Batman ’66 Meets the Man From U.N.C.L.E. #2: “The Batman Affair: Villains in a Rush/Bruce Wayne, Agent of T.H.R.U.S.H.”
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by David Hahn
Inked by Karl Kesel and David Hahn
Colored by MadPencil
Lettered by Wes Abbott
Tone is a tricky thing. Just as much as the look of a TV show or comic, the way the property carries itself speaks volumes. That’s part of what made Batman ’66 so memorable: visually it was bright and colorful, and it had a deadpan tone to match. Those costumes and that dialogue in, say, Tim Burton’s macabre vision of the dark knight? That would have been a disaster, but even if it’s not your cup of tea it worked for what it set out to do.
The thing is, everything has a tone and feel unique to itself. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has a humorous slant, of course, but it’s more serious in nature and relies on the suave and charming personalities of its leads for its laughs more than tongue-in-cheek humor and outrageous situations. Even though they’re products of the same time, they’re very different shows with very different purposes. As such, the meeting of these two worlds could have been outright disastrous.
Luckily, it’s not, as Jeff Parker walks a very fine line in his writing that brings both weight and levity to the two properties while still having them feel naturally and distinctively like themselves. Batman and Robin act like they should, their respective stoicism and whimsy as evident as ever, while the agents of U.N.C.L.E. rub elbows with the denizens of Gotham as if they were meant to be there all along.
After a rollicking start, things really get moving this month as our heroes finally meet, though not without a suspicion or two.
Picking up right where we left off, the inmates at Arkham
Asylum Institute have escaped, leading to bedlam and pandemonium on the streets of Gotham. To get answers, Batman interrogated the incapacitated Penguin, who’s looking an awful lot like Robin Lord Taylor.
Being the World’s Greatest Detective™ and all, Batman deduces that the Penguin was chosen as the unwitting decoy while the other inmates escaped because his ego would want to gloat and boast about the breakout. It’s a pretty good piece of character work, perfectly in line with Burgess Meredith’s bombastic braggadocio.
After presumably giving up everything he knows, the scene cuts to Solo and Kuryakin entering an ordinary tailor shop to discuss the best way to clean their shirts and have their suits steam-pressed.
Nothing more, juuuuust an ordinary storefront.
No siree, nothing to ok I’m not funny.
The duo give us a look at a day in the life of a man from U.N.C.L.E., including… making informational videos.
It’s pretty fun, especially since these are less familiar characters than Batman and Robin so a peek into their personalities and daily lives is welcome. It makes them feel like equal players in the story, rather than being overshadowed by the far more popular Caped Crusader. As much as I loved Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet, Britt Reid and Kato were supporting players through and through, so giving the men from U.N.C.L.E. more time in the sun is a welcome change.
It seems that after Olga, Queen of the Cossack’s escape, U.N.C.L.E. intercepted a transmission broadcast to her regarding the escape of the Arkham inmates, who are classified as “class seven criminals… too dangerous for normal incarceration.”
I just think that’s great, classifying criminals on a scale like that. It’s kind of like power levels of characters in Dragon Ball Z or whatever: silly, almost to the point of being ridiculous, but still a fairly effective way of getting the threat across.
The despots they’re observing: series mainstays Egghead and Mr. Freeze; the newly introduced Poison Ivy and Scarecrow; and Sandman and the Siren, because… six is a
better more evil number than four, I guess.
Most interestingly: their prime suspect for the group’s benefactor and T.H.R.U.S.H. liaison? None other than millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
I like that, as it adds a nice layer of tension and distrust that goes beyond the characters just not getting along: Bruce has the means to set the foes loose to begin with, and being a prime donor to the Institute he may even have the motive and connections to use them as easy muscle for the organization. Of course he’d be at the top of U.N.C.L.E.’s list of suspects, at least on paper.
Plus, as we all know he already has a history of working for Agencies with Unnecessary A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S.
I have now reached my Amalgam Reference Quota® for the year. Got that done early.
The issue is a bit unbalanced with content and action, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; there’s a good set-up in the first half, enough exposition to get us caught up to speed, and then the second moves along at a really brisk pace. Once the basic plot is set in motion (effectively, Solo and Kuryakin attend one of Bruce’s parties to investigate him), things speed along to the inevitable cliffhanger. Frankly, I’m okay with that, as the pacing is consistent and the changes in narrative feel earned and organic.
David Hahn’s pencils, along with his own and Karl Kesel’s inks and the colors by MadPencil, really pop off the page and fit the story perfectly, with one exception.
Remember what I said about tone earlier, how it’s a fine line? For whatever reason, that homage to The Killing Joke just rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed out of place, even more so since everything else is just about perfect, tonally speaking. I know the Joker is a fairly fluid character with all sorts of different interpretations, so it’s not that. There’s just something about seeing Cesar Romero’s loony prankster associated with one of the more disturbing Batman comics ever printed felt… off.
No matter. It’s another great installment and really, we need all the Batman ’66 we can get.
- You love Batman ’66.
- You love a good team up.
- Espionage and intrigue are your thing.
- I’ve been putting it off because I hate typing that acronym, but… you love U.N.C.L.E.
Overall: As second chapters go, this is a winner. It takes the fun and energy of the first installment and moves things along at a brisk pace, keeping the action going without ever really dragging. Other than one misstep that I’m sure I’ll get over soon, Batman ’66 Meets the Man From U.N.C.L.E. is shaping up to be an unexpectedly smashing success.