Looking at that cover, you’d be tempted to think that this issue of Archie Meets Batman ’66 would contain some references to “Surf’s Up! Joker’s Under!”, possibly the finest half-hour of television ever broadcast.  You would not be wrong to assume that, what with Batman’s swim trunks being a direct lift from the episode, and you’d be correct that the issue does contain a reference to that masterpiece.  Yes, there is a reference within.  No, it is not a surf competition.

Barbara Gordon wears a similar swimsuit, only here it’s a two-piece.  That’s… about it.

Is it a nice nod?  Sure.  Was it overly cheeky and obvious?  Not really, but then, when has Batman ’66 ever been about subtlety?

I won’t fault a comic for having a misleading cover, because it happens all the time.  It’s there to entice the reader, and while it would be nice if every cover was 100% accurate to the contents of the issue, that just isn’t the case.

The problem I have is that something like a surf competition, even if it was derivative, would have injected some life into this story.  This crossover has been so laid back that I have a hard time remembering what the actual plot is, and that’s never a good thing.

This is a nice series, don’t get me wrong.  The fact that it’s so small-scale and lacking in any real tension is charming, after a fashion, and the bright colors and simple character designs are pleasing to the eye.  It’s never a chore to read Archie Meets Batman ’66, but it’s never really rewarding either.

Saying that, now that we’ve reached the halfway point of the series, the framework of a plot is starting to come together: those dastardly ne’er-do-wells of the United Underworld have utilized Siren’s virulent vocal vibrato to ensnare the adults of Riverdale.  While that’s certainly a fiendish plot worthy of the Caped Crusaders, it seems the the Boy Wonder and the Dominoed Daredoll are leading Riverdale’s youths astray on their own.

No helmets?  A true crimefighter follows all traffic laws and safety regulations.  Batman would be incredibly disappointed.

While the events are a little slow going with Robin and Batgirl (who get most of the focus of the issue), Batman’s side of the story is much more involving.  He’s taken it upon himself to track down Bookworm and put the kibosh on his plan, and in doing so he utilizes some surprisingly straightforward methods.

Considering this is the series that gave us the ridiculous(ly amazing) “it happened at sea” line of apophenia reasoning, knowing an obscure author or two is relatively tame.

It’s still a fun scene, though, with a zany deathtrap and a short but exciting fight to boot.  Nothing against Archie, but if this is the Batman content we’re going to get out of this miniseries, I want more.  While this crossover has been fine so far, it’s been relatively lifeless.  It’s like chewing on a few sticks of gum: it’s sweet and fun for a bit, but it doesn’t really stay with you for very long.

Well, gum might, if you spit it out and step on it.  But… you know what I mean.  This book has been harmless, charming fluff, and it continues to be just that.  The brief scene with Batman tracking down a villain and fighting some goons injected some much needed life into the story that, honestly, fades away pretty quickly.

Having said that, Dan Parent is just flat out great at drawing all of these characters, and the fact that the visuals work as both an Archie book and a Batman ’66 book is a greater feat than it might seem.  Both series have very specific visual aesthetics, Archie especially, so making the simple characters of the world of Riverdale work alongside the citizens of Gotham (all of whom have real-life visual counterparts that they need to have at least a passing resemblance to) is a testament to Parent’s skill.

Kelly Fitzpatrick’s bright, cheerful colors are the perfect complement to Parent’s pencils: they’re simple without being boring, and are vibrant and inviting.  Jack Morelli might just be the MVP here, though, with some really fun lettering choices.  His sound effects in particular are great, evoking the bombastic fights of the Batman TV show (BOFF and SOK are but two examples).  Even outside the brief action scene, a well-placed VA-ROOOOM above the Batmobile gives the car a definite sense of momentum, and the alternating hues of the Joker’s laugh are a subtle indicator of his lunacy.

Real talk: that Joker-in-the-box head is legitimately creepy.  I kind of love it.

What this series lacks in a focused story in makes up in its easy charm, unforced likability, and pleasing visual stylings.  Do I wish it was more focused?  Sure.  Is it taking a bit too long to get anywhere?  No doubt.  Am I going to buy the graphic novel when it drops and revisit this time and again?  Without question, chums.

BONUS: Some bodacious variant covers from Art Baltazar, Howard Chaykin, Veronica Fish, Franco, and David Mack.

Spoiler

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Recommended if:

  • You like Archie comics.
  • You’ve enjoyed the pleasing visual aesthetic of this series.
  • You want to see Batman throw down, no matter how briefly.

Overall: I like this book just fine.  I wish I loved it, but it never feels like it’s a chore to read.  The characters are fun, the art is great, and there’s just something that’s so likable about the worlds of both Riverdale and the Sixties Gotham that you can’t help but have a good time.  Here’s hoping the story becomes a bit more focused and– dare I say– exciting over the next three issues.  Even if it doesn’t, though, at least we got to hang out with our pals Batman and Archie.

SCORE: 7/10