Eleven months and six issues later, Batman ‘89 has finally decided on a story. That’s been one of my main disappointments with the series to this point, in that it feels like it’s more a collection of loosely connected scenes without anything to tie it all together. Now, in the final issue, Sam Hamm has admittedly brought most of his threads together for something that resembles a conclusion. It should not surprise you, unfortunately, that it’s not a satisfying conclusion in any way. At once rushed and overstuffed, this is something I’ve tried very, very hard to avoid saying: a bad comic.
Given the diminishing returns of each issue, though, and the fact that the penultimate installment still had me thinking “okay, where is this going?”, I’m sadly not surprised. The anticipation was so high going into the series that tempering expectations was a given, but man did this fall hard.
And it’s not just that the story is just now becoming clear, here at the end. That in itself isn’t necessarily a reason to criticize a plot. Sometimes a story reveals itself in the telling, or has a mystery built in that shouldn’t be made clear until you reach the end of the road. Neither is applicable here, though, as the story in Batman ‘89 wandered and meandered for four-and-a-half issues before landing on… this. It could have been an interesting character study of Harvey Dent– which, until this issue at least, was far and away the strongest aspect of Hamm’s writing– but it also wants to be about corruption and injustice and equality and whatever is going on with Catwoman. Fine ideas all, really, but they need to make sense. The story needs to be the vessel for the social commentary you’re trying to make, not a thin line on which to hang your half-baked ideas. Without a clear narrative thread to tie all six issues together, the added elements feel like an afterthought.
More than just serving as the ending to a lackluster story, issue six here is just sloppy. Characters appear in one place and with the turn of a page are suddenly somewhere completely different, and the fate of an important player isn’t made clear until too late in the proceedings. That really should have been an emotional turning point in the finale, but it lacks any sort of weight. I knew I was supposed to be upset because I’m a fan, but I wasn’t the least bit moved. That, along with the fact that Batman was a non-entity for the entirety of the book and Catwoman’s characterization and motives make zero sense, shows that this really wasn’t a great spotlight for established Gotham City characters. The new Robin could have been interesting but he, too, lacks any sort of consistent arc. A good idea and cool design that didn’t amount to much of anything in the end.
If I had any more energy or desire to do so, I could write plenty more words about how disappointing this book ended up being. I just can’t, though, and don’t want to. If you’ve stuck around with the series this long, you might feel the same way. If you’ve bailed by this point, then you definitely feel the same way. Even if the story didn’t amount to much, there are still some positives. Cowles is a good letterer, and makes the dialogue easy to follow and read, even if the writing itself isn’t great. Quinones and Ito in particular are a great team, even if this isn’t the right book for them, and the issue opens with a crazy good page that highlights the pencils, colors, and lettering.
As a bonus, the brilliant Julian Totino Tedesco contributes an absolutely stunning variant cover, so if you’re into that sort of thing, cover price might be worth it for this:
Much as I hate to say it, I’m glad this book is over. I went in wanting to love it, enjoyed the first issue well enough, and every successive issue has been nothing but diminishing returns. Burton and Keaton’s Batman deserved better.
- You’ve read the series to this point.
- You like cool variant covers.
Overall: It’s over. There isn’t much more for me to say. I wanted to love this book, and held out hope as long as I could, but even the few bright spots that I held onto didn’t pay off in the end. The art is nice, and I’d love to see this team on a different book, but the writing never got any better than “interesting.” And really, it rarely rose above that. A few weeks ago I watched Batman just because, and this makes me want to watch it again, for the wrong reasons.