Comic Book Review: The Batman Adventures Volume 2 written by Kelley Puckett, pencils by Mike Parobeck, inks by Rick Burchett
Batman: The Animated Series ran on Fox 1992-1995, and is considered one of the best animated TV series of all time, as well as one of the best adaptations of Batman outside comic books. It spawned an entire DC Animated Universe set of series with its unique look and strong continuity. The series also influenced the comics it had spawned from, creating the madcap Harley Quinn and her friendship with Poison Ivy (and suggesting they might be very close friends) and a new sympathetic backstory for Mr. Freeze, who had been a flat character before.
But more directly, there was a tie-in comic book series, The Batman Adventures. It was written for younger readers than the mainstream DC Comics universe, although it could still handle some subject matter that the TV series had to shy away from. The art was meant to evoke the style of the show, and frequently succeeded. Rather than copy scripts from the TV series, most of the issues tell stories in between episodes.
Many of the stories in this second volume revolve around secondary characters rather than Batman himself. There are stories for Batgirl (taking place before her first appearance on the show), Robin and the pair together. Man-Bat, Talia, and Ra’s al Ghul each get a spotlight story, as does Commissioner Gordon. There’s even an issue from the viewpoint of the Professor, a brainy guy who teams up with schemer Mastermind and reluctant master of violence Mr. Nice to steal nuclear weapons. Their plan is foiled by one unexpected glitch….
The cover story is from issue #16, “The Killing Book.” When the Joker discovers that the Gotham Adventures comic book depicts Batman always defeating him, the Clown Prince of Crime kidnaps an artist to draw the true-life stories of the Joker’s triumphs. This one has a lot of meta-humor, from the titles of the chapters to the comics creators being roughly based on the real ones at DC. The lighter nature of this series is shown by the Joker not actually killing anyone, though he tries to remedy this with a deathtrap for Batman.
The Scarecrow story in #19 is darker, as fear of the Scarecrow spreads over Gotham City, far in excess of his actual threat level. He’s even invading Bruce Wayne’s nightmares of the death of his parents! It turns out that Jonathan Crane isn’t the only ethically deficient scientist in Gotham this month.
Some bits in this series may be too scary for the youngest readers, but most ten year-olds and up should be fine. Older readers will enjoy the in-jokes and references.
Recommended to fans of the cartoon, and parents of young Batman fans who aren’t ready for the very dark mainline comics.