Aug 17, 2021
Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying (part 5 of 5) Batman #442
Last week: Batman and Nightwing teamed up to take down Two-Face, but Harvey’s uber-elaborate trap proved to be too much for the pair. Meanwhile, Alfred, alerted by Dick’s foresight, knew where they were and that something had gone wrong because their transmission was cut off. The question was, what to do about it?
I’ll tell you what Alfred decides to do about it:
So… you know Batman’s been off his game lately. And by what Tim said just prior to this panel, it’s 2 AM and it’s been a while since Dick’s signal got cut off. And… you’re going to just do nothing? You can’t call the Titans? Or any members of the Justice League? Or even the Outsiders? I mean yeah, they hate Batman, but I’m sure they’d come to his rescue. Really.
For all Alfred knows, Batman and Nightwing are trapped in a collapsed sewer or something, or are being tortured by Two-Face. I get it; you don’t want to clutter up your story with a plethora of guest stars, but it makes little sense that in the face of what Alfred knows that he’s not a bit more concerned. Hell, why not an anonymous tip to the police? You can’t tell me that with all the gadgetry in the Bat-cave that there isn’t some sort of phone scrambler or voice distorting device. But no, the plot demands that a middle aged man and a 12-13 year old boy are going to venture out to take on a supervillain that might have just killed one of Earth’s most competent heroes. And Batman. Hey, I’m not the writers/editors who wrote Batman as the guy who got his sidekick killed and has been making a ton of mistakes since.
Tim won’t let up and he talks Alfred into a little road trip. Meanwhile, back with the not-so-dynamic duo:
And this is why if I were a super hero, I would wear a helmet. And knee pads.
Harvey looks down at the heroes and is talking to that voice, and whether or not it’s coming from the radio in the other room or it’s in his head is anybody’s guess; not even Harvey’s sure. The voice urges Dent to get on with it and kill the two already, so Harvey pulls out his gun and puts three bullets in each hero’s head. No, wait, he waits until Batman passes out and then shimmies down a rope and pulls off his cowl to reveal that our hero is Bruce Wayne!
No, wait, of course he does neither, and to be honest it’s the second thing he doesn’t do that annoys me. Batman is his archnemesis; he’s defeated Harvey numerous times, and proven over and over to be his intellectual superior. You’d think he’d be just the tiniest bit curious to know who has repeatedly made a fool of him for the past ten… eight…six? At least the last six years. Then again, Batman could be faking it, so maybe Harvey’s right to not give the guy another chance to outsmart him. He flips his coin, and the way he talks about being a lawyer and not leaving things up to chance implies he fibbed on the coin toss.
Elsewhere, Alfred’s regretting being talked into driving Tim to the scene of the crime, while Tim talks about how Batman and Robin have meant everything to him. I’d joke, but I recall being equally obsessed with Star Wars and Legos when I was a kid, so if I lived in a world where Batman really existed, my level of fandom would probably be insanely high, too. Tim talks about how he knew when Dick became Nightwing, when Jason became Robin, when Jason died, and he sums it all up to thusly:
So yeah, Tim not only talked Alfred into hitting the road on a rescue mission, he also convinced him to let him dress up as Robin, too. Mind = blown.
Back at the house, Harvey has his old-timey radio tucked under his arm as he vocally exposits that his grandfather started working on it in 1899, and it took him twenty months to complete. Not twenty-two months, Harvey? You’re slipping. But he makes up for it by saying it was built across two centuries. Harvey says he hates to destroy it, but rules are rules. He presses a button on a remote control and the house explodes. It’s then that Harvey gets confronted by another hero.
Hoo, boy. I get that nostalgia’s a powerful drug, and that traditions can be important. But the Robin costume became dated about five minutes after it hit the news stands. I’m shocked that when DC finally allowed the Silver Age to catch up to them, the editors couldn’t have been talked into updating the look when Dick Grayson was going to college. I mean hell, even Wonder Girl got a groovy upgrade in the ’60s…
…so why the hell didn’t Robin and Aqualad? They gave Wonder Girl pants and Robin and Aqualad were still wearing swim trunks? And don’t tell me you can’t change an iconic look; they put a yellow oval around the symbol on Batman’s chest.
Okay, rant over. Two-Face is down but he’s far from out. He clips Tim with a brick and scrambles away, saying that he wondered where the kid’s been the past few months, and how people thought he had died. Harvey says he knew Robin wasn’t dead because if anybody had killed him, it would have been him. He picks up a twisted length of metal and swings, but Tim blocks it with a brick while Alfred gets involved. Harvey lays out Alfred with an elbow to the gut, but it leaves him open to Tim’s left hook. I’m guessing those green gloves must have lead knuckles or something.
Two-Face pulls out his gun and shoots them both… oh, wait, apparently he remembered to pack the radio but not his revolver. Okay, he retreats out of sight and Tim and Alfred find a boarded up coal chute. Between the two of them, they’re able to punch through the wooden boards. Tim shimmies in and finds Batman and Nightwing buried under a ton of rubble and wooden beams. The kid mans up and moves the stones enough so that he’s able to shift a beam, allowing Batman to drag Nightwing free. And Batman’s response to the timely rescue?
When he quit the Justice League, was anybody really sorry to see this man go? Look, I get it, the kid’s wearing Jason’s gear. But the kid might have just saved his and Dick’s life. If Marv wanted me to truly loathe Bruce Wayne, well, mission accomplished.
Tim tells Batman he knows everything, even using Bruce’s name and saying “Jason Todd”. Gee, I hope Harvey isn’t loitering outside the coat chute listening to all this. Outside, Alfred plays up Tim’s athletic prowess and bravery, while Dick points out the kid’s detective skills are pretty sharp. Batman is feeling kind of ganged up on here and rejects the idea of him needing another Robin. Tim points out that Robin is a symbol.
He doesn’t know why Batman does what he does? Honestly? The kid didn’t do his homework to find out Bruce’s parents were brutally murdered in cold blood right before his eyes? Can my mind be blown twice in one article? Apparently, it can.
Tim says he didn’t set out to be Robin, but he’s prepared to step up, and if he does, then people won’t think Robin died. Because if the bad guys think heroes can die, who’s to say who they might go after next? Batman says the point’s moot while Harvey’s loose, but Tim says no problem; he slipped a tracking device on Two-Face during the fight. Yeah, calling bullshit on that one, but whatever. Tim says he’ll do whatever Batman wants, but he’d really like to tag along. Batman agrees. Can I call bullshit twice in one article, too?
Harvey makes it to a scrap yard and is shocked when he sees Batman’s already here. He almost has a freak-out, especially when the radio doesn’t tell him what to do. Batman tells Tim to stay in the car while he and Nightwing scour the place for Harvey. Harvey’s response is to take a wrecking ball to Batman’s plans. Literally.
I’d like to think Batman’s expression of horror is over Tim’s demise, and not the loss of his bitchin’ ride. But wait! Tim had just enough time to jump out of the car and crawl under it after he warned Batman. Okay, I’ll admit the collapsing tower of wrecked cars wouldn’t come down right away, so that’s actually plausible.
Batman admits Tim did good, and tells him to stay close while Nightwing checks out the wrecker’s cab. But then Harvey drives a bulldozer into it. Dick leaps out of the other side, unharmed. Tim asks Batman what to do, but he says to stand down, because Nightwing is on the case. Dick leaps from the wrecking ball and onto Harvey, who then takes a headlight to Dick’s face. Harvey pulls out his coin at the worst possible time to determine Dick’s fate, because Batman catches the coin in mid-air, and then…
Okay, that was a legit feel-good moment. Back at the mansion, Dick and Alfred work on Bruce, pointing out how well Tim performed in the field. Tim pretty much says no pressure, and if he can’t be Robin again, he still had the greatest night of his life. Bruce says he doesn’t want a partner, but maybe now the world needs the team of Batman and Robin as a symbol. And despite his misgivings…
We cut back to the radio, where the voice talks to Harvey… or would be, if Harvey were still here. The voice talks about how it found Harvey, who had flipped his coin and given up crime. It talks about how he knew Harvey couldn’t kill Batman, but it could keep him busy while he recuperated. We cut to a hospital bed, and the true mastermind:
Looking back, I recall how much fun I originally had reading this story, and I think a lot of people felt the same way. The Jason Todd debacle left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. With Jim Starlin turning Jason into an angry young man, and his getting killed off, people weren’t happy. So when Tim showed up, despite any possible plot holes, and despite the flaws in his origin story, we were more than ready to embrace him. And if you think I’m crazy, bear in mind Tim lasted through three limited series, and then a stellar 180-issue run. That’s fifteen years, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. In an age where characters like Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel—whom we are told are incredibly popular—go through numerous reboots, it’s almost impossible to imagine a character who’s not Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man having such a long run.
As for where Tim is today, well, thanks to Grant Morrison, he got boned. Grant introduced Damien Wayne, which like I said back in part one made Tim redundant. And then the New 52 happened, and five years or so was erased from DC’s history, and they had to cram in four [!] Robins into the new, condensed timeline. And that’s not even including Stephanie Brown, AKA Spoiler, who for a short time bore the Robin mantle.
So Tim got pushed out of the picture, at least for a time, despite the fact that he was so much more popular than the Red Hood. And now Tim’s sexual orientation has been changed, largely I feel to garner publicity. Publicity they got, sure. But somehow, I doubt the change is going to move comics off the shelves or net new readers. Regardless, thanks for joining me on this look back at a major event in the DC universe. I hope you enjoyed it.