Batman Adventures, issues 5-8

deadshotThis set of books includes Capstone’s library bound editions of issues no. 5-8 of Batman Adventures. These are loosely based on the cartoon show Batman: The Animated Series. Although the comics keep the same art style and basic characters as the show, they have all-new storylines and bring in some additional characters.

In issue 5, Target: Deadshot! there’s a lot going on. Somehow, Penguin has become Mayor Cobblepot and the Batman is definitely persona non grata, along with Harvey Bullock, who’s been kicked off the police force. Black Mask and the False Face Society have taken over Gotham’s underworld. Bruce Wayne is having his usual problems with the fairer sex from the woman he thinks might be the one but turns out to have secret ties to an old flame with a deadly interest in the Batman. Once the story has been set up, the next issue, Playing with Matches, introduces us to Batman’s newest persona, Matches Malone. Batman’s hoping his undercover mission will not only expose Black Mask but finally dig up the dirt on Penguin. But even the Batman needs help sometimes, and luckily Batgirl and Robin are there when he needs them.

The seventh issue, Phantasm Strikes!, pits an old flame of Bruce Wayne’s against Batgirl. As everyone knows, Batman has trust issues, so can he trust Batgirl when it matters most? In issue 8, Masquerade in Red!, it’s the end of the False Face Society and maybe the end of the masks Bruce Wayne has been wearing, from Batman to Matches Malone. But the story doesn’t end here! Who is the mysterious power behind the False Face Society? Who is the Phantasm working for? Has Penguin really reformed?

If these descriptions sound a little confused, it’s partly because this selection of books is taken from right in the middle of a story arc and partly because the plot is, well, confusing! There’s obviously some backstory with Phantasm and several other people, and the story clearly isn’t over by issue 8, since the power behind the False Face Society has yet to be revealed. However, the stories themselves could have been laid out and plotted more clearly. They jump from one event to another, throwing in flashbacks and short episodes in a way calculated to make even the most careful reader say, “huh?” There are a lot of new characters briefly added and removed and the digressions into Batman’s attempts to find a girlfriend and several moments with Batgirl and Robin seem out of place.

Like Capstone’s other reprints of DC comics, there are several pages of back matter, including a glossary, details about the characters and events, and a guide to help kids practice their visual literacy and pick up cues in the illustrations. The art has the crisp lines of the animated show as well as a dark, shadowy feel. It’s more in line with the final episodes of the cartoons; the creators aren’t afraid to show a few drips of blood here and there and some genuine emotion on the faces of the characters. Some of the backgrounds are a little hazy, but the overall impression of a dark, gritty city and its dangerous and weird characters are done quite well.

That being said, while these are darker than some of the Batman comics aimed at younger kids, there’s nothing really inappropriate in them. As for the confusing plots, as long as you buy the whole series you’ll probably be fine. Older Batman fans, in the 8-12 age range, who have read all of Batman the Brave and the Bold, will be happy to have anything new to read about Batman and will just skip over the parts of the plot that don’t fit well in the rest of the story.

Batman Adventures: Target: Deadshot!
by Dan Slott
Art by Ty Templeton
ISBN: 9781434260338
Batman Adventures: Playing with Matches
by Dan Slott
Art by Rick Burchett
ISBN: 9781434260345
Batman Adventures: Phantasm Strikes!
by Dan Slott
Art by Rick Burchett
Batman Adventures: Masquerade in Red!
by Dan Slott
Art by Rick Burchett

Capstone, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12