Batman ’89 (2021) #4

Batman894

I’m verklempt. I wasn’t expecting to be verklempt. But writer Sam Hamm is going for it with Batman ‘89, with artist Joe Quinones going along with all of it—try to make a community march, but in Tim Burton’s Gotham City, you got it—and this issue might be where the elevation is permanent. Hamm’s taken this goofy, craven comic book tchotchke and made it special.

And not even because it made me verklempt. I got verklempt in the opening, which is about many Black Gothamites marching after Harvey Dent’s injury and resulting hospitalization. They’re marching in support of Harvey and his renewed mission for a more equitable Gotham City. Commissioner Gordon—mostly off-page—has guaranteed them the cops will be there to help, not hinder. All the church leaders are there; the news is there; it’d take a real asshole to screw it up.

That asshole is Lieutenant Harvey Bullock, who’s a racist piece of shit and is going to attack all the marchers and toss them in jail because it’ll teach them to behave. I’m still unsure who, if anyone, Quinones and Hamm have in mind for the Bullock “casting.”

But then Bullock’s attempts to sabotage the march go wrong when Robin shows up, distributing spray paint and smoke bombs and giving the marchers a chance. Now, since it’s a comic book set in a movie universe, the cops are only using rubber bullets—which are not non-lethal and quite dangerous—so there’s still little danger to the marchers. But thanks to Robin, there’s enough time for Gordon to show up for Pat Hingle’s one-panel cameo. I think it’s got to be a joke about how little Hingle’s in the movies.

Or maybe his estate’s litigious.

Anyway.

After that opening, it’s incredible Hamm’s going to try to flex some more, and flex he does. First, the Harvey in the hospital subplot, which involves Barbara Gordon. She’ll get her own subplot with Selina Kyle (who doesn’t look much like Michelle Pfeiffer, but it’s still cool to see professional, not boss-murdery Selina in action); they don’t quite pass Bechdel, but it’s more because the system’s patriarchal and sexist. Like, they actually don’t have anything else to talk about in their scene.

We get some insight into Harvey and Two-Face, who argue, which is interesting. There are also a bunch of Superman: The Movie homages with Harvey’s escape from the cops and eventual lair, which is neat. It’d have been really cute in a movie in 1995 or whatever.

But the other big swing and hit from Hamm is introducing (Not Tim) Drake Winston to Bruce Wayne. Drake’s pretty sure Wayne’s Batman, for a bunch of good reasons—including some funny ones—and he’s trying to suss out his suspicions. Meanwhile, thanks to Alfred, Bruce has just discovered his great grand-daddy put Drake’s great grand-daddy out of business on a shitty white man whim once upon a time. So there’s this uncomfortable depth to the relationship immediately, even before it turns into Michael Keaton—even a dramatic Michael Keaton—playing straight man in comedy scenes. But then it worked out perfectly.

There are only two more issues, and who knows how this book has sold but damn, I hope they get another one. I’m not familiar enough with this genre—which, for the longest time, was solely the purview of Stars Wars and Treks—Hamm and Quinones seem primed to fully legitimize it as an artistic endeavor.

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