By: Jeff Parker (story), Rubèn Procopio (art), Lee Loughridge (colors)
The Story: King Tut—how’d you get so funky? Funky Tut—did you do the monkey?
The Review: I can’t say that I exactly had high expectations for this series—no matter what, it’s still an adaptation of a TV show that was campy even back in the sixties—but the first issue was such an outstanding blend of winking comedy, credibility, and homage that it perhaps set the bar too high for the rest of the series. Quite honestly, Batman ’66 has been running on the ever diminishing momentum of that strong start, and now it’s almost completely petered out.
I’ve implied this from the beginning, but this title didn’t have a prayer of long-term success if Parker simply kept it a straight transfer of what we saw on TV to the page. We’re all friends here, so let’s be honest: Batman was not that great a show. It’s important today as a record of sixties pop culture, like Laugh-In, but unlike Laugh-In, it never claimed nor even pretended to have any real substance. That’s just not going to cut it anymore, not with the literate, snarky audience that makes up comic book readers today.
But what we’ve mostly gotten from this series, and what this issue basically offers, is Batman the show in comic form. The Dynamic Duo’s latest adventure with King Tut is silly and fun in parts, but also airy, with no lasting value. At first, the time-traveling plotline seems like a ripe opportunity for Parker to expand the boundaries of what this series could be, but it turns out to be little more than set dressing and an elaborate set-up for the amusing, but not hilarious, gag of King Tut ripping off a pharaoh’s treasures by way of American chocolate.*
And that’s actually another problem with this series: the steady decline of its humor. Parker no longer seems to have the energy to maintain a steady barrage of jokes as he did early on. Batman and Robin are no longer the source of self-aware satire, instead relegating themselves to old, repetitive gags. Some have long lost their luster (Robin’s wearying Holy-isms—all of them), and some have just a touch of their past humor (Batman’s uncanny preparedness: “Fortunately, I altered the bat-shark-repellant for crocodylus niloticus.”).
Nowadays, the comedy derives almost entirely from the villains, their various themes and gimmicks. Again, however, what you get is mostly costuming. Parker makes almost no effort to comment on King Tut’s obsession with Egyptian culture or Shame’s with the Old West (“…the last time and place things made good sense!! Weren’t no rules about how ya had to live or where ya could settle—”). What amusement there is to be had is mostly visual, briefly interrupted with decent jokes like Thunderhawk, a redskin stereotype masking a persecuted intellectual with Ivy League education (as expressed through Shakesperean quotes).**
Speaking of visuals, this is perhaps the greatest failing of Batman ’66 since its first issue, that there has been no artist who brought the balance of camp and sophistication that Jonathan Case did. Since Case, we’ve mostly had a string of artists of varying degrees of competency with a strictly cartoony look. Procopio probably stands on the higher end of this spectrum, with his relatively clean, confident linework, but it doesn’t have that marvelously larger-than-life quality Case does. Sadly enough, Procopio’s own watercolor coloring lies too heavy on his figures than Loughridge’s flat hues.
Conclusion: In TV terms, it’s a decent bit of entertainment, the kind you’d watch if you happened to catch it, but not the kind you’d go out of your way for. Dropped, on friendly terms.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * I kind of enjoy the fact that King Tut couldn’t even be bothered to pay for the cheap-ass chocolate he brings in exchange for Egypt’s ancient treasures. It’s five bucks, man. Really?
** In that way, he reminds me of Dot-Com, the hilariously intelligent member of Tracy Jordan’s entourage in 30 Rock. “That