Batman ‘89 #1 review

If ever a comic book was to come with a soundtrack, this would be the one. Just looking at Joe Quinone’s picture-perfect cover plants Danny Elfman’s iconic theme in my head. ‘Dar-dar-dar-DAR-duh-dar…’

The issue opens with Gotham DA Harvey Dent about to ask girlfriend Barbara Gordon a very big question over a Hallowe’en dinner.

He’s rudely interrupted by chaos in the streets below the swanky Janus restaurant after Joker-themed thugs cause a lorry crash, cutting the area off from police aid.

Luckily, there’s a hero on the scene…

… and Dent shows he has the rIght stuff when a ‘clown’ tries to mug him for his watch.

While the thieves’ plan is ultimately foiled, Dent decides something must be done about the vigilantism culture encouraged by Batman’s presence.

Chapter One of this sequel to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film is a triumph, capturing its tone and style in comics better even than the official adaptation. That was good, but here Sam Hamm – who co-wrote the Button film – gets to write a story for comic book readers first, and matching another medium be darned.

So we have new background on Dent, the movie origin of the giant penny trophy, a shadowy possible sidekick, familiar henchmen names and more. Hamm’s characterisations for Bruce and Alfred feel right, Dent has more personality than he did on screen, while we get a ‘screen’ version of a familiar face, the aforementioned Barbara Gordon, thrown into the mix.

As drawn by Quinones, this Barbara – not a librarian but a police sergeant – looks familiar. I’m not sure, but I think he’s modelling her on Sean Young, the Eighties star slated to play Vicki Vale before an accident dropped the role into Kim Basinger’s lap. Whatever the case, Barbara fits this world nicely, looking thoroughly period.

Licensing issues, presumably, are the reason that bar the eyebrows, Bruce Wayne has little in common with Batman 89 star Michael Keaton; I am intrigued by the grey temples, what’s that all about? Alfred, on the other hand, looks pretty Michael Gough Alfred, ditto Dent and Billy Dee Williams. Quinones is an experienced DC artist and his storytelling is exemplary; I’m delighted to see him on as high profile a book as this.

I’ve not come across the work of colourist Leonard Ito previously, but he’s certainly the man for this project, employing plenty of the dark blues and burnt oranges of the film. And letterer Clayton Cowles is a welcome name on any book, his sharp, unshowy work among the best in the business.

With five issues to run, I don’t know where the storyline will ultimately go. An anti-Batman campaign is pretty old hat, but after 80+ years, pretty much everything is with Batman. Hamm and Quinones are big talents, and I wouldn’t discount the possibility of them surprising me; to continue pleasing me, all they need do is keep Jack Nicholson’s rubbish Joker out of play. Anything else is a win.

2 thoughts on “Batman ‘89 #1 review

  1. Interested to see where they go with this version of Barbara, who seems on board with the anti-vigilante attitude of Harvey…


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