THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes for their monthly roundtable chat, where they discuss the debut issues of Batman ’89 and I Am Batman, as well as Batman: Urban Legends #6.
Note: This discussion contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Joe Grunenwald: Welcome, one and all, to our monthly DC Round-Up Roundtable! We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s just dive right in, shall we? First on the docket for our Bat-centric discussion is the long-awaited follow-up series to the classic Tim Burton-directed Batman movie. How did you all enjoy Sam Hamm and Joe Quinones‘s Batman ’89 #1?
Cori McCreery: I loved Batman ’89. Quinones art is always incredible, he did a great job with capturing the likenesses of the actors who were in the movie, and the story felt like a natural extension of that universe.
Greg Silber: I really respect the way that Quinones captured the characters/actors essences without being slavishly devoted to their likenesses, though, which sometimes happens with licensed stuff. And it helped that Sam Hamm perfectly captured the rhythm of their dialogue so Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent sounds like Williams, Michael Keaton as Batman sounds like Keaton, etc. None of which is surprising, as Hamm wrote the actual Batman ’89 movie.
Zack Quaintance: I totally agree with all the praise here for Batman ’89. I also really liked all the small touches. For some reason, Harvey Dent’s car was a moment that got me to nod and think, yup, uh-huh, that’s right.
Greg: I have some mixed feelings about the movie Batman ’89 as an adult Batfan, but some of my earliest memories were of watching Batman ’89 on VHS. This felt like a long-awaited reunion with a beloved old friend.
Joe: I appreciate that Harvey is getting unique characterization in this new Batman ’89 comic. He’s not just the same old comics or even animated version of Harvey that we’re already familiar with. His race being different sort of necessitates those changes, but I’m glad Hamm and Quinones aren’t shying away from anything here.
Cori: One of my earliest memories is my uncle taking me to see this movie in theaters, so solidarity Greg. Tell you what though, was not expecting him to be dating the Comish’s daughter.
Joe: Yeah, that’s an interesting wrinkle I wasn’t expecting either.
Cori: Heck I didn’t expect to see Babs at all. But it was nice.
Greg: I guess if you’re gonna do an alternate universe take on Batman, why not go all in? I can see that change being a studio note, and I weirdly don’t mean that in a bad way.
Joe: I also agree 100% that Quinones captures the aesthetics of the two Burton films beautifully here, though this issue also feels way more ‘comic book’-y than the movies did which I also really enjoyed. It’s a nice blend of the movie trappings and comic book trappings. In that respect it’s a lot like the animated series, now that I think about it.
Zack: Batman ’89 seems like it knows exactly where to maximize the resemblance to the Burton films, while still functioning as a comic. Like, it’s not just stuffed with constant references to stuff you know from the two films. It stands on its own well as a comic.
Joe: Yeah, it would’ve been really easy to be non-stop ‘Remember Alexander Knox? He’s here again for some reason!’
Cori: Does it also seem like it’s set a significant amount of time in the future of that universe to anyone else? I got that from the grey temples on Keaton’s Wayne.
Greg: You can read this and follow along just fine if you haven’t watched the Burton films, although I can’t imagine such a person exists.
Cori: If they do, they’re probably not the ones buying this comic.
Joe: I was curious about the timeline myself, particularly because of Bruce’s hair. It may also be a signifier that being Batman is prematurely aging him, because no one else seemed significantly older than they were in the movies to me.
Greg: I was thinking that actually. Keaton was in his forties when the first film came out. It stands to reason that if Keaton had starred in a third Batman film directed by burton, his age would have been more visible on screen.
Zack: That’s an interesting thought, Joe. Do you think this book will do a deep dive into the effects of being Batman on the body? Really lean into the science of it?
Zack: Hey buddy.
Joe: Anything else anyone wants to add about Batman ’89?
Zack: I think we’re unanimous on this one…it’s a Buy.
Joe: Agreed. Definite Buy from me.
Cori: Absolutely a Buy.
Greg: Yeah, if you like the movies even a little, I can’t see this as anything but a Buy.
Cori: I didn’t read the Second Son series, because I usually don’t keep up with the digital first books, but I liked this issue alright. I thought it was a good enough jumping on point for the character that you don’t really need that series, though I’m sure it helps. I do hope the series picks up a little more steam as we head into Fear State though.
Greg: Grain of salt for me too because I didn’t read the mini that came between Tim Fox’s Future State series and I Am Batman, but I was disappointed. 0 issues can be tricky because the good stuff is usually reserved for the regular numbers, but I would have liked something a little less, I don’t know, talky? It didn’t help that I have some iffy feelings about Batman tangling with “left wing activists.” I’m cautiously optimistic this will be resolved in future issues, but for now, did anyone else think it felt a little “both sides”-ish?
Joe: I think “alright” is about where I land on it as well, Cori. I also must admit I didn’t keep up with Second Son, but I thought this was a fine introduction to Jace Fox and his current place in Gotham. I’m assuming there are questions that would be answered had I read that series, so in that respect this issue did its job of making me want to read what’s come before. Hmm, I didn’t find it “both sides”-ish personally, but I can see where it would come across that way to you, Greg.
Cori: Yeah I’m with Joe on this one, it felt like this was him trying to prevent escalation but everything went horribly wrong.
Greg: I can see that. And to be clear, I’m not definitively saying I think I’ve figured out what this story is trying to say–it’s way too early for that. But I guess I’m a little more sensitive to stuff like that in the wake of… sigh. Everything.
Zack: So, I actually did read the Second Son series, and I’m engaged with this book as a family drama first and foremost. The relationship between Luke and Jace was a big part of that book, and it just gets a quick moment here. Not really a judgement of quality there, just an observation I felt compelled to share for some reason.
Joe: As the person who did all the reading, thank you for that perspective, Zack.
Greg: Teacher’s pet!
Zack: I don’t really have too much to add past that, though. I think the concept of Jace Fox as Batman is inherently very interesting, so I’m locked in on this one and set to follow it wherever it goes.
Cori: Yeah, I’m definitely interested in following the story through the next several months.
Joe: There’s definitely stuff in this issue that hit real close to real-world home, and thinking about it again I can see where you’re coming from, Greg. The protestor who throws a rock for no apparent reason at the cop who specifically said ‘I think we should de-escalate’ early on struck me as odd. There are nice police and there are mean police, and there are nice protestors and there are ones who throw rocks for no reason.
Cori: I dunno the de-escalate officer was the least believable part of a story with a Bat-Ironman suit.
Joe: My main complaint with the issue was with the artwork. Did anyone else find the work from Travel Foreman, Norm Rapmund, and Rex Lokus painfully bland?
Greg: I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. It felt weirdly static. I know these creators are capable of better.
Cori: It was awfully generic too. Like very, very house style in a way we’ve actually been blessed not to have in the Batbooks recently. Like you’re going from Jimenez, Mora, Redondo, and Rossmo to this very cookie cutter style, and it stands out in a bad way I think.
Zack: Maybe that’s why it was a zero issue? I never understand that numbering choice, but that’s a me thing, probably.
Greg: It’s not just you Zack.
Zack: Zero issue often feels like a publisher said, hey buy this…or not, your call, we don’t really care that much.
Joe: It just felt like quite a few of the pages had a lot of open space that just had nothing going on. Minimal backgrounds, really straightforward page layouts. Which can work but it didn’t click for me here.
Greg: I have to imagine it was rushed on the art side. I couldn’t believe this was Travel Foreman.
Zack: So, verdict-wise…I think I’m a Browse on this one, although with the caveat I’m into this idea and am still very much excited for the new #1.
Cori: Yeah a Browse from me too.
Joe: Yeah, I’m leaning Browse as well. There are interesting ideas here but it didn’t quite all come together for me.
Greg: Browse for me too.
Joe: I know there was one other Bat-book we wanted to touch on here, and that’s this week’s issue of Batman: Urban Legends, specifically the concluding installment of the Tim Drake story. What did you all think of this development in Tim’s life?
Cori: Yeah, I know we normally try to stick to first issues with these round tables, but I did feel like this was important enough to touch on, because holy crap, DC actually did it and made one of their biggest characters queer. And like I felt like this story was headed that direction from the first issue of it, but I didn’t expect them to actually do this. I’m beyond impressed with the overall direction of inclusion in this new era of DC.
Joe: It’s always something of a sticky wicket for some people when established characters go through things like this, but I thought writer Meghan Fitzmartin and artist Belén Ortega handled it really well, especially considering the story was relatively short across three issues. It felt very organic to the character.
Cori: Also, as someone who has read every Tim Drake story, it’s not like this was a big surprise. It’s about time Tim came out of the closet. I’m so excited for a generation of readers who can pick up a comic knowing that Batman has a queer Robin.
Greg: It was really moving the way it played out too, I thought. Plus, Tim has had this “uncertainty” theme since at least as far back as 2016 when James Tynion IV was writing him for Detective Comics, and confirming that it was because he was a closeted queer guy – and then having him come out of said closet – was very rewarding. Not just as someone who thinks there should be more queer superheroes at the Big 2, but as a Bat-fan.
Zack: Yeah, I thought it was great, too. As you all have pointed out, it felt really natural and well-done, start to finish.
Cori: I also appreciated that they very clearly stated that this story will continue after next month’s “All Future” issue and then two issues of Fear State tie-ins.
Joe: Tim Drake was the character who got me into reading comics on a regular basis, and I’ll be honest that Tim’s love life was never the most compelling thing about the character for me, but I know it was and is for a lot of people. I’m excited to see what DC does with this going forward.
Cori: One of my biggest ships in comics was sacrificed for this revelation, but I’m still immensely happy to have it all the same, even if it means TimSteph isn’t gonna be a thing for awhile.
Joe: That’s a great point, Greg, about this development feeling like a natural extension of Tim’s arc in
Batman Family Detective Comics. But think of how happy all the Tim/Conner shippers will be, Cori.
Cori: Oh god, they’re going to have a meltdown. And hey, maybe after she’s done murdering people in a Tom King comic, Supergirl can hang out with Steph again and they can start a romance.
Greg: In Detective Comics, Tim was trying to decide if he should continue being Robin, or leave superheroics behind for a college education and a career. I have to wonder, considering that James Tynion IV is bisexual and was talking a lot at the time about how Tim Drake is his favorite character, if he saw this development coming had he stayed on the title longer.
Cori: But I say this with my whole heart, Urban Legends is a Buy from me.
Joe: It’s a really solid anthology series and has been from the beginning, so yeah. Buy.
Zack: Buy for me as well, because also the ever elusive Good Green Arrow content appears here, too.
Joe: Finally, it’s very early days on this, but yesterday we learned that the aforementioned James Tynion IV will be leaving Batman after the Fear State storyline, and Joker early next year, to focus on creator-owned work. What’re everyone’s first reactions to that news, and do you have any wishlist for who might replace him on those books?
Cori: Honestly I can’t think of someone I’d want to replace him right now. His Batman has been so fantastic since Joker War, and I’m really going to miss his voice driving the line. I wouldn’t mind seeing Tamaki get promoted from Detective to Batman but that leaves us in the same situation of needing another replacement.
Greg: Substack still doesn’t seem like a very appealing way to read comics in my eyes, and I’m EXTREMELY skeptical about the way that company does business, but I’m sincerely glad Tynion’s getting good money. He’s done some great work at DC over the past decade but his talent has been on an upward trajectory and I’m sure that trend will continue whereever he goes.
Cori: I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t subscribe to his substack. His work has been too consistently good to not throw him a bone for now.
Zack: I think it’s a huge bummer. It’s been years (years!) since the main Batman title and periphery comics have been this good, and they’ve maybe never been so cohesive, and it’s ending with what, 32 issues?
Greg: As for Batman writers to replace him, I think it’s about time we finally got a non-man writing the main Batman title. Maybe Becky Cloonan, who was also the first woman to draw a Batman comic circa 2012?
Zack: Stephanie Phillips has been doing some stellar work across DC, including as part of the Bat-family with Harley Quinn.
Cori: I could see Cloonan, but I feel like Wonder Woman and Batman might be too much for a single person’s plate.
Zack: I object to the question, Tynion’s first post-substack announcement newsletter is still warm Joe, jeez.
Joe: I’m in the same boat as well that I’m happy for Tynion getting an opportunity he’s excited about but also really sad he’s leaving these books. His Batman has really leveled up following Joker War, and The Joker has been miles better than it has any right to be. I’d like to see someone brand new write Batman, though I have no idea who. Mostly I just want to see the cohesion between the Bat-family titles continue on, as they’ve all been fantastic as a result. Objection overruled, Zack. Any final thoughts before we call it a day?
Greg: We’ll miss you, James.
Joe: He’s not dead, people.
Zack: He was so young.
Greg: Please don’t remind me that he’s only like three years older than me.
Cori: Apparently I’m the ONLY one of us who pitched him the subscription, so I won’t miss him.
Joe: I think the pros and cons of subscribing are a conversation for another time.
Joe: But let us know how it goes, Cori!
Zack: Fare thee well, James.
Joe: That does it for this week, then! Until next time, may your state always be fearful and your ’89 always be Batman!
Cori: AND we’ll see you again at the end to the month for a double dose of round table special!
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