It’s always tricky to tie a new character to an established backstory. Of course, the appeal is obvious; if you’re able to pull it off then you’re able to intimately connect them to the existing characters and make any stories involving them that much more exciting. However, any sort of retcon like that runs the risk of coming across as contrived. Batman: The Adventures Continue Season 3 #2 doubles down on that gamble by retroactively romantically connecting to not one, but two characters’ origins.
This isn’t the first time that the universe of Batman: The Animated Series has introduced a “first love” for Bruce Wayne. Andrea Beaumont famously featured in the movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. There, she played an important thematic role as a symbol for the life Bruce wishes he could have had, and how even that has become twisted by the pursuit of vengeance. If you haven’t seen it you definitely should. Doing it again, however, results in severely diminishing returns. Not only is it visiting the same well too many times, but it comes across as labored to try and say “oh actually this was your first true love before the last woman who was your first true love”.
Where it gets especially tenuous is when we learn that not only was Cassie Kendall romantically involved with Bruce in college, but Harley Quinn as well. It’s an insane coincidence that they even attended the same university at the same time, but apparently only had one degree of separation between them. The idea that they would run anywhere near the same social circles is pretty hard to believe. It’s pseudo-justified by Harley saying that she’s from a “respectable family”, but she went to college on a scholarship, something that’s even brought up again in this story. When you’re hanging around with billionaires, “respectability” means “money”.
A lot of the story’s drama comes from the fact that both Batman and Harley have dated the woman that they’re looking for, even if Harley doesn’t realize it. It is, at the same time, played as a joke and treated as a serious element to the mystery. As a story premise, it feels like it would be more at home as an episode of Harley Quinn: The Animated Series than Batman: The Animated Series. It’s such a parodic concept and execution that the whole story seems like it should be played as a farce.
It’s even revealed that Cassie also dated Harvey Dent around the same time. Again, played as a gag this could work, but in a comic that seems to be taking itself somewhat seriously this comes across as too absurd.
If the story really leaned into that angle, I think it would actually work. Like I said, it would fit in with the tone of Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, and that’s a good show. The problem is that this story doesn’t play itself as a comedy. Harley makes jokes, sure, but the tone is played almost entirely straight. This causes the instances trying to poke fun at the world/characters just feel out of place.
It’s in part because all the humor is being handled by Harley that she feels so misused by the story. Dini clearly loves writing Harley, and he’s able to capture her voice perfectly as always. However, aside from her past connection to Cassie, she really doesn’t have anything to do. She just keeps popping up, and it’s never clear whether we should be following her or Batman. The easiest point of comparison to make is the Batman: The Animated Series episode Harliquinade. That story also features both Batman and Harley, but it comes up with a compelling reason for them to work together. As such, the episode is filled with plenty of interplay between the two and it drives the plot forward. That cohesion never forms here. Instead it’s like watching two dancers step on each other’s toes.
The art is unfortunately also a big step down from last month’s. Instead of Jordan Gibson’s pitch perfect recreation of Bruce Timm’s art style from the show last month, the Kevin Altieri’s linework feels much more sloppy. There are times where characters do not seem like they have enough detail put in them, but also times when they’re overdrawn and lack the simplistic style that the show is known for. The way the art is inked is very scratchy, and it’s unclear if that approach is intentional. Often times the trace lines even spill out of the borders of the panel. Overall it’s acceptable enough to serve its purpose, but it rarely adds to the story.
- You want more Harley and Batman team ups
- You’re a big fan of never-before-mentioned past acquaintances
- Batman stories should occasionally be goofy
Batman: The Adventures Continue Season 3 #2 is a team-up story between Batman and Harley Quinn that can never quite figure out how to meaningfully include them both. The addition of a new character tied to both of their pasts feels contrived, and forces retcons which are hard to buy. A mix of messy artwork and muddled story results in a disappointing second issue after such a strong debut.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.