Batman ’66 #14: “The Batrobot Takes Flight/Bat-Villains Unite”
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Paul Rivoche and Craig Rousseau
Colored by Tony Aviña
Letters by Wes Abbott
Mortality. We are all but men, mortal and finite, and even the greatest of heroes such as the Batman recognize this. What will happen when the Batman retires, or worse, if he is killed? Who will protect the world when this generation of heroes is exhausted?
Jeff Parker returns to Batman ’66 with a script, one of his strongest yet, that asks these questions and seeks to answer them with an even hand, meditating on the weighty issues at hand and providing one possible solution.
That solution being, of course, a giant Batman robot.
As one does.
Last month’s issue was probably the best this series has seen thus far, and this one is just barely behind it. It’s funny, exciting, nonsensical, and everything else you want from this Batman book.
I kind of already went through the themes of the issue, so I’ll just dive right into the plot: since he can’t fight crime around the clock, and in case something were to ever happen to him, Batman teams up with a scientist (no word on if he’s truly mad or not, so partial credit) to build a Batrobot that can fight crime 24/7 and utilize the tools that Batman can’t easily carry on his person at all times.
Parker actually handles some fairly heavy material remarkably well: Commissioner Gordon is visibly and understandably distraught at the sight of this mechanized creation, feeling that Batman is abandoning his duties and Gotham itself, and it’s actually incredibly moving. The dry storytelling of the show and comic series doesn’t usually take time to develop the characters, but when they are it’s a nice contrast to the general silliness that drives the tone.
It’s also really, really funny too, and on several levels. While there are jokes that you’d expect from the series’ standard comedic style (the Joker is wanted on “counts of mayhem,” which is hilarious), it’s also really smart. The technobabble involved in the creation of the Batrobot is gleefully tongue-in-cheek, but there’s a reference to the Turing Test that completely took me by surprise.
Also, we find out what Bruce Wayne’s fishing boat is named.
Named after that heroic dolphin, probably.
Wisely, Parker avoids the usual trope of having the robot lose control as these stories usually go. Needless to say that Batman does return by the end of the issue, but the robot is treated like what it is: a machine. They could have gone the sappy route of having it gain sentience and become a beloved counterpart, or the aforementioned “breaking the Three Laws of Robotics,” but the issue comes to a conclusion so simple that it’s honestly kind of refreshing.
The only problem I had with the writing this issue was that there were just a few too many stereotypical… “Irishisms,” I guess, from Chief O’Hara. Usually they don’t bother me, but they got to be a bit much after the second or third time. But that’s it. Everything else worked wonderfully, and this was consistent with previous characterization and not at all mean-spirited.
Visually, the book is a treat. Paul Rivoche handles the first half of the book and Craig Rousseau takes the second half. As I’ve said before (weirdly enough, on a book that also featured Rousseau) I’m not a huge fan of multiple artists, but it isn’t distracting here. Each artist’s style is unique on its own, and they flow well into each other. A few of Rousseau’s faces look just a tad rough, but I still desperately want an animated-style Batman series illustrated by him, so get cracking DC.
I usually credit the letterers even if I don’t say anything about it, as the sound effects are as important to the tone and style as anything else in this series. This month, although there aren’t any effects that really made me laugh (though one of the recent digital issues that I guess isn’t getting collected did), there’s an effect on the last page that I can’t imagine being anything other than a tribute to legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang. It was a nice touch, and I don’t know who exactly handles that part of the story (writer, artist, letterer, or some combination of them), but it was worth pointing out.
This issue was great, with a nice return to form for Jeff Parker, and if you aren’t reading it you should. And since it’s selfie month for some weird reason, I’ll leave you with this.
This makes negative sense. And I love it.
You’re welcome, America.
- You like Batman in all his iterations.
- You want a fun read that will also make you think.
- Sight gags? You know you love sight gags.
- Honestly, this is one of my favorite books. I would not hesitate to say that, consistently, it may just be the best Bat-title on the stands. Really, it’s that good. Even when it isn’t up to this standard, it’s still pretty good.
Overall: It’s a story about a robot. That looks like Batman. What more do you need? It’s well-written, cleanly drawn, and a story well worth returning to for another read or twelve.