Batman ’66 #1: It’s that most miserable of times in the mainline Batman continuity, the period after someone close to Batman dies. So, of course, Bruce Wayne’s busy alienating everyone who cares for or works with him. Who knows how long this bout of Dark Knight grumpiness will continue? That’s why it’s great that Batman ’66 is coming out now.
The digital-first series was announced a while back and then was talked up as part of DC Comics’ new Dynamic Content platform. It’s fun but doesn’t feel frivolous. Most surprisingly, Batman ’66 goes a long way towards making you think that the campy version of DC Comics’ nocturnal avenger could actually kick arse. Jonathan Case’s art evokes the non-threatening avuncular vibe of Adam West’s portrayal but also renders this Batman as athletic and agile.
Writer Jeff Parker shows a keen understanding of what made that 1966 TV Batman so hilarious. With a zany Rogue’s Gallery, a utility belt that seemingly held everything and a penchant for having Batman spout off random facts to show off his encyclopedic knowledge, the show’s writers had fun edging Batman into the absurd. Parker mimics all of that but gently grounds it a bit more. You believe that there are actual stakes here and that this Batman is trying to stop crime and not just goof around.
The moment that got me in Batman ’66 was the sequence in the GIF above where I thought, “Oh, shit, they ARE going dark on this one.” Because of the way that this motion comic works, the beat between the reactions lasts as long as you want it. The next moment where you realise the Riddler isn’t actually dead comes as a sigh of relief. It’s nice to have a spot where Batman doesn’t live in oppressive darkness all the damn time.
Satellite Sam #1: With legendary writer/artist Howard Chaykin on board, I knew some of what to expect from Satellite Sam, done in partnership with Matt Fraction. There’d be stylish yet penchily effective page layouts, women in retro lingerie, loads of sex, cursing and otherwise questionable behaviour. All of that is in evidence in the series’ first issue (though the sex is mostly implied). It’s the stuff that I wasn’t expecting that’s got me hooked.
Satellite Sam #1 really drives home the frantic pressure of what the production of live TV must have been like. A flubbed line, chaos with props or, worst of all, waving an actor not show up -- the plot point around which this issue turns -- meant panic of the highest order. The creators accomplish the difficult trick of throwing around enough jargon to make the proceedings feel naturalistic but understandable to the uninitiated reader. The other thing that SS #1 does is bring to life the political, logistical and technological considerations of getting TV out there. In particular, conversations about trying to get the federal government to open up the airwaves for TV mirror the present-day discussions about spectrum and the internet today.
Art-wise, Chaykin’s on fire here. The strong graphic design sense he’s brought to his best work makes each page feel buzzy and alive, filled with prickly details rendered with amazing texture. And the cranky, expressive faces of the cast make them feel like real people with real sweat, real stakes and real hormones moving through the page. You don’t need to be a fan of television’s first Golden Age to get into this comic. You’re being taken care of by masters of the comic-book form. Just sit back and enjoy.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #2: For years, it felt like I was one of the only fans who liked Lee Weeks’ artwork. Of course that wasn’t the case, but it seemed like Weeks’ mid-1990s tenure on the Man Without Fear never got mentioned alongside the other classic runs. Thankfully, someone in Marvel editorial disagreed.
This is the second issue of a DD anthology book featuring takes on Matt Murdock by a rotating roster of creators. Weeks both writes and draws here and communicates a sense of what makes Daredevil a great concept, taking advantage of the opportunities for lush description offered by a main character with super-senses. He also nails the almost-self-destructive nature of Daredevil’s heroism, which is something that’s fused well with the character’s Catholic faith. This may be a run that winds up more ‘personal favorite’ than ‘modern-day classic’ but it goes a bit further to shoring up Weeks’ status as one of the best creators to work on the blind superhero.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1: There’s no truth in the title of this new villain-centric comic from Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber. The second-string bad guys assembled here aren’t in anyway superior to Spider-Man’s A-list nemeses. But that’s where all the fun of this debut comes from.
A fractured mirror of the deconstructed work that Matt Fraction, David Aja and crew have been doing on Hawkeye, Superior Foes centers on the villains that are part of the Sinister Six villain team. The book feels like a bad-guy sitcom in the best way, dipping into the desperation of characters who get the butts handed to them all the time and finding a way to make them sympathetic. There’s a mundane day-in, day-out rhythm to this issue that’s stripped of all the bombast of a typical super slugfest. And it’ll make you laugh a whole lot. Highly recommended.