If you are of a certain age, your favorite version of Batman is Batman: The Animated Series Batman. Kevin Conroy’s voice is your platonic idea of what The Batman sounds like. I was eight years old when that cartoon debuted on Fox, and I still get goosebumps when I watch the opening credits. The show perfectly harmonized the darkness, the fun, the quiet mystery, and the hardboiled noir that makes Batman great. There’s more to Batman than the campy 1960s show, and Batman is a better person than many of the modern comics that characterize him as a brutal, tortured villain seem to grasp. The collaborators of Batman: The Animated Series understood that and used decades of characters and lore as a backdrop to tell compelling human stories in various subgenres. They also did so with a timless, art-deco meets goth meets cartoon aesthetic that is more than the sum of its parts.
The Batman Adventures, an early 1990s comic book series based on the look and feel of the show, is as close as you can get to the animated series in book form. (Coming from me, that is high praise!) DC Comics recently collected and republished several of these comics in trade paperback form. The collection reviewed here contains issues 1-10 of that comic. Lots of familiar characters feature in these issues – Penguin, Catwoman, Joker, Clayface, Scarecrow, Riddler. While it’s fun to see those characters, what I like the most is how they’re used. The writers tell kid friendly stories that also work on a deeper level. Kids will see Batman fighting Clayface, for instance, but adults will read between the lines and see in Clayface a guy who just can’t get out of his own way. Scarecrow is up to no good as always, but all he wants is to do good. In his own way, Killer Croc may have the most compelling story in the collection because of a few expertly drawn frames and a few terse lines of dialogue.
I heartily recommend these comics for fans of Batman: The Animated Series, or anyone else who enjoys PG-level comics that have some depth. Note that the book is only $10 right now – I paid $20 and still think I underpaid.