Batman #459 (1991)

Batman #459 (February, 1991)
“Saturday Night at the Movies”
Writer – Alan Grant
Pencils – Norm Breyfogle
Inks – Steve Mitchell
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Letters – Todd Klein
Assistant Editor – Kelley Puckett
Editor – Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00

Had such a good time visiting with Alan and Norm yesterday, that I decided to keep it going today!

FYI: Harold completionists… we do get a sighting here!

We open with a look at the movie listings… looks like there’s a whole lotta garbage playing in Gotham theaters, which… hey, I’ll hand it to ’em for realism!  We’ve got blockbusters like the Pre-Teen Karate Cockroaches, and Where Skulks the Skeletoid… Also, howsabout that, it looks like Wild Dog got himself a movie deal!  We pan out and see that it’s Jim Gordon and Sarah Essen checking the listings for their night out on the town.  They ultimately decide on The Mark of Zorro… because, of course they do.

Back at the Batcave, it looks like our new friend Harold is getting along just fine.  He’s only been there two days, and he’s already concocted a hologram projector to further disguise the place from potential passersby.  The way Bruce is smiling, I gotta wonder if he’s planning on fitting ol’ Harold for a Robin costume.

We pop over to the theater, where a family tries buying three tickets for the Pre-Teen Karate Cockroaches… only, it’s sold out!  The bratty son is getting testy… and so, the father suggests that while they’re there, they go see The Mark of Zorro.  Peter, the boy, isn’t exactly excited at the prospect… and isn’t scared to let his folks know.

We rejoin Batman as he… well, does what Batman does.  He descends on a bunch of baddies, and beats them up.  That’s how a lot of Batman scenes start, isn’t it?  Anyhoo, he winds up saving an out-of-towner named F. Joseph Leonard from a mugging.  Ol’ F.J. is appreciative, but is going to hightail it out of Gotham A.S.A.P. as possible.

Batman recognizes the would-be robbers as Spades Mulligan and Freak Curtis… he “interrogates” them in order to get them to spill the beans about their supplier.  Looks like they’re quick to squeal.

Back at the theater, Jim and Sarah arrive… and load up on snacks.  Gordon promises that he’ll begin his diet… maybe even quit smoking… on Monday.  Yeah, yeah, yeah… if I had a nickel.  They take their seats in the back row… so they can neck a bit.  We can see that Peter and his parents are seated way up front.

We rejoin Batman as he approaches the address given to him by Mulligan.  As he arrives, we can see that the gang is watching a bootleg tape of Where Skulks the Skeletoid… lucky stiffs!  Batman arrives and gasses the geeks.  Unfortunately for him… the big boss isn’t in!

Back at the theater, Peter’s proving to be a horrible little snot, who is ruining the movie for everyone within earshot.  His parents do the responsible thing, and drag him out by his ear.  Wow… how refreshing!  These days his folks would be too busy texting to even realize their kid’s being a jerk.

Outside, Batman’s on the trail of the supplier… Rassler.  He chases him right to the entrance of the theater… where he stumbles upon a young family making their exit.  Starting to see the parallels yet?  Mother, father, son… exiting The Mark of Zorro… yeah, you get it.

Just in case you didn’t get it, here’s a full page spent making the callback to that fateful night the Waynes went to the movies.

Luckily, this doesn’t wind up being a repeat of that night.  It’s a good thing too, could you imagine the jerky vigilante young Peter would’ve grown up to become?!  Batman swoops down, drawing all of Rassler’s fire…

… only it wasn’t Batman… just his cape!  Batman appears behind Rassler… and kayos him with ease.

With Rassler out, young Peter runs up to thank Batman.  He asks how he came to be a superhero… to which, he replies that it all sorta-kinda started with The Mark of Zorro.  Hey, technically… that is about the size of it, right?  It’s only now that Pete realizes how cool Zorro is, and he drags his folks back into the theater to watch the rest of the film.

A little bit later on, the movie lets out.  Jim and Sarah happen upon Rassler, who’s being shoved into a squad car.  Gordon attempts to get involved, but the officer waves him off to enjoy the rest of his evening.  As they walk down the street, Jim and Sarah express their love for one another.

Jim walks Sarah to her hotel, but declines a “night cap” since he’s got work in a few hours.  As he leaves, he lights up a cigarette… annnnnd has a heart attack!

Well, that was bummer ending!  But, kind of a perfect one.

We talked yesterday about how, every single day the amount of choices we have seems to lessen.  It’s kind of a “sense of urgency” type of message… or, just a bit of regretful reflecting.  “What I could’a done” “What I should’a done”… all the way to “Why did/didn’t I do that?”

Here, we have a Jim Gordon… who finally seems to have made a choice, he wanted to make a long time ago.  And, wouldn’tcha know it… no sooner does he make that decision… than it all might be taken away from him.  It’s tragic… but human, and is so well done here, that it’s hard not to come away from it, a bit… well, maybe not choked up (considering we know Gordon “gets better”) but, perhaps… I dunno… reflective about things in our own lives.

At the risk of being a bit precious and/or ridiculously self-indulgent… Are there things (within my control) that I’ve always wanted to do?  Are there good reasons why I haven’t?  What’s holding me back?  It’s sobering… because, as we learned last issue… one of these days, that choice will be off the table.

The other thread we follow here… is Batman’s.  I gotta admit, when it became clear where the whole Mark of Zorro thing was going, I kinda groaned… but, perhaps that’s not entirely fair.  These days, “that scene” is so overplayed, that it’s almost lost all of its poignancy… it’s just “that scene”, and writers are always alluding to it.  Back in ye old 1991, I couldn’t say if it was just as exploited… but, whattayagonnado?

Overall though, this was yet another great outing by Grant and Breyfogle.  This is definitely one of “those” runs… runs you should do whatever you can to seek out.  Especially if you’re reading the current stuff, and miss stories where things actually happen… you’d do well to check in on issues of this era.  This issue only features one page of Harold, so it might’ve missed out on being included in the Essential Harold Omnibus, Volume 1… but, it is available digitally!

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