So it’s not Batman ‘89, it’s Batman ’93? As in, set after Batman Returns… is it just Sam Hamm’s Batman Forever? If so, it’s still okay. I just wasn’t expecting the returning character at the end of the issue. I also wasn’t expecting Hamm to do a deep cut to the original script—and the Craig Shaw Gardner novelization—of Batman. At one point, Bruce Wayne needs to costume up, and he doesn’t have his Batsuit, so he goes into his trunk, dons a ski mask, and charges into battle, which is one of those moments from the novelization I remember since it never comes close to happening in the movie.
In fact, outside the first scene, there’s no Batman action. Instead, it’s Harvey Dent coming to terms with being a Black man in the white establishment while trying to address police violence against Black people in Gotham. And Bruce Wayne realizing there are limitations to vigilantism, and maybe he should spend his money helping instead of just assuming he’s beating up the right people.
Hamm’s script goes in very hard on protests against police violence and structural racism, and so on. It’s impossible to imagine it in 1989, 1993, or 1995. Batman ’89 is of a moment, and it’s this one. It’s post-White Knight, it’s post-“Batgirl of Burnside”—Burnside’s still pre-gentrified, though Barbara Gordon isn’t a kid here, she’s Harvey Dent’s plus one. The comic talks around whether or not Dent doesn’t want to be seen with her because she’s white or because she’s Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, as he finds himself working for a community instead of trying to police it out of existence. Hamm’s writing has got its limits, and he’s bumping into them over and over, but he’s trying.
Joe Quinones’s art is excellent. There’s only that first scene with the Batsuit reverence, but all of the art is very carefully done. The expressions are just right for Bruce Wayne to imply Michael Keaton without going too far; Quinones’s scales back the almost caricature take from last issue. Michael Gough’s Alfred gets some good scenes. Given many of the characters have real-life analogs, I wish they’d “cast” the rest of the comic, too, just because Quinones does so well.
The issue also introduces Robin, who will be an entirely new character—unless he gets a “Robin John Blake” moment or whatever—and Hamm’s making another wide swing with him. Not just a Black Robin, but one very aware of being a Black man in a hostile, racist environment. Batman movies, of course, always go overboard with sidekicks and villains, they just can’t help themselves (action figures don’t sell themselves), and Hamm’s getting together a very full cast.
But he’s also taking the opportunity seriously, and he’s definitely working to keep up with Quinones’s dynamite work. Batman ’89/’93 is heading into act two… I really hope they’ve got it figured.