Last time, on Batman ’66 Meets the Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Dynamic Duo and Batgirl teamed up with those secret agents from U.N.C.L.E. to bring down T.H.R.U.S.H. With several of the Arkham Institute’s worst recruited to the ranks of that villainous pack of vipers and vermin, Batman resorted to desperate measures to infiltrate their ranks: he revealed his identity as millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
But what’s this?!
Yes, the opening page of this month’s installment reveals it to be a ruse. On the one hand, it feels like a bit of a stretch even for this series where Batman has a contingency for literally everything, but then Batgirl says it best:
In all seriousness, or at least as serious as we can get here, the first half of this issue shows even more signs of wear than before. I wouldn’t outright say the series is overstaying its welcome, because I’d read any story set in this universe just to get more of the campy Sixties action, but you definitely get the feeling that the creative team is treading water to pad out six issues just so they could get a “trade-length story.”
That’s not to say the book is bad at all. In fact, it’s as funny as I’ve seen this series in the past. The opening gag is silly enough, but once Bruce, Solo, and Kuryakin infiltrate the embassy in Monaco things just go nuts in the best possible way.
Take, for instance, the Prince of Monaco’s new cabinet:
Yes, rather than outright replacing existing members of government, the Arkham escapees straight up take over and appoint themselves ministers of their own gimmick. That is great, and not the least bit surprising: when the Penguin commandeers an entire sub and has it refitted to look like his namesake, making a name for yourself as a villain in Gotham means sticking to your gimmick no matter what.
Even, and especially, if that means becoming the Minister of Eggs or Ice.
But I digress.
The agents from U.N.C.L.E. don’t necessarily get any more screen time this time around than in previous installments, but it definitely feels like the adventure has a more balanced mix of the camp goofiness of Batman and the undercover intrigue of the spies.
David Hahn does a fine job on pencils in the first half, though he isn’t given a lot to do other than draw characters standing around talking. His likenesses are fairly loose while still fitting each character, but it’s his vehicles that look great in particular. I love his British Batmobile, and though he only gets a panel or two with it the Batsub looks great as well.
It’s in the second half when Pasquale Qualano takes over artistic duties that the action and excitement really ramp up. If the first half felt like a bit of a drag, once our heroes head underwater to track down T.H.R.U.S.H. the issue is more than redeemed.
That is what I came to see: exotic locales, hordes of henchmen, and impossible undersea bases. Everything from here on out is remarkably cinematic, with fights taking up both full page spreads and tighter shots in cramped corridors, giving everything a great sense movement. It almost feels like Batman ’66 Meets James Bond, and that’s really all I’ve wanted from this mini: Gotham’s finest fighting alongside the secret agents from U.N.C.L.E., using increasingly outrageous gadgets and vehicles and fighting endless waves of henchmen before the big bad makes his dramatic reveal. It’s just flat-out fun and appropriately groovy, and even the normally ultra-square Batman of this universe gets a moment or two of undeniable coolness.
To reiterate an earlier point, I really hope Parker gives the titular spies more to do in the next two issues. Right now they just kind of hang around, reacting to the more popular and familiar Batfamily without doing anything proactive on their own. They’re fun additions to the cast, but definitely feel like guest stars instead of co-stars. Regardless, the elements they bring over from their series still mesh well with the universe of ’66, ratcheting up the suspense and allowing the cliffhangers to trade death traps for more standard spy fare. Case in point: the final reveal of Corvid’s true identity has a build-up that leads to a Blofeldian payoff that’s just missing a cat.
It’s actually pretty suspenseful, if easy to figure out, and ends the issue on a high note. Considering it started off fairly shaky, that’s a welcome turnaround.
- You like Batman ’66, chum.
- You like The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
- You like laughs, action, and suspense in equal measure.
Overall: Starts off uneven, but gets remarkably more exciting by issue’s end, this isn’t the most solid installment of this series but it may be the most fun. I do wish that Kuryakin and Solo had a bit more to do, but it’s still great seeing the Dynamic Duo interact with characters from other properties. Even if this series doesn’t end up a classic, it’s still been a good ride, and any amount of Batman ’66 is always welcome.