This compilation collects five previously published stories from the mid- to late-1990s, all inspired by Batman the Animated Series. For the purpose of this review I’m just going to tell you what the contents of the book are  and the quality of the stories because, sadly, due to some weird distribution issue, I couldn’t actually get my hands on the actual book. I’m reviewing the stories as they originally appeared in their respective comic books and relying on the solicit for the information about which issues were included–so if someone who was able to get this book can correct any reporting errors, that would be much appreciated!

The cover of this book was originally the cover of The Batman Adventures No. 27. I can’t say whether the other original cover art is included in this collection, sorry. I know from the preview that The Batman Adventures No. 2 is the first story in the book. The order of the rest is speculative. The story breakdown is as follows:

The Batman Adventures No. 2 “Catwoman’s Killer Caper”

Featuring Catwoman and the Joker. Written by Kelley Puckett with pencils by Ty Templeton and inks by Rick Burchett. Inks by Terry Beatty.

DCPresents_01_01

Catwoman is hired by the Joker to steal the Crown Jewels of England. The jewels are for her; he wants an “insignificant little item” that just happens to also be in the gallery. Despite the tight security, Catwoman manages to pull off the heist and the news goes wild with announcements of the theft. No one can figure out how she did it. No one, of course, except Batman! See if you can figure it out with the clues provided before the big reveal.

The Batman Adventures No. 27 “Survivor Syndrome”

Featuring Tom Dalton and Alfred. Written by Kelley Puckett with art by Mike Parobeck and Rick Burchett.

DCPresents_01_02

This is a great story about Batman’s impact on an ordinary life gone extraordinarily wrong. Batman is disconcerted to find he has a doppelganger in Gotham: someone is running around in a Batman costume trying to fight crime, but it’s only a matter of time before the imposter succumbs to the harrows of vigilante life. Fortunately Batman steps in just in the nick of time and takes the wayward soul under his wing. Will the wanna-be crime-fighter let go of the past or will his lust for revenge be his undoing?

Batman: Gotham Adventures No. 2 “Lucky Day”

Featuring Two-Face and Batgirl. Written by Ty Templeton and penciled by Rick Burchett. Inks by Terry Beatty.

DCPresents_01_03

It’s a family reunion for Harvey Dent and his criminally negligent and abusive, gambling-addicted father. But don’t expect the two to have a beer over their shared obsession with the odds. Batman enlists Batgirl to help with a much-needed intervention as Two-Face goes on a destructive spree to teach his old man a lesson in fate.

Batman: Gotham Adventures No. 4 “Claws”

Featuring Catwoman. Written by Ty Templeton and penciled by Rick Burchett. Inks by Terry Beatty.

DCPresents_01_04

Catwoman’s on the rampage after the discovery of a cosmetics lab where atrocities are being acted upon poor helpless felines. After ransacking the place and liberating its inmates, she kidnaps the company’s owner, an overprivileged vain mess named Mercedes. Catwoman tries to force Mercedes into caring for the cats, but the woman’s got a heart of stone. While Bruce and Selina are friendly at the beginning of this book, things take a dark turn when he comes to rescue her impenitent hostage.

Adventures in the DC Universe No. 3 “Cruise to Nightmare”

Featuring Poison Ivy. And the fabulous creative team of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm.

DCPresents_01_05

This story is only six pages long, but manages to squeeze in a full and satisfying little tale of Poison Ivy attempting to hijack Wayne Foundation charity money off a boat using a dragon made of seaweed. Of course Batman is going to save the day, but not before Bruce gets knocked overboard and is presumed dead!

The Good

You can’t go wrong with any of these stories, really. They are tightly written, beautifully executed gems. In the individual series themselves there was hardly a dud, so picking just five must’ve been both super-easy (any five could do!), but also super-hard (so many good ones to choose from!).

Batman is so clever in these. Sure there’s the requisite punching out of villains, but mostly he outsmarts them first and we get to see a lot of Bats skulking around, watchful, diligent. The lack of technology is also super-refreshing (and reminds me to thank my lucky stars to ever have known a world before computers and cell-phones).

The artwork is uniformly good across the board. It’s only when you get to the final story that you see the extent of variation from Bruce Timm’s original models. And because the audience for these was generally younger, the pages are bright and splashy and packed with action. “Survivor Syndrome” is notable, in fact, because it has nearly 10 pages of wordless movement: you follow Batman silently through his sleuthing and the images tell you everything you need to know. Throughout, word balloons are reserved for conveying exposition where an image wouldn’t suffice or for relating fun dialogue that is consistently sharp, witty, and completely in character. All of these pieces, though produced over a span of at least three years, cohesively belong to the same universe. That’s an amazing feat not replicated often enough in the mainstream titles today. There’s a reason the original animated series was so lauded and that quality and integrity carried over well into the comics.

The Bad

Even though it’s a great story, I’m a little perplexed by the choice of “Catwoman’s Killer Caper”. While it features the Joker in a small supporting role, the focus is on Catwoman, who then has two complete stories in this book. With so many rogues, it seems like they could have chosen something with Freeze or Manbat instead. And if they picked it to include the Joker, that makes even less sense since the issue following, The Batman Adventures No. 3 “Joker’s Late-Night Lunacy”, showcases the Crown Prince of Crime without him being a subplot. To make matters worse, the Joker aspect of the included story is not resolved (he gets what he wants and even still worse, we don’t even know what it is that Catwoman stole for him–and won’t find out until the next issue). At the very least they should have included both stories since they are tied together by this thread. Otherwise you get closure with Catwoman, but the Joker’s left laughing.

The Ugly

I personally found the second Catwoman story about the cosmetic company and the kidnapped woman to be rather disturbing. Primarily because of the torture of the animals that’s somewhat depicted and the veterinarian’s recommendation that it might be a mercy to put the poor cats down, but also because of the sad story it tells about Bruce and Selina. If I’d read this as a child I would have cried. We’re mostly grown up now, so your reactions might not be as sentimental.

This 100-page spectacular has 96 pages. If you’ve read my other reviews, you know how I feel about that.

Recommended If…

  • You’re a fan of Batman the Animated Series!
  • A little trip down memory lane is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Classic Batman, classic stories: who can resist, really?

Overall

I feel funny rating this book without knowing if there are extras or other qualities about it that will make it worth your $7.99, but hopefully this rundown of the stories is some help. There’s always going to be that curiosity about why the editors made the selections that they made from the marvelous collection available. Rest assured, however: there’s not a dud among these, even though both Catwoman stories had me especially wondering about influences in the decision-making.

Hopefully we’ll see more compilations like this in the future. The inclusion of the short from Adventures in the DC Universe is especially welcome since that’s likely a series with which not many people are familiar, and it provides a little taste, at least, of work from the original BtAS creative team.

SCORE: 8/10