Issue #8 features two villains whose popularity didin’t quite survive beyond the 1966 William Dozier TV series, but they were still quite memorable foils for the Dynamic Duo (at least in my mind). First there’s King Tut (played by Victor Buono on the TV series), a professor of Egyptology who began to think he was the reincarnation of King Tut after suffering a serious head injury. If that sounds similar to the villainous Maxie Zeus, that’s because it is, however Tut predates Maxie Zeus by about 13 years. The fact that Zeus endures as a Batman villain to this day and was even featured on Batman: The Animated Series was more than bad luck– FOX still owned the right to the villain’s name. That’s why when the hilarious Batman: Brave & the Bold tried to pay tribute they re-named the baddie “Pharaoh.”
King Tut gets the most attention in this comic with about 3/4 of it spent on “King Tut Barges In” a title which is itself a pun. The story opens with King Tut arriving in Gotham on a barge brimming with golden treasures. But since that’s not exactly a crime, Batman and Robin plant a homing beacon and go back to the cave to run some tests on one of Tut’s many antiques to determine its authenticity. After discovering a vital clue the comic takes a sharp turn toward one of the strangest and most imaginative adventures that this version of the Caped Crusaders have ever faced. We’re talking magic, time travel, the return of Bat-Shark-Repellent. It’s the most epic journey ’66 Batman & Robin have ever embarked on it’s pretty satisfying to see that it’s all thanks to a Bat-villain who I think deserved to stick around in the Bat-Mythology long after the TV show ended.
“King Tut Barges In” was easily my favorite of the two stories not only because I’m a King Tut fan, but because it’s ambitious, has two of my favorite jokes to be featured in the comic so far, and the artwork by Ruben Procopio (who did the fantastic Sandman issue, one of the best issues yet) and Lee Loughridge is top-notch. I never got the sense that any shortcuts were taken, every panel feels so vivid and alive. All the humor comes across great, the settings are intricately detailed, the layouts are far more creative than your average Digital First release, and the colors pop. The only serious complaint I have about this story is one that should go in spoiler tags.
There’s a henchman who takes some sort of magical formula while we’re in ancient Egypt and when he makes a monstrous transformation on the penultimate page nothing comes of it. He runs away, vanishing off panel, an dBatman comments that he pitties that poor creature who “just ran out of here, with his fleeting humanity.” That’s it? All that buildup for this guy to transform and he just runs out of the comic? It wasn’t a satisfying way to tie that up and it hurt what was otherwise a great ending that called back to many great King Tut episodes.
The other, shorter story found within issue #8 showcases the villain Shame, who was played by Cliff Robertson. Although Robertson played this particular Bat-villain 5 times he would ultimately be remembered for his role as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben from the Sam Raimi movies. Shame was a twisted take on the titular hero from the movie “Shane” which –we’re tying everything together her, folks– inspired the finale of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Boomshakalakah!
“Showdown with Shame!” will instantly grab your attention due to what appears to be a vastly different look, but although the color palette is vibrantly painted pastels it is actually the same artist, Ruben Procopio, experimenting and handling his own colors. This comic felt sort of out-of-place because the Dynamic Duo aren’t in Gotham anymore, but have been traveling the American West. Why are they out west? Well, according to an editor’s note we’ll have to read the next issue to find out– stuff like that aggravates me. But other than that it’s a pretty straight forward tale in which this cowboy-themed villain robs some miners digging in a National Park (this leads to another really great joke once Batman and Robin arrive) and plots a train heist that attracts the attention of our heroes who have been chasing him since Arizona. Just as delightfully cheesy as ever, Jeff Parker’s series gives us a Batman and Robin who insist on riding horseback and wearing cowboy hats and the adventure ends as so many westerns do, atop a train. There is one fight scene in which the quick swiping away of a gun isn’t entirely clear, but overall the artwork gives this cowboy caper a unique texture and atmosphere that sets itself apart from every ’66 episode before it. The problem is that Shame, like “Bookworm” is a villain who just isn’t all that exciting to watch. King Tut has countless great tales left in him, but the kind of crimes that Shame is fond of just aren’t challenging for our hero and besides his Native American henchman, he’s not that funny of a bad guy either and ’66 baddies need spectacle or humor.
- You want to see some really gorgeous artwork. Ruben Procopio brings a dynamic, animated style to the King Tut story and then handles his own color work for the Shame portion that’s painted in rich pastel colors. It’s a beautiful book and the cover by Mike Allred is equally phenomenal
- Not only are you a fan of the ’66 TV series, but King Tut and Shame are two villains you remember fondly
- You would like to see the Adam West & Burt Ward dynamic duo get in adventures that would’ve never been possible on the ’66 TV series. You’ll not only see Batman fight on top of a train, but you’ll see him travel through time and stand in the desert of Egypt before the mighty Sphinx
- You want a lot of bang for your buck. This 2-for-1 is a dense read for $3.99
- You’re looking for an all-ages comic with plenty of humor. Writer Jeff Parker is channeling the spirit of the TV show brilliantly
I would’ve liked a few more laughs and there was a loose-end leftover from the King Tut story, but these episodes were definitely some of the most imaginative in the comic’s run so far and the artwork is some of the best you’ll see this month.
UPDATE: I’m upgrading the score from 8.5 to 9/10 thanks to reader drmantistobaggan pointing out a connection I failed to make when I read the comic myself!