mantra of “Batman needs Robin”… and holds Jason’s duds aloft.  Back at the corner of 4th and 4th, Batman and Nightwing are pinned under the debris… while Two-Face anxiously flips his coin.  He considers the time… 2am, and figures this is the perfect time for Batman to die.

We rejoin Tim and Alfred hauling ass in the Alf-mobile (better than the Alf-cycle, I guess).  Tim is in the backseat trying on Jason’s clothes.  He claims that he didn’t want it to come to this… but I’m not so sure he’s being completely honest.  As they pull up, Two-Face is just about to make the building go kablooey.

After the explosion, “Robin” runs up and socks Two-Face in the jaw.  Unfortunately, Dent returns the favor… except he’s holding a brick.  He then snatches a bit of rebar, and goes to give the lad the ol’ “Jason Todd special”.

Alfred, who is still present, rushes in to stop Harvey… applying a pretty weak half-nelson.  Thankfully, this distraction is all Tim needs to land another sucker-punch on the baddie.  Must’ve been a helluva shot too, as Two-Face disappears for a moment.  The fellas check the perimeter, and Tim locates the coal-chute… and proceeds to pound on it to gain entry.

As Robin enters the building, Two-Face listens in (Alfred calls him “Tim”, not sure if ol’ Harv heard all that) before taking his leave.  Inside, Robin finds Batman and Nightwing… alive, and begins pulling the debris off of them.

Once back on his feet, Batman takes one look at “Robin”, and nyoinks the domino mask right off his face.  As he walks away, Tim calls him “Bruce”, prompting a “da hell?” response.  Tim continues, spilling the beans about everything he knows.

Alfred runs in to report on how well the lad handled himself against Two-Face… which, hmm… I’d suggest if Alfred didn’t intervene, Tim would be nothing more than a smear at this point… but what do I know?  Tim continues to press the “Batman needs a Robin” mantra.  Batman ain’t convinced… yet.

From here… Tim and Bruce continue to argue.  It’s pretty funny, Dick and Alfred are just off to the side watching this punk kid try and school Batman.  The discussion shifts from Robin being a sidekick to Robin being a “symbol”.  Tim thinks if the baddies know they can kill Robin… they can start hunting down more of the cape-set.  I can’t argue that kinda logic… and it appears that Batman can’t either.

It’s decided to try and track down Two-Face.  Tim chimes in and says he’s got it covered… during their scuffle, he’d slipped a tracking disk on him.  Ay yai yai, Tim is just so annoying at this point.  They follow the trace to Gemini Junkyard, where Batman decides it’s best to leave Robin in the Batmobile while they scope out the place.  No sooner do Batman and Nightwing exit the car, than it gets smashed by a wrecking ball!  Whoops!

Well, let’s not mourn the new guy too quickly.  He’s Tim Drake after all… this kid’s the picture of perfection!  He saw the ball coming, and dove out (and under) the Batmobile before it struck.

Two-Face then rolls up in the cutest little tractor ever.  It looks like one of those die-cast toys you’d get as a kid, that has a plastic bust of a character attached to it.  Check it out:

From here, a fight (obviously) breaks out.  Nightwing gets smashed in the face with a headlight… because, we gotta show how the “new guy” is better than the old one.  The skirmish ends with… a sock to the jaw.  I mean, Two-Face has taken so many punches to the mush, it’s gonna be awhile before he can eat solids again.  The scene ends with Batman begrudgingly accepting Tim as Robin.

We begin our wrap up back at Wayne Manor.  Bruce tells Tim that he was right about their being symbols.  Wait, Tim Drake was… right about something?  More like right about everything during this story.  Bruce decides that he’s willing to give this Batman and Robin team a try.

We actually close out by learning that Harvey wasn’t suffering any psychosis when he thought the radio was speaking to him.  That’s because, somehow, that voice belonged to… the Joker… who is annoyed (though intrigued) that there’s a new Bat-brat on the block.

I’m gonna start by attempting to make it plain that I consider Tim Drake to be my Robin.  I’ve enjoyed following his career… until The New-52!, anyway… and will always consider him to be the definitive Robin of my generation.  I don’t care that DC decided he never was Robin, and went directly to Red Robin… to me, that’s just New-52! garbage they added to differentiate him and/or try and squeeze four Robins into that ridiculous (and impossible) five-year timeline.

Ahem… where was I?  Oh yeah… I’m a really big fan of the Drake.  That being said, boy oh boy was he annoying here!  I hate using the old “Mary Sue” or “Gary Stu” chestnut, because… yuck, but man… he was a bit too perfect here.  Ya know, excepting the part in which he almost died… but we’ll get to that.

I don’t think a new character should be able to come in and go toe-to-toe verbally sparring with Batman.  That just strikes me as a bit too “try hard” in the presentation.  I mean, I get that Batman’s not quite acting himself… but, I feel like he should always be able to silence some snotty argumentative kid.  It felt like when you’re a little kid and you’re arguing with your parents.  At the point where they can no longer come up with actual replies and have to fall back on the old “because I said so.”  It’s right then that you both kinda feel like you “won”… but it’s a Pyrrhic victory at best.

Also, Tim having the wherewithal to pop a tracer on Two-Face… after being smashed in the face with a brick?  First, c’mon… second, how did he know how to use a tracker?  Just a bit too perfect.  Next, Tim seeing a giant wrecking ball when Batman and Nightwing both missed it?  I get that we’re trying to illustrate that Tim’s a bright kid… but doing so at the cost of Batman and Nightwing both looking dumb doesn’t do any of the characters any favors.  I probably ought to also mention that Dick taking a headlight to the face didn’t quite work for me.  I mean, Dick’s gone toe-to-toe with frickin’ Deathstroke… and Two-Face can land a shot with a headlight?  C’mon, again… I get that we’re trying to make Tim look good… but at the cost of Dick looking bad doesn’t help anyone.

So, Tim almost died.  If not for Alfredian intervention, he would have been… at best, crippled by Two-Face and his rebar.  Moments later, Alfred tells Batman how well Tim handled himself in the “fight”.  Wha–?  I don’t get it.  Batman just lost a Robin… does Alfred really think this is a good idea?  I sure don’t.

As a story, A Lonely Place of Dying was a great bit of fun.  As a final chapter, however, this all felt a bit forced.  Tim, despite coming moments away from being maimed/killed… is portrayed as being an always prepared, perfect sidekick for Batman.  His detective skills thus far have been demonstrated quite well… but, his “field” debut?  Didn’t quite feel it.  I can’t remember how I felt about this the first time I read it… but, I’m pretty sure Tim didn’t grate on me as much then as he did this time.

Overall, even with my misgivings and how much Tim annoyed me, I’d definitely recommend this to any bat-fans and bat-historians out there.  A Lonely Place of Dying is an important piece of work (and a vital piece of the lore) even if it’s no longer a thing that happened.  Perhaps the upcoming A Lonely Place of Living running through Detective Comics will shine a better light on that.

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