Review: Batman: The Adventures Continue: Season One trade paperback (DC Comics)

[A series on Batman: The Animated Series comics collections by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

As I’ve been examining the comics orbiting the beloved and iconic Batman: The Animated Series, these reviews have become inextricably tied to the passing of Kevin Conroy in November 2022. I’ve spoken a bit about my pre-pandemic encounter with Kevin at a Minneapolis comic convention, and as we move into the curious afterlife of the DC Animated Universe, I found myself back in the same room as Kevin, albeit from hundreds of miles away.

It was April 9, 2020. The world was shut down — and that included comic book shops. Unable to get our weekly fix, we found ourselves turning to digital comics, especially with the launch of Batman: The Adventures Continue, a new comic series that continued the BTAS story under the capable pens of Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Ty Templeton. There was only one voice missing, but then the call came: Kevin Conroy would be reading the comic live on Instagram. We were self-isolating, quarantined, and locked up, but we still had Batman. We still had Kevin. And somehow, as I cleared my remote work calendar for that lunch hour, I had a feeling that things might turn out all right in the end.

New animated Batman is always something to celebrate, and the robust pedigree behind The Adventures Continue is matched by the enthusiastic inclusion of elements that couldn’t or wouldn’t have been featured in the original animated run. Batman: The Adventures Continue: Season One ropes Deathstroke, Azrael, and even Jason Todd into the DCAU, with other familiar faces joining in subsequent seasons. While I’m sure the series was greenlit with profit in mind, the truth is that the creative team never treats The Adventures Continue like a cash grab, instead telling a new story that weaves between the lines of what we’ve already seen while paying loving homage to a whole host of other stories in the Bat-multiverse. 

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Season One begins with its feet firmly in the DCAU, with a story that pits Batman against Lex Luthor when the latter tries to acquire the skull of Brainiac. It was such a treat to hear Kevin Conroy read this chapter to us — the only time, I think, he ever voiced Luthor — and the playful “Gotham meets Metropolis” vibe recalls some of the best of the animated series (especially “Knight Time,” a personal favorite that saw Superman impersonating the absentee Dark Knight). Indeed, “playful” is the operating word, because Burnett and Dini don’t miss a gleeful beat. One can practically hear them playing with their toys when Batman dons an animated version of the bulky armor from The Dark Knight Returns

Templeton provides a wealth of riches in rendering familiar faces in the animated milieu, and it’s a boon for readers that his design sketches are included in the collected edition. These designs are iconic, instantly recognizable despite considerable streamlining. His Deathstroke, for one, has none of the busy scalemail or armor plating, and his shots at the red and blue Azrael costumes make me long for action figures of both. (At least for the blue suit, DC Collectibles has me covered.) Throughout, Templeton proves to be a kind of stylistic glue, uniting what came before to the bespoke amalgamations introduced in Season One

Burnett and Dini pull off something of a magic trick with the disparate parts of Season One, weaving a much larger story than one might initially suspect. At its core, Season One may well have been titled “Red Son Rising,” sharing a name with the story that is, for all intents and purposes, an animated riff on Under the Red Hood. The creative team finds a way to smuggle Jason Todd into the animated canon (quite how, I won’t spoil), leaning a bit on the two-year gap we saw in Nightwing Rising (formerly The Lost Years), and the result is by and large successful. The old standbys play well enough — like the moment when Jason demands Batman kill the Joker — and the DCAU inflections tickle the continuity bone, as when Penguin makes an oblique reference to some plastic surgery that may account for how the DeVito-esque Cobblepot became a Jack Burnley gentleman in time for The New Batman Adventures

But while Season One is overtly entrenched in the animated universe, perhaps its greater success is in the way it draws from and riffs on stories from across Bat-canons. There’s the Jason Todd plot, straight out of Judd Winick, but we also touch base with Leslie Thompkins, whose portrayal here is more Gabrych and Willingham’s War Crimes than anything else. Meanwhile, Harley Quinn alludes to a stint with the Suicide Squad, pals around with Kite-Man, and tries to have another Christmas with Poison Ivy. Then there are cameos from The Carpenter, March Harriet, and Knute Brody — none of whom ever appeared in animated form but rather debuted in Dini’s mainline continuity Gotham. We even get a visit from Art Baltazar’s Beppo! If Grant Morrison took the tack that “it’s all canon,” Burnett and Dini seem to be reading from the book of Sean Murphy, whose Batman: White Knight unites the best and most bizarre under one umbrella, unfettered by any continuity save their own. 

The animated Gotham City is like a sideshow carnival, and I can think of no better barkers than Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Ty Templeton. “Step right up and see the mysterious Red Hood!” they beckon. While there is little suspense in revealing the identity of Batman’s skunk-striped stalker, there is unmistakable joy and reverence throughout Batman: The Adventures Continue: Season One. From the red skies of Dave Johnson’s cover to the interstitial title cards by Randy Mayor, The Adventures Continue is that rare nostalgia bait that actually gets it right.


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