Title: Batman 89 Issue 1
Writer: Sam Hamm
Artist: Joe Quinones
Colorist: Leonardo Ito
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Year: 2021
SYNOPSIS & OVERVIEW
If you're an 80's kid like me, then you'll know Michael Keaton's Batman, whether you watched the movies hundreds of times and played as Batman at recess or just simply lived in the '80s (after all, it's made over $400 million, including sponsorship from Diet Coke and merchandise, so it was everywhere). So when I heard that DC Comics was coming out with a series based on the classic movie, the nostalgia ran through my veins, especially when you saw the art reflected that style from the movie, from the black and gold font with the light reflection to the black rubber suit.
To be honest, this is a brilliant idea from DC Comics. It's a way for them to capitalize on the nostalgia market while at the same time making it fresh and engaging for readers. It's not a retelling of an old story but it's an exploration of the world that we grew up with that we didn't know existed. Even before I read this comic, I just knew that I would get hooked on this because then I can lose myself in the newly revealed world of the iconic Dark Knight and movie that inspired me and millions of other millennials.
But what I am most excited about with this series is not only seeing Michael Keaton downing the cowl again (which we will also get to see in the 2022 "The Flash" movie) but we're also going to see more of Billy Dee Williams' Harvey Dent, an introduction to Barbara Gordon, and Marlon Wayans' Robin, which was an idea pitched for Batman Returns but was ultimately scratched. It's really interesting to see that given today's political tensions regarding the deaths of POC by law enforcement officers and the Black Lives Matters movement, we get to see two leading roles, whose characters debuted as white males, played by two black awesome actors, and this was back in the late 80's, early 90's! So to see these characters develop more in this comic run is absolutely a dream come true for so many people.
"Batman 89" takes place after the events of the movie "Batman" where Joker was ultimately killed and Bruce Wayne continues on as the Dark Knight. However, the aftermath of the events still lingers in this issue, with Gothamites dressing up as Batman and Joker's henchmen, seemingly to continue on without him or a criminal organization is using the attire as a cover. Batman is still fighting crime in Gotham, but Harvey Dent is convinced that he and Jim Gordon is the reason why crime has continued in the city, calling for the resignation of Commissioner Gordon. He enlists the help of Bruce Wayne to take him down.
Hamm's writing here is a great example of how you create a new story within an existing cinematic universe that has been around for decades. Just in the first few pages alone, you're hooked as a reader because you feel like you're catching up on story elements that you've missed between "Batman" and "Batman Returns". We see Harvey Dent proposing to Barbara Gordon, then fighting off criminal thugs in an alley. In this scene, Harvey takes out his gun and flips his infamous coin (just a two-headed coin with no scratches at this point). He tells the thugs "heads, you die; tails, you walk." The coin lands on heads but in the next panel we see Harvey telling Barbara that he was just scaring them off. But the thing is, we don't actually see what happened to the thugs, so it leaves us guessing; did he actually scare them off? Or did he kill them and didn't let Barbara see it? This just immediately draws you into that character development that we didn't get to see in the movie. I don't want to give away too much after this point, but this is just a short example of how great the writing is, and that we get that for each of the characters in this issue.
I'm always amazed at the amount of imagination and creativity that artists have. What's impressive about the artwork here is that we are seeing both familiar and new visuals that you can definitely see this happening in your mind from the movie that it is based on. Being able to transfer the movie to a comic book is no easy feat, but the artists here did a great job of immersing us into the Burtonverse again. What's even more impressive is that even though it lives in the early 90's, the comic doesn't look or feel like it. It must be one of the most challenging things to do as an artist, and Quinones, Ito, and Cowles did a great job of making this seamless.
There were a few things that struck me as odd. The artwork of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne seems to take some liberties with his hair. It looks like he has gray on the sides of his head like Mr. Fantastic/Dr. Strange, and that it is a fade with a very curly top. In both "Batman" and "Batman Returns", his hair was not in this style or color at all, so it felt a little odd and it was hard for me to get past the first few panels without focusing on that detail.
There was also a scene where Batman is doing a stakeout on Harvey Dent at the Bat-Signal because he knows it's a trap. He is looking at his surroundings and tells Alfred via remote comms that there were three snipers in buildings that were surrounding him. However, the panel showed the buildings but you didn't see the snipers. I spent probably a minute scouring over the page, trying to find the snipers only to realize that they weren't drawn in there. Not a huge deal, but I think it would have helped to know how Batman spotted the snipers (or maybe they're there and I just haven't found them yet still? That's completely possible).
But at the end of the day, if that's my biggest complaint, then considered me one happy reader. I've seen other comics whose art wasn't nearly as good as this trio, and those small details didn't really hinder my enjoyment either.
Honestly, whether you are an '80's kid who loved the Batman movie or just a casual fan, this is a must-have comic for everyone to have on their shelf. It's amazing to think about the cinematic story we could have had if this issue was a movie, especially given today's climate and what the norm and experience were back then. But this comic goes beyond just being a "comic tied to a movie". This could be a comic completely on its own without any previous connection, and it would still rival any currently popular run in the comics.
This is one of the few series that I am NOT waiting for to come out on TPB. I will be buying each issue when they come out as soon as possible.