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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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Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying

I finally "pulled the trigger" recenty on several Batman volumes I’ve been planning on ordering. Over the last couple years, I’ve been gradually "upgrading" to newer editions of stuff I’d had, as these newer ones are far more comprehensive than the half-hearted volumes that were originally put out…or just simply have more content per volume, look better, etc.

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The one I was most looking forward to was Batman: A Death in the Family. This is one of the stories of my youth, and while I don’t truly "get" the merging of A Lonely Place of Dying into this, noticing that Batman Annual #25 was (supposedly) included definitely had my interest.

death_in_the_family_current_cover

I do like the minimal cover. It’s simple, but very, very telling…the image is haunting, shows the violence of Robin’s death, and is such an iconic image, filled with layer and meaning to me.

death_in_the_family_current_back

The back cover is less to my liking. It fits with contemporary volumes, of course, but I liked the back of the original edition better…or at least, the original’s inclusion of the original cover images.

whats_included1

According to the (back) cover of the book itself, the volume contains 10 issues. The 4-issue A Death in the Family story, the 3 Batman and 2 The New Titans issues that make up A Death in the Family, and the Batman Annual. "and also includes the 2006 follow-up story from BATMAN ANNUAL #25" .

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The indicia also would support that, citing the individual issues, with no wording such as "material from" or "excerpted from" or anything indicating truncation or abridgement.

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The volume’s table of contents begins to paint a different picture. It’s been nearly a decade since I actually read the annual, so I’ll be darned if I could remember the title of the story. But given the whole Superboy Prime and "punching reality" and all that, causing stuff to change, it would not be inappropriate for that issue’s title to BE "Alternate Ending." The pattern the table of contents uses lists the issues’ contents as their chapter of each story and the original issue numbers. The issues are included in full, no abridgement/etc.

But if one pays attention to the page numbers and the BIOGRAPHIES section below…notice the Annual is 270…but then the biographies are the VERY NEXT PAGE.

hes_alive_batman_annual_25

The sole inclusion from Batman Annual #25 is one. single. PAGE. And it’s not even reprinted as a page the way the entirety of the rest of the volume reprints the pages, this is intended to show AS a page from something else.

As a single page, this SHOULD HAVE been included between A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying. Given the Annual itself came 17-some years later, it would make perfect sense for it to be reprinted after both original stories. It seemed like a BONUS inclusion to the volume, to give us the original story, the followup, and then the revision, the revisitation that bridges the original stuff and contemporary stuff with Red Hood and such.

This is absolutely misleading, and had I known, if it had registered that the only difference was that this volume is 2-in-1 without the actual Annual in full, I definitely would NOT have bothered with this! I already have the original individual volumes, neither of which contains the Annual that was published those 17ish years after, and I’d thus prefer those.

current_and_older_edition

The art itself is basically the same on this new edition, it’s the words/fonts on the cover that is different. The art is centered on the new one and basically in full, while it’s off to the side on the original, wrapping slightly to the back. The original edition maintains the logo from the comics the story appeared in, as well as the story logo of A Death in the Family from those issues.

death_in_the_family_old_back

Personally, my ideal back cover is a mix of the original and the current…I would include the original cover images, but use the current text describing the story(ies) contained.

My original edition is the sixth printing or so, and quite beat up from numerous re-reads and being with me for over 20 years. Ditto for the Lonely Place of Dying volume.

older_death_in_family_lonely_place_of_dying

Here are the two original editions. They show their age, and are far from anything resembling pristine condition, as they are two of the oldest volumes in my entire collection. That can also be seen below with the prices of both books…

pricing_old_dif

I think the first printing of A Death in the Family may have had a $3.95 cover price, but I’m not certain. Obviously the sixth printing has the $4.95 cover price. Which, with at least a couple of the issues being oversized/extra-length is not bad at all.

pricing_old_lpod

A Lonely Place of Dying was 3.95. That’s five issues, including two issues that I believe were "Direct Market only" for basically $4. The cost of one single issue of what seems to be the majority of what both DC and Marvel put out these days heading into 2016. Granted, a quarter-century or so gap in time, but still…

lonely_place_of_dying_back_cover_text

Above: the back-cover text from A Lonely Place of Dying.

Given the gap between the two stories–Batman #s 430-439–and having Batman: Year Three (which I do not believe has ever been reprinted/collected) as well as The Many Deaths of the Batman (which was reprinted ages ago into a skinny, tiny little volume), I would think a much larger volume would be called for. Tim Drake is technically, officially introduced in Year Three, and that story also involves and has ramifications for Dick Grayson, then-Nightwing, who also played a major role in A Lonely Place of Dying. At minimum, I would expect Year Three to be included, as it also addresses Batman’s deterioration after the loss of Jason, which makes Tim’s arrival all the more poignant and sets things up FOR the latter story.

For that matter, in "losing" A Lonely Place of Dying as a title/book being folded into other stuff, I would think it’d fit quite well in a Robin volume…perhaps as the first few issues of the volume, then the story from Detective Comics where Tim’s mom died, and the (I believe) 3-parter from Batman that led into the first Robin mini-series. That’d make a handsome 12-issue volume; include the Robin mini and it’d be a strong 17 issues. That’d leave Robin II and Robin III to fill a respectable 10-issue volume, before picking up with the ongoing Robin series from 1993-on.

While this post is all over the place…ultimately, if you do NOT already have both A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying, I would definitely recommend this volume. Just be aware that it does not ACTUALLY contain the Annual that it misleadingly suggests it contains.

The content–the stories themselves–are very much worth it, and two very key stories in the 76+ year history of the Batman (and Robin)!

My Earliest Comics (part two) – Batman, Detective Comics, and a dead Robin

I got my introduction to the concept of the comic book way back in 1988 or so, when my mom and grandfather introduced me to comic books with a stack of Silver Age DCs. But my REAL start into comics was with those earliest comics that my parents bought me. This week, I’m providing a brief look at what my earliest comics were.

In this second installment: Batman, Detective Comics, and a dead Robin!


tec604

I wasn’t familiar with Clayface at the time, so didn’t know this gang of multiple Clayfaces from anything else. But the cover stood out big-time, as this mud statue of Batman, and then seeing it within the issue, getting smashed by the guy on the cover. So this was Batman, but I was without context…just sorta took it as it was, at face value.

batman439

I didn’t know who this guy on the cover was–didn’t know about Nightwing, didn’t know that he was the original Robin, etc. And this being the conclusion of a story, I really didn’t follow. Just something about some book everyone was after, and this guy and Batman not getting along. There was a sense of some history, yeah, but I didn’t even know what questions to ask at the time to catch up. Still…like with the Superman stuff from the other day…this lack of understanding and comprehension failed to turn me off to the character and comics…

This being part of the story that introduced (cameos) of Tim Drake is part of why I like the Tim Drake character–he was introduced into comics at the same time I got my start in “collecting” comics.

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This issue was probably just about THE most eye-opening comic of my youth. Turns out that Robin died some time back, as here’s Batman at the grave with a ghost of Robin pointing a blaming finger. The way Batman acted inside, that someone took the appearance of Robin, bringing back the memory of his dead partner…yet again, it’s just something I took at face value. Something that had happened sometime between the comics my grandpa had and these. It just WAS.

(I then found out from a friend some time later that Joker was the one who killed Robin, with a crowbar. It was yet more time later before I tracked down that story as Death in the Family, and still later before I got to actually READ the story.)

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