Ricky Church reviews Batman: The Adventures Continue Season One…
Few superhero cartoons have withstood the test of time as strongly as Batman: The Animated Series has. Despite it being nearly 30 years old it is still cited as one of the best, if not definitive, takes on the Dark Knight and his vast mythology. Batman: The Animated Series even kicked off the DC Animated Universe with Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League and others. Now DC is exploring further adventures set within Batman: The Animated Series with Batman: The Adventures Continue Season One, which features Batman, Robin and Batgirl going up against several enemies who weren’t included in the original run like Deathstroke, Azreal and even Jason Todd/Red Hood. With Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Paul Dini returning alongside writer Alan Burnett and artist Ty Temploton, the first season of The Adventures Continue is a welcome return to Batman’s corner of the DCAU that tells exciting and captivating stories featuring the Caped Crusader.
The Adventures Continue begins sometime after the end of The New Batman Adventures but before Justice League and the events depicted in the flashback portion of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Batman is still protecting Gotham with the help of Batgirl and Tim Drake’s Robin, but enemies old and new are causing trouble as a shadowy figure from Batman’s past stalks them and Deathstroke comes to Gotham. The book contains stories that are mostly episodic with a larger story overlapping throughout the ‘season’ as Batman investigates their mysterious stalker while dealing with the newcomers to his city. Dini and Burnett craft stories that fit perfectly within the world of Batman: The Animated Series and it should come as no surprise given Dini’s involvement the voices to the characters not only sound consistent with their characterization in the series, but reads like how the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong and others would actually play them.
Even the new takes on familiar characters to the Batman mythos are done well. Tim Drake of the series was a combination of his comic book counterpart and Jason Todd from the comics with Tim being the new Robin after Dick Grayson left to become Nightwing. Now Dini and Burnett play around with the continuity to fit Jason Todd’s Robin into the DCAU as a memory Batman, Alfred and Batgirl would rather forget. Jason Todd’s existence adds another layer to why Batman was initially hesitant to train Tim as Robin since Jason was not only wildly unpredictable, but violent to the point of going rogue for weeks before a fateful encounter with The Joker. His is the main story of the season and is built up pretty well with Dini and Burnett putting their own spin on the Under The Red Hood story.
Unlike the comics, though, Jason is pretty unlikeable and unsympathetic as he showed little patience to Batman and Alfred and was more open to beating criminals to a bloody pulp and using deadly weapons against them right from the start. Batman and Jason do have a complicated relationship, but some of the nuance is lost as they don’t feel like father/son of the comics and Jason does not come off nearly redeemable. They still have interesting conversations regarding their nature and how Jason is able to plan around Batman’s usual tactics, but it’s not as strong as the actual source material. Hopefully more will be explored in the second season of the title.
Apart from Jason, the villain to give Batman the most grief is Deathstroke, one of the few DC villains who never made an appearance in the DCUA. Deathstroke is well written and a very credible threat as he first tries to play a charming and respectable visitor to Gotham. It’s very cool to see him subtly undermine Batman and try to coerce Robin and Batgirl as part of his plan. His skills as an intelligent tactician is put very much to use by Dini and Burnett in entertaining sequences that highlight how much of a threat he is.
The Joker of course appears too in a couple of the stories, complete with a new henchman called The Straightman, imagining something of a lobotomized Captain America working for The Joker, as well as other usuals like Mr. Freeze, Catwoman and Penguin. Even Lex Luthor and Superman make a special appearance that ties further into the DCAU. There’s also a holiday themed issue where Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy throw a Christmas party for a who’s who of Gotham’s rogues which even goes so far that Dini’s spectacular and hilarious creation of Knute Brody from Detective Comics #1000 makes another great appearance. All round, the supporting characters, villains and stories are all highly entertaining and match the tone of Batman: The Animated Series.
Ty Templeton’s artwork captures the style and feel of the DCAU quite well. The designs for the new characters are quite good and include many references to the comics, such as Batman’s armoured suit from The Dark Knight Returns, both of Azreal’s costumes during and after Knightfall and more. His artwork really feels like B:TAS in comic form and his character movements, expressions and fight sequences are detailed and animated.
Monica Kubina’s colours also reflect the style of the DCAU with her bold colours. From a fiery battle in a museum to Harley’s Christmas party, the book is very vibrant as several images stand out due to Kubina’s work. Adding to the artwork is a collection of Randy Mayor’s title cards for the digital issues that evoke B:TAS‘ title cards to a great degree. There are also a few variant covers from different DC artists giving their interpretations of Batman, his allies and enemies from the DCAU.
Batman: The Adventures Continue Season One is a collection that any fan of Batman: The Animated Series will love. It is great to see Dini and Burnett back in that world and bringing new but familiar characters and elements from DC’s Batman canon into the book with both slight and major changes. The stories are fun yet still retain B:TAS‘ style of drama and seriousness, especially when it comes to Batman and Jason Todd. Simply put, do yourself a favour and check this book out.
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