Batman ’66 #17: “The Osiris Virus/Batman on Papyrus”
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated and Colored by Scott Kowalchuk
Letters by Wes Abbott
Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.
I went into this issue apprehensive, as it’s a story about King Tut and, effectively, zombies. Victor Buono’s performance as the villain was always delightful, don’t get me wrong, but the character himself was about as one-note as you can get. I mean, “guy gets hit in the head and thinks he’s an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh” is funny maybe once, but the concept can quickly wear thin.
As for zombies: eh, just not my thing.
Thankfully, this issue grabbed me after about two pages and had me laughing so hard I had to stop reading for a bit, and if that’s not a good endorsement I don’t know what is.
Dr. William Omaha McElroy, alias King Tut, is touring the campus of Harvard University, having recently left his post at Yale. The latter establishment didn’t feel comfortable with his schizophrenic villainous tendencies, which is actually pretty heavy for such a light-hearted book.
This being Batman ’66, though, it’s not all seriousness and gloom. While he’s discussing his work with some members of the university’s staff, there’s a lot of slapstick going on in the background with different items almost hitting him in the head (frisbees, footballs, baseballs, etc.) Are they really into Ultimate at Harvard? I don’t know, but they’re certainly into croquet, which is what ultimately makes him regress to his King Tut identity. It’s a fun first couple of pages, but that’s not what hooked me.
No, this is what hooked me.
That is Bookworm’s Emily Bronte-saurus, a robot dinosaur complete with a top hat. With that, Axe Cop’s Wexter and the pretty good Jurassic World trailer, we are truly living in a dinosaur renaissance.
Also: dibs on that band name.
While I wish we could read an entire issue about Bookworm and his mechanical mega-lizard, the Dynamic Duo make quick work of him before being alerted to the plight that has befallen Dr. McElroy.
His plan? Release the “Osiris Virus,” an ancient Egyptian pox that turns people into mindless slaves, akin to the walking dead.
His method of dispersal? This sweet whip:
The flaming letters are a nice, subtle touch.
Oh Batman ’66, if you hadn’t already had me with the dinosaur, you have me now.
It’s at this point that I realized that this issue is pretty much an excuse to throw in as many gags as they possibly can, and it’s all the better for it. Like I said before, the actual plot is incredibly basic, but that’s ok. Sometimes you just need a silly diversion, and surprisingly almost every joke lands perfectly. My personal favorite: after the Batmobile deploys some parachutes to make a hard u-turn, they jettison the chutes and a “Batmobile Parachute Pickup Service” rolls up. It’s a throwaway image, but just one of those silly touches that takes you by surprise. There are also a Solomon Grundy and Matt Hagen cameos, Commissioner Gordon grows a third arm, and Chief O’Hara becomes the most hilarious zombie I’ve ever seen, so be on the lookout for those.
Jeff Parker has long since earned his wings as the writer of this series, proving to have a deft ear for the dialogue and plotting more often than not, and his knack is on full display here. Scott Kowalchuk’s pencils and colors took me a bit to get used to, but once the gags started flying it was obvious he was the perfect fit for this issue. The only real complaint I have is that it just… ends. There’s a conclusion, that’s for certain, but the last panel is so abrupt that I thought maybe they’d missed a page afterward.
In all, though, this was the most fun I’ve had with this book in months. It’s not necessarily “greatest of all time” material, but for a fun, quick diversion it brings the laughs in spades.
- You want some good laughs.
- You’re willing to give lesser villains a shot.
- You don’t mind re-reading to pick up on all of the Easter eggs and sight gags.
- Seriously, the Batmobile is pretty much the sweetest ride there is, but the Sarcarphagus is not slouch either.
Overall: Breezy, silly, and just plain fun, there are enough jokes and gags here that if half had landed it would have been a success, but the fact that it’s consistently funny makes this issue a pure delight.