The Batman Adventures #3
Writer: Kelley Puckett
Penciler: Ty Templeton
Inker: Rick Burchett
Colorist: Rick Taylor
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Cover: Ty Templeton
By Erin Bentley
17 June 2009 — The saying goes: "All good things come to an end." Thankfully this is true of bad things as well. With this issue of The Batman Adventures, we come to the end of a three-part story that has been less than stellar thus far. Let us hope that the conclusion is better than the first two issues.
Beginning with the cover, we have Joker proudly displaying Batman, bound by chains. Nothing new to this situation, since Joker always seems to bind Batman with chains. This particular situation is notable in that Batman is in a similar predicament during the Justice League episode "Injustice for All, Part Two." In that episode, Lex Luthor and his Injustice Gang have captured Batman and bound him with titanium restraints. The way the titanium restraints of the episode and the chains of this issue are wrapped around Batman are eerily similar. But that is nowhere near as eerie as how this story opens.
Commissioner Gordon comes home after a hard day's work, expecting to put his feet up, have dinner and read the sports page. But The Joker and his entourage of henchmen, sans Harley Quinn (more on that in a moment), are waiting for him instead. Gordon goes for his gun, but Joker shoots him. Worry not, dear friends, Gordon is not hurt — it was only a tranquilizer dart.
From the moment I began reading this issue, I wondered where Harley Quinn was. She does not appear at all in this issue, which confused me because this was a Joker issue. The only reason I can think of is that this issue has a cover date of December 1992, and Harley was introduced in "Joker's Favor," which aired in September 1992. Considering the issue would have been in production before the episode aired, no one knew how popular she would become, and so she was not included in the gang.
Right off the bat, there is a coloring blunder. Joker's shirt, which is orange in the opening panel, is not colored in the next panel he's featured in. It seems the colorist forgot to color his shirt in that one panel, because it is startling white instead of the orange that it remains for the rest of the issue.
As Batman is swinging through Gotham, he passes by an electronics store, which causes him to pause. Joker is on TV hosting a late night TV show similar to a Johnny Carson, Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien show. But this is a little different from those iconic late night comedians. Joker has taken over all the channels thanks to the technology that Penguin and Catwoman acquired for him in the previous two issues of The Batman Adventures. This technology also prevents the signal from being traced. Joker then proceeds to introduce his special guest: Commissioner James Gordon, who is tied to a chair and gagged. Joker begins a monologue about how there is no law and order in Gotham City, only chaos. All the while, he has taken a Louisville Slugger and broken Gordon's arms. Joker then signs off, promising another special guest on the next show, which will air same Joker time, any channel at all. Batman grapples off into the Gotham sky in order to figure out where Gordon is being held.
Okay. I have to say that this whole segment involving The Joker and Commissioner Gordon is absolutely creepy. When I was reading this, I did not hear the voice of Mark Hamill's Joker, but that of Heath Ledger's Joker — which made the reading all the creepier. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how The Joker is supposed to be. He is the embodiment of chaos in all its random, destructive glory. This is why he is Batman's greatest foe. He is the one villain that Batman can never anticipate. Finally, the writer of this comic has captured the essence of these iconic characters, though it is a shame that it took him three issues to get it right. But for everything that's done right, there is something done wrong. I have said it before and I will say it again: this Batman universe is supposed to have a 1940s vibe, yet Joker clearly states that the bat he uses to break Gordon's arms is a 1958 Louisville Slugger. Is consistency too much to ask for? If you insist on drawing a comic with 1990s haircuts and fashions, and a 1958 baseball bat, then set it in the 1990s. Do not try to create a patchwork of time periods by having elements of the 1950s and 90s mix with the setting of the 1940s.
The scene cuts to District Attorney Harvey "Not Yet Two-Face" Dent and Detective Harvey Bullock standing on GCPD Headquarters with the Bat-Signal shining in the background. Bullock is chewing Dent out for wanting to bring Batman in on Gordon's abduction. The burly detective proceeds to explain to Dent that he has cops that can trace any signal, to which from the shadows, Batman replies, "Maybe. Maybe not." Batman appears with a plan in order to capture Joker and rescue Gordon. This plan involves setting a trap for Joker using Harvey Dent as the bait, based on the idea that Dent is Joker's next target. Dent agrees, but Bullock does not. Batman goes further by saying that any hint of police will tip Joker off. Dent orders Bullock to call off his men, to which Bullock vehemently objects. Bullock eventually agrees, but not without threatening that if anything happens to Dent, he will personally go after Batman. Batman tells Bullock to have a nice night before telling Dent what he has in mind.
Later, a truck pulls up in front of Dent's apartment building to deliver a package. Dent buzzes the deliveryman up and when he opens the door, he is attacked. Joker comes into Dent's apartment like he was an old friend. When Dent has a few choice words, Joker shoots him with his trusty Trank-o-matic dart gun. As the goons carry Dent out of the apartment, Joker notices how easy it was to get to Dent and he begins to smell a bat. The goons quickly carry Dent down the stairs only to be attacked by Batman. The Dark Knight seems to have the upper hand, until Joker gets his attention and shoots him with the tranquilizer dart, thus capturing him.
That night, all of Gotham tunes into Joker TV, whether they want to or not. Joker opens the show by making a Mickey Mouse reference in the form of "Hey there, hi there, ho there." The camera pans over to Gordon, still tied up. Joker comments about how nicely Gordon's arms are healing, before introducing his new guest Harvey Dent. Joker then announces the ultimate climax of his show: the unmasking of Batman. All of Gotham is aghast. When Joker pulls back the mask, Batman is Harvey Dent? He does not know what to make of this, until the tied up Harvey Dent busts out of his bonds and punches Joker in the face. All the goons promptly join the fray, while Joker addresses the audience. Just as the fight ends, Joker books out of there like a bat out of hell, complete with dust trail. Batman, who is obviously disguised as Harvey Dent, unties Gordon, then changes clothes to go after Joker — who has escaped via speedboat.
Batman, upon reaching the upper decks of the cargo ship that Joker was using as a hideout, finds a harpoon gun. He fires it at Joker's speedboat and is towed behind it. Joker sings "I've Been Working on the Railroad" as he speeds away, when he realizes that Batman snuck up on him and receives another punch to the face. Joker makes a speech about how violence does not solve anything before jumping off the boat. The whole speech was a stall, while the boat sped toward some rocks, which the boat promptly crashes into. It appears that Batman has bitten the dust when a hand shoots out of the water. Dripping wet, Batman remarks that someday he will have the last laugh, as Joker's laughter fades into the Gotham night. This brings us to the end of this story arc.
Okay. My biggest gripe here is the color palette. Picture, if you will, that couch that you find in a thrift store or on the curb that would have been in style in 1970. Horribly shades of orange, green and brown. This is the color palette of the third issue of The Batman Adventures. Well, actually all the issues thus far have had this color palette, but this is by far the worst offender. I can only hope it will get better in subsequent issues.
The ending also really bothered me. Batman says that he will get the last laugh after Joker escapes; this is poor writing. It irks me when writers end a story with a pun. First, it indicates to your readers that you do not think that they are smart enough to have a more meaningful ending. And two, it is a sign of laziness. It's things like this that make me want to hold my head in my hands, crying.
The overall plot of this storyline did not make a whole lot of sense. Joker has Penguin and Catwoman steal for him. Since when has Joker had other villains do his errands. Joker is the sort of villain that while he would let his goons do the dirty work for him, he would supervise the execution of the crime. Joker's ego is too big to let him have other villains be involved in his plans. Yes, Penguin was caught and Catwoman narrowly escaped, but it is still generally known that they committed the crimes. Yes, the general populace of Gotham City does not know that Joker was behind the scenes pulling the strings, but still Joker's ego would not have allowed others to steal even just a little of the spotlight from him. What is more, I did not understand the character motivations throughout this arc. It seems to me that justice was not done to some of Batman's most formidable foes — especially in the case of Catwoman. I do not think that this story arc is a credit to the Batman: The Animated Series legacy, let alone the legacy of Batman overall. That said, I will admit that when Joker was breaking Commissioner Gordon's arms, I got chills down my spine, because that is something that Joker would do. So for one fleeting moment the writer caught the essence of Joker's character: a homicidal maniac.
Though this issue gets an above average grade — primarily for Joker's creepiness — this is not a promising start for The Batman Adventures, much to my disappointment.
Overall Score (issue): 6
Average Score (storyline): 4.3