Written by Kelley Puckett
Illustrated by Ty Templeton
Inked by Rick Burchett
Colored by Rick Taylor
Lettered by Tim Harkins
Unless otherwise noted, this was the creative team for each story in this volume.
We all love Batman: The Animated Series, right? I mean, it still stands as one of the greatest representations of Batman outside of comics, and come on, watch that video and not get pumped. I dare you.
Like many cartoon properties over the years, there was a tie-in comic released to capitalize on the popularity of the show, but it differed from most in one way: it was actually good.
Like, really, really good.
Each issue feels just like the cartoon, and for a while they’re even structured in three act parts like you’d get with commercial breaks. That format allowed for some pretty clever storytelling, and even when the issues were more straightforward they were still great fun.
Thankfully, after years of being out of print, DC has (wisely) begun releasing graphic novel collections of the series, allowing fans old and new to enjoy these stories. The first volume, which collects a whopping ten issues, was released last November, followed by the second volume this past June, the third volume within the past few weeks, and a fourth to follow next year. Hopefully sales will justify collecting the further tie-ins and continuations, but I’m just thankful for this right now.
Treating this a little differently than an average comic review, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each issue, pointing out great panels and their own pros and cons, give each issue a score, and then average it for the overall rating. That’s to keep this piece at a reasonable length, because you know I’d write 5000 words on this.
•The Batman Adventures #1: “Penguin’s Big Score”
I’ve already reviewed this issue, so I won’t go too much into it, but it’s a really solid, fun intro to the series. Shaving off a point because the previous review took into account the fact that it was a freebie, but still a worthy beginning for the comic and successor to the TV series. It’s almost impossible to read the dialogue without hearing the characters’ voices, Paul Williams’ Penguin in particular, and while it’s a worthy Penguin story on its own, the seeds for a truly tremendous Joker story are planted.
•The Batman Adventures #2: “Catwoman’s Killer Caper!”
Elena actually covered this issue last year with that DC Comics Presents collection from last year, but here it is again in the context of the series itself.
This issue has it all: an A-list villain, a nice “locked room” mystery, a truly great interaction between Batman and Commissioner Gordon, and an effective cliffhanger. The gag with the Joker being a “mysterious benefactor” only to have his identity revealed by a clueless subordinate is recycled from the previous issue, but it’s funny and sets the wheels in motion for the titular caper: Catwoman steals nothing less than the Crown Jewels in London.
Forgiving a few leaps in logic (both Selina and Bruce make it to England awfully quick), the mystery is genuinely engaging with some nice detective work by both Bruce and Batman, and Ty Templeton really nails wordless storytelling. There are several passages of dialogue-free action, and they’re staged remarkably well.
•The Batman Adventures #3: “Joker’s Late-Night Lunacy!”
The Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and subjects him to a very, very bad day.
While this story may not reach the levels of brutality that The Killing Joke did, it’s stills retry shocking how ruthless the Joker is here. The nonchalant glee he has as he beats Gordon on live television is terrifying, made even more so by Batman helplessly watching, knowing he can’t stop it right away.
The story builds on the previous two issues while standing on its own strengths as well. It’s well plotted, with some nice twists in the third act, and it’s nice to see a pre-Two-Face Harvey “The Chin” Dent being utilized.
No joke (ha ha), one of the best underrated Joker stories out there.
•The Batman Adventures #4 & 5: “Riot Act”
In this two-parter from writer Martin Pasko (with some scripting from Kelley Puckett) and pencils from Brad Rader, Robin makes his introduction in one of the more clever Scarecrow stories I’ve ever read.
When citizens of Gotham suddenly become illiterate, Batman and Robin investigate and are eventually led to Jonathan Crane. Instead of an airborne toxin, however, Crane is using modified stereo equipment to emit a signal that inhibits the language center of people’s brains, thereby making them functionally illiterate. He’s preying on a different type of fear, while still maintaining his standard M.O.
There are quite a few chilling scenes, too, not the least of which being one where a woman overdoses on her medication because she can’t read the dosage.
Rader brings a stylized look to the book, staying true to the feel of the series while keeping his own signature style. I particularly loved his full-page reveal on the last page of part one:
Overall a good two-parter that provides a fresh take on a classic villain.
SCORE: Part 1- 7.5/10; Part 2- 8/10
•The Batman Adventures #6: “The Third Door”
A tightly plotted locked-room mystery in which Bruce Wayne finds himself framed for murder. Puckett is back on scripting duties, and even though he’s following a familiar template there are a few ingenious twists to keep things fresh.
Both Bruce and Dick Grayson get to do some nice detective work here, and since Bruce is imprisoned for a good portion of the proceedings he also has to figure out how to escape and solve the mystery without his captors being the wiser.
Rader provides pencils again, though he isn’t given an awful lot to do as it’s a dialogue-heavy story. Things move along at a good pace, though, and when given the opportunity there are some pretty striking images.
There aren’t any major villains or epic action scenes, just a well constructed mystery for the World’s Greatest Detective.
•The Batman Adventures #7: “Raging Lizard!”
This issue is just fun. The late, great Mike Parobeck takes over as series main artist with this issue, and while his style is very distinct and completely different than Templeton and Rader, it would come to define the look of the series. It’s a lot more cartoony, with exaggerated facial expressions and lots of curved lines, reminiscent of cartoon serials from the Thirties and Forties. And frankly, for a story that’s all about an underground wrestling ring and Killer Croc besting Batman at the sport, it’s perfect.
Croc, who actually has a pretty good time of it with stories in these comics, has been making money fighting in underground wrestling matches. He falls to a masked fighter named the Marauder, while Batman is on the trail of a mobster from Chicago named… Mobster.
It’s light, silly, and fun, and we get to see a likable side of Croc, which is refreshing. Also refreshing is seeing the “bad guy” end up being the hero in a fashion, and Batman not out to take him down just because he’s typically a villain. It shows that even criminals have a human side, and that Batman hopes for a chance of reform for everyone.
Ultimately, it’s maybe not as well-crafted as previous issues, but it’s still a solid, fun time.
•The Batman Adventures #8: “Larceny, My Sweet”
This plot is almost identical to that Croc story from The Batman & Robin Adventures issue I linked to above, but whereas that is probably the best Killer Croc story ever written, this is just a pretty good Clayface story.
The beats are similar: Clayface is on a crime spree, encounters Summer Gleeson, and falls in love. The biggest difference is that with Croc the love is unrequited, giving an extra level of pathos to the story, while here Clayface is merely disguised as an incredibly handsome man while hiding from Batman. It’s not a bad story by any means, and on its own it’s fine, but knowing what will come in the future (waaaaay in the future) brings it down a notch.
Parobeck’s art is still fantastic, though, and he gets a chance to draw some panels that rival those of Templeton and Rader.
I like Clayface, so it was nice to see him this early in the run, I just wish a little more had been done with him.
•The Batman Adventures #9: “The Little Red Book”
I’ve always liked stories with Rupert Thorne, the Falcones, “Boss” Maroni and the like: the “old crime” of Gotham that is supplanted by the new wave of supervillainy, the crime bosses that may not be as flashy as a psychotic clown or a zealous plant-lady but still maintain a hold on the way the city runs. It adds another layer of realism to Batman’s fight against crime, showing that even common men can still succumb to the desire to oppress the weak yet maintain pretensions of legitimacy.
This issue is similar to “The Third Room” in that it’s a dialogue-heavy affair, tightly plotted and masterfully told. Batman is in pursuit of some of Rupert Thorne’s goons, one of whom has a book full of information that could indict Thorne and help in putting him away. It’s a tense “real crime” story, and it features one of the greatest Batman punching panels of all time.
Bats looks so bored. Four stars.
•The Batman Adventures #10: “The Last Riddler Story”
This is notable for two reasons: one, it’s a great Riddler story, where Nygma vows to give up crime if he can’t best the Batman. Two, it’s the first appearance of the criminal trio the Perfesser, Mastermind, and Mr. Nice. They make a few more appearances over the years and, though they’re more comic relief than anything and ultimately of little consequence, it’s a fun group of original recurring characters.
The story is fun, made even more so by the fact that technically the Riddler wins. A good closing issue for this volume.
Bonus Features: Other than a price tag of $20 for 10 issues of a great series, nada. But that is a great price and I want to give this collection a 9/10, so that warrants an extra point.
Overall: A worthy addition to any fan’s collection. Whether you grew up with the show, have kids you want to read comics with, or just want some great Batman stories, you can’t go wrong with this. Hopefully these volumes sell well enough that they eventually release the other spin-off series, but for now this is a good start. Go buy two and give one to a friend.