DC Comics has been crushing it when it comes to anthology comics, be it for holidays or characters like Batman. Today, you can add one more to the pile of greatness: Batman: The Audio Adventures Special, which features nine stories from creators like Dennis McNicholas, Heidi Gardner, Bobby Moynihan, German Peralta, Paul Scheer, Juni Ba, and more! You might have noticed a few comedic actors in that lineup, which hints at a bit lighter take on Batman.
All told, this book has the vibe of a radio show complete with Jack Ryder as the host who also serves as a reporter on the scene. He opens the book as a van barrels towards him and his cameraman gets nervous. The first story is called “A Gotham City One Special Report” by McNicholas with layouts by Leonardo Romero and finishes by Rich Ellis (and colors by Mike Spicer). The art style has an indie look with some great use of color to create a layered effect. It’s as if Gotham is right on top of you.
Next is “A Better Mousetrap” by McNicholas with art by Anthony Marques which takes the unique approach of having Batman join the police force. There are some interesting layout designs at work here with colorful villains and cartoony characters. Batman looks fabulous with smaller ears but a lot more bravado.
Following that is a story by McNicholas (again!) with art by German Peralta called “King Scimitar: Who He is and How He is Come to Being Now.” It follows Scimitar’s first days in Gotham and the difficult job of becoming an iconic villain. It’s got a fine vibe as he tries and fails at being a major rogue in Batman’s long list of villains. The art has a realistic look that tells a story from panel to panel very well and there’s a lot of stories to tell quickly. It’s an example of how Gotham can feel realistic, but also a bit goofy.
McNicholas and Emma Kubert join forces for “She Called Pest Control!” This story features Catwoman in her classic costume and has great manic energy and plenty of attitudes.
Bobby Moynihan and McNicholas co-write a story with Jon Mikel called “Bedtime for Scrambles” which is about a crooner who works in Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge. It captures the ego of an entertainer who may not be as respected as he likes and what that means when Penguin wants to knock some sense into you. Hollywood types aren’t given as much respect in Gotham, so it seems.
Riddler gets the focus in Heidi Gardner and McNicholas’ story with Jacob Edgar on art and Mike Spicer on colors. Or maybe it’s actually about Miss Tuesday, a Riddler lookalike who is young and totally over Riddler’s ego trips. She’s called in to help stop Riddler from causing a scene at Arkham and she ends up being the perfect salve to his overreliance on highfalutin language and pomp. The story does a good job visualizing Riddler’s high regard for himself as well as capture his voice.
“First One’s Free” by Scheer, McNicholas, and Juni Ba is a fun one-shot with a twist. This tale involves Robin and what he’s like hanging out with classmates who don’t know he’s a superhero. There are some fun turns in the story that reminds readers Batman is feared always, but also talked about by all types.
“Two Split Seconds on Division Street” is the penultimate story by Ike Barinholtz and McNicholas with art by Derec Donovan and colors by Rex Lokus. If you like stories about duality, this story has it in droves. It basically plays up Two-Face’s duality and how he sees the world in twos. There are a lot of visual ideas at work to show how he breaks things up into twos, which all leads to a choice he must make too quickly to resolve before flipping his coin.
Last but not least is “Love as Laughter” by McNicholas and Jesus Hervas with colors by David Baron. It’s a two-page story involving Joker that is a lead-in for the podcast.
All in all, this collection has a unique energy that’s both fun and silly. Batman isn’t featured a lot, and I suspect some might find these stories a bit too goofy for their own good, but you can also easily say there’s nothing like this out there.
In general, every story in this collection has a similar vibe as it explores Gotham with kooky energy that revels in the weird characters and their even weirder personalities. Inspired by radio plays, Batman: The Audio Adventures Special is a unique approach that’s fun and fancy-free.
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