Following the conclusion of Gotham Adventures in 2003, Dan Slott and Ty Templeton resurrected The Batman Adventures for a second volume. It only lasted 17 issues before getting prematurely cancelled due to a new Batman cartoon that of course needed its own tie-in comic.
I read it all so you don’t have to and will now present my findings, including a ranking of every issue.
Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!
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Notes & Overview
Each issue contains a main story and a 4-5 page back-up, with Ty Templeton and Dan ‘Spider-Man’ Slott swapping responsibilities each arc, though Slott may have exited early after learning they were getting cancelled.
Templeton wrote 1-4, 10-13 and 15-17, while Slott wrote 5-8 and 14. Slott is always credited first because he writes ‘real’ comics. Guests Gabe Soria & Vito DelSante wrote issue 9 and Jason Hall wrote issue 10.
There’s very little relation to the first volume, so it seems like they simply liked the name. It’s also a fully ongoing ‘normal’ comic, rather than an episodic cartoon tie-in. This does mean it’s more compelling narratively, but does make it feel like an entirely different animal.
The big picture story is that The Penguin has been elected mayor, putting Batman at odds with the GCPD for the entire run. Ra’s al Ghul starts out as the main villain, then the Bat Family slowly dismantle Black Mask’s criminal operation, and then Bats finally brings down Penguin and it’s just random stories from then until the end.
When The Batman began airing, DC cancelled this book to replace it with ‘The Batman Strikes!’ (which is weird, because ‘Gotham Adventures’ was published alongside Batman Beyond and its tie-in comic of the same name.)
Overall I think the book had tremendous promise and I enjoyed the ongoing arcs they told in the first half and ongoing threat of Penguin controlling the GCPD. It’s a shame they caved to weird marketing nonsense.
Slott & Templeton had plans for their version of Red Hood that would have involved characters from Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond. They also wanted to depict the deterioration of Dick & Barbara’s relationship (which is never acknowledged in any of these tie-in comics aside from a brief flirtation involume 1 of ‘The Batman Adventures’)
17) Free Man (#2)
Riddler is targeted by The League of Assassins despite ostensibly going straight as a tech magnate. Batman declares Nygma’s inability to communicate without riddles as evidence that he’s still insane
Plus: Batman tries to entrap Penguin in criminal dealings with Rupert Thorne, only for Mayor Cobblepot to reveal his own sting operation with the GCPD.
16) My Boyfriend’s Back (#3)
Harley finds Joker irritating after he’s rehabilitated, so sets one of the League’s assassins on him to try and snap him out of it. Ultimately the only thing that does it is her kissing Batman to make him jealous.
Plus: Poison Ivy’s body continues to change as she begins to breath Co2, requiring Harley to share a cell with her to keep her alive.
15) Deathtrap-a-go-go (#9)
Batman tells Robin about all the times he escaped death traps and thwarted various members of the Rogues Gallery. The writing feels pretty off, but the art is amazing, with each major villain getting their own gorgeous full page.
Plus: Bruce attends company-mandated therapy and lies during word association. (Again, the art does the heavy lifting and makes this work by showing his true responses.)
14) Fear Itself (#17)
Decades after killing Thomas and Martha Wayne, Joe Chill is haunted by Bruce’s now-famous face, hallucinating it everywhere he goes. After a chance run-in with Batman, Chill actually unmasks him, but believes it’s yet another hallucination and falls to his death in shock.
This probably sounds like it should be ranked higher. It’s an interesting premise but the idea of an elderly Chill having Batman basically dead to rights and the disappointing fact that Bruce doesn’t recognise him or even find out who he is afterwards is a little disappointing.
There is no back-up story.
13) Real to Reel (#14)
Bruce secures Simon Trent a cameo in the new Gray Ghost film as he owns the production company making it, unaware Clayface has replaced the lead… Trystan Zale lolololol.
Plus: After watching Gray Ghost, a young Bruce tells Martha Wayne he needs to practice his moves in case bad guys ever come after them. She promises that’ll never happen. Oof.
12) The Bride of Joker (#16)
Joker tries to marry Harley after she apparently inherits a great fortune. Ivy objects during the ceremony, with Harley later vowing to kill her for interfering. Yikes.
Plus: In the most significant back-up in the series, Ivy seeks out Alec ‘Swamp Thing’ Holland to help her with her rapidly deteriorating body. In a bombshell, the real Ivy is revealed to have been hiding out with Holland for some time, and the ‘Ivy’ we’ve seen since ‘House & Garden’ is a clone left behind to cover her tracks and keep Harley company.
11) Swan Song (#13)
Batman at last confronts Penguin with (non-existent) evidence of vote tampering gathered by Riddler, broadcasting his furious tirade to all of Gotham, forcing Cobblepot to resign.
Plus: The Bat Signal becomes a night-light for a frightened kid after Batman chases away Copperhead, who was hiding under the child’s bed.
10) Playing with Matches (#6)
Bruce goes undercover as Matches Malone in Black Mask’s operation and feeds intel to Batgirl so she can capture Firefly. Babs even dons the fireproof suit from the cartoon to ensure ‘Batman’ and Matches are seen in the same place at the same time. Andrea Beaumont from Mask of the Phantasm joins Black Mask as an enforcer.
Plus: Batman, Robin and Batgirl take down Sportsmaster, another of Black Mask’s generals.
9) Poker Faces (#11)
Riddler grows bored of life as a legitimate businessman so continually lures Batman into social encounters hoping to match wits for entertainment. Tiring of it, Bruce challenges him to figure out how Penguin became the mayor. The riddles are actually good! Rejoice!
Plus: Riddler daydreams about returning to a life of crime. Really fun.
8) Shot to the Heart (#5)
After incriminating pictures of Penguin are snapped by a private detective, Black Mask sends Deadshot to assassinate him. Batman teams up with Harvey Bullock to obtain the pictures, which aren’t damaging to Penguin after all… but do depict Bruce’s girlfriend was/is involved with Cobblepot!
Plus: One year earlier Harvey Bullock angers Penguin during his mayoral campaign, leading to him later being fired and becoming a private detective.
7) No Asylum (#1)
The League of Assassins infiltrate Arkham Asylum to try and execute various inmates. Batman chases them off and defies the GCPD. Fun moments with Penguin, Two-Face and Poison Ivy.
Plus: Batman is furious that a Zorro-inspired vigilante is conning people.
6) One Step Ahead (#10)
Batman is taken away in an ambulance after thwarting a Catwoman robbery, but Selina hijacks it before he reaches the hospital to stop him from being unmasked, and even resists looking herself.
Plus: Selina breaks into Wayne Manor on New Year’s Eve but leaves a note for Batman promising to be good. (One assumes the implication is Batman would learn of it, not that she knows his identity.)
5) Best Served Cold (#15)
Nora Fries’ new husband frames Mr. Freeze to make Nora forget about him, but it has the opposite effect, driving her back to him. Unfortunately during a battle with Batman, Freeze sinks to the bottom of the ocean, lost forever. There were originally plans for this issue to tie directly into his appearance in Batman Beyond.
Plus: Nora speaks with the Inuit boy from Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, and his kind words about Victor convince her to continue searching for him.
4) Masquerade (#8)
Black Mask begins to unravel when his unseen master dismisses him, so launches an attack on Wayne Enterprises due to their former business rivalry. Batman at last takes him down and Phantasm is promoted by the master… The Red Hood! (The traditional version, not the Jason Todd one.)
Plus: Bruce recalls the life and death of the real Matches Malone and how he came to assume his identity.
3) The Balance (#4)
Batman infiltrates Ra’s secret base below Easter Island and learns the various attempts on the lives of Gotham’s criminals in issues 1-3 were The Demon’s twisted attempt at a gift to convince Bruce to marry Talia. In the chaos, Talia is shot and revived by a Lazarus Pit, but Batman chooses to arrest Ra’s instead of helping or thanking her, which breaks her heart.
Plus: The story of how Bruce learned of the base’s location in the first place by interrogating the assassin from issue 3. (This one appears at the start of the issue instead of the end.)
2) Bat in the House (#7)
Batman continues bringing down Black Mask’s gang from the inside, so Phantasm captures Batgirl to use as a loyalty test for the remaining members. Barbara manages to escape and shift suspicion to Black Spyder, while Bruce (as Matches Malone) saves Black Mask’s life to embed himself even further.
Plus: Batman is reluctant to put a man’s life in Barbara’s hands, but she comes through.
1) The Duo Dynamic (#12)
Riddler’s mission to bring down Penguin takes him to Blüdhaven and former mayor Hamilton Hill before getting stabbed. Nightwing investigates, having taken up residence in the town, but Batman arrives and the two bicker over their clash of styles. (The awful mullet is gone!!!)
Plus: On his final night in Gotham, Dick reminisces about the origins of the giant T-Rex often seen in the Batcave. Upon arriving at his new house in Blüdhaven, Bruce has somehow transported it to him.
Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.
My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, continues its coverage of What If…?
There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week we say goodbye to dinosaurs and hello to Hong Kong with Chungking Express.