Comic Review: Batman ‘89 #2
Writer: Sam Hamm
Artists: Joe Quinones (artist); Leonardo Ito (colorist); Clayton Cowles (letterer)
Batman ‘89 takes a dramatic turn in its second issue as Sam Hamm shifts the series’ focus to the consequences of Batman’s actions and Harvey Dent’s fight against class inequality.
Picking up immediately from the end of the previous issue, Batman’s excursion into Burnside and confrontation with the Gotham police end in disaster as stray gunfire results in the death of an innocent bystander. While this isn’t the inexperienced younger Batman of comics arcs like Year One or Zero Year (as the series is set after Batman Returns), Hamm’s portrayal of this version of the hero is fairly consistent with how he is seen in both Burton films, and Hamm has shown on several occasions in this series that his Batman is still both human and very much able to make mistakes.
This issue focuses less on the crime-fighting action that was a major focus last time and instead takes a significant amount of time to zoom in closer on the effects, both intended and unintended, that Batman has on the people of Gotham, from its politicians like Dent to its regular citizens. It’s reassuring to see Hamm’s approach to the series begin to take shape as something that balances style and substance rather than letting action dominate over story, as well as to see him take advantage of some of the unique casting choices of the original film to tackle social issues.
I’m excited to see where this storyline goes; as it stands, the use of Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent as a bold yet reckless defender of Gotham’s Black community is already a unique take on the character, abandoning the anger issues present in some other pre-Two Face interpretations of Dent in favor of a rash heroism that works in context. Dent was established as a major character in issue 1, involved in the lives of both Batman and Bruce Wayne, so seeing his role continue to expand helps build his backstory and motivations while effectively setting him up for his inevitable transformation. If anything, I would have liked to spend a bit more time with this version of Dent as District Attorney so that his relationship with the residents of Burnside could receive more development prior to his upcoming change into Two Face.
Bruce Wayne also receives a decent portion of the spotlight, as much of the later sections of this issue feature him out of costume and dealing with his guilt over his involvement in the death of someone he failed to protect. Dealing with death and failure is not unique to Batman –we’ve seen stories like Denny O’Neil’s Batman: Venom that have revolved around this premise –but the concept hasn’t really been explored in depth in the Burton universe before. Again, Hamm uses the “presence” of Billy Dee Williams’ Harvey Dent to his advantage, as Dent is essentially the connective tissue between Bruce, Batman, and Burnside. Here, we see Bruce venturing into philanthropy as a coping mechanism, bringing him closer to the classic comics character while still managing to fit the story that Hamm seeks to tell. It’s probably too early to tell how effectively Hamm is able to address the issue of class inequality that is prevalent in this series so far, but there’s a clear effort to introduce some nuance into the subplot, especially through the Burnside community’s reaction to Bruce’s attempt at philanthropy.
The artwork by Joe Quinones is just as good as it was in the last issue. Though it feels like there’s a bit less Batman action this time, what we do get of Bruce in the suit is high quality work. I still absolutely love Quinones and Leonardo Ito’s depiction of the Batsuit and the small tweaks they made in its design to make it stand out more on the page. The colors still aren’t as dark as the Burton films were, but the nighttime scenes with Batman or in the Batcave remain visually appealing, and the artwork is at least still easy to follow overall.
Batman ‘89 #2 marks a slight narrative shift from Bat-action to a closer look at inequality in Gotham and the ways in which Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent try to address it. Not every element of the story is entirely new to the Batman character, but writer Sam Hamm combines those elements in new ways or does unique things with the characters and story beats available to him. Joe Quinones, Leonardo Ito, and Clayton Cowles continue to support Hamm by delivering consistent, reader-friendly artwork and lettering. There’s less of Bruce in the Batsuit in this issue, but what we get is still the visual highlight of this series so far. This is absolutely still a series to follow for fans of the Burton movies.