Batman ’66 #12

“The Queen of Diamonds’ Big Heist/Batman Makes Marsha Pay the Price”

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Dario Brizuella
Letters by Wes Abbott

After last month’s fairly disappointing three-parter, the series returns to form with two highly entertaining stories with some great creative teams.

First up is a two-part tale featuring Marsha, the Queen of Diamonds and… guys, even by this series’ standards she’s a pretty absurd villainess. There’s just way too much going on here: she’s obsessed with diamonds and she wants Batman to marry her and she has an aunt named Aunt Hilda who is also a witch. Those are enough gimmicks for at least three villains, and while she made for a fairly forgettable foe in the television series, Parker and Brizuella really have some fun with the different dynamics.

The basic plot is that Marsha wants to steal the giant diamond that powers the Batcomputer in the Batcave to add to her collection. It’s pretty standard stuff, but the scripting is on-point along with the art. The issue begins with a robbery that is seemingly frozen in time, and Brizuella illustrates some really interesting points of view and angles around the characters that are seemingly stuck in place.

If you go back and watch the series, it’s great seeing the actors deliver their dialogue: they do it with a completely straight face, because they’re in on the joke. Parker makes good use of alliteration for Batman to deliver some over-the-top pronouncements (“It could only be– one– manipulating– mind!”) and every line and interaction seems like it would be perfectly at home on television.

The strongest thing about the story, however, is definitely the art. Like with the opening robbery scene, Brizuella keeps things moving with great character models, energetic action scenes, and nicely detailed set pieces. Even panels that have characters set against a solid colored background pop due to the entailed costumes and great facial expressions.

Even with a lesser-grade villain, this is one of the best stories to come out of the series in months.

Further points in the spoilers:

Spoiler

  • Aunt Hilda’s theory that the Batpoles lead up to police headquarters is as good a contrivance as any to keep the characters from going up to Wayne Manor.
  • Enough can’t be said about the artwork. Even something as mundane as Robin eating a sandwich has life and vibrancy, and Marsha’s tunneling into the Batcave is well-staged and nicely detailed.

“To Be or Not To Be”
Written by Art Baltazar and Franco
Illustrated by Ted Naifeh
Letters by Wes Abbott

This one-and-done story was scripted by one of my favorite teams, Art Baltazar and Franco, and it doesn’t disappoint. They answer the question that I’m not sure anybody was asking, but it’s good to know anyway: what would this Batman and Robin do if they were locked out of the Batcave?

The dialogue-heavy script is more expository than Jeff Parker’s usually are, but the Dynamic Duo are presented with an actual mystery: who stole their bust of William Shakespeare? And, without the bust to get into the Batcave, how can Batman and Robin fight crime?

From a writing standpoint, this story is perfectly consistent with the tonal standard of the series. There are fewer puns and grandiose pronouncements, but there’s plenty of great deductive banter between Batman and Robin including Bats correcting the Boy Wonder with his insanely acute encyclopedic knowledge. It’s different from their work on Tiny Titans, but just as reverential to the source material.

The artwork from Naifeh is fairly rough at the start, with some odd facial expressions and off-model characterizations (Aunt Harriet looks maybe 30, tops). He settles into a nice groove, however, when we’re presented with one of the most delightful concepts I’ve seen in some time: prototype Batsuits. I won’t spoil you with an image here, just trust me that this is one of the funniest visuals to come along in a while. There’s even a nice 50s-inspired Batmobile thrown in for good measure.

The one major complaint is that the ties to Shakespeare are pretty thin in the end. The first half of the story pretty much revolves around Shakespeare’s works, but once you find out the villain’s plot, it doesn’t really tie together.

Overall: A great return to form with good work put in by both series regulars and a guest team, this issue reminds you of what makes this series so great.

Recommended if:

  • You love the Sixties Batman tv series.
  • You enjoy stories featuring more obscure villains.
  • You enjoy value: two good stories for the price of one.
  • The idea of seeing prototype suits intrigues you.

SCORE: 8.5/10