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Batman Adventures #16

Posted: Friday, July 23, 2004
By: Ray Tate



"Bride of the Joker"
"The Flower Girl"

Writer: Ty Templeton
Artists: Rick Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Heroic Age(c)
Publisher: DC

Here's a thought. Rather than waste paper by printing Batman: Gotham Knights or Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, which no longer has any claim to the Legends in its title since it is now set in current continuity, give either book over to the Bruce Timm styled Batman. Why cancel a title which already has an impressive fanbase? Why cancel a title which appeals to kids and adults? Why cancel a title that is the best book on the racks? Continuity died the moment the heroes no longer remembered each other, and it certainly can no longer be an issue now with the reboot of the Doom Patrol. Surely we can have a book where Batman acts like a detective, a hero, a threat and a sane man. Surely we can have a vivacious, intelligent capable Babs Gordon-Batgirl who can walk and kick like a fire maned mare.

:::Sigh::: Nobody listens.

Enjoy it while you can folks. In "Bride of the Joker" and "The Flower Girl" Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett and Terry Beatty once again show why Batman Adventures is the best comic book title on the rack. Both short tales deal with the strange triangle where each point is occupied by Harley, Ivy and the Joker.

The Joker really does not see anything in Harley. The oft-quote from Timm or Dini is that "He treats her like a pet." The subtext between Harley and Ivy is just that, but Ivy does have genuine feelings for Harley. This was displayed on the series when she injects Harley with a cocktail of antitoxins to protect her from her lethal plants. If Ivy didn't care, she would simply have let Harley die. In an issue of Batman & Robin Adventures, Mr. Templeton and Mr. Burchett once had Ivy, while she was still incarcerated in Arkham, protect Harley--declared sane--from the Joker's newest attempt to kill her. As for Harley. The poor girl is mostly unaware of how Ivy feels about her. I read the subtext as in love, but regardless, she's nuts about the homicidal clown.

These two stories present a kind of conclusion. The twists at each of their ends are shocking and somewhat surprisingly bitter. They also demand resolution. Something that we will unfortunately never see.

"The Flower Girl" borrows a clever addition Neil Gaiman contributed to the Batman mythos. You should not misconstrue that as Ty Templeton swiping from Gaiman. The Gaiman influence offers the reader the hook. As soon as you read the first page of this story you must read on. You could not possibly be a comic book fan and not want to read on.

"The Flower Girl" explains the continuity adjustment of Ivy becoming more plant than human, and two things about the explanation fascinates me. The story shows how a skilled writer can work with continuity to make continuity more malleable. Always leave yourself a backdoor. The story also shows how Templeton and Burchett are without so much as a glimmer of hubris willing to remove their fingerprints from the source material. Very few authors or artists would be able to suck up their pride, rather just or unjust, and return say Superman back to his Curt Swan mild-mannered look.

Ty Templeton in "The Bride of the Joker" creates a superb little fairplay mystery that does not seem to be much of a mystery--just a helluva lot of fun--until Batman reveals the big Gotcha near the end. This is quickly followed by an utterly hilarious understated "Pow." The timing by Burchett in the panels is just perfect--as usual. You simply expect the best from these guys, and they quite frankly ninety-nine-point-five percent of the time deliver. Why is this series being canceled! And don't give me that business about--well, there's no longer a Batman Animated Series! Batman still will appear on Justice League Unlimited! He's one of DC's most popular characters, and not because of the craptastic comic books set in what ever is left of the DC Universe! Sorry--Let me just take a few deep breaths, and I'll get--Not there yet--hold on a minute.

Okay. As with Bride of Frankenstein "Bride of the Joker" contains quite a bit of humor. Normally, I don't find the Joker funny, but as he's portrayed as less lethal here, I found some of his dialogue outrageously funny. His insights about the law are remarkably shrewd, and he's also portrayed more as just a deadly comedian. The Joker for instance does not question the veracity of Batman's findings. He knows better. He also is aware of how Batman has been constantly saving his miserable life.

As for Batman, he just does not get better in the comic books than in Batman Adventures. My criteria for Batman holds in this story. The Dark Knight can be threatening such as in the scene where he stalks away to investigate the contents of Harley's cell. Buchett's and Beatty's artwork just sends a shiver down your spine. He is the consummate detective. There's always a scene in any detective novel where the sleuth explains his solution, and Batman is no different, but Burchett and Beatty make Batman just standing look dynamic. Batman is subtle. He doesn't usually announce himself, and in an excellent scene, we see he and Batgirl play on their darkness to attend to the Joker's goons. Batman is a hero. The hostages are extremely glad to see Batman. Batman is a sane man. The people of Gotham City depend on him. They do not question the costume or his actions, for he has never given them reason to doubt. Furthermore, this Batman would truly like to see a future for Harley Quinn. He does not see her as irredeemable like the Joker, and in this issue he attempts to protect her.

Batgirl is Batman's Watson this issue, but the choice was not arbitrarily made. Their partnership starkly contrasts the relationship of the Joker and Harley and that of Harley and Ivy. The Joker and Harley can never have what Harley wants because the Joker cares only about himself. Harley and Ivy cannot have a healthy relationship because Ivy is still a violent, unpredictable ecoterrorist, and Harley just may be straight. Incidentally, Harley is nuts. Though there is still hope she can pick up all her marbles.

Batgirl and Batman have a healthy partnership. Possibly more so than Nightwing, Batgirl is almost Batman's equal in all areas of crimefighting. In this issue, she provides the vital clue that Batman immediately recognizes. The clue allows Batman to deduce the entirety of this scheme. Batgirl through Burchett's and Beatty's artwork has the opportunity to appear as dark as her counterpart, and in a fight, she's equally effective. Her standout moment occurs when battling Poison Ivy. It's here that Templeton and Burchett show off the heroes' similarities and differences, the compliments and the contrasts. Batman does not have much humor in his life, but Batgirl has not been affected by tragedy. Thus, her personality is far warmer. She can go into battle and have a big grin on her face when she thinks of a means to stop Ivy. Batman would only be able to credibly manage a slight smile or perhaps a Keaton-like nasty smiley-snarl.

One thing not in this book's favor are the two grievous color errors. You may not think a change in Batgirl's boot and gauntlet colors affects the story, but they do. They create a sudden distraction that takes you out of the story and hurts the artwork. In her proper colors, under Burchett's direction, Batgirl cuts a visually striking figure. With the altered colors, you can't help but notice that something is very wrong with the character. This is still a minor quibble and certainly not the fault of the main talent regarding the best comic book on the rack.



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