Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying (part 3 of 5) Batman #441
Last time: Dick Grayson returned to Haly’s Circus when he found out it was closing down. With the aid of his mystery stalker—a kid that was not Jason Todd (whom we all know is Tim Drake)—he uncovered a conspiracy of sabotage. After becoming co-owners and saving the circus, his mystery stalker begged him to return to Gotham City to help Batman, who Dick now knew was going up against none other than Two-Face.
This third chapter opens with a nice bit of symmetry as Harvey Dent AKA Two-Face ponders what obvious-yet-subtle clues he could leave like bread crumbs to lead Batman to him. Meanwhile, Batman thinks that if he can’t find Harvey, what can he do to get Harvey to find him? Well, I’m guessing Harvey’s address is something like 22 Dualla Street, or the second house on 2nd Avenue or something. Or his base of operations is in the old Gemini Theater, or maybe he’s got a cabin in the middle of a “pear” orchard. That was the thing with a lot of Batman’s Golden and Silver Age rogue’s gallery; their own mental makeup made them their own worst enemies.
Harvey thinks that maybe he could blow up the twin towers. Okay, bear in mind this story was from like 1989-90. Harvey notes that it’s getting harder and harder to come up with these two-themed crimes, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s the editors giving the audience a bit of a nudge and a wink. Harvey flips his famous coin and it comes up on the clean side, so the towers are a no-go. Same goes for a theater performance being put on by twins, with the proceeds going to two different charities. Similarly, Harvey shoots down schemes involving the Dali two-headed painting, and Princess Diana’s double diamond pendant. Damn, this really is turning into a sad trip down memory lane.
At the same time, Batman comes up with a ton of two-themed crimes of his own as he tries getting into Harvey’s head. Finally, both seem to have a breakthrough.
Seeing how both characters were trying to out-think the other, this is pretty cool. I also love the clever use of the medium, showing mirror images, thus tying this in to Harvey’s dual nature.
Back at Stately Wayne Manor, Dick shows up with:
Naturally, Alfred freaks out a bit, while Dick just smiles bemusedly. I guess when you’ve got friends who don’t seem to give a damn about your secret identity, you’ve just come to live with the fact that the world is finding out you’re Robin/Nightwing sooner or later. Tim wanders the house, noting the Renoir that Bruce Wayne bought last year, and the sweet, sweet Erte sculptor on display. I think it’s more like Alfred buys all this swag to make people think Bruce has taste.
Alfred’s finally had enough and wants Tim to tell all, starting with where his parents are. It turns out Tim is 13 and his parents are off jet-setting, and he’s supposed to be at a boarding school but it’s a vacation week. They sit Tim down and he explains his obsession with all things relating to Batman, first by revealing a photograph that references back to Batman: Year Three.
Tim then explains that the youngest Flying Grayson had quite the impact on him back then and we flashback to the day of Dick’s parents’ deaths from Tim’s perspective. And I’m trying to figure out how old Tim is supposed to be here. If he’s 13 now and he was, say, four years old then, they’re saying only nine years have passed in the comics at most. But going by the pics, Tim had to be at least six, if not older. If so, then maybe only, what, seven years have passed in the DC universe? That’s a pretty short time, all told. Then again, it’s better than trying to say eleven years have gone by and Dick started being Robin when he hadn’t even hit double digits yet, like in this panel from 1983’s New Teen Titans #37:
I mean Christ, you’d think the likes of Superman would be looking at Batman’s preteen partner and saying, “Dude, you think maybe you want to wait until he hits puberty before he starts fighting crime?” What editor signed off on that idea? Better to age up Robin a bit more—but then you’d have to ask, what self-respecting male would wear that outfit for so long?
I find them shoehorning Tim’s origin this way to be… irksome. But as you’ll see later, it’s probably necessary for where they’re going with this.
Back to the present, and we find Harvey Dent talking to that mystery person on the radio again, or at least trying to. But all he hears is a news report of the famed movie twins Alan and Richard Wright getting kidnapped. It seems that was Harvey’s plot, and he knew Batman couldn’t resist bait like kids in jeopardy. I mean, Bats puts kids in jeopardy all the time; it’s kind of his thing. But then there’s another news report:
Uh-oh, could this be the beginning of some bizarre existential crisis? Because it looks like Harvey’s having a hell of a meltdown here. And I swear when I wrote “Gemini” earlier, I had no idea it would pop up later. But honestly, I should’ve known. Anyway, it seems that when Batman set up the bait he couldn’t stop… doubling down.
Cut to Batman tooling around in the Bat-copter, and I’m guessing he’s having a swell old time, because he doesn’t get to fly this sweet bird all that often. Gordon calls and tells him about the twins being kidnapped and Bats has a bit of a crisis of his own. He’s laid out the bait and realizes that even though he knows Harvey’s the kidnapper, he needs to stay and hope the guy can’t resist the binary bait, the double decoy, the twinned troll, the twofold temptation.
Back at Wayne Manor, Tim emotionally tortures Dick with talk of the day the Flying Graysons died. But reliving that day is nothing new to Dick, and after briefly indulging in self-pity, he steels himself and tells Tim to get on to the part of the story that he and Alfred don’t already know. But Tim still isn’t done talking about that night, and about how Batman made an impression on him when he comforted Dick. And now we’re getting into what just feels like padding, and I’m starting to wonder if this story could’ve been told in four parts or something. Or did they think if the story started in an issue of Batman, it had to end in Batman and three parts was too short?
Meanwhile, Bats lurks near the club, waiting for Harvey to swoop in on the swag, while Two-Face has called in a bunch of favors to have a bridge closed off from traffic so the rubes won’t interfere with the twins, who are bound on each side of the cable towers. As the pair lie in wait for their respective prey, each man starts having… second thoughts.
Batman can’t leave the twins regardless of how cold and callous he’s recently become. And Harvey can’t resist all that sweet green. And soon both find their respective resolves wavering, until finally…
Back at Wayne Manor, Tim talks about how his parents might have forgotten about that night, but he hasn’t; it gave him nightmares, and as he describes them, Dick’s finally had enough and asks where all this is going. Tim finally explains that this is all about Dick’s somersault and how it stuck in his head for years, until one day when he and his parents were watching footage on TV of the Penguin sneaking up on Batman, and saw a certain Boy Wonder ambushing the ambusher.
Robin had used a quadruple somersault, something only three people in the world could do. Tim figured out Batman had taken Dick away from the circus, because Bruce Wayne had taken Dick in as his ward and six months later, Robin shows up. And how the hell hadn’t anybody else figured this out? I mean, a preteen connected the dots, pretty much exploding any and all suspension of disbelief.
Tim says Bruce and Dick really “covered their tracks”. Um… how? I’m serious here; how did they cover up anything, except maybe by having the Martian Manhunter frequently pose as Bruce or Dick at key moments over the years to make it seem impossible for them to be one and the same? Tim further points out that after Dick moved to New York, there was no Robin, but then Bruce took in Jason and boom!—there was a new Boy Wonder. Dick asks what Tim wants, and it’s simple:
Yes, ask the twenty-year-old man to slip back into those scaly green speedos and pixie boots.
Back at Gotham, Batman meets Commissioner Gordon at the scene of the kidnapping. Harvey left behind a clue, which is very Riddler-ish of him.
Could you imagine Harvey making the call? “Eddie? Harvey. Look, I need to leave Batman a clue, like a riddle… Yes, I know that’s your thing… Yes… Yes… Look, next time you get to use a riddle with a double meaning or something and we’ll call it square, okay? Yeah, thanks… Yeah, I got a pen…”
Of course, Batman figures it out; “two be” over “two seas”, or in this case, the Hawk Bridge, as in Kitty Hawk, and he realizes the twins were named after the Wright Brothers. Wow, that’s some serious leaps in logic. Like Super Friends! levels of logic-leaping.
Batman races to the bridge and finds the twins, and no Harvey, but he deduces the man couldn’t resist the bait that was laid out for him. The kids have grenades tied to their chests with the pins pulled, but the pressure from the ropes is preventing them from exploding. Man, Harvey was taking a serious chance here; what if the kids had squirmed a little too much? It’s not like twins grow on trees.
Well, hell, if you’re going to name drop Princess Di, why not kidnap the Olsen Twins while you’re at it? Honestly, I’m shocked no one ever did it before.
At the casino, Harvey has gassed the joint and he wanders through the place unimpeded. He reaches the vault and realizes this has been all too easy, and that’s when he figures out this was all Batman’s trap. You… just now figured that out? But okay, whatever. Harvey stares at the twenty two million dollars, and all he’s got to move it is a single duffel bag. If the cash is in hundreds, that’s some four hundred and eighty pounds. Guess you should’ve hired some twin henchmen there, Dent.
But Harvey can’t just steal what he can carry, which if he’s lucky would be maybe two million dollars. No, he’s got to indulge in his own little weird fetish.
Back at the mansion, Dick decides what the heck, it’s time to show Tim the Batcave. Because hell, by now the kid’s pretty much proven he’s scoped out their big secret. Might as well show him all the cool stuff: the giant penny, the animatronic dinosaur, the pit where everyone who discovered who Batman was got tossed into. You think you’re the first smart guy to figure out the big secret, Timmy? Time to get dropped down the well!
But seriously, Dick says you just can’t turn back the clock; he can’t be Robin again, but he can still help Batman. He sheds his civilian duds, revealing his Nightwing gear—including that ridiculous super preppy collar. He heads out and Tim wonders why nobody’s listening to him. But maybe they are.
Elsewhere, Batman broods among the gargoyles again as he thinks about how he could have let Gordon handle rescuing the kids while he confronted Two-Face. No, Bats, you couldn’t. Frankly, with Jason’s death still fresh on his mind, he needed to save those kids.
At the same time, Harvey sulks, having left all that money behind. Batman realizes he can’t do this job alone, but doesn’t know the answer, while Harvey’s mystery friend speaks to him through the radio again, giving him hope. As one man mopes in indecision, the other is ecstatic now that he has a clear road ahead.
Next time: New Titans #61, and A Lonely Place of Dying, part four.