Is this what Batman and Wonder Woman needed? To come back to the eras of their shows? It looks that way, as this series seems to have found more confident fitting now that it’s firmly back in the Sixties.
With the sojourn to the Forties in the first two installments, Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 didn’t deliver, which was unfortunate. They were… fine, hardly the worst books I read either month by a long shot, but something was missing. The idea was a good one: show the ’66 Batman in a time that’s not his own, giving us a look at this Bruce Wayne when he was a young boy. The execution, on the other hand? Everything just seemed… off, at least by Batman ’66 standards. If it had been packaged as a Silver/Golden Age-era crossover between Batman and Wonder Woman it would have worked pretty well, but with the branding of ’66 and ’77, respectively, it was an unfortunate miss. The dialogue just didn’t have the wit and snap you’d come to expect from these books, and the tone was relatively flat.
That begs the question then: does Batman ’66 only work in the context of its native decade? We can certainly appreciate it now, fifty years on, and enjoy it no matter what year it is, but does this series only work when it’s effectively in stasis? Can the campiness and cheekiness of the stories work in other time periods, or does it need to stay in the Sixties to work? Based on what’s come so far, I’d say yes, Batman ’66 needs to stay in the Sixties. It’s an anomaly, a product that is definitively of its time while remaining timeless, and it’s that cheeky, self-awareness of how dated it is that still allows it to work today.
Then again, we’ll see soon, as the final two issues take place in the Seventies. If the Sixties Batman doesn’t work going backward in time, can it work going forward? Time will tell, but if you’ve seen the June solicitations and, by extension, the cover of the final issue, you’ll know why I’m confident this series will go out with a bang.
This issue, on the other hand? It’s pretty good. Not quite up to the standard of quality you’d want and expect from Batman ’66, but it’s a pretty big improvement over the previous two installments.
A lot of that comes down to the tone, which is finally finding sure footing. There’s a moment or two that’s a bit shaky, but the dialogue and dry humor lands better than it did before. Catwoman’s flirtatious (and throws down some truly awful cat puns), Robin is mawkish and dorky, Wonder Woman is stalwart and graceful, and Batman is stalwart and a square. If Batman’s voice seemed a bit off before, he’s back to his usual straightforward, straitlaced self. You know, hilarious in how humorless he is, knowledgeable of the most obscure facts to get him out of any situation, forcing Robin to give a criminal a flashlight because she’s a lady. That kind of thing.
There’s some pretty good character work here with everyone, especially in the latter half when the heroes find themselves in a labyrinthine maze. Before that, though, they arrive on Paradise Island proper, in a sequence that’s a little slow but lovely to look at. David Hahn’s pencils have been strong this whole series, and this may be his best work yet. The Grecian architecture of Paradise is appropriately epic in its size and scope, and the natural elements of the island and sea make it feel like paradise.
Still, it’s a little dull. I like Wonder Woman as a character, and myths and the like are interesting, but for some reason I’ve never really connected with stories that take place on Themyscira. I prefer Diana out in the world, doing the good work she’s meant to do, rather than chilling out on her home turf.
I’ll stop talking like that. Sorry.
It’s when the band heads out to Garatos, third island of the archipelago, that the issue really gets moving. Members of the League of Shadows stole a boat from the Amazons and made way to the island, so the heroes follow. The island houses a labyrinth, like all good mythological legends do. Contained within the labyrinth are exiled monsters and foes that the Amazons have fought, and at its center is a mystic spring. The Amazons call it the Elysian Well.
You’ve probably already guessed: it’s a Lazarus Pit.
I kind of love this extended sequence, I’m not going to lie. It’s full of basic “mythological hero” tropes, and seeing superheroes cast in those roles is great fun. Batman and Wonder Woman take on a griffin, Robin and Catwoman face a cyclops, and the maze itself works against the heroes by adjusting its walls and blocking paths. The journey is surprisingly tense and filled with surprises, to the point that I was actually on the edge of my seat more than once. So much stuff gets thrown at us here, and all of it manages to work really well.
The maze itself is fantastically designed too, which is just another example of Hahn’s great work.
Besides being fun, this is the first real example of the Batman and Wonder Woman worlds successfully intermingling. It takes the groundwork laid in the introductory chapters and finally makes it feel as if these properties belong together. I did like some of the beats from the earlier issues, but it still felt like there was something missing. Here, though, I totally buy it: Ra’s is always in search of a Lazarus Pit, and of course the Amazons have one tucked away. It even has comic book precedence… sort of.
If taking Batman ’66 out of its time doesn’t seem to work, taking it out of its place certainly does. Taking the action to Londinium gave us some of the best episodes of the TV series, the sojourn to Japan is hands-down one of my favorite comics of the past several years, and now a journey to Paradise Island is a proven success. I’ve regained hope in this series, chums, and hopefully after this you will have too.
- You like Batman ’66.
- You like Wonder Woman ’77.
- You like well-illustrated architecture.
- You like Greek myths, monsters, and mazes.
Overall: Despite a rough start, Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 is starting to come together nicely. This installment looks great, with some truly brilliant architectural design work, and the narrative has started to gel. It does start off a little slow, but once it gets moving this issue never lets up. Even if having these characters meet was a no-brainer, their respective worlds are finally clicking and meshing well together. It took going back to the Sixties to do it, but this is starting to feel like good Batman ’66, good Wonder Woman ’77, and a good story in general.