For some reason, this issue kind of snuck up on me. It feels like I just reviewed the second issue, like, a week ago. Maybe it’s because I was able to read the first installment of Batman ‘89 well in advance of its publication, meaning I had plenty of time to let my final thoughts gestate before writing a review. The turnaround between the second and third issues, on the other hand, was just a scant few weeks, and harsh as it sounds, the time isn’t moving quickly due to anticipation.
After a promising start and disappointing sophomore effort, though, I have a better idea of what this book is wanting to be. That made this issue go down a bit better, but yeah, it’s still not great.
And not just because it isn’t what I want from a Batman ‘89 comic, though I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t at least a part of it. No, even setting aside admittedly high expectations, this is still very much an okay Batman book at best. There are some interesting ideas for an alternate reality take, but it still doesn’t feel like much of a Batman book, let alone a Burton Batman book.
Picking up right where the previous issue left off, things start off on a fairly interesting note, even if the first half dozen or so pages have odd pacing on the first read through. We get to see Harvey Dent play the hero, rescuing young Drake Winston from a burning building. This kick starts the next phase of his already illustrious political career, as Dent eventually puts a stop to major crime, gets his girl, and even takes down the Batman. There’s a jarring time jump that first hints that something isn’t quite right, as we hear that Bruce Wayne has flipped on the “truth” about Batman, allowing Dent to stamp out vigilantism for good.
This, of course, is all a dream. As bizarre a sequence as it was, though, it was maybe the most interesting writing of the series thus far. Sure, I didn’t necessarily like the direction it was headed, but at least I was intrigued enough to see where it was going. Instead, Harvey wakes up as he’s being pulled from the fiery building, and his physical transformation into Two-Face is complete.
As much as I genuinely mean that the writing for Harvey has been the high point of this book, this still doesn’t land like it should. There are very brief hints that Dent might not always be the nicest guy in the room, but there really hasn’t been enough substance to make his transformation into Two-Face feel like anything more than an inevitability.
To his credit, Hamm does try to make the situation feel as dire as it looks, because really, a dude who had half his face blown up probably isn’t going to survive. Barbara Gordon is understandably shocked, and there’s a nice little scene where Bruce and Drake discuss Harvey’s chances of survival… which is squandered because of a line from Drake about keeping birds.
Because Robin. Get it?
This is just the first half of the issue, though, with the remaining pages stuffed with… too much, honestly. Drake gets a nice scene with Otis, the owner of the shop that went up in flames, though that’s short lived. The rest of the issue alternates between Harvey and his descent into a sort of existential madness, and Batman and Catwoman. The former is at least somewhat welcome, so we can at least see how Two-Face the criminal comes to the forefront of Dent’s psyche, but there’s a lot of talk about alternate universes and branching paths resulting from the choices we do and don’t make. It’s different, and honestly an idea that could drive an entire story on its own. Instead, it’s a few lines devoted to giving the character an M.O. without going any deeper. While it might get us where we need to be with Harvey, it just barely accomplishes that.
Then there are the scenes between Bruce and Selina, which… look, they are trying very hard to channel them chemistry between Keaton and Pfeiffer. What works on screen thanks to the performers, though, is awkward to read. Not because you’d get uncomfortable, mind you, but because the dialogue just isn’t great. We don’t have fantastic actors to make us believe these lines, so reading an insulted Batman tell Catwoman that he broke “up a 31 million-dollar heist” just comes across as silly. There’s no poetry or nuance to their dialogue at all.
Thankfully, we have Joe Quinones and Leonardo Ito just giving it their all, with a solid assist from letterer Clayton Cowles. This still doesn’t feel like Burton’s Gotham, but Quinones is clearly having the time of his life illustrating this book. The rescue of Harvey from the fire is a short, thrilling scene, with some great pacing and panel structure. Even though it’s pretty clearly telegraphed, the reveal of Dent’s scarred face is also effective from a visual standpoint, even if the narrative doesn’t make it have as much of an impact as it should.
Quinones’ true artistic flair really comes through in the smaller details, though. Not to say his big picture stuff isn’t great, because it is. His panel placement and layouts are fantastic, and help tell the story that’s struggling to be told in the dialogue. Look at how he uses pained facial expressions or hand gestures to allow his characters to communicate. Ito’s use of color is striking as well, with different palettes and finishes used to great effect in certain scenes to help differentiate what’s real and what isn’t.
Plus, they managed to make Prince’s roller skating prowess canon.
That, my friends, is 2 funky 4 u.
At the halfway mark, I’m able to reconcile what this book is trying to be with what I wanted it to be, but even doing that it’s still not as good as it should be. It’s not Batman ‘89; it’s just fine.
BONUS: Another gorgeous cover from Lee Weeks.
- You’ve enjoyed this book so far.
- You want to see a new spin on Two-Face’s origin.
- You love that Joe Quinones and Leonardo Ito artwork.
Overall: Still not what I was wanting from this series, but I’m at least coming around to accepting what Batman ‘89 is trying to be. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue to fall short of its expected potential, with a narrative that feels disjointed and weird. It’s that weirdness that’s at least perked up my interest, though, so combined with some great visuals, I can at least sort of recommend this issue. Here’s hoping the series kicks into gear in the back half.