My local comic shop is your typical hole-in-the-wall in terms of size and outward appearance. The owner’s encyclopedic knowledge of everything from lore to new releases is what keeps his sturdy flow of regulars in every Tuesday to Saturday. He saw me enter the shop and shouted: “Batman ‘89?”, receiving my confirming nod, he waved me to the counter and unveiled a sampling of the various covers. “I can give you this one” he pushed the original cover forward, “everything else is sold out.” Unphased, I took home this remarkable piece of nostalgia and devoured it in one sitting. Upon reflection, it only took a brief glimpse of the covers of Batman ‘89 to transport me, and the rest of the potential buyers back to not just ‘our’ Batman, but the Batman.
In June 1989, audiences were gifted their first live-action Batman since the days of Adam West in the 60s. Though uncertainty was cast on the director tapped to helm the project, and the actor who was to don the cowl, this darker, gritty tone of the film set a staple for the future of this DC landmark. Portrayed by the enigmatic Michael Keaton, his Bruce Wayne showed the disparity between the beloved playboy billionaire, and the creature that stalked the rooftops of Gotham by night. For his part, director Tim Burton created a gothic landscape for the iconic city that the caped crusader called home, one that would inspire the look for future ventures, such as the animated programs and video game series. Flash forward to now, and this beloved film finally found its rightful continuation in the hands of author Sam Hamm and illustrator Joe Quinones.
Batman 89’ #1 opens a short time after the conclusion of the film which entailed a showdown in the cathedral between Batman and the Joker. Part one of this proposed 12-chapter series begins with the city approaching a holiday that many in Gotham should be wary of, Halloween. District attorney Harvey Dent, portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in the film and whose image is used for inspiration in the comic, shows off his trademark double headed coin during a romantic dinner. The guest escorting him is the lovely Barbara Gordon. Yes, you heard that correct. Barbara Gordon and Harvey Dent are dating, and after a flip of said coin, are engaged. High above the rooftops, lurking in his normal spot, we see Batman preparing for something.
A countdown leads to an attempted robbery with a prevailing Batman forced to make his getaway, while Harvey Dent’s future villainy is briefly exposed. In an attempt to remain spoiler free, we’ll continue on to something equally important in regards to this comic. Friends, this is not your typical Batman, and some readers may not be ready for it. This Batman is harboring technology of the 80s, where you will encounter CD-ROM as the pinnacle of innovation and his style of fighting is less finessed than those we have seen in the runs of Grant, Tynion, or King. This is a true extension of the film itself and will definitely draw the attention of those who consider Keaton’s Batman the archetype for the character.
The story itself fills in the missing pieces between the first and second of Burton’s films. Hamm paid attention to the sharp dialogue of the movie and its balanced approach of the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne, creating something really worth reading. To Quinones’ credit, the attention to detail was the first thing that reassured me that this was essentially a love letter to Anton Furst, the man behind the Academy Award-winning design of Gotham. Look no further than the first page where we are greeted with civilians in Halloween costumes, but upon further review, are a collection of characters from Burtons greatest hits. I’ll leave it up to you to find them all, but it was a welcome sight that overwhelmed this reviewers’ sentimental side. Before writing this, it was my goal to establish where this would fall on a new readers list of Batman literature to explore. Rather than creating a full-fledged decision tree, it’d be better to ask one simple question. Have you seen the Burton classic Batman? If yes, this is a must read. If not, rent it then read this. You can keep your Kilmer’s, Clooney’s, Bale’s, and Affleck’s, I will take Michael Keaton’s raised eyebrows and knowing smirk any day of the week. He’s Batman!