The Batman Adventures, Vol. 3

Written by Kelley Puckett

Illustrated by Mike Parobeck

Inked by Rick Burchett

Colored by Rick Taylor

Lettered by Starkings/Comicraft

We can all agree that this series is great, right?  Even if you don’t think it’s quite at the level of the animated series, it’s still a worthy successor and companion to the show.  It’s in this volume that the creative teams really started taking advantage of the comics medium to do things that couldn’t be done on TV, so let’s just dive right in, shall we?

•Note: Unless otherwise noted, the above credits apply to each issue in this collection.

•The Batman Adventures Annual #1

Written by Paul Dini

Illustrated by Multiple Artists

Colored by Rick Taylor

Lettered by Starkings/Comicraft

The volume starts off strong with an annual featuring several stories with different artistic teams, and “Going Straight” brings out the big guns with a script from Dini and pencils from Bruce Timm, two of the main creative forces behind the show.  That quality really helps set a tone and level of excitement for the rest of the collection.

The action kicks off immediately with the introduction of Roxy Rocket, an original character who would later make an appearance on The New Batman Adventures.

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This actually serves as a bookend plot of sorts, as Roxy appears later in the annual’s  penultimate story.  She’s quickly apprehended here, but the few pages she appears in are dynamically illustrated and tell a story in their own right.  I know Bruce Timm’s influence is already well-known, but seeing his work actually come to life in sequential storytelling cements the fact that he’s truly a one of a kind talent.

The rest of the stories are told in a “case files” fashion, the first of which involves the Ventriloquist.  While I’ve been outspoken about the fact that I don’t care much for the character, I’m just as outspoken about how well this series treats him.  What normally comes off as a silly, one-note gimmick is instead turned into a tragic story of redemption and how Wesker, no matter how hard he tries, is unable to let go of his inner demons.  His story here, trying to use his gift for something good by becoming a puppeteer for a children’s program, is a logical progression for the character and, ultimately, a tragic tale of regression.

And horrifying puppets. Always with the horrifying puppets.
And horrifying puppets. Always with the horrifying puppets.

The next story is “24 Hours,” with art from Timm and Dan DeCarlo, who is most notable for his contributions to Archie comics.  It’s a (mostly) silent story, detailing a day in the life of Harley Quinn.  DeCarlo’s aesthetic works really well with the animated Batman style, and his Harley Quinn in particular is great.

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A great, simple concept masterfully used to tell a fun story.

Klaus Janson lends his hand to “Study Hall,” and his inker’s sensibility really helps to sell it as a genuinely creepy Scarecrow story.

That's some Sandman-level horror imagery right there.
That’s some Sandman-level horror imagery right there.

Narratively it’s probably the thinnest and most basic of the lot, but the visuals really bring it up to another level.  Had this been included in a Legends of the Dark Knight anthology I wouldn’t have thought twice.

The annual is capped off by “Laughter After Midnight,” which follows the Joker around town in the wee hours of the morning after being foiled by Batman.  Again.

It goes about as well as you’d expect.

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With pencils from John Byrne and Bruce Timm providing colors, it’s the kind of Joker story I love to read: he’s simultaneously a clown and a psychopath, just as likely to squirt jelly donut filling in your eye as he is to blow up your apartment.  It’s that unpredictability that makes him truly terrifying, and the fact that he thinks it’s all a joke even more so.

This annual is great from start to finish, and already almost halfway to making your $20 well spent.

SCORE:  9.5/10

•The Batman Adventures #21: “House of Dorian”

Written by Michael Reaves and Kelley Puckett

Illustrated by Mike Parobeck

Inked by Rick Burchett

Colored by Rick Taylor

Lettered by Starkings/Comicraft

Remember Emile Dorian, that wacky geneticist who turned Catwoman into a literal cat-woman?

Yeah, this isn’t the best.

I’ve never been a fan of stories where people transform into animal-like creatures, and this one has three of them: Man-Bat (who I don’t have a beef with), Tygrus (also from “Tyger, Tyger”), and Anthony Romulus (werewolf guy from “Moon of the Wolf,” aka the dumbest Batman episode ever).

Somehow, this is boring.
Somehow, this is boring.

Well, ok, some of the action scenes are pretty good, but the whole ordeal is just goofy.  And I’m a guy who thinks the Riddler challenging Batman to a boxing match is in the top three greatest things to ever happen on television.

SCORE:  5.5/10

•The Batman Adventures #22: “Good Face Bad Face”

Of course the twenty-second issue would involve Two-Face.

No pun intended (maybe…), but what makes Two-Face such a compelling villain is two-fold: he’s first and foremost Bruce’s friend, and he can be seen as one of Batman’s great failures. Both aspects drive this issue, as Two-Face breaks loose and sets all of the Gotham State Penitentiary inmates free, while Batman tries to prove there’s even the slightest bit of Harvey left in there.

Puckett spends just as much time with Bruce lamenting his friend’s current state as he does the actual conflict Two-Face is embroiled in, and the issue is all the better for it.  We know Batman’s going to want to take down the Joker simply because he’s a madman bent on chaos and destruction, but with someone like Harvey he wants to see reformation, to show there’s still good in him.  He wants to save Harvey from himself just as much as he wants to save others from Two-Face, but Dent has to want to be saved in the first place.

Its genuinely tragic, a slow-burner focused more on identity and the mental state of Dent than it is on action.  Even so, it’s one of the best issues of the series thus far, and Parobeck’s pencils have never been better.

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SCORE:  9/10

•The Batman Adventures #23: “Toxic Shock”

Speaking of redemption…

Poison Ivy is an interesting character, and a great example of what makes Batman’s rogues so interesting: she has a gimmick, sure, and even though she seeks to achieve her ends through less than noble means, her motivation to save nature isn’t outright criminal.  She’s different than other villains, but that’s the point: Batman’s enemies are unique, each one operating in different ways to achieve different ends.  The variety is what makes them so memorable.

The plot here is fairly standard, but well told: when an advocate for environmental preservation is poisoned with an unknown substance, Batman enlists Pamela Isley’s help in finding an antidote.  A basic premise, and it ends somewhat anticlimactically with an “et tu, Brute?” moment, but it’s still effective.

It also has this sequence:

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Under that lady’s lipstick?  That’s hardcore.

SCORE:  8/10

•The Batman Adventures #24: “Grave Obligations”

Kyodai Ken, Bruce’s ninja rival who appeared in two episodes of the animated series, is dead and his sister is out for revenge.

That’s what I love about this comic: it takes ideas, plots, and characters from the cartoon and takes them in different, interesting directions.  This issue in particular has a great feel to it, as it deals with love and revenge like old fashioned hard-boiled thrillers would.

It isn’t a particularly wordy issue, but the visual storytelling is fantastic as per usual, with some truly great fight scenes spread throughout.

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An unnecessary continuation?  Perhaps, but it’s gripping and well-paced, so it’s a welcome addition.

SCORE:  8.5/10

•The Batman Adventures #25: “Super Friends”

YES

Not only is this the first meeting of Batman and Superman in the animated universe (sadly retconned out of existence, but World’s Finest is great so it’s not too sad), but we get Terrible Mullet Superman™ and Luscious Red Locks and Chin-Strap Luthor®.

How I love you, 1990s.
How I love you, 1990s.

Maxie Zeus is also in it, but hey, they can’t all be winners.

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but this issue is just flat-out Silver Agey fun: a meeting between the two great heroes, a nefarious scheme, and giant robots.  Even with my 98th favorite Batvillain it’s still loads of fun.

Even if Bats looks so bored crashing through windows.
Even if Bats looks more bored than ever crashing through windows.

It’s just an enjoyable read, through and through.  The writing is great, there’s a brilliant scene between Batman and Luthor, and seeing the two titans work alongside each other is always a treat.

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And really, that mullet.  Gorgeous.

SCORE:  8.5/10

•The Batman Adventures #26: “Tree of Knowledge”

As great as Batman is, seeing the extended Batfamily get the spotlight is always nice, especially when they’re as beloved as Robin and Batgirl.

#DickandBabs4Eva
#DickandBabs4Eva

It’s a nice little mystery they’re involved in, too, with a smarmy college professor and a lesson that Barbara needs to “think like a criminal.”  The art is good, if a bit on the cartoony side, the mystery is intriguing, and the easy chemistry between Dick and Babs is always great to read.  It’s a good, solid issue, and that’s more than ok.

SCORE:  7.5/10

•The Batman Adventures #27: “Survivor Syndrome”

This was also covered before, so I’ll be brief.  First, look at that cover:

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That’s about five exclamation points and a blurb like “Batman, Murdered!  …By Batman?!” from being a Silver Age comic.  In fact, the plot (a Batman impersonator runs around Gotham, to… mixed results) is lifted from Batman #183.

The similarities end there, as this is a pretty tragic, heart-wrenching story about loss and (again) redemption, but it’s always nice to see a story put a fresh spin on old tropes without resorting to parody or, even worse, cynicism.

SCORE:  8/10

BONUS FEATURES: Like before, it’s simply a collection of great comics, but it also includes a nice gallery of pin-up posters from greats like Matt Wagner, Dave Gibbons, and Alex Toth.  Here’s my personal favorite.

Spoiler
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An extra point on the final score for supplemental material being included at all.

Overall: Even with a lemon, this is a strong collection of stories.  There’s great talent involved, mature storytelling that is enjoyable for all ages, and appearances from fan favorite characters all over the place.  If you loved Batman as a cartoon series, or really just love Batman in general, you’re guaranteed to find something you like here.  Hopefully the sales are there for these collections, because this series has so many greater stories to come.

SCORE:  9/10