Adventures in the DC Universe #1 (1997)

Adventures in the DC Universe #1 (April, 1997)
“Now You See ‘Em…”
Script & Breakdowns – Steve Vance
Pencils – John Delaney
Inks – Ron Boyd
Letters – Tim Harkins
Colors – Bob LeRose
Assistant Editor – Frank Berrios
Editor – K.C. Carlson
Cover Price: $1.75

In the tradition of the Batman Adventures and Superman Adventures which chronicled the heroes’ animated exploits, Adventures in the DC Universe attempted to cast a wider net.  Each issue would focus on a particular character or team, starting with the JLA.  Taking a look at the entirety of the DC Universe if it were set in the Animated-Series-iverse (Diniverse? Timmverse?) is a wonderful idea… even if it’s one that doesn’t exactly ring my bell.

Ya see, full disclosure here… I never really glommed on to the 1990’s era Animated Series’.  I know, I know… I’m a filthy heathen.  I mean, I watched them… because they were on TV, but even back at the curmudgeonly age of 12, I was more just in it for the comics.  I never liked (and still don’t) other-media versions of my superheroes.  TV Shows, Movies, Video Games… ehh, keep ’em.  Just give me the comics.

I will say, however, that DC did it wayyy better than Marvel did.  Compared to Batman: The Animated Series, Marvel’s X-Men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four cartoons looked cheap, lazy, and old before their time.  I guess there’s just something about the stylized motif of the DCAU that has a timeless and an almost universal aesthetically pleasing look/feel to it.

So, let’s buckle in to check out an adaptation of an adaptation…

Our story opens up in Keystone City as the Flash is climbing the Keystone Tower to rescue media mogul Winston McKinney from Gorilla Grodd.  We flash back to moments earlier to find that a mulleted Wally West and Linda Park (not yet West) are attending a celebratory gala for McKinney’s recent media empire endeavors coming to fruition.  Just as the antenna’s switch is thrown, an elevator full of gun wielding geeks arrive on the scene.

Moments later this is revealed to be a diversion as Grodd breaks through the window and nabs McKinney.  Wally suits up and gives chase up the antenna.  Upon arrival, he knocks Grodd down, and rescues the mogul.  Much to his surprise what goes up, doesn’t always come down… as Grodd is nowhere to be found.  He apparently vanished into thin air.

In Denver, Blockbuster is attempting to bust some coin out of the Denver mint when he is grabbed by a previously invisible Manhunter from Mars.  The two do battle until hitting a gas line and causing a fire to start.  Instead of running away from the fire, is we may come to expect J’onn grabs a hose and plays firefighter.  When the flames are contained he finds that his villainous bounty has also vanished.

Out in California, Aquaman is readying for a deep sea dive to search for a nuclear submarine that had been sunken by Major Disaster.  Aquaman did the one thing I hate people constantly referencing for internet hilarity… he talks to fish.  He sends them to take care of the sub, while he seeks to deal with Disaster.  When he boards the Major’s craft… he finds nobody there.  Another vanishing goon…

In Metropolis, Superman is doing battle with longtime foe Parasite.  Knowing he cannot touch his nemesis lest he get his power drained, Superman does the next best thing… he hurls a giant scrapped ship at him.  When the dust settles, and Superman lifts up the wreckage, he finds that Parasite is nowhere to be seen.

All across the vast DC Universe, similar occurrences are happening.  In Gateway City, Wonder Woman cannot find Cheetah… In New York, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) can’t find Dr. Light, and even out in Gotham, the Scarecrow’s given Batman the slip!

This sounds like a job for the JLA… the actual “Big 7” version to boot!

While the League tries to figure out what to do next, wouldn’tcha know it, Batman’s already got it figured out.  He’s correlated all of the vanishing locations and coordinated the one most likely place where the baddies may be holed up… Somewhere in the Southwestern United States.  Well, that narrows it down, thanks Bats.

Here we find all of the missing villains huddled around a table, all there by the grace of one they call Cipher.

Before they can plot anything nefarious, the League breaks on through.  Within about a half-dozen panels, they’d neutralized the combined threat of seven of the baddest baddies in the DC Universe.  Not bad, you guys!

They are then attacked by a piloted robo-suit that appears to be equipped with some of the League’s weaknesses… for example, Superman gets hit by Kryptonite (PINK Kryptonite at that… hrmmm) and Martian Manhunter gets blasted by fire (too bad he doesn’t have a hose now…).

While the League is on the ropes… wouldn’tcha know it… Batman’s got a plan.  It’s your basic, hey Flash run real fast… Arthur, Diana… punch the robot-guy type of plan, but it works none the less.  These geeks are so lucky Batman decided to join them today.

A recovered Superman and Manhunter tear the robo-suit open… only to find an empty husk.  Well, not completely empty… there’s a bomb in there after all.  The League escapes just as the bomb goes off.

As the team regroups and prepares to haul the villains to prison we see that Cipher is watching them from afar.

This was a fine and fun Justice League romp… just not so much for me.  Clearly, this book is not aimed at the entrenched DC Comics fanatic, so it is very likely unfair of me to judge it in that regard.  The art and light story style is most definitely aimed at a more casual fan, or one who holds a special fondness toward DC’s animated series’… Batman fans especially, as he makes the rest of the cast look like chumps on more than one occasion in this issue alone.

Again, unpopular opinion time… and no, I don’t think this is one of those “unpopular opinions” that’s shared by most everybody either.  I’m really just not too fond of the animated style.  I know, I’m a soulless heretic, and i should throw myself off the nearest cliff.  I just never really liked it.  It’s striking and stylized and immediately recognizable… just, again not for me.  Mike Parobeck’s work on Justice Society of America is about as “animated” as I like to go… and, yes, I know he drew a lot of the animated adaptations in his time as well.

I can’t not recommend this book, or this series for that matter, as I know that there are many fans who really enjoy this style… and are die-hard fans of the DC Animated Universe.  To do so would be letting my personal bias affect my rationale, and that’s something I’d rather not do.  So, if you are a fan of this style, or dug the ‘toons… you can certainly do worse than Adventures in the DC Universe.  I will (hypocritically?) say that I am currently keeping my eyes peeled for the Captain Marvel/Marvel Family issues of this series… I think those will be amazing.

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