In the third issue of Batman ’89 from Sam Hamm and Joe Quinones, Gotham is at the dawning of a new age. After saving Drake Winston from a horrible fire and proving himself to be a hero of the people, Harvey Dent’s career is on a roll. One year after the blaze, it looks like he’s poised to take everything he’s always wanted.
Beware of minor spoilers ahead for Batman ’89.
But of course, things aren’t that simple for Harvey Dent, and this is only the beginning of a long line of sad delusions for the disfigured District Attorney. Hamm and Quinones pull this misdirect off splendidly, holding back on any major tip-offs until just after the jump forward in time. Yes, maybe I’m incredibly gullible, but they had me there, as well. The fact that Quinones slips in some familiar faces and callbacks to the films — like the surviving newscaster from Burton’s first film and an incredible cameo from the man who soundtracked the flick — just helps to further sell the lie that Harvey’s telling himself. The reveal is heartbreaking, and the design of Harvey’s scarred form is truly memorable.
In many ways, this sequence shows what a perfect marriage of mediums this series is. This book clearly continues to play in the sandbox of the movies and build off what came before, but it also successfully pulls off story beats like this that feel suited for the comics page.
This series also continues to delve deep into racial injustice and city politics, telling a story that feels timely while brilliantly incorporating the Gotham City of 1989. Bruce Wayne is seen as a symptom of the problems plaguing the city; the papers want to paint him as a hero while Harvey Dent lies in a hospital bed, unable to pay for a surgery that could change his life. People remark on the fact that the criminals who set the fire would likely see a harsher sentence if Bruce Wayne had been killed.
It’s no wonder that this divide becomes something almost tangible in Batman ’89. In this take on the mythos, Harvey’s fractured mind manifests as a sort of devil on his shoulder, showing him an It’s A Wonderful Life-esque take on how many times his life could have turned out differently — for better or worse. It’s also no wonder that this version of Two-Face appears to be starting off his crusade with the best intentions.
Even the purely entertaining sequence with Catwoman (who has gotten an exceptional redesign from Quinones) manages to incorporate social concerns, such as the fact that not all supervillains run around in flashy costumes. Bruce is almost shocked to discover that some of the people he does business with in his civilian life are greedy creeps who don’t have the public’s interest at heart. This last bit didn’t quite sit right with me; after all, this is a Batman who very recently watched the woman he loves take a series of bullets from department store mogul Max Schreck.
Overall, this was yet another strong issue that went in directions I didn’t expect. Fans of the classic Batman/Two-Face rivalry may find themselves surprised by the twists in this latest installment.
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