Review by Karl Verhoven
This fourth volume of Batman stories based on his 1960s TV show ends with a real coup. When the show was running, a script was commissioned from noted science fiction author Harlan Ellison, but never produced. Ellison’s plot involved resurrecting Two-Face, then a 1940s character still several years away from revival in standard Batman comics.
What it highlights, though, is how regular writer Jeff Parker has been accentuating his scripts, slightly upping the comic content in acknowledgement of the difference between TV and comics. The form of comics restricts the visual characterisation the cast brought to the show, and this comes across in Len Wein’s adaptation of Ellison’s plot. It’s a very good plot for the TV show, but relies heavily on the ability of the actors to strike the right note, and transferred to comics it’s somewhat drier than other material here. This is despite the excellent José Luis García-López illustrating, DC so impressed that they’ve also reproduced his entire pencilled art as a bonus feature. Interestingly, possibly for the first time anywhere, it displays a slight weakness in his art. He’s not as good in capturing the cast likenesses as other, lesser, artists.
For all of Parker’s consistency, the funniest script here is by Tom Peyer who nails the wooly philosophical musings Batman occasionally used to utter on TV. “But why? Archer presents himself as a rebel who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Wouldn’t these trappings of authority undermine the illusion?” Unfortunately Dave Bullock’s art is only serviceable.
That’s the case for several other strips also, as the quality of the art is extremely variable throughout. Sandy Jarrell and Rubén Procopio (sample art) are better than previously, the latter on a curiously dark story from Parker better suited to a regular Batman comic. Richard Case’s Bookworm tale works, and Leonardo Romero’s style works, but he’s background-shy. Michael Avon Oeming’s regular cartooning is very odd in places, and the opening Scott Kowalchuk is unappealing, not helped by his eccentric choice of colours.
In addition to Wein adapting Ellison, Mike W. Barr and Rob Williams deliver their first Batman ’66 material, and it’s Williams who’s the more successful. His story is cover-featured, with the Joker disguising himself as a crimefighter. Williams starts in a silly place and consistently ramps up the ridiculous aspects of his plot. Barr’s take on the Penguin isn’t quite as imaginative or amusing.
Some reservations about the art aside, all critical quibbling is minor since everyone fulfils the brief and catches the mood. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’re going to enjoy this as well.