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Detective Comics #965 [Review]

detective_comics_0965A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 1

Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Covr: Barrows, Ferreira, Lucas
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Chris Conroy
With Gratitude to: Marv Wolfman, George Perez, and Jim Aparo
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

I’ve gotten woefully behind in actually reading Detective Comics, though it seems it should be one of my favorite titles. But I was a bit put off by the supposed ‘death’ of Tim Drake early in the new run last year, and wasn’t in a big hurry to follow anything "long-term" with that for a number of reasons. And time passed.

Recently, I was quite excited by a familiar-looking image, in an ad for the then-upcoming (now here) Detective Comics story A Lonely Place of Living. For the cover alone, standard or variant (in an extremely rare bit of sentiment) I was going to get the issue ASAP: it’s a callback to my own earliest days "in comics." My first-ever issue of Batman was #439–the closing chapter of Year Three; my second issue was #440…the opening chapter of A Lonely Place of Dying, which is where this story gets its title (sorta like the recent The Lazarus Contract‘s title playing off the classic The Judas Contract).

So for nostalgia alone I was gonna get this issue. But given continuity things of the last six years, I didn’t know exactly what the story itself would yield, outside of the story title and the cover playing off the classic.

We open on a flashback–Tim confronting Dick as he visits the circus he grew up with, showing him photos of Batman going off the deep end and explaining that he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne and that he–Dick–is Nightwing, formerly Robin. In the present, we find Tim being questioned by Mr. Oz–recently revealed to be (a?) Jor-El, father of Kal-El (Superman). We’re treated to brief flashbacks to the events of A Lonely Place of Dying, and then the beginning of the original Robin mini-series as Tim dons the duds and officially becomes Robin. Jor-El reveals his "truth" to Tim even as Tim exerts some control of the situation. He soon finds himself in contact with Batman…only it’s not the Batman he expects…rather, it’s a Batman he swore would never exist. Before much can come of that, the two find themselves facing possibly the most dangerous creature Oz had captured, which leaves us waiting for the next issue.

I would have to actually go back to the original issues or one of the collected editions on my shelves to confirm, but the dialogue in the flashbacks hit pretty darned CLOSE to my memory of the exchanges between the characters, and honestly gave me a slight chill at the way the flashbacked-scenes brought up memories for me.

As of reading this issue, I already knew the "big reveal" of Oz’s identity (though I’m still not sure if or how I’ll accept it–I’m still waiting for some other swerve and imagine it’ll be quite a long time before I’d accept it as the canon it’s being presented as and not just another plot point on the way to something else). I definitely dug Tim’s ingenuity, seeing that despite his time as a prisoner, he’s continued working on a way to escape (and after another earlier escape that we saw in Superman Reborn).

I was not prepared for/expecting the older Bat-Tim to show up or be any part of this at all…I honestly initially saw him as "just another character" of no significance; some swerve to this story or some trap for Tim or some such; it was seeing someone’s comment about the Titans of Tomorrow story that jogged my memory and contextualized the character…making this all the more cool as a story.

I’m not particularly familiar with Tim’s story or origins from 2011-onward; really since before 2009 as I’d lapsed as a reader early in the Red Robin run, and got right back out of the New 52 iteration of Teen Titans that I’d tried at the start. But at least for this opening chapter of A Lonely Place of Living, I feel like I’ve got "my" Robin back, "my" Tim Drake.

Which is a rather personal thing for me as the character debuted AS I got into comics…

Story, art…all in all, this is an excellent issue, certainly for playing on my nostalgia. The story is strongly rooted in continuity, in history…and the art just looks good, with nothing taking me out of the story. This issue just is.

If you’re a fan of Robin, or Tim Drake, or the current run of Detective Comics, I highly recommend this. Really, even if you aren’t a fan of them…this feels like something big, and all the moreso to me personally. Only this first chapter in and I already know I am absolutely looking forward to the inevitable double-dipping of getting the collected volume, and wondering what form that might take–as well as whether or not we’ll get any new version of a collected volume of the original A Lonely Place of Dying story!

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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #3

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0003The Man Behind the Mask

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1980
Cover Price: 50 cents

This issue is one of THE comics of my youth, up there with my "original 4" or the likes of Superman #75 and X-Men #41. Until I read through this for this reading, though, I would’ve said I had the issue memorized line for line, narration included…but the memory can be a fickle thing, as can a slightly modified/incomplete audio cast recording!

My original copy of this issue was a reprint edition, that came packaged with an audio cassette tape (for those of you old enough to remember what those are!) that had a cast-recording audio of the issue. I’d personally "digitized" a copy of that to my computer years back, several years BEFORE the rise of YouTube, and did so off a nearly-worn-out tape from listening to it so much! As with a couple parts of the first issue of this mini, going back through it and seeing (not just hearing/listening) to the contents of the issue, I was reminded of how much has stuck with me and came from this issue, even shaping parts of me beyond just "a comic book."

The over-arching story of the issue sees Batman leave the aftermath of the exploding Batmobile to Robin and Alfred while he goes out to question folks on the street, talk to Jim Gordon, sleep on it and go to work at the Wayne Foundation, mull over what Gordon said, make a realization and visit the old Batcave under Wayne Manor, and confront the responsible party to the destruction of the precious costume, and leave things at a Batman status quo such that this mini happened, but doesn’t need to have any lasting effects.

In practical terms, the framework allows us to see the "origin" of the guy that keeps the Dynamic Duo supplied with quality, reliable Batmobiles; Commissioner Gordon’s involvement with the duo; the origin/involvement of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and Lucius Fox.

Story-wise, as with the previous two issues, things are kinda flimsy when you look deeply into ’em. But as a kid, I was not that analytical and just took the issue at face-value, the steady, constant moving-ahead-the-story-doesn’t-stop from the audio rendition, and that was that. It’s stuck with me, such that to ME, this is one of THE most important single issues of all time…while to others, I’m sure it’s "just" some arbitrary Batman comic, a pretty cover, or of note for having been reprinted as a breakfast-cereal comic. (I would love to see an ongoing promotion with modern cereal "prizes" being reprints of small stories/minis from DC!)

Visually, this is a great treat, both the cover AND the interior. We have classic Aparo art, which as I noted with the first issue, means this looked like the same Batman I was familiar with in my earliest days and earliest back-issues with the character, seeming all the more important for the consistency. It also very much "defined" great Batman art for me, where I’ve retroactively determined Aparo to be one of my all-time favorite Batman artists, though I didn’t know one name from another at the time I was first exposed to the issue!

The cover is an iconic one for me, from this issue itself, to its being used as THE cover of the original "collected edition" (mass market paperback black-and-white reprint), and even serves as the cover image of the Tales of the Batman: Len Wein hardcover that came out a year or two ago. If I could have a poster of this cover, I’d be all for it!

Overall, this is a consistent piece fitting with the earlier issues, caps stuff off, and was maybe THE most foundational Batman comic of my life!

I definitely recommend the mini-series for older fans of the character and anyone who’d appreciate Aparo‘s art, or Len Wein‘s storytelling and use of characters! As for me…it’s just been enjoyable revisiting the mini and getting my own thoughts out there!


Now having "covered" this series myself, in my own format, I can listen to Michael Bailey and Andrew Leyland discuss the series on their new show: The Overlooked Dark Knight. I’d been planning on covering this series here, and discovering their new podcast prompted me to jump on this sooner so that I could get my thoughts out in this way prior to listenig to theirs–which I’m certain is far more detailed and insightful than what I can share here textually!  Having listened to their work in the past, I highly recommend the show just for their involvement alone, as well as whatever other Batman-related topics they cover.

And for the audio itself from the old cassette tapes of The Untold Legend of the Batman, you can find where folks have posted it on YouTube (links worked as of this posting):

Continue reading

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #2

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002"With Friends Like These…"

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is the "middle chapter" of the mini-series…"only" 3 issues. I knew the first issue from having read a copy that Grandpa had; and the third issue (as I’ll get to soon) is one of the single most familiar-to-me-comics ever.

This issue opens with a furious Batman seeking answers in a bar from the lowlifes that might have some knowledge–any knowledge–of anyone brazen enough to break into his sanctuary and steal–and destroy–one of the most precious items he owned. The situation deteriorates as Batman loses himself in a rage rarely seen (at least until post-Death in the Family). He’s snapped out of it by the arrival of Robin (Dick Grayson), and the two head back to the Batcave. Meanwhile, Dick reminisces about his own past with Batman, and how Batman’s affected his life. Once back in the Cave, the two interact with Alfred, who muses on his own background and coming to be butler to the Caped Crusaders; as Batman pores over files of suspects, we get a glimpse at the extended rogues’ gallery, and a bit about the origins of the Joker and Two-Face. Robin suggests they try police headquarters–and a conference with Jim Gordon–but as he readies to leave, a beeping is heard…and our heroes barely have time to seek cover before the Batmobile explodes. Batman declares war on the as-yet-unrevealed villain.

Of the three issues, I’m least familiar with this one. This was actually the "gap" for me in the story, that I first read (I believe) in a paperback reprint of the story–one of those mass-market paperback-size black and white things. I feel like the "focal" origins here are Robin and Alfred, and once again realized how much this version of both has stuck with me and formed the foundation of my understanding of the characters. We also get another reference to a warehouse explosion that I’ve always considered to be a contrivance or such–but I actually wonder (though have yet to actually opt to do the research) if this ties the story to anything in the ongoing Batman or Detective Comics titles, like if the explosion happened in an issue of either title and then this mini takes place as a "side trip" exploring the ramifications.

Visually, I had a definite sense of deja vu, thanks to Aparo‘s art, and I’m amazed to consider that this was published in early 1980, and that Aparo was still (or again?) a key Bat-artist up to stuff I read in my earliest then-modern explorations of Batman stuff in 1989 and the earliest part of the 1990s. I’m also somewhat amazed at the reminder of this being published in a much different time, where the issues (while part of a singular mini-series, a singular story) don’t flow nearly as smoothly one-into-the-next as they do now. Nowadays, it seems like in many collected volumes, one almost has to GUESS at where the issue-breaks are (accounting for mid-issue high moments and such) where this obviously picks up after the events of the first issue, but it’s a sort of "cold start" that does not REQUIRE one to have read the previous issue to follow along with THIS issue.

Chances are, especially these days, if you’re considering reading this issue, you’ve got #s 1 & 3 as well; and cheesey/hokey/flimsy as the STORY-story is (it’s a loose plot to give us the excuse to see a bunch of characters reflect on their origins, and by these better know "the rest of the story" as readers), it’s worth reading. This firmly embodies late-70s/early-80s pre-Crisis Batman, and is a product of its time. I don’t care for the cover proclamation of this being "an instant collector’s item"–if it SAYS it’s a collector’s item, it’s probably NOT. Then again, there’s the original comic edition; there’s a comic-on-cassette reprint edition; there’s a reprint edition that came in boxes of cereal; and there’s the MMPB collection…so DC got plenty of mileage out of this one 3-issue arc; and certainly formed my basis of understanding for these characters!

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002_blogtrailer

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #1

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0001In the Beginning

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is a comic that I clearly recall coming across in Grandpa’s collection all those years ago–after he’d loaned me a stack to read, and we visited and I found it in his comics cupboard. It stood out to me immediately for the cover being taken up itself by a giant book, with three very recognizable villains (Joker, Penguin, Riddler) apparently teamed up, utilizing the book to learn more about the Batman. The Joker proclaiming "This book will tell us everything we need to know to defeat the Batman!" To this day, this particular issue is rather "iconic" to me, one of the more "singular" stand-out covers IN comics (though a bit behind the third issue of this very series, which I’ll touch on when I get to that issue).

Presently in 2017 (some 37 years after this issue originally saw print!) the issue is definitely a bit "dated" in that it’s clearly from its time…but for me, it’s rather timeless. And it’s easy to see as I read just how much this very issue originally (and still) informs my FOUNDATION with the Batman character and mythos–from Thomas Wayne’s costume, to Leslie Thompkins and Joe Chill and Lew Moxon, the notion of Bruce as the first Robin, and so on.

The issue opens with Batman having a pleasant moment with Alfred, going through mail…only to discover a package with the shredded remains of the most valuable item in the Batcave–the costume once worn by Bruce’s father, which inspired his own look as Batman! This kicks off some nostalgia/reminiscing between Bruce and Alfred, which gives us as readers the background on the costume, the "base" origin with the death of the Waynes and Bruce’s childhood vow and self-training, to some specifics of the training and such, the origin of both his costume and the Robin outfit, and a glimpse in montage of many of the villains faced over the years. We also get the "expanded" origin details of young Bruce having been taken in by his Uncle Philip, and being "raised" by the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton (unknowingly mother of the man who murdered the Waynes), as well as Batman and Robin’s discovery of Joe Chill and eventually Lew Moxon, and how the Wayne murder case was finally, completely closed. Despite 18+ pages of additional story (the issue has 21), there’s no resolution regarding the destruction of Thomas Wayne’s costume nor the perpetrator.

What we ultimately have here is basically a framing device to give thin "reason" to characters reminiscing in that classic comics way–think all that hard on it, and it’s like–what? These characters have known each other too long, been through too much, to have this sort of stuff in this sort of detail coming up. There’s also the issue of the thought balloons seeming–by 2017 standards to me–being very in-your-face and blatantly stating stuff that would be left to be hinted at or given only as a subtlety.

While I’ve probably known this issue’s art was John Byrne and Jim Aparo, I feel like it’s "consciously" new information to me in the sense that it feels so revelatory. This series being one of THE early introductions for me to Batman, and the character’s background and generally a compact, definitive source on all things Batman…it would seem to clearly explain why I particularly dig Aparo‘s Batman, and any Batman that looks close to how he appears here!

I also wasn’t aware–until rather recently (a couple years or so back)–that this was written by Len Wein. This series is one that, as a kid, simply WAS Batman. I didn’t know the artists, I didn’t know the writer, I just knew that this was Batman, this was his origin and the showing of everything that made up the character and associated characters, and that was that.

So framing device or not, ludicrously blatant detailing of stuff or not…this was a very key comic for me in my youth, and I love it to this day for what it was, and remains, to me, though this is a much different Batman than the one I’ve known for most of the time I’ve been into "current comics," and could functionally be a whole different character (and in a sense, is–this is from a half-decade PRIOR TO Crisis on Infinite Earths!).

I have a definite soft spot for this mini-series, which is also why it hardly phased me to buy a new-to-me copy of all three issues just for the convenience of re-reading the single issues AND seeing the original ads and such, rather than simply grabbing my Tales of the Batman: Len Wein volume off the shelf to re-read it or such.

I’m certainly biased on the issue, but I think if you’re a fan like me and enjoy the different "eras" of Batman, this is an issue well worth reading in some form.

And while I’ll get into it more for the third issue, it should definitely be noted here: there is an audio-drama of sorts out there for this issue…this entire mini-series was made into a "comics on tape" thing with a voice cast, music, and so on, and packaged with reprint editions of each issue.

Continue reading

The ’90s Revisited: Batman #497

90s_revisited

batman_0497Broken Bat

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Jim Aparo
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Asst. Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late July, 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This is one of the most iconic, “key” comics in my life. The writing is straight-forward, the art is superb, and when I picture Bruce Wayne, this is the version I see. Not necessarily the worn-down, beaten man the issue opens with, but the face, the body structure, the human trying to be more-than-human.

With a lead like that, what did I REALLY think?

This issue is only slightly past the midpoint of the Knightfall story. It’s 3 issues before the big 500th issue, and yet is more of a crucial, impactful issue than that, in terms of its effect on the series for a time. The cover spoils the issue, even though really, we already knew it was coming…such was the nature of the beast, even at that time before the internet as we have it now. The cover–at least for the edition(s) I’m used to–feature a half-cover overlay as a sort of “enhancement” or such; just a black-and-white thing mimicking the upper-left corner copy and first part of the title logo…but then has the partially-eclipsed Bat-logo with the text

“You thought it could never happen…

THE BREAKING OF THE BATMAN”

Flip that up, and you have the actual cover itself, the iconic image of a ridiculously-huge and disproportionate Bane pressing Batman backwards over his knee. While the image is NOT lifted from the interior, it certainly conveys its point, and the issue is thus blatantly, fully marked as “the” issue where Batman gets his back broken…even as this “middle chapter” within a larger 19-issue story.

The issue opens with Bruce Wayne just into the manor, surprised at the presence of Bane. The two actually talk, having a semi-civil-ish exchange, basically discussing recent events very matter-of-factly, before the “final battle” between these two is joined. Batman is virtually non-existent, as Bane essentially tosses Bruce Wayne in a Batman costume around, pummeling him nearly to death, the man’s feeble attempts at fighting back doing nothing to slow the villain. As Alfred escapes and seeks out Tim for help, Bane decides on a different course of action than he’d apparently originally intended.

“I am Bane, and I could kill you…but death would only end your agony and silence your shame! Instead, I will simply… BREAK YOU!”

Slamming the battered body down over his knee, Bane then drops him.

“Broken… and done.”

The visuals in this issue are brutal…and it’s almost painful to look at, and just really take in just HOW MUCH of a beating Bane dishes out…yet how resilient Bruce/Batman is, simply to actually SURVIVE the experience. There are subtleties that even just on this read-through I picked up that I hadn’t before (and this is one of the most repeatedly-read comics in my own life) which says a lot! Even a number of years’ worth of issues later, this is the same Bruce Wayne seen in A Death in the Family and during the New Adventures run of the title and others between. This is simply the iconic–to me–visual rendition of the character and by far my favorite.

Story-wise, on the surface there’s really not much. Bane is here, beats up Batman, in essentially an issue-log fight sequence ending with Bruce broken on the ground. It’s something that in the present I would be inclined to strongly dislike–after all, isn’t this just “padding” and “decompression,” having an ENTIRE ISSUE as a fight sequence?!? Yet rather than being a full 1/6th of a graphic novel or such, this is “merely” 1/19th of the Knightfall story itself; the ending of the first TPB of the original collected version, and appropriately-placed within the huger contemporary edition. This truly is just a small piece of a larger story, and so the fight being such a major thing, it does not FEEL padded-out. There are touches that I really liked, especially on this read-through, such as panel “flashbacks” to “recent events,” that I do recall from times I’ve read them, and jog my memory on stuff throughout the Knightfall arc thus far and stuff leading up to it. I could almost hear the somber music swelling as we see these interspersed with “now” and know we’re heading to The Fall, a defining moment for the character of Batman…the guy who can never be defeated, who is always fully prepared with contingencies for everything…but here, he’s gone, worn down as Bane intended, softened TO the point of defeat.

I know I got this copy that I read this time out of a quarter-bin, it’s an issue I’ve seen “hold its price” in terms of what dealers will ask for it…so it’s certainly worthwhile if you find it IN a bargain-bin! Given the full Knightfall story is available in multiple formats and collections, unless you sincerely want to own/read/experience this as a single issue, I would not say it’s actually worth anything more than $1 or so for print or (grudgingly for immediacy) $1.99 for digital.

However, if you’re grabbing this in-print…you MIGHT want to lift that overlay and check which printing you’re buying. I was rather surprised on this copy to realize I’m holding a 2nd print…perhaps that’s part of why it was “only” 25 cents. The only difference I can see outside of the Roman Numeral “II” is that the color of the bat behind the word “Batman” on the cover is yellow for this printing, but white on the first.

The ’90s Revisited: Batman #416

90s_revisited

batman_0416White Gold and Truth

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciler: Jim Aparo
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Letterer: Agustin Mas
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: February, 1988
Cover Price: 75 Cents

[ I wrote this up weeks ago, but never got around to editing and posting my text until now. Fellow blogger Chris Sheehan of Chris is on Infinite Earths covered this issue as well, a couple weeks after I wrote my text; you can find his (far more detailed) coverage here from early November of this year. ]

I’m sure I’ve read this issue in the past…though that was probably in the earlier days of my reading comics–like 1992 or so. I’m pretty certain I recall this issue being part of a 3-pack available at a department store (Hills?) as it’s a "back issue" even from that time, yet a random one I read early on. But it’s a much different thing reading it again now, all these years later.

To be perhaps over-simple in summarizing the issue: Robin (Jason Todd) is shown to be reckless, but rescued by Nightwing. Nightwing and Batman later have words, and then Nightwing helps Robin, with Batman’s hidden approval.

I would have already read A Lonely Place of Dying, and new that this Nightwing guy was "the original Robin" and that "the Robin who died" was Jason Todd, and as a back issue, here was an issue that had the two teaming up. Getting the Dick/Bruce confrontation here–and learning that they haven’t talked in 18 months–surprised me on this reading. Firstly, for having a specific timeframe given, and secondly that I didn’t remember it. Knowing what I do nowadays, but still having a blind spot from this period, I would guess that this is "the" issue that detailed the split and/or retconned things to Dick having been shot and ordered off the job, hence striking out on his own with the Teen Titans and becoming Nightwing instead of Robin. (Much the way #408 retconned Jason’s background to having been found stealing tires off the Batmobile). I would guess this is the Batman title’s explanation of things, whether or not it exactly fits with whatever was going on in the Teen Titans book at the time, and with the ripples/ramifications still being situated post-Crisis.

While the cover is kinda generic and not all that appealing to me, it’s definitely memorable…at least to me, given it was (as I remember) one of my earlier "back issues" long before bargain bins became such a thing for me as they have been the past decade or so. The interior art is "classic" to me, and more than once I had to remind myself I was NOT reading A Death in the Family. Part of me is partially amazed to realize this is the same creative team that DID do that story, even though it’s almost a year’s worth of issues off from this one…back in an age where it did not seem like creative teams shifted every several issues. Whining about that aside…I love the art here, as it clearly conveys the story, does everything I’d expect it to…and stirs up the nostalgia as well.

Story-wise, I felt like even here there was a bit of setup for Death in the Family, though it’s likely a bit of "reaching" on my part. Or in another way of looking at it…having the same creative team allowed for more internal consistency for the title both in characterization as well as visualization. Most often, I think of Starlin as doing Thanos/Warlock stuff, with the Infinity Gauntlet and all over at Marvel…but I think it’s safe to say that he’s also one of my favorite Batman writers!

This issue works quite well for me as a one-off, though I’m obviously a bit biased in nostalgia and remembering this…it’s a one-off for this READING but I’m hardly any sort of new reader or such, which makes this in its own way "just another issue" that I happened to read that I can partially contextualize without other issues. Yet we have a beginning, middle, and end…and though this certainly is not the final issue of the series, we do NOT have a cliffhanger or "To Be Continued…" We just get this as an episode that introduces us to the current Robin, the former Robin, contextualizes both, confronts Batman, and we get a bit of development with all the relationships, seeing that they all have different "history" with each other without (as a reader) absolutely having to KNOW the history.

All in all, this is good, solid issue…and one I would definitely recommend if you find it in a bargain bin! It’s certainly worth a quarter, and if the condition is good, I’d even say go up to $1 on it for the reading experience. The potential we see here gets really developed years later in the Dick/Tim dynamic…and we see the start of that here, had Jason lived.

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