Comics

Review: “Batman: Blind Justice” by Sam Hamm

Batman: Blind Justice is an odd graphic novel from 1989, one I hadn’t heard anything about until my brother gave me a stack of comics he thought I might like and included the second issue of this story. Here’s the description:

Batman Blind Justice coverWhen Bruce Wayne refuses to allow illegal mindcontrol experiments to continue at Wayne Technology, he finds himself charged with being a traitor. During the police investigation, Wayne is forced to confront memories of the various people who trained him to become the feared Dark Knight/Batman. Wayne not only must clear himself, but also protect his secret and save his company from ruin.

A little background on the story. It was DC’s celebration of Detective Comics’ 600th issue, and they decided to give it to total newcomer, Sam Hamm, because he had co-written the script for Tim Burton’s Batman movie and they were stoked to cash in. The arc spanned issues 598-600, and issues 598 and 600 are oversized, apparently to fit the whole story in to finish with 600, while 599 (the one I initially read) is normal-sized. So, the story all together is three issues, but it’s the size of a normal graphic novel. It’s weird. I didn’t know any of that going in, I’d just read this one issue of a story where Bruce Wayne had been arrested, and that’s a super compelling setup for me, so I found out what collection to order and stumbled into all that oddness.

Anyway! The story! Is… also odd, because the execution comes off very dated, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here and the plot doesn’t drag. If you want a “Bruce Wayne gets arrested” story, this delivers. His identity as Batman is in real jeopardy, because the prosecution is digging deep into his time spent abroad, associating with all kinds of unsavory types, and if you don’t know he’s Batman, that starts to look really suspicious. This is also the first appearance of Henri Ducard, and it’s refreshing to see a lot of new villains and supporting characters instead of the same overdone stories over and over.

batman-blind-justice-sam-hamm
Roy is something of a Robin standin, but he reads as older and he’s less familiar with Batman. He and his sister Jeannie, the love interest, are out-of-towners.

The mind control/bodyswitching of the description again seems dated, but the concept on its own actually makes for an interesting story. It means Bruce can be out of commission for a while, but able to appear as Batman in another body. Bruce using a wheelchair could’ve been even more interesting, but they don’t make much of that in this story and I don’t think he uses it any longer than this, so as representation goes it’s not great. The portrayal of Bruce’s psyche, as constantly tortured by the Batman to keep Bruce from moving on, because that would kill Batman, wasn’t my favorite but held together as an explanation. Ducard had some pointed observations about the theatricality of his villains, too. About how their insistence on engaging him always results in the same “good vs. evil” storyline and ensures they’ll be defeated, but real evil doesn’t operate like that and Bruce doesn’t see it. Also I liked the Batman/Gordon dynamic, where Gordon obviously knows who Batman is but protects his identity. He’s only in a few scenes, but they’re good.

James_Gordon_0084

So, Blind Justice probably isn’t a good place to start with comics or with Batman because the tone is so off from any other Batman story, but it’s a great choice if you like Batman and you’re looking for something off the beaten path. There are a lot of interesting story choices, probably made possible (to our benefit) by Hamm’s lack of familiarity with canon, and a lot of stuff happens. That’s really refreshing when you’ve been reading modern comics and it takes three volumes to find a plot point. But that’s a gripe for another day. If you check out Blind Justice, let me know what you think!

On Goodreads | On Amazon

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