Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Batman '89 #4 Review

Batman '89 #4 Review

Batman '89 #4 Review

This ain't your Daddy's Robin

Written by: Sam Hamm
Art by: Joe Quinones, Leonardo Ito, and Clayton Cowles
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: December 7, 2021

Batman '89 #4 finally debuts the Burton-verse version of Robin as racial tensions in the city boil over, and Harvey Dent/Two-Face escapes his hospital room to begin planning how to remake the city in his own image(s).

Was It Good?

Well, there are parts of this issue I like and a few pieces that leave me shaking my head. Shaking my head as in, "I guess this is where we are with comics right now."

In issue #4, we get a first, full-on look at Drake as the Burton-universe version of Robin. The costume is unique; the origin (sorta) makes sense for Drake as a street-wise kid who steps up to adopt his own Batman-Esque persona in Batman's absence. But, on the other hand, Robin looks and acts more mature as a character who fits more accurately somewhere between Robin and Nightwing.

Batman '89 #4 Review

That said, the debut of Robin gets a big thumbs down for two primary reasons. First, the off-brand depiction of Harvey Bullock. Second, Robin's first actions in his debut on the Gotham stage.

Harvey Bullock is a loudmouth oaf and a dirty cop within the limits of what he can get away with, but he's lasted as long as he has under Gordon's regime because he can play it straight when the chips are down. Here, Hamm writes Bullock as a dirty cop of convenience and as a racist and fascist cop who likes to bust the heads of people marching in a peaceful protest. But, again, Bullock may be dirty, but he's not that dirty, and it's a downer to see Hamm paint an extreme version of the character to invent a conflict during a protest.

Batman '89 #4 Review

Next, Drake shows up when Bullock's jackboots are about to start cracking skulls. He does something that may align with this version of Robin but something outside of acceptable Robin behavior from any prior character. He firebombs the cops.  I'm sorry, but no. 

Drake gets an invite to the Wayne mansion, and he almost immediately hits it off with Bruce Wayne when they reveal they've mutually figured out each other's secret identities. Of course, Batman would never be okay with firebombing the police (or anyone else for that matter), and the entire issue rings like an endorsement/criticism of contemporary social problems that doesn't ring true for the characters or the setting.

Batman '89 #4 Review

The bright spot of the issue is the manic debut of Harvey Dent as Two-Face. Hamm captures the character's voice in a way that feels new and right at the same time. 

The art in this issue is very good except for the lack of any Gotham styles in the setting. We get plenty of face fulls of Two-Face, and it's a good design that mixes the Batman: The Animated Series with the Burton films. Again, the Robin costume is a high point with a whimsical and practical look.

Bits and Pieces

Batman '89 #4 is the big introduction to the film version of Two-Face and Robin for fans of Burton's Batman. The character designs are greats, and the frantic personality of Two-Face would have been a fantastic sight if it had been depicted on screen as it is here. That said, Hamm goes extreme with out-of-character versions of Bullock as a racist cop intent on beating people of color and using Bullock's antics to justify turning Robin into something he shouldn't be.  It all makes for a thoroughly distasteful (if that was even possible) version of Gotham.


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