Batman: Year Two
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Cover of the 2002 re-issue of the collected edition, Batman Year Two: Fear the Reaper.
|Publication date||June – September 1987|
|Title(s)||Detective Comics #575-578|
|Writer(s)||Mike W. Barr|
|Penciller(s)||Paul Neary, Alfredo Alcala, Mark Farmer, Todd McFarlane|
"Year Two" is the title of a four-part story arc featuring Batman, written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Alfredo Alcala, Mark Farmer and Todd McFarlane. It originally appeared in the American comic book Detective Comics #575-578, published by DC Comics.
This story was collected as a trade paperback in 1990. In 2002, DC Comics published a second printing of the trade paperback, this time with the addition of the one-shot sequel, Batman: Full Circle included, with the new edition retitled as Batman: Year Two - Fear The Reaper (ISBN 1-5638-9967-1).
Batman is now an established vigilante in Gotham City. Captain Gordon is now Police Commissioner, and through an appearance on a talk show explains that Batman is working with the Gotham Police Department. During the interview, the host reflects on the anniversary of the final sighting of Gotham's first vigilante, The Reaper.
Leslie Thompkins, the medic who helped to raise Bruce Wayne after his parents were murdered, introduces Wayne to Rachel Caspian, a charity worker and aspiring nun. The two quickly develop a romantic relationship while it is revealed that Rachel's father, Judson Caspian, is the original Reaper, driven to fight criminals after the death of his wife. After observing that crime is still rampant in Gotham, Judson Caspian returns to his Reaper costume and foils several crimes through the use of lethal force.
The Reaper's activities soon draw the attention of Batman and the two engage in combat. The Reaper's experience and weaponry (including guns) prove too much for Batman, who is left bloodied, broken, and forced to flee before he is killed. Upon returning to Wayne Manor, Wayne angrily admits that his best was not enough, and that perhaps the only way to confront a killer like the Reaper is by using something he is loath to do: use a firearm in crime fighting. Wayne retrieves the gun that was used to kill his parents and begins to prepare for the coming battle.
Batman's vendetta against The Reaper leads to a falling out with Gordon, whom Batman nearly wounds or kills to prevent him from getting closer to what he considers his prey. Gordon misinterprets this action as Batman following in The Reaper's murderous footsteps, and soon deploys his forces against both Batman and The Reaper.
As The Reaper lays waste to Gotham's underworld, various crime lords assemble and discuss the situation. Batman eventually intervenes in the meeting, and proposes they join forces against The Reaper. The crime lords agree, but only if Batman cooperates with a handpicked agent of their choosing; that individual is Joe Chill, the man who shot Thomas and Martha Wayne. Batman schemes to take Chill's life once The Reaper is disposed of, while at the same time he lays the groundwork for his life after Batman, asking Rachel to marry him. She accepts.
During an attempt to capture The Reaper, a major battle ensues and many of the mob members are killed, and Batman's plan is revealed to a relieved Commissioner Gordon. The Reaper is presumed dead, and Batman takes an unconscious Chill to one of his safe houses, and then to the site of the murder of the Waynes where he reveals his identity and threatens him with the gun that was used in the shooting. Chill questions whether Batman will pull the trigger but before he has a chance, The Reaper re-emerges and shoots Chill himself. Now aware of Batman's identity, The Reaper beckons him to a final confrontation in the frameworks of the under-construction Wayne Foundation. There Batman and The Reaper fight to a standstill, and Batman, gaining the upper hand, discovers The Reaper is Judson just before he falls off the complex to his death. Realizing that the way of the gun is not for him, Batman places Chill's gun in the cornerstone of the Wayne Foundation building, to be sealed away when construction is completed.
Bruce returns to Rachel, who is distraught over the news that her father was The Reaper. She produces her nun's habit from the closet and calls off the engagement, choosing to atone for her father's sins through her faith. Bruce returns to prowl Gotham's streets, recommitting to his role as Batman.
Batman: Full Circle
The story was followed up in 1991 in a one-shot sequel, Batman: Full Circle, also written by Barr, and illustrated by Alan Davis. It was set many years later, and centered on the son of Joe Chill assuming the mantle of The Reaper. The story reunited most of the cast of Year Two and incorporated Robin (the Dick Grayson version) into the story.
Emulating the Reaper's mission of zero tolerance towards criminals and using his original costume and weapons, Chill Jr., in collaboration with his sister Marcia, attempts to lure Batman into a confrontation where they would finally dispose of the Dark Knight with a very different kind of weapon. Chill's schemes are hampered by the arrival of his own son, Joey, whom Chill attempts to bond more with like his father did with him. It is revealed that Chill Jr. witnessed his father's death at the original Reaper's hands, though he could not make out Bruce Wayne's unmasked face. Overcome with grief, Chill seeks to gain revenge on Batman, hence the reason he has taken the Reaper identity. Batman in the meantime faces some personal issues with Rachel Caspian, who has returned to Gotham convinced The Reaper is her father reborn. Chill and his sister use this to their advantage, plaguing Rachel with encounters as a way to cast doubt in her and Batman's minds that he is the returned Judson Caspian. (It is also revealed in this story that Joe Chill Sr.'s body was stolen before it could be taken into custody at the end of Year Two). Reaper also uses an explosive to destroy the cornerstone of the Wayne Foundation building, freeing his father's old gun, which was used to murder Batman's parents.
Batman is eventually captured by Chill, who unmasks the unconscious crimefighter, but does not recognize him, because Batman applied elaborate makeup and hair dye to alter his physiognomy. Chill subjects Batman to a video reel and a hallucinogenic drug that reduces Batman to a quivering wreck suffering from survivor's guilt. Chill has Batman posed at the top of a tall pedestal overlooking a pool of acid, forcing him to watch a video where a young boy's parents are killed in front of him and then the boy subsequently thanks God he did not die himself, hoping that Batman will kill himself from the resulting guilt. When Marcia, who saw her father as nothing more than a thug who abused her mother, and cared nothing for the revenge plot, attempts to double cross Chill in order to deliver Batman to mob boss Morgan Jones, Chill slashes Marcia, apparently killing her. Robin arrives on the scene and coaxes Batman out of his hallucinogenic haze, spurring him to break free of his bonds. Batman and the Reaper fight, and Batman emerges victorious. As Batman holds the unmasked Chill over the acid pool, urged by Robin to drop him in, Chill's son Joey reveals himself and his father's identity. Deciding to act on the indecision that he faced when he had Joe Chill at his mercy years earlier, Bruce spares Chill Jr.'s life, reflecting that what began with Joe Chill and Thomas Wayne should end with their 'grandsons' of Joey and Dick. After the police arrive and Chill is taken away in an ambulance, Batman goes to a bridge and discards Joe Chill's firearm into the ocean.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "In 'Year Two', a four-part sequel [to "Batman: Year One"] set in Batman's second year as a crime fighter, writer Mike W. Barr and artists Alan Davis and Todd McFarlane challenged the Caped Crusader with the threat of the Reaper."
- Batman: Full Circle at the Grand Comics Database