There are few bits of comics-related culture that are as widely beloved as Batman: The Animated Series. This isn’t the first comic sequel/companion to the series, but it is the first since the show really solidified its classic status, so it is a little tricky to attempt to continue those stories many years later.However, assembling a team of veterans from the show, and specifically trying to do some new things within that world was about as safe as DC could be with this book. That’s not exactly a criticism, though it is a bit instructive about what sort of book this is.
Note: This is a review of the first digital chapter of the series, which will be half of the collected print first issue.
Written by Alan Burnett and Paul Dini
Illustrated by Ty Templeton
Colored by Monica Kubina
Lettered by Joshua Reed
From the visionary producers of Batman: The Animated Series come all-new stories in this seminal animated world. In this opening chapter, Wayne Enterprises in Gotham City is attacked by a giant robot that steals an entire room from the laboratory. Who’s controlling the robot? How will Batman stop the mechanized menace? And what does it all have to do with Lex Luthor’s sudden appearance in Gotham?
The first thing that strikes you about “Batman: The Adventures Continue” is that colorist Monica Kubina has decided to lighten up the palette a little bit. Not that she’s soaked the book in neon or anything, but there is a brighter hue when things aren’t in shadow than we’ve seen in the past. This is likely a deliberate choice for a few reasons, but one of the biggest consequences of it is that it adds a level of separation between the television series and the comic. It allows the reader to recognize the world in which the book is set, but to be able to judge this on its own merrits.
That is aided by Bane making an appearance in the first few pages. Bane was just becoming a major Bat-villain while the series was on the air, so this marks the back-breaker’s first appearance in this universe. This, again, helps draw a line between what was and what is, and lets the reader know that there isn’t going to be a strict playbook to follow. Cool ideas, regardless if they are ‘authentic’ to the original series will be considered.
But there is a hefty dose of authenticity from the creative team, which features show writer/producer Paul Dini co-writing alongside fellow Batman: The Animated Series alum Alan Burnett, and artist Ty Templeton, who drew some of the original TAS comic, “Batman Adventures” in the 90s. The team falls into a familiar groove, but the first chapter never feels like its just floating along. Between the giant robot, with shades of The Iron Giant, the inclusion of Bane, and Lex Luthor showing up, this felt like something new, but never too far afield from what we’ve come to expect from a title like this.
Luthor showing up isn’t totally out of the blue, as the “World’s Finest” episode of Batman: The New Adventures had the worlds of the Batman and Superman animated series come together for the first time, not to mention all the subsequent animated meetings of the characters. But here, it feels natural, and helps the book feel a little less Gotham-centric, though many folks may not like the idea of the book’s scope growing too large.
As a fan of a certain age, this is pure nostalgia catnip for me, and so I may be cutting the issue a little more slack than necessary. But I don’t think I am, because the book succeeds in doing exactly what it sets out to do. The first chapter of a new series is supposed to catch readers up so that they can follow the story going forward. This issue does this almost totally absent of exposition, and that is a beautiful thing. Even if you’ve never watched Batman: The Animated Series, everything here is clear enough to not require any prior reading to fully enjoy the ride.
This digital first series is one of the few new titles being released this week, so hopefully lots of folks give this the time of day. In a time where everything seems terrible, let’s all reflect back on a time when Batman: The Animated Series was all the rage, and try to bask in that memory for a few minutes. The real world will be here when you get back, but then you’ll have the amazing Danny Elfman theme in your head, and that’s certainly better than whatever you’ve been humming all day.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A solid, nostalgic trip to the Diniverse Gotham, which leaves lots of doors open for future stories.