Batman ’66 #18: “The Sheriff of Crime” and “Bats, Books, and Crazy Crooks”
Written by Tom Peyer and Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Dave Bullock and Richard Case
Colors by Tony Aviña and Scott Kowalchuk
Letters by Wes Abbott
This month brings us two standalone shorter stories, neither one quite reaching the heights of some recent issues but still presenting pleasant enough diversions. Plus, it’s two stories for the price of one, and that’s a bargain if I’ve ever heard one.
“The Sheriff of Crime,” which was released digitally way back in July, features the Archer. The character, who was portrayed by Art Carney on the TV series, was effectively Robin Hood taken to an extreme, and here he’s given a pretty interesting twist in his modus operandi: instead of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, he starts stealing police equipment and giving it to criminals. It’s a development that, if incorporated into a long-running and more serious take on Batman’s rogues, could provide years of characterization for the Archer. Picture him, for instance, as a supplier of goods for criminals rather than an outright villain, perhaps working as a liaison for the Penguin in his arms trafficking. It’s a nice tic that’s one of those fun subversions to an established norm that’s worked for characters like the Calculator, who has pretty much become “Evil Oracle.”
Here, though, it’s just a fun story that has silly Olde English sound effects and a joust between Batman and the guest villain. Either way a win-win.
Tom Peyer has a good grasp of the tone and dialogue for the series, and Dave Bullock’s pencils are fun and energetic. He kind of reminds me of a slightly rough around the edges Darwyn Cooke, and I mean that in the best possible way: his character models are great, lean and exaggerated enough to be distinct while still being recognizable, and his page layouts were particularly fun in the digital format.
The story wasn’t anything hall of fame worthy, as the climax was unbelievable even by the ’66 standards, but it was still a pleasant enough ride to be enough to recommend the issue on its own.
The second story, “Bats, Books, and Crazy Crooks,” is a bit weirder. From a script by series regular Jeff Parker and pencils from Richard Case, it features a welcome return from Batgirl battling it out with Bookworm. Sadly, no appearance from the Emily Bronte-saurus.
The plot itself, while far from terrible, works better in theory than in practice: Bookworm steals an ancient grimoire from the Gotham library and proceeds to use the spells contained within to wreak havoc.
It’s… weird. The crime and motive certainly fit the character, but using black magic was just a bit too out there for me and it never really worked.
The story isn’t without merit, though. Barbara Gordon, being a librarian, is already on the scene, and it’s always nice to get a solo Batgirl story. The humor is on point, too, like Bookworm picking a lock using a book titled How Locks Work, and the spells he uses out of the Celoveritas are funny, if a tad obvious: Ah-Dam Wezt, Buhhrt Warhhrd, and Nanah Nanah Nanah Nanah B’Aht M’Nnn* are just a sampling.
The story climaxes in a fight between Batgirl and two giant silverfish (“the most horrific creatures in the world!”) and a good ol’ Batarang to the face, though Bookworm’s fate is kind of dark for the story. I’m sure he’ll be fine, though.
Richard Case’s pencils and Scott Kowalchuk’s colors are the true standouts, giving it a nice, vibrant look that harkens back to older styles like the old dot halftones, and just make it an overall attractive issue.
If you’ve been reading this series, you know what you’re getting: a fun, tongue-in-cheek adventure or two with great characters, sharp visuals, and humor to spare. Even in this case where the stories may not be the strongest or most satisfying, it’s still a great time and continuation of the classic television series.
- You love the classic ’66 series.
- You like Batgirl going solo.
- You’ve been waiting for sound effects to be slightly fancier, as adding “-eth” to the end is wont to do.
Overall: While each story has its own problems, the issue is actually better than the sum of its parts just on account of being entertaining. They tried to do something a little different in each, and while the loftier goals may not have been reached, it was a worthy attempt and a good time regardless.
*[Editor’s note: Please do not perform dark magic.]