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Batman: The Adventures Continue Season One | Review

Batman: The Adventures Continue Season One
Writers: Alan Burnett and Paul Dini
Artists: Ty Templeton, Mark Morales, Sean Parsons, and Monica Kubina
DC Comics; $19.99

DC Comics assembled a perfect team for a new comic book set in the world of the still-popular 1992-1995 Batman: The Animated Series and the 1997-1999 The New Batman Adventures cartoons. To write Batman: The Adventures Continue, they turned to Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, both of whom were producers on the series, and the latter of whom has quite extensive comics-writing credits to his name at this point. For the artist, they enlisted Ty Templeton, an excellent craftsman with a marked range in style who is among the better artists to have drawn the original comics based on those cartoons in the 1990s.

Really, the only way the creative team could have been more perfect would have been if artist Bruce Timm, another producer on the shows and the artist responsible for many of the original character designs, were drawing it in Templeton’s stead.

The creative team produced an eight-issue series, labeled with a “Season One” to suggest further comics, and they seem to have made a quite conscious effort to imbue the stories with a sense of occasion and importance far beyond the revisiting of a particularly popular take on the characters.

Several comic book storylines were drawn on for inspiration for this series, and several characters were introduced into the milieu of the shows for the first time, including 1990s replacement Batman Jean-Paul Valley (AKA Azrael), Teen Titans villain Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson, and second Robin Jason Todd, who would grow up to take on the anti-hero identity of The Red Hood.

It’s that last character who dominates The Adventures Continue. Burnett and Dini set Batman and his sidekicks Robin and Batgirl on a series of typical but brand-new new adventures—a team-up with Superman against Lex Luthor, the unwanted assistance of bounty hunter Deathstroke against villains like Clayface and Firefly, Batman’s old frenemy Azrael searching for a stolen religious artifact—while they are all being watched by someone from the shadows. This someone, it becomes increasingly clear, knows an awful lot about the whole Batman operation, including the secret identities of those involved.

Their stalker turns out to be none other than Jason Todd, the heretofore unrevealed and never even hinted-at second Robin in the “animated” timeline. Jason was, of course, the second Robin in the comic books, replacing Dick Grayson in the 1980s when Dick became Nightwing, but dying at the hands of The Joker in “The Death in the Family” story arc before ultimately being replaced by Tim Drake; in the cartoon, they skipped right from Dick to Tim, having essentially given Tim a new version of Jason’s comic book origin story.

Because of this, Burnett and Dini have to do some work to give Jason a brand-new origin, a brief backstory and a new “death” that is far removed from “A Death in the Family” but still bears some resemblance to it. Oh, and to also fit in with the all-ages spirit of the cartoon. (They didn’t quite get there with that last point; the new book is suggested for readers 12 and up and is a bit more violent, with on-panel blood, than the original cartoons were ever allowed to be.)

Despite the challenges, Burnett and Dini manage to meet them all admirably well. The Adventures Continue revisits the world of the cartoon series without repeating from it or over-relying on nostalgia to carry the weight of the narrative. Like many of the better episodes in the series, this book takes inspiration from particular comic book storylines—most notably the 1988 “Death in the Family” and 2004 “Under the Hood”—boiling characters and events down to their most essential essences for a best-of-all-available-takes approach

Templeton’s pencil art—occasionally inked by Mark Morales or Sean Parsons, but usually by Templeton himself—is a perfect distillation of the style and visual appeal of the cartoon, but with comics storytelling, and colorist Monica Kubica keeps the palette of the TV shows completely intact. There are certain panels that look like they might just as well have been frames of the shows frozen on paper, but of course Templeton’s art flows from panel to panel in a much more organic and dynamic way than any such approach would have allowed.

After the Jason Todd storyline, the book is given something of an exclamation point in the form of a special, extra-long Christmas “episode.” Harley Quinn convinces Poison Ivy to let her throw a Christmas party for their fellow Batman villains, inviting everyone except The Joker. He obviously decides to crash, and the story ultimately involves The Ventriloquist on the mend, a stolen cache of explosives, and Batman disguised as a henchmen disguised as Santa Claus.

DC Comics was quite obviously pleased with how The Adventures Continue turned out, as they didn’t bother waiting to see how the comic did in trade paperback format before launching “Season Two” by the same creative team serially. As with this volume, the next season will be adapting a  newer comics story into the world of the cartoons, as the creators tackle the 2011-2012 “The Court of Owls” story arc.

If  “Season One” is any indication, it’s going to end up being pretty good.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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