Continue below for The World's Finest review of Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One, the trade paperback release collecting the acclaimed 2020 mini-series based on Batman: The Animated Series.
BATMAN: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES - SEASON ONE
Written by: Paul Dini and Alan Burnett
Art by: Ty Templeton and others
Cover: Dave Johnson
The Story: From Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, the visionary producers of Batman: The Animated Series, comes a collection of all-new stories and adventures that turn Batman's world upside down! Starting off with an attack on S.T.A.R. Labs in Gotham City by a giant robot that steals an entire room of the laboratory! Batman is going to have to stop it before it can cause more harm...and with Lex Luthor freshly back in Gotham, he knows where to start his search. Will Batman be able to topple the billionaire before he leaves Gotham? Collects Batman: The Adventures Continue #1-8.
Format: Collected Edition, Trade Paperback
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Cover Price: $19.99
Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One Title Cards
Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One
Review by James Harvey
Returning to the world of Batman: The Animated Series, specifically the latter The New Batman Adventures years, Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One drops us right back into Gotham City with all the crime and drama that comes with. It's legitimately enjoyable to get reacquainted with all the familiar surroundings and faces once again, all of it boosted by fantastic artwork, solid shake-ups and surprising additions to the cast. However, some questionable character choices and uneven writing leave a few blemishes on an ultimately welcome homecoming.
Approached by writers Paul Dini and Alan Burnett as the next season of The New Batman Adventures had Batman Beyond never came to pass all those years ago, Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One feels like the logical next step for the characters that inhabit the world at this time ... most of the time. While The New Batman Adventures was never really considerably strict when it came to continuity, especially with most villains (not all though, mind you) basically reset or revamped with little relation to what came before in Batman: The Animated Series, here there's a clear, concentrated effort to avoid that. There are moments where it truly feels like these characters are taking the next logical step in their respective storylines in this universe, that there's real progression.
However, writers Dini and Burnett do make some storytelling choices that feel out of place, misguided or hollow, which impacts the overall quality of the stories being told here. While there are clearly outside influences affecting story decisions made - this comic series was originally greenlit as a companion series to a now-discontinued Batman: The Adventures Continue DC Direct toy line - that doesn't justify some of the perplexing creative choices made here. There are more than a few times when it feels like Dini and Burnett are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and it's not working.
Please note that this review may contain spoilers, but they will be kept to a minimum.
So, just what is Batman and his fellow Gotham Knights (sans-Nightwing) dealing with in Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One? Lex Luthor and Deathstroke come to Gotham City, both with agendas and dubious motivations which put them directly in Batman's path. Meanwhile, at the same time, Batman and his sidekicks find themselves being stalked by the Red Hood, a mysterious figure with ties to a long-buriest secret from the Dark Knight's past. Of course, this all comes crashing down and threatens to permanently rip apart the Caped Crusaders.
Right away, for those even remotely familiar with Red Hood - whether it's through the original DC Comics "Under the Red Hood" storyline or its assorted multi-media adaptations (the excellent Batman: Under the Red Hood animated feature, for one) - the reveal won't be a surprise. That said, that doesn't mean there aren't some unexpected revelations along the way. In fact, Batman: The Adventures Continue manages to pull off some genuine surprises during its 17 digital-issue/eight print-issue Season One run, but not all of them work (and others can cause more than a few continuity headaches for those concerned about canon).
Still, Dini and Burnett turn in work that's well worth checking out, especially for fans looking for a new dose of Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe. There's a host of neat ideas, great character beats and some tense showdowns, all reminding us of the strong grasp these two writers have on this world. It's undeniable, and Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One excels when they're both on point. Unfortunately, there are more than a few times when they completely miss the target.
Despite this book being billed as what would've happened in The New Batman Adventures had it not ended (remember, it wasn't cancelled, just further episodes weren't produced), it's fundamentally not the case here - as most of the stories adapted here weren't even created at the time! Multiple character beats and storylines here are inspired by comic events that happened years after The New Batman Adventures wrapped, even after Justice League Unlimited (the last regular animated series which takes place in the DCAU), which makes a lot of what happens in this book ring a little hollow and untrue. It would be more accurate to describe this book as "what if Batman: The Animated Series got picked up for a new season in 2020," not "this is what would've happened if The New Batman Adventures didn't end and we got a new season in 1999 (and yes, I know this is incredibly nit-picky, but it's still valid)."
We see this play out in status quo changes for a few characters - Harley Quinn in particular - that feel more like pop culture course corrections than organic development. Quinn's relationship with Poison Ivy is built up a little more, finally, but she's also being shuffled closer to her Suicide Squad status quo, breaking up with The Joker and striking out on her own, but it's handled in a ham-fisted and clunky fashion. Again, aspects of this clash heavily with established DCAU continuity, and might aggravate some readers.
This also applies to Red Hood. Here, Burnett and Dini stick close to the comic book origins of the character, making the necessary alterations to make it work with DCAU continuity, but it's a poor, uninspired fit. Dini and Burnett stick shockingly close to Hood's DC Comics backstory, which ends up expectedly disappointing as it's very similar to Tim Drake's DCAU history (though it is somewhat acknowledged here). Instead of using this as an opportunity to properly retool Hood's origins, to take a different path, Dini and Burnett stick to the expected beats and the result is a serviceable take on the Red Hood and nothing more, though still good enough that it's worth the continuity headaches. It's thrilling to see the Red Hood introduced into the world of Batman: The Animated Series, but it sadly lacks the impact it should've had.
Granted, most of the problems dogging Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One appear to be more the fault of extenuating circumstances than anything. Given this book was launched in part to support a toy line, there are characters and plot points that had to be retroactively (and understandably) inserted into DCAU continuity, and are clearly not the result of organic creative decisions. And it shows. As mentioned above, these mandated decisions tend to be an awkward fit and debatably cause more problems than they're worth. It distracts from the tantalizing "this is how the show 100% would have been had it aired" premise behind the book. That said, there are also some straight-up creative team missteps - ranging from characters randomly acting out-of-character here and there to straight-out ignoring continuity - that can be occasionally grating. It sounds worse than it is - those who never ventured outside of Batman: The Animated Series' corner of the DCAU won't notice anything, but those well-versed? That's a different story.
Somewhat related, the absence of Nightwing is a little bewildering, though understandable given the hefty cast the book already works with. Still, with Deathstroke and Red Hood's appearing, and Dick Grayson's importance to both of those characters, the lack of the former Boy Wonder (and his mullet) does not go unmissed. Having him appear on multiple covers during Season One also didn't help.
That said, there's plenty Batman: The Adventures Continue does right. The arcs focused on Deathstroke and Azrael are strong showings, and provide some of the books best (and sometimes weirdest) moments, and Lex Luthor's appearance paves the way for a fun showdown between The Dark Knight and the Smartest Man in Metropolis. Again, there may be some continuity conflicts, but those issues are miniscule in comparison to how ultimately enjoyable (though occasionally flawed) these adventures are at the end of the day.
It's worth noting that a few holiday-themed Batman: The Adventures Continue stories were produced after the mini-series' original run wrapped. Issues #1-14 digital/#1-7 print form a solid narrative, with #15-17/ #8 more like a light-hearted (though also continuity crunching) epilogue. These stories are mostly unconnected from the previous issues, and are just basically some light tales based around the festive season. Unfortunately, after a fun albeit wobbly start, the holiday tale kinda just kinda peters out and ends with a thud.
Despite its shortcomings, Batman: The Adventures Continue is an entertaining though imperfect jaunt, squeaking out a win despite it's muddled execution. The writing by Dini and Burnett is exceptionally strong when they hit their flow, only occasionally bogged down by the odd baffling character decision (there's one particular scene involving Batman and Mr. Freeze that is show-stoppingly misguided and flat-out wrong) and awkward story beat. Still, there are plenty of cool twists and turns not spoiled here (intentionally), not to mention the bizarrely intriguing new characters, Mister Wing and Straight Man. Also top-notch is the incredible pencil work by Ty Templeton. A long-time familiar face around the DCAU and the Adventures comic titles from DC Comics, Templeton's work is a joy to see, page after page, only occasionally constrained by the book's format. His work remains staggeringly incredible and underrated, and the Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One trade paperback collection has a hefty offering of Templeton's design work for the comic and toyline. The artwork is served tremendously by the exceptional, pitch-perfect work of colorist Monica Kubina. She's easily Batman: The Adventures Continue's breakout star, and it'll be great to see where her talent takes her from here.
For all the changes that happen during the course of Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One, the one constant is how from start-to-finish it is actually an engaging page-turner. Even with some of the questionable decisions made by/forced upon the creative team throughout the course of season one, the end result is still a pretty successful one.
Much like The New Batman Adventures itself, Batman: The Adventures Continue - Season One is a mixed bag that ultimately dishes out more pros than cons. The cons range from mostly minor (continuity, depending) to medium (random terrible character decisions), with the pros (fantastic artwork and colors, interesting story and character beats) far outweighing. Despite the slight pauses, this return to the world of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures was a good time, though it probably could've been better. It'll be interesting to see how things play out (across all fronts) in Season Two! Recommended!
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