Batman ’89: What Happened Next in the Burtonverse After Batman Returns

But how are all of these big moments set up in the comic? Batman ’89 #1, out this week, begins to set the stage for an interesting new future for the Burtonverse. Spoilers ahead…

Batman ’89 picks up after both Burton movies, effectively the director’s “Batman III” if such a wonderful thing existed. After the Joker’s death and Penguin’s demise, things in Gotham City are worse than ever, as the Dark Knight’s crusade seems only to lead to more crime. We’re treated to chaos on the streets from the opening panels of the book, which are set on Halloween night, as the remnants of the Joker Gang and Penguin’s Red Triangle Gang loot stores, mug citizens, and attempt to hijack two armored cars full of cash with a cargo helicopter. In fact, it’s after the Caped Crusader thwarts the Joker Gang’s helicopter, sending it crashing into a building, and leaving several citizens dead or critically injured and millions of dollars in damages, that Gotham DA Harvey Dent decides he’s had enough.

Meant to evoke the endless charm and swagger of Billy Dee Williams, who played the character in the first movie but didn’t return for the sequel, Dent is finally given the spotlight he deserved decades ago. In Batman ’89, he’s a man on his own crusade.

After Dent watching the destruction and chaos of the opening panels from the streets after a romantic dinner with GCPD Sergeant Barbara Gordon, whom he’s just proposed to (!), he decides it’s actually the Batman’s reign of terror that needs to be stopped. Dent thinks it’s a vigilante operating outside of the law that has bred even more crime and death in his city. Although Batman swore to protect Gotham in his letter to Dent at the end of the first movie, the violence that’s erupted in his wake has left the city under siege, forcing the National Guard to come in to patrol the streets. A curfew has been put in place, while the soldiers hunt down the Batman.

The first issue raises some big questions about Keaton’s Batman that would have made for captivating big-screen drama. Early on, the comic asks whether the Dark Knight is ultimately doing more harm than good in Gotham, where citizens now dress up as Batman or the Joker and fight each other in the streets. But a grumpy Bruce Wayne (he’s also graying) stubbornly stands by his convictions during a meeting with Dent, who visits Wayne Manor to ask for Bruce’s help in taking down the Batman. Like in the movies, the duality of the character of Bruce Wayne is front and center in the comic, with the billionaire befriending people in power during the day while working against them as Batman at night.

The book also plays up Wayne’s friendship with Dent because it will likely be a key factor in Dent’s transformation into Two-Face. While the beloved district attorney is still one of the good guys by the end of the first issue, the ingredients for Dent’s fall from grace are already in place. There’s the trick coin he uses to make his own luck (given its own origin story that beckons back to Harvey’s childhood in the streets of Burnside), his marriage to Barbara Gordon that will likely never come to pass, his anger at Batman and Bruce (who is hesitant to help Harvey), and the way he threatens two Joker thugs with a gun — although he’s only trying to scare them, we see that the district attorney is willing to get his hands dirty, not unlike Christopher Nolan’s own version of the character.

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