SYNOPSIS: It’s a battle between former friends for the heart of Gotham as Batman faces down Harvey Dent. Can Bruce save his friend before he goes too far, and what does this mean for the future of Gotham City?
At long last, the conclusion of Batman ‘89 is here!
I’m sure the question on everyone’s minds is, “Was it worth the wait?”, followed quickly by, “Was it worth telling in the first place?”
And those are both very complicated questions.
It’s been 33 years since Michael Keaton debuted as Batman and 30 years since he was last seen in Batman Returns. That’s a lot of expectation to live up to, especially as the movies have moved on and everyone who’s owned a Kenner action figure has their own continuity in their head.
We all have what we want to see.
And now we are presented with what is.
I was beyond elated that we were returning to the world of Keaton’s Batman in the comics. But what would that world look like, given that Burton’s films had two very different-looking takes on Gotham? Say what you will about Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but they were visually consistent with each other.
Artist Joe Quinones certainly drew some inspiration from what we’ve seen before, but his style is uniquely his own, not beholden to the dark and grimy alleys. Instead, his art almost feels like it would be easily suited for animation, possessing very clear lines and consistency to character models who look like the actors they’re based on, but just slightly off, filtered through his own unique lens.
While I have certainly seen critiques of his art, I’ve done nothing but enjoy his work on these pages. He brings real emotion to Harvey’s face(s), a dangerous allure to Catwoman, and Keaton’s trademark eyebrows and chin. I think Keaton’s likeness might be his weakest, but it’s still unmistakably him, just slightly caricaturish. His Batman, who is in short supply this installment, does the trick. I appreciated the panel where you could see Keaton’s eyes glaring through the white lenses, giving fans the best of both worlds.
Hamm certainly takes risks and swings for the fences, unafraid to shake things up. His boldness is tempered by echoing things and tropes we’ve seen before. Peering into the possibilities of the multiverse of outcomes was a fun way to end this particular dilemma and Quinones dynamically backed him up with the art.
At the end of the day, though, I don’t feel like Hamm’s story held cohesiveness at times. Transitions could be abrupt and despite being credited with the story for both of Keaton’s Silver Screen outings, I don’t think he nailed his voice. Gordon was also a victim of this. However, I had no problems hearing Billy Dee Williams as I read Two-Face’s dialogue, which was pretty important given how much “screen time” he had.
If I were to judge this solely on my expectations of what I wanted to see, I’d be pretty disappointed. Like Batman Returns, Batman feels overshadowed by the supporting characters, lost in their intertwining narratives. Then there was the inclusion of a “Robin”, who like John Blake in The Dark Knight Trilogy fulfills the part, but maybe not in the way you’d expect. Catwoman, too, wasn’t in it as much as I would have liked, but she was thankfully more crucial in this conclusion.
Taking what I would have hoped this story would be and placing it off to the side, there was enjoyment to be found. There was a shocking twist or two, including some cameos that were fun. The denouement felt suitably epic, if somewhat familiar. Alfred had to Movie Alfred and that, too, was fun. Joe Quinones made the whole effort worth it for me. If there is ever to be a sequel, I would more than welcome his return to the Batcave.
So, was it worth the wait? For the art, absolutely. I love how Quinones combined influences from other eras and iterations and having one artist for this very finite set of issues makes for a more visually cohesive read for those who revisit it as one volume. I fully intend to have a collected edition of this on the bookshelf next to the comic adaptation of the first movie.
Was it worth telling? That’s something only you can answer. For me, I loved seeing Billy Dee Williams “reprise” his role, even if it was only in the pages of this comic book. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was also someone I had been wanting to see again, but as I stated above, it was not how I had pictured her reunion with Batman going. Storywise, this was a mixed bag, but with art that enjoyable, I am more than happy to read this again, preferably in one sitting with both Danny Elfman scores blaring, and give it another chance! – Javier E. Trujillo