A miscalculation on Batman’s part results in a loss of life that haunts the Dark Knight. How can Bruce make things right, and is Harvey Dent the savior he wants to be? Batman ’89‘s second issue is much less action-heavy than the first, but it makes up for that in some exceptional character development.
After a heck of a reintroduction to the world of Tim Burton’s first two Batman movies, Sam Hamm and Joe Quinones take the characters into unexpected directions. Without spoiling too much of Bruce’s actions in this issue, we appear to be getting a storyline that leans into that longtime criticism of Batman: Why isn’t a hero with a lot of money constantly funneling it into helping his community? Of course, these critiques don’t typically hold as much weight because readers have decades of stories to point to in which Bruce Wayne does just that. However, this is uncharted territory for this version of Bruce, and it should be interesting to see how it all plays out.
This issue also plays with an interesting concept that’s only lightly touched on in the first Burton film: Bruce Wayne is something of an unknown factor in Gotham City. People aren’t intimately familiar with the death of the Waynes, and Bruce’s frank discussion of it provides the character with some interesting moments of vulnerability.
Issue #2 puts this series’ version of Robin in the spotlight, giving him a great action sequence in which he has to go up against a crew of Batman wannabes. The origin of his codename in this continuity plays out in a way that might be a bit on the nose, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a real kick out of it. There’s a confidence to this character that makes him every bit the Batman’s equal, and it’s going to be a blast getting to see them working together more closely. The fight here is choreographed well, and Quinones totally sells the cool and calm of the new Robin, while also allowing for the character to still be a bit green.
Batman ’89 is doing a clever job of incorporating major touchstones in the Batman canon with story-specific twists. This can be seen in the introduction of the Batcave’s giant penny and the face paint used by one of the “Batmen” gang members. However, the strongest and most intriguing adaptation might be this series’ portrayal of Harvey Dent, who is seen as a man trying his best to hold the city together amidst a significant racial and class divide. Harvey drops the act more than once in this issue, referencing the fact that he’s been “code-switching” to keep himself safe and playing people to get ahead in a system that has shut out Black people for years.
As a result, however, the way Harvey is seen by other people has been negatively impacted; he is seen as an unlikely ally at best and as a traitor at worst. This unease extends to his relationship with Barbara Gordon, who likewise struggles to figure out where she figures into Harvey’s life and his plans. These moments are beautifully illustrated, and the body language between the couple shows both a tenderness and a reluctance to completely open up to one another.
We’ve seen Harvey’s meaner side in the previous issue, but now we get to see his heart. The scene in which Harvey finally allows himself to be vulnerable, to appeal to the better nature of Gotham’s citizens (including Bruce Wayne) is a triumphant moment for the character — and it will no doubt make his fall from grace all the more devastating. This issue’s fiery finale sets up some exciting and tragic possibilities for future issues, which fans of the Caped Crusader’s cinematic adventures won’t want to miss.
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