Monday, 1 December 2014

Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet Review (Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman)

Holy expectations, Batman!

If you know anything about Kevin Smith’s last few years, you’ll probably know he’s churned out some pretty questionable art. Cop Out, Red State, and now Tusk are all very iffy movies, and I worried that Smith, in his weed-induced state, would somehow manage to botch this comic. Thankfully he didn’t and there are no sexual innuendo puns, flesh-lights, weed, Star Wars references, or a pair of overplayed stoners hanging about in the background! 

Instead Smith (who also did a Green Hornet comic of his own for Dynamite, based upon an unused film script) teams up with his Hollywood Babble-On podcast co-host and ultimate Batman ’66 fanboy Ralph Garman (who also works with Adam West on Family Guy) and one of the best comics artists working today, Ty Templeton, for a great crossover story between Batman ’66 and the Green Hornet. 

Italian adventurer Franco Bollo is transferring his expensive collection of fossils from Gotham City to Century City and, wary of a possible hijacking, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne joins Bollo on the trip. Also on board is newspaper magnate and owner of The Daily Sentinel, Britt Reid and his valet Kato, and Wayne’s instincts turn out to be accurate as the villainous General Gumm (formerly Colonel) glues the train to the tracks and makes off with the loot! So begins a twisty plot as Batman and Robin go head-to-head with the Green Hornet and Kato, as well as General Gumm, his cronies, and one other bad guy. 

This miniseries is a sequel of sorts to the TV episodes from the original series when the characters met for the first time fighting Colonel Gumm side by side and then against each other (Green Hornet is supposed to be seen as the mob boss of Century City in order for Reid to control crime in his city. So he would naturally be an enemy of the Caped Crusader’s, who doesn’t know Hornet’s alter-ego and vice versa). 

Like in the other Batman ’66 comics, Ty Templeton’s art reflects the likenesses of the original actors so, along with mainstays Adam West and Burt Ward, Van Williams and Bruce Lee are wonderfully resurrected for this tale as Green Hornet and Kato as is Roger C. Carmel as Colonel/General Gumm (in the flashbacks – the character has a new design for most of the book). Alex Ross drew the covers and his photo-realistic style is quite startling as the covers look like stills from unaired episodes! 

If you’ve been enjoying Jeff Parker’s Batman ’66 series, this one is basically more of the same but it’s more of a sustained and lengthy narrative compared to Parker’s comics which are relatively short, self-contained tales in each issue rather than a multi-part story. It’s also quite different in that Parker’s Batman ’66 comics have very ambitious action scenes that couldn’t be replicated on a TV show easily, which is fine as this is a comic. Interestingly, Smith/Garman’s story has plenty of action set pieces too but they feel like they could easily be done on the TV show even back in the ‘60s.

Smith/Garman’s enormous love of these characters is evident on every page as they riff like crazy on the show. Special attention is paid to the Bat-climbing which was the first time Batman and Robin met Green Hornet and Kato on the show (and it’s such a Batman ’66 moment anyway!). The action is very silly and over-the-top, as you’d expect, which is enjoyable if you like that humour (BIFF! BAM! POW! etc.) and mostly quite imaginative with the use of giant props, etc. 

I also liked that Smith/Garman didn’t favour one team over the other. If in one scene Green Hornet gets the drop on Batman, Batman evens the balance in another. When the two battle each other, they’re equally matched. When they’re in trouble, they get themselves out rather than hope that the other saves them. Even when Robin and Kato fight, neither one gets the upper hand (even though Bruce Lee vs Burt Ward… !). 

If I have one criticism it’s that the story feels a bit overlong. I love the TV show too and think the Green Hornet crossover was great fun but it felt like Smith/Garman couldn’t stop fanboying out over writing their fantasy project and some scenes became repetitive, like Batman and Hornet locking horns one too many times, as well as Gumm and his partner escaping yet again. Also, it’s a shame Templeton couldn’t draw the whole series, but he does most of it with Jon Bogdanove and four(!) background artists filling in for only 10 pages or so. They do some pretty good work though. 

Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet is arguably Kevin Smith’s best comic, his and Ralph Garman’s love of the series manifesting itself with delightful invention in this book. It’s also a really fun story for those of us who love Batman ’66 and don’t need all of their Batman stories to be dark and brooding. Shame there’s no scene where the entire cast do the Batusi!

Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet

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