The first issue of Batman ’89 was hugely anticipated – for comic book and movie fans of a certain age, Tim Burton’s first film featuring the Dark Knight is an incredibly important pop culture milestone. So it’s no wonder that a continuation of Burton’s vision – that ignores Joel Schumacher’s hyperactive, vibrantly colourful, campy take on the material – would be excitedly lapped up by middle-aged Bat fans.
And original movie scriptwriter Sam Hamm, on writing duties for the comic continuation, does well to bring the spirit of the original vision back, thirty-odd years after the fact.
Batman, involved in a standoff with police, inadvertently causes a tragic situation to occur. Wracked with guilt, Bruce Wayne takes a sabbatical – but obsessed fans of the Bat patrol the streets of Gotham, taking the law into their own hands. Meanwhile, Harvey Dent is on a charm offensive, looking to unite the two sides of the coin that form Gotham; the poor district he hails from and the much more affluent area he now resides in. Tensions on the streets of Gotham are high, however – and Dent is caught between the two worlds, with destiny calling in one way or another.
Joe Quinones eases up a bit on the myriad references to Two-Face throughout the story this time, allowing the writing to speak for itself a bit more (though the Billy Dee Williams version of Two-Face is clearly there on the brilliant cover, also by Quinones). His art showcases some dazzling compositions and layouts throughout the story.
Hamm’s writing is surprisingly heavy on the social and political aspects of the story and – just like Burton’s first two movies – it’s less about our masked vigilante and more about those caught in his orbit. There’s a surprising character appearance which perhaps places the story at a later point in the ’89’ timeline than readers may have assumed – and at this stage, though it is a nice surprise to see this character appear, it feels as if we’re drawn away from the main plot for little good reason. It’s likely to pay off, of course – it’s just an awkward inclusion given what else is happening during this issue.
There’s an awkward reference to the origin of Robin’s name too, which feels unnecessary. The character design and the way he’s worked into the narrative is great though; it’s easy to see how this would have worked out on-screen if Damon Wayans had his chance to appear as Batman’s nascent sidekick.
Despite the few niggles with the story then, it’s an excellent continuation of a cinematic saga that was cut short by nervous executives way back in the 90s; it’s far from ‘toyetic’ (ugh), but it’s a very satisfying story so far – and it seems that the best is yet to come.
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