The Batman Adventures, Vol. 2
Written by Kelley Puckett
Illustrated by Mike Parobeck
Inked by Rick Burchett
Colored by Rick Taylor
Lettered by Tim Harkins
Batman: The Animated Series was one of the most influential television series of all time, spinning off into a half–dozen other shows, introducing characters that made their way into the comics and became incredibly popular on their own, and serving as the definitive take on the character for at least one generation of fans.
Like most cartoons of the era, it also inspired a tie-in comic book, but instead of being a cash-grab of lazy, by-the-numbers stories “for kids,” it produced some of the best Batman comics of the decade, many of which still hold up remarkably well today.
Thankfully, after at least a decade of being out of print, DC has begun releasing the comic in larger volumes over the past year. We already covered the first volume here, and with the third just released and the fourth on the way, it’s time to take a look at the second volume.
Treating this a little differently than an average comic review, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each issue contained in the volume, 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 brevity is… something about wit… or something.
•The Batman Adventures #11: “The Beast Within!”
Ahh, Man-Bat. Technically the first villain to appear on the show, he’s a character that’s interesting in concept but really only has one story to tell: that of a man who toyed with nature, becomes a beast, and is ultimately remorseful for his actions. There’s a bit of a twist on that here, when a former colleague of Langstrom’s enters the picture and hatches a scheme due to jealousy, and while it’s interesting enough it goes about where you’d expect.
Thankfully, in recent years Langstrom has been recast as the nerdy science professor over at Gotham Academy, but that’s neither here nor there. Where this issue excels is in Mike Parobeck’s wordless storytelling, where entire pages pass without a single word but it’s clear the entire time what’s going on.
A perfectly adequate story made better in its presentation.
•The Batman Adventures #12: “Batgirl: Day One”
A sort of soft retelling of Batgirl’s first appearance back in Detective Comics #359: Barbara Gordon attends a dance dressed in her own tribute to Batman’s costume, only to foil the plans of a villain on the scene. Instead of Killer Moth, though, this story has her butting heads (literally) with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.
And engaging in a bit of unfortunate foreshadowing, but they couldn’t predict that:
A third act appearance by Catwoman, who is the mastermind behind the conflict, pretty much makes this a five-years-early Gotham City Sirens, and like the previous issue it’s fine. It’s not the best story featuring any of these characters, but as a charming early look at Barbara as this universe’s Batgirl it works just fine.
•The Batman Adventures #13: “Last Tango in Paris”
Bruce’s relationship with Talia is interesting: there’s genuine affection there from both parties, but Talia is just too far gone to truly reconcile her love for her father with her love for Bruce. Talia may have given Bruce a son, but she can’t give him her heart.
It’s a credit to her character that she’s interesting even when working apart from (if not ultimately in favor of) her father, and this issue is no exception. Bruce and Talia team up to find a thief who stole a priceless statue, leading to the streets of Paris where the duo blur the lines between business and pleasure.
The always reliable Kelley Puckett dips a little too close to corniness in the denouement, but it’s still a solid international caper. Parobeck grows into his role more and more with each passing issue, evidenced by giving us what I thought was the best panel of the issue:
…only to immediately follow it up with what might be the best sequence of the series:
Just… look at it: Bats punched that dude so hard (and nonchalantly) that his fist came out of the panel.
•The Batman Adventures #14: “Puglic Enemy”
That isn’t a typo.
The Ventriloquist isn’t my favorite Batman villain. In fact, I really don’t like him, and I’m not sure why,
except maybe because of my unfounded fear of ventriloquist dummies HAHA JUST KIDDING GUYS but no seriously those things are terrifying.
It’s funny, too, because his episode of The New Batman Adventures is one of the best of the series. For whatever reason, he just never clicked with me.
Robin, on the other hand, I love, so this issue already has the scales tipped in its favor.
Dick Grayson, Full-Time College Student, is called to Gotham to “fill in” for Bruce, who had to leave unexpectedly. In doing so, his love for fighting crime and, even more specifically, being Robin is rekindled, which leads to some great exchanges between him and Alfred. We get a peek at Alfred’s past, too, which wasn’t explored an awful lot in the show.
The main conflict with Ventriloquist isn’t quite as impactful, but it’s not bad. Any villain could have filled the role, so using a less-appreciated one was a nice touch. It works, though, and we get a nice solo Robin story where he can both meditate on his role and take out the bad guy himself. Overall a solid outing.
Even if those dummies are terrifying.
•The Batman Adventures #15: “Badge of Honor”
Jim Gordon is just as integral to the Batman mythos as Alfred, Robin and the Joker, a character who has been there with Bruce right from the beginning. Even with recent… questionable developments, he’s one of the best characters in comics: a grounding agent, a fantastic foil to keep Batman’s methods in check.
In “Badge of Honor,” Commissioner Gordon gets the spotlight, and it’s one of the best issues of the whole series. A tense procedural, Batman is hardly in it, allowing the focus to be on Jim as he looks for an undercover officer whose identity has been compromised. He’s allowed to play detective, going into the underbelly of Gotham’s crime families and using his own skills to solve the case.
A remarkably strong street-level story, and a great Bat-book in its own right.
•The Batman Adventures #16: “The Killing Book”
After discovering that he’s being made to look like a fool in a newly published comic book, the Joker kidnaps the artist responsible and forces him to illustrate his crimes.
That is the craziest thing I’ve ever read (today), and I absolutely love it.
Of course Joker would be mad that Batman wins in a comic book, and of course he’d take it out on the creator.
This is another one of those stories where Joker’s demented glee provides some laughs, more because it’s so macabre and outrageous than it actually being funny.
Throw this in:
…and everyone’s going to have a great time.
•The Batman Adventures #17: “The Tangled Web”
We’ve already seen Talia, so what is her father Ra’s Al Ghul up to?
Thoughts of global genocide and environmental rebalance, that’s what.
In yet another strong story, Batman catches wind of a plot by Ra’s to melt the polar ice caps and flood the Earth. There’s plenty of intrigue and a few surprising twists and turns, along with some pretty heavy questions to ponder.
The thing about Ra’s is that, when he’s written well, he’s not really insane, just driven and dangerously resourceful. Sure, his means and ends may not be something you or I would ever strive for (…right, guys?), but he doesn’t suffer from any true psychosis; he’s just a madman, and a case could be made that there’s a difference.
Puckett writes some really good dialogue here, and Parobeck once again tells some great stories through his images, all culminating in a contemplative, morose ending.
•The Batman Adventures #18: “Decision Day”
This one’s just cute.
After thwarting a bombing attempt at GCPD headquarters (uhh, adorable?), Barbara Gordon takes it upon herself to investigate the matter.
Naturally, this is a job for Batgirl!
I love that show to death, but man is that song the worst.
The Boy Wonder gets involved in the case as well, reminding us of simpler times when this series didn’t insist that the two didn’t like each other.
Ultimately, it’s a little forgettable, with some of the loosest art Parobeck submitted, but it’s still a decent read.
Plus, you know…
•The Batman Adventures #19: “Troubled Dreams”
I really liked the previous Scarecrow story, the two-parter in Volume 1 where Gothamites suddenly couldn’t read, and while this one isn’t quite as good it’s still a clever continuation.
Batman keeps seeing the Scarecrow’s image wherever he goes, even though he isn’t there. He intuits that the device Crane used in his earlier scheme could be altered to project specific images to the brain, causing his hallucinations.
I really like the idea that Crane took a failed plan and, instead of scrapping it outright, modified it for different results. It’s not something you see often, so neat little twists like this are more than welcome.
The story itself is fine, if routine beyond Crane’s improvements on a flawed concept, though we do get to see that famous Bat-backhand in action:
The final exchange between Bruce and Alfred is handled very well, too, ending the issue on a well-earned melancholic note.
•The Batman Adventures #20: “Smells Like Black Sunday”
What a weird story to end on…
Mastermind, Mr. Nice, and the Perfesser, one of the silliest teams in comics, plot their escape from prison and go on a crime spree.
It’s… listen, it’s weird. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty funny just in how bizarre it is, but it’s one of those stories you can’t explain without telling the whole thing, and even then you should just go ahead and read the issue.
Mastermind can make some pretty sweet maps, though.
BONUS FEATURES: Like the first volume, nada. Unless you count owning some great Batman comics, which is the bonusiest feature of all.
I know what I said.
Overall: An already confident series continues to grow and gain more stable footing, providing for some of the best Batman stories of the day that still hold up remarkably well. It’s scant on anything but the stories themselves, but when they’re this good you don’t really need anything else. Perfect for fans young and old, old and new.