DC’s Black Label line of comics has caught a bit of flack lately for a recent installment that brought Batman’s genitalia to light (or in the case of said panel, in shadowy highlight that somehow slipped past the censors at DC and has ensured that issues with the panel in tact will go for a high dollar value on the collector’s market). This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I heard that DC was publishing a line of comics that were intended for adult audiences.
So, it was refreshing to find that the eight issues making up Batman: White Knight did what I wanted a comic book aimed at adult to do — namely, not just rely on flashes of nudity and swearing in order to be “adult.”
The premise is a fairly intriguing one. What if Batman and the Joker switched places in how the citizens of Gotham viewed them? Both are vigilantes who operate outside the law, but Batman has always done so with the tacit endorsement of Jim Gordon and the police while the Joker hasn’t. As this series so intriguingly points out, it’s Batman who causes just as much destruction in his wake taking down the various villains who show up to take on the Caped Crusader. Exactly where the millions of dollars needed each year to rebuild Gotham and how those funds are allocated is just one of the intriguing questions delved into over the course of these eight issues.
The early issue finds Batman and Joker’s battle of wills reaching a new height. After nearly beating the Joker to death with his fists, Gordon and some members of the police force begin to question their loyalty to and endorsement of Batman. When the Joker starts taking a medication that slowly reduces his more manic side and he decides to run for city government, public sentiment begins to turn from the Caped Crusader to the Crowned Prince of Crime. Seems all he needed was the love of a good woman in the first Harley Quinn (the series gives us two women who play Harley to the Joker, thus ticking off a few continuity boxes from how we saw Harley in the animated series and how she was in the big-screen Suicide Squad and the right medication.
But how effective is the medication really? And is the Joker playing some sort of long game to slowly undermine the Batman’s support mechanisms and destroy him once and for all? Could it be that the Joker would rather see his adversary in ruins rather than dead?
It makes for a fascinating story and one that it feels like Batman comics could or should have delved into before now.
If there’s one complaint I have about this collection, it’s that the final issue feels like it’s too quick to wrap things up. I understand there is a follow-up coming our way in the near future and I suppose they had to leave room for more stories to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel that the final installment didn’t stick the landing as effectively as it could or should have.
In an odd bit of timing, I started reading this latest collection of the Batman ’66 comics on the same day that the news broke of Yvonne DeCarlo’s passing. This turned out to be bittersweet because the first story features Batgirl and the Dynamic Duo battling the forces of evil around Gotham City.
As I said for the first two installments, this comic book series is intended as pure, unmitigated fun and a great homage to the classic TV series. The comics can do things that the TV show budget didn’t or couldn’t but it never forgets what made the TV series work so well. One story that’s especially fun finds Wayne Manor robbed and the Shakespeare bust removed, effectively cutting off our heroes from the Batcave. Forced to resort to older versions of the costumes, we get to see Batman and Robin in the costumes from the movie serials that preceded this one. The story is a lot of fun and stays just long enough so that it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
Also included is a story that finds Batman invented a robot that will be on duty 24-hours a day and fight crime. The scenes of Bruce and Dick actually getting to fishing are nicely done as is the reasoning for why the Bat-bot can’t stay on duty all the time.
This collection continues the fun of the series and was just delightful. It’s not heavy Batman stories — but they don’t need to be. If you want something fun and entertaining, give this series a try.
Hearing Neal Adams talk about his career on a couple of “Fat Man on Batman” podcasts really piqued my interest in seeing some of more of his art. Luckily we live in the age of Google. But while a Google search can bring up some samples of his art, it’s really not the same as reading and viewing the original source material.
Enter two collections of Adams’ tenure as the Dark Knight artist from DC.
Of the two, I found the third collection the more interesting one, if only because it includes segments of the early introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul and the illustrations for two Power Records stories featuring Batman that were written and drawn by Adams.
The third collection also includes an issue that “Fat Man on Batman” host Kevin Smith cites as one of his first entry points into the printed world of Batman.
Coming away from the collection, I’m struck by how solid the artwork by Adams is. And how dated these stories seem. Many times it feels like the stories have to work too hard to contain themselves to a single issue (and it feels odd to say that since one of my bigger criticisms of modern comics is the way stories are stretched out past to fill a six-part arc). I get that comics were intended to be more self-contained and welcoming to new readers back in this era, but it still feels like some stories end abruptly. It could be that the threads are picked up in other Batman titles not drawn by Adams, I suppose. I couldn’t help but feel that some type of supplemental material addressing this might have been nice. Or maybe I’m just not versed enough in my Bat-lore.
That said, Adams has some great pieces in this collection. Two of my favorites come from the “Stacked Cards” story on the Power Records
Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet #1 by Kevin Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Before the Avengers assembled and Batman meet Superman on the silver screen, crossovers were limited to characters we saw on the Superfriends and the second second Batman installment with the Green Hornet and Kato. Uber-fans Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman clearly recall how monumental that crossover and have channeled that love into this six-issue storyline.
The plotline finds the Dynamic Duo and the Green Hornet and Kato once again believing they’re on opposite sides of the law but working together for a common good. The dialogue is spot-on and the art works well. About mid-way through the collection, I dusted off my recently acquired complete series box-set and re-watched the original story that served as the starting point for this episode. While it’s not necessary, it did help refresh my memory of who one of the villains was in this collection.
Sure, there’s a bit of running around in the middle, but given that this series is intended to be read as single installments and not in one giant feast, I was willing to overlook this.
The second collection of Batman ’66 stories is just as entertaining, delightful and fun as the first one. Jeff Parker continues to channel the vibe of the original television series but is giving a bigger sandbox to play in. Limited only by the budget of what his artists can do, Parker sees the Dynamic Duo traveling in time, taking on Shame and even having a story or two focus on other characters from the television universe. It all adds up to another enjoyable read and a series that only continues to deliver the goods in terms of entertainment value.
It would be easy to dismiss DC’s Batman ’66 as an attempt to cash in on the current wave of nostalgia for the campy TV classic and its recent release on DVD and Blu-Ray. But doing that would sell short this fun, digital comic book take on the series which while it doesn’t perfectly capture the fun of those early episodes, still does a nice job of keeping the spirit of the TV show alive.
Collecting together five printed issues (apparently multiple weeks of the digital comic), this collection feels a bit like what the TV show might have done if it had a bit bigger budget or more time to film. The first story involves the Riddler and sees Batman using the Batrope and Batarang to climb from a moving Batmobile to the Riddler’s crop duster plane that is being used for nefarious activities. It’s impressively rendered on the comics page and it’s one of those things you feel the TV show would absolutely have loved to have attempted but couldn’t.
Interestingly, the order of the first two major foes the Dynamic Duo faces mirrors that of the original television series. And there are more homages and smart references to come in the pages, reminding me of the early first season of the show. The comic even tries to add a bit more of a sinister aspect to the TV version of the Joker and bring in the Red Hood as a character. While this isn’t necessarily the biggest hit of the collection, it’s still interesting to see the comics try some new and interesting twists and tie-ins to larger Batman mythology.
Reading these collected issues, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. Pure nostalgia, but also a lot of fun. It’s easy to see that the creative team behind this series loves the original series — and that love translates into the product presented here.
Scott Snyder has been creating waves in the comic book community ever since he took over as the lead writer for the Dark Knight with the rebooted New 52. After two great storylines, Snyder and his artistic team turn their sites on some of the most hallowed and sacred ground in the Batman canon — looking back on the famous and influential Year One storyline.
And doggone it, if Snyder and company don’t pull off the improbable — telling a story that isn’t designed to replace Year One but instead to enhance and maybe, just maybe tell us another side of the Batman origin story.
Set six years before the current Batman time frame, these first collected issues of Year Zero find Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham City. He’s been declared dead and he’s using that status to fight a one-man war on crime, as headed up by the Red Hood Gang. Despite several people asking Bruce to come back into the light and return to the living, he refuses, seeing his duty to save the city as a vigilante who uses various masks to disguise who he is. Frustrated by his lack of impact, the story chronicles how Bruce goes from a masked vigilante to the Bat. And just when you think the story might be done, things end on a well set-up cliffhanger, ensuring that I’ll be back for the next collection of issues.