Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Robin II: The Joker's Wild! #4 (1991) - "Chill Factor" Review

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artists: Bob Smith, Tom Lyle, Adrienne Roy
Release Date: December 10, 1991
Cover Price: $1.00
Review by: Joey Casco

Please go check out Joey's awesome site 

It's Tim Drake's first time alone as Robin. Batman has been away for weeks and Gotham is on fire (literally and figuratively), as the Joker has used computer genius Dr. Osgood Pellinger to hack into the city's computers and provoke havoc. After Tim and Alfred's attempts failed to make it seem as if Batman was still in Gotham, the Joker is now aware that Robin is alone. And he's calling him out. To prevent the Joker's next prank, which will kill hundreds of people, one billion dollars are to be exchanged in a red tractor trailer... with Batman as the driver. The city of Gotham is broke. They don't have the money and they don't have the Batman.

This issue starts with Tim, in full Robin attire, visiting his dad in the hospital. At this point in time, Jack Drake was in a coma after being poisoned by Obeah Man on a trip to Haiti (Tim's mother, Jack's first wife, died from the poison). Tim starts talking to his comatose father about everything that's been going on with the Joker. He's only been Robin for a short period of time and he really doesn't know Alfred that well yet. He's scared of failing Gotham, failing Batman, and he thinks he's failing his World Cultures class.

As I said in my review of issue #2, we're seeing a Robin who has lost his confidence and is legitimately scared that the Joker is too much for him to handle. But when he leaves the hospital and gets back to the Batcave, he springs into action and lays out a plan. Alfred is to move from payphone to payphone so he's not a sitting duck, hooking them up to a laptop installed with a program that will find Pellinger's computer again. Tim will take on the ransom exchange. (Don't let that distract you from all of those Batsuits just hanging out on a dry cleaning rack!)

But there is no ransom money, and the truck will be loaded with newspapers. The mayor is relying on Batman to take down the Joker yet again, and Gordon, who knows Batman is gone, is desperately hoping that Robin won't let him down. The truck is left at a specified place for "Batman" to pick up, and once the police are gone, Tim drops down from the buildings and gets to work.

With a foot of snow coming down all around them, Tim tries to drive the truck from a rooftop via remote control while Alfred sets up shop at a payphone. Over the walkie-talkie, Alfred lets Tim know "I just wanted you to know that I know the pressure you're under, and that I doubt Batman could have done any better than you have done." D'aaaaaww!!! <3 font="">
Tim drives the truck and parks it on the bridge that the Joker specified. And it doesn't take long for Alfred to reach Pellinger.

That's Pellinger's childhood dog, Pixie. Pellinger starts communicating with Alfred, asking "Where are you, Pixie? Come here, girl. Good girl. Come to Ozzie." Tim's detective work from the last issue paid off! Alfred immediately calls up Gordon and gives him the payphone number, which Gordon uses to trace Pellinger's connection. The SWAT team is sent out within minutes, heading to the Joker's hideout.

Meanwhile, the Joker arrives at the bridge by way of a snowmobile on the river below. You know the Joker; he doesn't give a damn about the money. So he uses a telescope to make sure Batman is in the cab and...

He set the bridge up with dynamite prior to the ransom exchange because of course, he did. The Joker is in all his glory, believing that Batman is dead, until a burnt up mannequin dressed up like Batman lands behind him. It was all a ruse! Robin lands on the Joker's back and starts taking out his henchmen. This is a nice scene with Tim showing his precision and effectiveness at fighting. But while Tim is distracted, the Joker escapes on ice skates. Tim jumps on the snowmobile and chases after him, catching up at a sewage treatment plant.

After a brief struggle, Tim is able to launch the Joker into a big ol' vat of diarrhea. The police arrive at the plant to take the Joker into custody, and the SWAT team raids the Joker's hideout to save Pellinger and destroy his computer.
Later at Wayne Manor, Alfred has made tea for Tim and we get another heartfelt moment from the two, as they discuss what happened and how well they worked together. "Master Bruce will be most pleased when he hears of it." Just then, Batman walks in from outside and asks "Hear about what?" What the hell, Bruce? You're just gonna walk right into your house fully dressed as Batman? Don't you have a Batcave for a mudroom?
Then on the final page we're taken to Arkham Asylum where even though this story is over, it's not over for the Joker...

Bits and Pieces
Tim starts off this issue by admitting how scared he is, but he's able to pull himself together and prove how much of a leader he can be. What's that phrase? "Bravery is not the absence of fear"? The art is great for the era. I have only one problem with the story: I flipped back and forth a few times trying to see how they would solve some of the problems that Pellinger had created, but I guess destroying his computer did it. I mean, it wouldn't because a lot of his hacking involved viruses and that's not how viruses work, but this is a comic book so whatever. The Joker, again, is great in this issue as he is throughout the entire four-part series, as well as Alfred.
Speaking of the whole series: if you're a Tim Drake fan you really should pick it up. This is where he meets the Joker for the first time, when the Joker finds out that another Robin even exists, and, probably more importantly, when Tim and Alfred begin to form a bond. Also, it's just a great piece of 90's comic nostalgia that takes me right back to being 11 again.


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