The Batman Adventures #1
Writer: Kelley Puckett
Penciler: Ty Templeton
Inker: Rick Burchett
Colorist: Rick Taylor
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Cover: Ty Templeton
By Erin Bentley
06 May 2009 — When I picked up the first issue of The Batman Adventures — the tie-in comic to the beloved Batman: The Animated Series — at my local comic shop I was surprised to see The Penguin as the villain. I stared at it for a moment, thinking, "This can't be right. Why chose Penguin for the first issue?" In hindsight, the choice might have been made to ride on the back of Batman Returns, which debuted a few months earlier. Despite not particularly caring for the character, I bought the book anyway — deciding to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Looking at the cover it gives the impression that Penguin has taken some kind of super-growth supplement, causing him to grow to the size of King Kong, leaving Batman to shrink him down. But the actual story is something completely different. The story opens at a hideout where Penguin is holding a sort of charm school for his goons, a school with the mantra "Money can't buy ya class." Each of the goons has to pick a word that was outside of their normal vocabulary. That is until one of them, who thinks this game is incredible stupid, falls fowl of his boss. (Pun intended.) Penguin is about to teach this upstart a lesson by threatening to insert a metal rod into his brain via his nose, when a package arrives. What could possibly be in the package? A crate of divinely smoked Alaskan salmon? Refills for his trick umbrellas? Nope. It's a TV, the thing that every aspiring criminal needs. But this is no ordinary TV. It is an interactive TV. (On a side note, it's also a color TV. Though the series is set in the modern day, it's supposed to have a retro vibe, which is why we rarely saw color TVs in BTAS.)
Upon switching the TV on, Penguin is greeted by a mysterious figure, but longtime fans of the TV series will recognize the outline of this shady character. The figure has an offer that our feather-themed felon cannot refuse: in return for a small favor, the figure will tell Penguin how to not only make him the most popular person in Gotham, but to rub it in the faces of the police, the district attorney and, most importantly, Batman. Penguin is about to refuses, but then a light brightens the shadows around the mysterious figure, revealing him. Who could it possible be? Who could have concocted such a scheme? Survey says, The Joker.
That's right: The Clown Prince of Crime has thought of a brilliant scheme and is giving it to Penguin. Asking why would be pointless. It's The Joker, so this is clearly Joker-logic, to borrow a phrase. To prove this point, Joker pulls out a gun and proceeds to shoot the idiot who turned on the light. You read right: Joker pulled a gun and shot someone in what is considered a children's comic book. Clearly the editors had their blinders on. But I digress. Ultimately Penguin agrees to the offer.
In the next scene we have Penguin and his gang robbing the First Gotham Bank. After making off with the cash, Penguin decides to add a little panache to his caper by saying "c'est la blanc," which, as one of the goons points out, means "such is bank." This goon is wisely advised to keep his mouth shut. Batman, unfortunately, is a little too late to stop Penguin, but that does not stop him from busting through a window, as he is prone to do. Batman frees the guard who was tied up and who cannot tell him who did this.
Penguin, in accordance with Joker's plan, later appears on a talk show, where he is being hailed a great humanitarian. (On another side note, the hostess is dressed in more modern clothing, and Penguin's vest changes colors throughout the scene.) Batman sits at his computer, broods about how banks are being robbed left and suddenly The Penguin has become a charitable person. Alfred notices that Penguin was named as the leading sponsor of a theatre restoration after the previous sponsor had to withdraw due to financial troubles. The previous sponsor was also the owner of some of the banks that Penguin robbed. Hearing this, Batman decides to attend said charity gala.
At the Gotham Plaza Hotel, Mayor Hill gives a speech at the gala, which is being held to help maintain Gotham's police force. This brings me to a fashion faux pas on the part of Mayor Hill. He wears a pink shirt to a black tie event. No. No. No. Everyone else, excluding Penguin, is wearing a white shirt. Furthermore, Mayor Hill's shirt goes from dark pink to light pink between panels. Penguin also makes a fashion blunder; he shows up in the same suit that he has worn throughout the entire comic, which has a brown shirt. Penguin's whole scheme is to be the crème de la crème of Gotham society; ergo, he would have a tuxedo in his closet just for said events.
Anyway, he makes a hefty donation to the Gotham City Police Department, for which Commissioner Gordon is going to present him with an award. But the mayor interrupts Penguin's acceptance speech by announcing that someone has made a last minute donation, which trumps Penguin's. That someone is Bruce Wayne. Penguin returns to his table and fumes about how he is going to get even with Bruce. He will quickly regret that decision.
Later that night at Wayne Financial Institution, Penguin and company break in. They notice that there are no guards around, which Penguin chalks up to Bruce being a complete idiot. (Oh, Penguin, if only you knew.) Suddenly the lights go out. The gang splits up (another mistake), allowing Batman to take them out with ease. Of course while Batman is beating up his goons, Penguin enters the vault and basks in the glory of all of Bruce Wayne's money. Too bad it's short-lived, as Batman steps in after him. Of course, like all villains, Penguin believes he has the upper hand and proceeds to monologue. Before Penguin and his gang arrived, Batman re-routed the video cameras in the vault, thus catching Penguin's confession on tape. Long story short, Penguin and his goons go to jail
But what about The Joker? Answer: Cliffhanger!
Coming to the end of this comic book I have one rather pressing question: what did Penguin steal for The Joker? All that we know is that it's some kind of document or blue print, as depicted on the last page of the book. Hopefully it will be explained in the next issue.
I do not think that it was an overly bad issue, but I must point out a few more problems. The plot left a little to be desired, but since it seems this is the first issue in a short arc, I'm willing to let it slide — for the time being. The art is done in the traditional Bruce Timm / Batman: The Animated Series style; a very art deco style, which was a popular design of the 1930s and 40s. While this style was the one that initially introduce me to Batman, I do not particular care for it. What really bothers me, though, are the character designs — Bruce Wayne's specifically. Bruce Wayne is supposed to be this dreamboat of a guy; he's every woman's dream, and every man looks up to him. But the way he is drawn here, he's blocky and frumpy. Further down the line Bruce becomes streamlined and sexy, but that was during the Gotham Knights era of Batman. For now we have a chubby Bruce Wayne wearing an ill-fitted suit. Though, I should note that when Bruce Wayne is in the Batman suit, his body and face drastically change. Penguin reminds me of a beach ball with a top hat and umbrella. The only character design that does not bother me is that of Commissioner Gordon. He's much more realistic. The lines on Gordon's face show how many years he's put into the force, how close he is to a (hopefully) peaceful retirement. He carries himself quite well in his tux, better than Bruce Wayne even. However, the artists colored Gordon's hair grey instead of the well-remembered white.
The dialog was a step below good, due to the puns that cropped up throughout the comic. I suppose it's to be expected in a comic where the target audience is children, which leaves me to wonder about the violence. However, I found that my biggest gripe with this issue is that the scheme was not that brilliant. Penguin steals money from rich people, then turns around and uses it to buy himself prestige. That's it. Even though Penguin wants to be the toast of Gotham society, he clearly does not follow his own mantra: "Money can't buy ya class." Granted, it was The Joker who came up with the scheme, but still the scheme does not do either character justice.
I should also note that Penguin's bird-themed gimmicks are completely absent. Besides his name, there's nothing to remind us of his avian affinity. I would have been satisfied had he stolen a Faberge Egg from one of the vaults, commenting on its beauty on his way out. But this is me playing armchair writer.
Overall, this issue is average, probably below that. But I'll give it an extra point for being the first issue in a new series, one that sets up an okay cliffhanger.
Overall Score: 5