It’s difficult to understate the influence of both the 1966 Batman television show and the 1975 Wonder Woman series. Batman was a cultural phenomenon, hitting at just the right time to be embraced by the zeitgeist. It’s bright aesthetic fit with the Mod style of the day, and the tongue-in-cheek campiness inspired comics writers to embrace the “dark” in “Dark Knight.” Truly, if you love grim, gritty, “never tells a joke or cracks a smile” Batman more than anything, you can thank this show for inspiring writers to not let Batman be anything but brooding.
Wonder Woman wasn’t quite the cultural landmark that Batman was, but it was wildly popular and influential in its own regard. Running for three seasons, the show had certain elements that would inspire the comics for decades to come. Beyond that, to this day Lynda Carter is widely regarded as the definitive image of the character, live action or no. Ask a dozen people what their favorite iteration of Batman is and you’ll get just as many answers, but to so many there is only one Wonder Woman.
Given the resurgence in popularity each property has seen in recent years, it only makes sense that they would eventually cross over. After all, if Batman can meet
the Avengers Steed and Peel, why shouldn’t he be able to cross paths with Diana Prince? So when it was announced, surely I wasn’t the only one excited to see these two legends of the small screen meet on the printed page?
How I wish it was better, then.
All of the elements are there for this to be fantastic: you have two great writers in Jeff Parker and Marc Andreyko who know the characters well and have done great work on their respective titles; David Hahn, Karl Kesel, and MadPencil are on hand with a great visual aesthetic; and the inspired idea to have the story take place over three separate decades. It’s an ambitious idea that could only work in comics, and one that will hopefully pay dividends in the end. Right now, though, this series is pretty disappointing.
Like I said, all the pieces are here, and visually at least this issue is really good. I loved Hahn’s style on the Man from U.N.C.L.E. crossover, and he does great work here too. The likenesses may not be exact, but that doesn’t really matter. Combined with Karl Kesel’s nice inks and MadPencil’s beautiful coloring, there’s barely a panel that doesn’t look good. The character design for Ra’s in particular looks great blending a few different interpretations over the years while still retaining his basic features. There’s a lot of the original comics design, a bit of the animated series look, and maybe even a dash of Liam Neeson in there. Apparently, Hahn and Kesel’s ideal “casting” for the role was either Ricardo Montalban or Christopher Lee, and while I don’t know about the former I can certainly see quite a bit of the latter there.
The problem with this premiere issue is the writing. And really, I hate to say that. Parker made the Batman ’66 comic what it is, so he absolutely knows the character, and Andreyko did some great work on the Wonder Woman ’77 series. Sadly, this doesn’t really feel like a great chapter of either. If anything, it more closely matches the tone and feel of the Wonder Woman series, and she certainly carries the issue when she finally shows up. What it does not feel like is a Batman ’66, and when I say it doesn’t feel like it I mean it really doesn’t. At all.
The voicing is just off. “I was ten, okay?” does not sound like something Adam West’s Bruce Wayne would ever say. Even if proven wrong, he’d resign himself humbly instead of getting defensive. I really liked the idea of seeing Bruce tell a story about his childhood, and those time jumps do hold some promise for future installments, but the execution was lacking. Had this been any other series, or even just a Wonder Woman book it would have read just fine, but representing a Batman series that has such a set tone of voice and not matching it keeps it from greatness.
This is just the beginning, though, and there’s too much potential here for this series to be an out and out lemon. You have two great heroes finally meeting, one of the Dark Knight’s greatest villains, and some great talent steering the ship. Here’s just hoping they can right it before it goes too far off course.
- You love Batman ’66.
- More than that, you love Wonder Woman ’77.
- You want to see a genuinely menacing Ra’s Al Ghul.
Overall: My optimism and love for this series is what’s keeping me afloat right now. While by no means a disaster, this doesn’t feel like the grand slam that a meeting between two cultural icons should have been. I love the way it looks, I love the villain they chose, and there are some really cool storytelling techniques at play, I just don’t think it’s Batman ’66. A shaky start to what I sincerely hope ends up being a fun crossover.