Bat-Mite! What wild and crazy antics does that lovable little imp from the fifth dimension have in store for the Caped Crusader this time? Won’t you join me as we take a journey into his wacky world and revel in the hilarity that is bound to ensue?
Or at least that is what I was hoping would have happened. Truth be told, the first installment of the Bat-Mite mini-series doesn’t really deliver too heavily in the humor department. There are a couple of jokes here and there but nowhere near as many as I think there should have been, and definitely nothing as funny as I was hoping for. What I wanted to see was a bunch of observational humor on the DC universe itself. The comic ends up skipping over a prime opportunity for such a scene. When we join Bat-Mite on Earth, he has stolen the Batmobile and is chasing criminals. That means he was in the Batcave. Imagine the humor that would have sprung from Bat-mite’s commentary on all the trophies and memorials in the Batcave. Alas, this didn’t happen. I wanted to see him poking fun at character cliches and making fun of past stories….basically, in-humor. There is a single moment where this occurs, but I want a bunch more in order to justify this story as worthwhile. Most of the humor I caught had more to do with pop culture: selfies, Batman’66, Animaniacs (believe it or not), and an old episode of Star Trek from 1966. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate those to some extent, but it’s not what I was hoping for. In the past, Bat-Mite has also been a prime candidate for fourth wall breaking. It wouldn’t have hurt to throw some of that in there too.
Ultimately, I’m not sure who this comic is for. The references tell me that it is meant for a far more elderly crowd, but the fact that it is rated for everyone makes me think it was also geared for children who would giggle at a funny midget like Batman-esque character. Personally, I think they should have chosen an audience and targeted them more directly instead of going so broad. When you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no-one.
Another thing that took me by surprise was the inclusion of an actual story. Usually, Bat-Mite just tags along with Batman and messes things up for him. The typical formula also presents Bat-Mite with ample opportunity for interaction with Batman, but halfway through this story, Bat-Mite goes off on his own adventure. It seems odd, and even more so with the strange direction that the story chose to go in. That’s not to say that the narrative isn’t interesting to some degree. You see, the main villains swap out their brains into younger bodies in order to live indefinitely. Given a more serious tone, this tale could have been downright creepy, but since Bat-Mite is never in any real danger due to his quasi-invulnerability and super powers, it loses all suspense.
Art for this issue is brought to us by Corin Howell. I’d liken the feel of her work to that of a Sunday Comic/Newspaper strip. This seems highly appropriate considering that the book is supposed to be a work of humor. Howell also does a superb job at capturing a wide range of emotions for Bat-mite and the diversity of his facial expressions is beyond vast. I’ve know some artists who fall into the mannequin look, where every panel has a similar face, but I don’t think there is a single panel in this whole book where Bat-mite contorts his face into the same expression.
I did notice one thing about the art that threw me though: the first 10 pages and the last 10 pages seem to have a slight difference in their visual presentation. In the pics above and the ones below, the left is from the first half of the book and the ones to the right are from the second. You’ll notice that the left images have much more polished/sharp ink lines, while the ones on the right have a more scratchy/unkempt finish. The credits list Howell and an Andres Ponce as inkers. I’m not sure who is responsible for which half of the book, but I prefer the more polished images to the ones that came in the second half of the book. Maybe you can’t see it from the images I selected, but if you have the book, I’m sure you’ll notice the difference if you give it a look.
- Bat-Mite first appeared in Detective Comics #267 (1959). Bat-Mite hails from the same dimension as Superman’s classic villain, Mister Mxyzptlk. Unlike Mxyzptlk however, whose primary goal is to mess with Superman, Bat-mite is actually a huge fan of Batman and only really wants to help him. Bat-Mite’s help is often unwanted and often leads Batman into more trouble than good. Bat-mite appears to have an unlimited supply of magical energy, allowing him to do anything he can think of. In reality, his powers are based in the technology of his world, a technology, we, as mere humans simply cannot comprehend. But isn’t that what magic ultimately is any way. Science we can’t explain and have yet to harness.
- The bulk of the Bat-mite stories appeared between 1959 and 1964. After that, he had few appearances. The notable ones after 64 included his 1979 appearance, the 2 Legends of the Dark Knight stories, World’s Funniest, and Grant Morrison’s take on the character. In subsequent reviews for this mini-series, expect to see several synopses of Bat-Mite’s past stories. There aren’t that many, so it will be possible to present a majority of them here.
The Joker Variant Cover:
- You’ve been missing your old pal Bat-Mite.
- You like seeing a super-deformed version of Batman.
- You want to compile a stock photo of useful facial expressions with Bat-mite as your subject.
The humor element of this first issue, which should be the primary focus of a “Funny Book”, is rather sparse. While there are a few jokes strewn about, I never really had that laugh out loud moment that I was hoping for. Since this is just the first issue, I’m hoping that things are just getting warmed up and that the side splitters will flow more freely as the story progresses. While this issue didn’t do much to tickle my funny bone, I was pleased with the art work by Corin Howell. She did a great job at rendering a plentiful array of dynamic facial expressions with which our whimsical hero was able to fully express himself. While I can’t truly recommend the first issue, we still don’t know yet if the collected set will be worth more than the sum of this part. I actually found that the 10 page preview that was shown during Convergence was far more interesting and humorous than what was presented here. Maybe it will steer its way back there. So, did I have fun reading the comic….not particularly. Did I have fun writing the review…Absolutely! So for me, this wasn’t a total bust. Now go read Justice League #41.
SCORE: 4.5 / 10