Batman ’66 #11
Written by Jeff Parker
Art and colors by Jonathan Case
Letters by Wes Abbott
Like many Batfans who grew up in the Nineties, I was well aware of the Sixties TV show, entranced at a young age by the silly sound effects and adventures of Batman and Robin, but as the years passed I felt I’d “grown out” of it. I never truly resented the show, but for the longest time regarded it as nothing more than a curious footnote in the long, complex history of the Dark Knight (“Caped Crusader” was just a tad too corny and old-fashioned, see.) Subsisting on a steady diet of “Batman: The Animated Series,” the live-action movies and comics like JLA, Robin, Nightwing, and any Batfamily crossover I could find, I shaped a view of a Batman who was dark, brooding, and never cracked a smile let alone a joke. Which, in certain contexts, is a perfectly accurate characterization of Batman.
And then Batman: The Brave and the Bold premiered. Caught up in Silver Age trappings and deadpan humor, the show also told some fantastic Batman stories and I just couldn’t get enough of it. With a newfound appreciation for a more lighthearted Batman, I decided to give the Adam West take on the character another go and watched the entirety of the ’66 Batman TV series.
Folks, I LOVED it. The show was a lot smarter than I’d initially given it credit for, blending the silly situations with deadpan humor to create a curious but highly engaging take on the Dark Knight. So, when I’d heard there was to be a comic series continuation of the series, I just knew I had to check it out. Jeff Parker’s scripts, coupled with the breezy art and trademark sound effects, perfectly captured the spirit of the show with stories that are fun without being dumb, dry without being cynical. Every few weeks when the new digital issue dropped, I devoured them, enjoying the breezy and economical storytelling and never really feeling disappointed.
Until now. The three-part story has a lot of great elements that should have worked and usually do, but it ends up feeling bloated and as a result is a rare outright misfire for this series.
Yes, ALL OF THEM
This issue is by no means terrible, with a gloriously bombastic finale and plenty of cameos by familiar Bat-rogues, but it definitely could have used some editing. The first third of the story, “The Joker’s Big Show,” is the main problem here. Taking place entirely in Arkham Institute, the whole entry is nothing but a patient talent night. This is something that should have worked really well, especially considering the ease with which Parker has been able to handle these characters in the past, but it just falls flat. The show goes on and on with characters thrown in almost for the sake of a cameo (though seeing Chandell was nice), and the Joker enacts his plan with some fairly lazy, old jokes. The Joker isn’t necessarily supposed to be truly funny, but with already glacial pacing this segment just felt uninspired, though there is a great “The Killing Joke” reference that made me do a double-take.
Things take off in “Gotham Goes Ho Ho Ho” and don’t really let down in part three, “The Dynamic Duo & Batgirl Say Hello!”, and it’s all because Batman shows up. The entire first third of the story has our heroes in their civilian identities, which usually isn’t a problem because the characterizations of Bruce, Dick, and Barbara are typically just as spot on as when they’re in their masks, but for whatever reason the writing really drags until it’s time for super heroics.
Jonathan Case’s art is solid, as usual, but the coloring is a bit weird in spots, particularly Robin’s gloves. They’re brown for the entire story, with no explanation whatsoever. If it had happened once it could have just been a coloring mistake, but they were that way the entire time. Other than that, the action is fluid and engaging with some great vehicle designs, particularly the hilarious Jokermobile, and the characters’ facial expressions are lively and expressive.
It wasn’t a series breaking issue by any means, and once it gets going it’s fun, but a rough start is hard to overcome and even a solid finale doesn’t elevate it to the series’ standard of excellence.
Further points in the spoilers:
- It’s nice seeing Harley back again, this time getting a proper “origin story” that fits with the more lighthearted tone of the series. She was introduced back in issue seven, I believe, and I was wondering how long they would build the character up until she truly became Harley Quinn.
- It was brief, but the Bookworm appearance actually got a good chuckle,out of me.
Overall: A rare misstep for a series that is consistently excellent. It starts slow but ends well, though not enough to give it more than a passing recommendation.
- You like the Sixties Batman.
- You don’t mind a rough start for a good payoff.
- You enjoy over-the-top Joker antics.