On the same week that fans are worried about the fate of this new animated series a brand new comic book tie-in series has begun. Even though Cartoon Network has mysteriously yanked the cartoon from the airwaves until January you can still get your Beware the Batman fix with this comic book by Ivan Cohen and Luciano Vecchio. And if you were never a fan of the CGI animation, well this is as close to classic pen & ink as the series is going to get!
Right from the opening page you’re going to notice some continuity errors… or not. What with the cartoon being put on hiatus twice now the comic may be exactly where it’s supposed to be but Cartoon Network is the one who is behind the times. Obvious discrepancies between the comic and the cartoon include:
- Simon Stagg is not in prison
- The soultaker sword isn’t in Lady Shiva’s possession! In fact, it’s being wielded by Katana while she and Batman are out in the field
- The Gotham City mayor is treated as a character we should already know, but she has never been shown in the TV series before. Yes, that’s right, a she. I think this is the first time that Gotham has had a female mayor
One close tie to the animated series’ storyline that I found particularly interesting, however, was that Alfred’s leg is still in a cast. That means that Stagg is released from jail and the soultaker sword is retrieved before Alfred’s foot heals. OR all of these elements could be in error and we never see things play out the same way on the show. Who knows? We won’t find out until 2014.
As you can tell by my mention of Katana fighting alongside Batman, the first issue of the comic takes place well into the first season of the cartoon’s tale (or even beyond) so you don’t have to worry about going over the same territory from the first few episodes again in comic book form. This is an all-new adventure that sees Batman & Katana trying to stop Anarky and an Occupy Wallstreet-esque group from stirring up some kind of trouble in the city. Or maybe they aren’t working together and maybe there won’t be any trouble at all? The point is that our heroes don’t know for sure what is up without doing the necessary DETECTIVE WORK. And that’s one of the things that the cartoon has done equally well, show us a Batman who is clearly the smartest man in the room. A Batman who is every bit the equivalent of a Sherlock Holmes figure. One page in particular was very impressive at illustrating Batman’s genius as he broke down several uncanny observations that nobody else would notice but the world’s greatest detective. That’s right, Beware the Batman #1 has the best detective Batman out of all of the current ongoing comic books.
The spirit of the show is there, the extraordinary detective work is there as well as action (but without the thrill of the cartoon’s intricate fight choreography), humor, and the animations unique aesthetic (that’s arguably more expressive this way without the stiff CGI), but it does stumble with the pacing. This is a done-in-one adventure that’s suitable for all ages, but it often makes weird jumps forward in time in order to squeeze in all the necessary content of a complete story. These moments are jarring and distracting and easily the biggest flaw with the book. Also, the villainous plot (although it feels more akin to the Anarky of the comics, which is a good thing) didn’t seem all that strong to me. I would’ve liked to have seen something more compelling.
Luciano Vecchio and Franco Riesco do a fine job of capturing the look and feel of the show and even exceeding it at times. If you’ve ever read my reviews of the show you know my complaints about the textures being too smooth and dull, the lighting too dark, and the characters often coming off as stiff, but when it’s brought to life with pencil, pen, and ink you don’t have those same problems. Yes, it still looks like the show, but the streets are full of citizens, the character poses are more natural, and the faces are far more expressive (and often times reminiscent of the Bruce Timm shows– even though Timm was never involved in Beware the Batman). Is there a stand-out page that makes your jaw drop? No. Nothing is that visually stunning, but the art team does their job well when it comes to mimicking the style of the cartoon the book is based upon.
- You’re a reader of any age. It’s a great all-ages book
- You’re a fan of the cartoon and need your fix during the current downtime
- You want to see a Batman who does some serious detective work
This was a solid debut for an all-ages bat-title. The folks involved did a terrific job of capturing the look and feel of the show and I think fans of the show need this book now more than ever what with Cartoon Network putting the series on hiatus until January. Maybe if this comic sells well enough the suits will think twice about canceling to ‘toon.