In honor of Batman Day, I’ve decided to revisit one of the seminal moments in the life of the Dark Knight through one of the most memorable story arcs from my childhood. After fans voted for DC Comics to kill the second person to don the Robin title, Jason Todd, fans were left to wonder what the aftermath of that event would be. What kind of Batman would emerge from dealing with a murdered Robin and what impact would that Batman have on Gotham?
A Lonely Place of Dying dealt with that issue and from the ashes of Jason Todd’s death, readers were introduced to a new character that would take on the mantle and bring a new dynamic to both the character of Robin, but also the Dynamic Duo, Tim Drake. So let’s take a look back at the storyline that bridged the gap between the death of one Robin and the birth of another.
A Lonely Place of Dying Part 1: Batman #440 Written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez with art by Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo.
Batman is facing off against The Ravager on top of a dam. Ravager has murdered two cops after killing a brother/sister singing duo on stage at their concert. As the Dark Knight takes on a pretty low-level thug, he is severely wounded by the fight and limps away after tossing Ravager into the water. The whole time, the voice over shows that someone is watching Batman. Someone hidden in the shadows, taking pictures. Someone who knows Batman is Bruce Wayne.
The issue gets more intense with Alfred confronting Bruce about the abuse he is putting his body through as well as his lack of focus. A lack of focus that is increasing the amounts of injuries he’s suffering. A lack of focus that is also allowing for a mystery figure to manipulate events around him in preparation of finally taking Batman out for good. As Bruce finally begins to put the pieces of this new mystery together, Starfire is confronted by the person tracking Bruce because he’s looking for Dick Grayson and one of Batman’s foes makes his appearance as the mastermind behind everything.
A Lonely Place of Dying Part 2: The New Titans #60 Written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez with art by George Perez.
Starfire and Cyborg are looking for Nightwing. After leaving the Titans for good, the team is on the hunt for their missing member and Kory is desperate to find him. After searching his apartment, they find out that someone has been there. Someone who took some personal items that indicate that Dick Grayson and Nightwing are the same person. At the same time, Dick returns to his first home, Haly’s Circus.
It looks like the circus is getting ready to shut down for good and Dick learns from the owner that a series of accidents has been costing the circus a fortune as well as affecting attendance. Dick decides to investigate the accidents and the young man tracking Dick and Bruce finally reveals himself. After solving the murder mystery at the circus, the focus returns to Batman as the young man reveals what he knows about Bruce, Jason and everything else.
A Lonely Place of Dying Part 3: Batman #441 Written by Marv Wolfman with art by Jim Aparo.
Both Batman and Two-Face are trying to determine what the others next move will be. Both decide on their own that the only way to draw out the other is to devise a trap to tempt the other to a location of their choosing. It’s a pretty intense set of scenes that allows Wolfman to dig into the characters in an interesting way.
Dick takes Tim to Wayne Manor and we finally get to know how Tim discovered who Batman and Robin really are. It’s a really personal story that links Tim directly to Dick and the day he lost his parents. It’s a pretty powerful moment. There are some really great character moments in this issue and I can’t discuss the plot anymore than I have because so much is revealed about Tim’s journey and investigation. Ultimately, Dick decides that Tim is right about Bruce needing help, but he can’t go back to being Robin and Alfred thinks there’s more to bringing Tim to the manor than just to tell his story.
A Lonely Place of Dying Part 4: The New Titans #61 Written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez with art by Perez and Tom Grummett.
The beginning of this issue takes a dark turn in the first few panels. After Tim implores Dick to resume being Robin for Batman’s sake in the last issue, Dick explains why he can’t. In this issue, Dick is well, kind of a dick to the kid in his refusal to be Robin. After running off to track down Batman, the Titans discover that someone else is looking for Dick and this person has a darker agenda. After the team tracks down Nightwing to Gotham, Raven gives him something that will help him find his former mentor.
Both Batman and Nightwing put the clues together to find Two-Face’s location and Batman decides to barrel in without a plan. Dick sneaks into the location and the two of them begin to investigate opposite ends of the building. When Harvey emerges, he unleashes a pretty clever plan. One that takes both Batman and Nightwing out of commission and leaves Alfred with a desperate choice to make.
A Lonely Place of Dying Part 5: Batman #442 Written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez with art by Jim Aparo.
The hour is getting late and there is no sign of Batman or Nightwing. With Alfred waiting in the batcave, he is confronted by a concerned Tim Drake. As the two of them talk about Aflred’s worries, the Robin costume features prominently in each panel and Tim tells Alfred that he’s worried and there has to be something that he can do. Batman and Nightwing are trapped under rubble in a basement filled with explosives and Two-Face trying to determine whether or not to set them off.
Tim has to don the mantle of Robin in order to save Bruce and Dick and his first fight with Two-Face almost becomes a replay of Jason Todd’s death until Alfred intervenes. After Tim frees Batman and Nightwing, Bruce does not react well to another kid wearing the mantle of Robin. To Tim’s credit, he has to remind Bruce that not only is Robin a symbol the same as Batman, but that word of a dead Robin would embolden criminals to take out other heroes. A fair bit of logic. The three of them go after Dent and the reader discovers that the voice that Harvey has been hearing coming out of the radio he’s been carrying with him isn’t the voice of his subconscious, but someone very real.
A Lonely Place of Dying came out at the time I was in the middle of my teenage years and the fantasy element of becoming Robin made the story resonate with me as both a fan of the characters and a reader of the series. I never really liked Jason Todd as a character and, while I didn’t vote for his death, I didn’t mourn it when it happened. Like many kids at that time, I actually did think that Todd’s death would bring Dick back as Robin (if only to get him out of that ridiculous Disco suit he was sporting). In many respects, we were all like Tim in that regard. We wanted to see Batman find a sense of balance that he had been missing. It’s a testament to the character of Tim Drake that we found it with a new Robin. One that became the partner Bruce needed and the Robin Dick Grayson can be proud to turn the mantle over to.
All five issues of A Lonely Place of Dying can be found on the DC Universe app. The app is live and the subscription service is active. I encourage you to read them yourself as well as the other comics available.