Monday, May 26, 2014

Batman '66 by Jeff Parker issue #4

It occurred to me that it would seem unheard of for anyone to read a Batman comic book these days and laugh as they peruse through the pages. There had been too much straight-edged drama in Batman's stories in the last two decades or so and anyone's exposure to this superhero is through the beguiling yet harrowing Nolan movie trilogy which is no laughing matter at all. I don't think anyone in my peer group even knows, let alone appreciate, the sixties' interpretation of the caped crusader and his old chum, the Boy Wonder.

And now that I'm at the fourth issue of the Batman '66 series, I realized that there's nothing inherently wrong about turning a comic book into the 'funny pages' it used to be, certainly not when head writer Jeff Parker and an interesting roster of artists and other collaborators have come up with something that takes you back in time when everything about a work of art doesn't have to be so damn complicated and depressing for it to be taken seriously by its audience.

That's not to say this is meant to be taken seriously because the purpose of Batman '66 series is to entertain more than anything else and nothing has captured that aim than this fourth issue. Batman and Robin (with Alfred) go to England to solve crimes perpetuated by the flashy Mad Hatter and the anal retentive Clock King. Hilarity ensued in the most organic sense and though the dialogue is often cheeky and has a slight tendency to break the fourth wall, the stories remain refreshing and clever, enabling readers to see the comedy and absurdity of being dressed in a bat costume with a teenage sidekick as you fight convoluted schemes and crimes by equally ridiculous villains. But there is also some depth to the humor in which Parker demonstrates whenever the villains get to express their philosophy (whether it's Mad Hatter insisting that one's choice of head-dress says something about human nature than they would care to admit; or the Clock King illustrating that one's awareness of impending mortality is not to be taken for granted) that actually makes Batman '66 almost sublime.

I wouldn't want to oversell it, though. This clearly is something of an acquired taste if one is so used to the darkness that surrounds Batman and his rogue's gallery. As for myself, I believe it was a bold move for DC to pursue this title in the first place even if its target demographic may not be my generation at all. Still, I believe that it does have a strong fanbase somewhere and I am proud to say that I'm lucky to be a part of it. This is an ingenious accomplishment for Parker and the artists and I have high hopes that this series will only get wackier and funnier every step of the way.


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