Batman Adventures #20 (May, 1994)
“Smells Like Black Sunday”
Writer – Kelley Puckett
Penciller – Mike Parobeck
Inker – Rick Burchett
Colorist – Rick Taylor
Lettering – Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Assistant Editor – Darren Vincenzo
Editor – Scott Peterson
Cover Price: $1.50
Happy April Fool’s Day!
Decided to give our Patron Saint of the “holiday” Mr. Mxyzptlk the day off, so we might instead check in with some other fools in an issue of Batman Adventures.
While we’re discussing Batman, I do want to mention that I’d been turned on to a new (to me) podcast this week via a shout-out during an episode from our friends at Warlord Worlds. It’s called Bat-Books for Beginners and is hosted at The Batman Universe. The hosts Chris and Gerry put on a great show that I believe would prove interesting and inviting to actual bat-book-beginners, while also being entertaining to we seasoned folks. Even though we’re no longer in #trypod month (I just found out #trypod was a thing yesterday!), this show is still worth giving a try.
We open in the prison cafeteria where Mastermind, Mr. Nice, and the Perfesser are planning their escape. Unfortunately for them, it’s not like they’re just gonna walk out of jail… so, they’re going to need a diversion. And, so… the Perfessor stands up and calmly says “Fire.” The resulting riot facilitates their procuring a gun from a prison guard, with which… Mr. Nice can shoot out the power lines. So far, so good… right?
The Perfessor uses his computeresque brain to easily guide the trio through the darkness… and out of the prison via a convenient sewer pipe. Their first breaths of free air are short-lived, as they find themselves surrounded by some rather angry (and rabid) looking dogs. Mastermind tries getting the pistol from Mr. Nice so he can… ya know, kill the pups. Mr. Nice, being a nice guy, ain’t feeling it. During the tussle, the Perfessor grabs a stick and whittles it into a flute. After giving it a toot, the dogs vamoose.
It isn’t long before the escaped convicts rob a bank and run afoul of a certain caped crusader. Luckily, Mastermind is at the wheel for this getaway, though, we appear to be missing Mr. Nice. Anyhoo, Mastermind has accounted for just about everything that might go wrong. The tires are batarang-proof… and he has devised a route with which they will be able to elude capture.
They cut through an intersection just as the light turns red, and figure that Batman’s going to at least have to stop to allow traffic to cross. What Mastermind failed to take into consideration was the Batmobile being equipped with nitrous oxide. Batman is able to blow through the intersection with ease… and remains on the baddie’s tail.
Mastermind tries calling the police from the car in order to divert their attention elsewhere… however, this doesn’t quite work out. After nearly t-boning another car, our baddies skid to a stop. Batman arrives moments later for the pick-up. Mastermind, who is counting down to zero, doesn’t seem terribly bothered. He scoffs at Batman, claiming that he’s “too late”.
Batman asks just what in the world Mastermind is going on about, and it is explained that Mr. Nice is currently at Fort Bragg procuring nuclear warheads. Hmm, sounds legit. Anyhoo, Mastermind made Nice promise not to be… nice, until after midnight. Meaning until then, he’d be fine just blowing fools away, right?
Well, as it turns out… yeah! We join Mr. Nice as he infiltrates Fort Bragg… and dude is budda-budda-budda’ing at everything that moves! He busts inside, and goes nuts with the gunfire.
That is, until he runs into a teeny tiny puppy.
We wrap up our tale… right where we started it, the prison cafeteria. Our boys are huddled around the same table… until Mr. Nice and the Perfesser can’t take any more of Mastermind’s crazy schemes. They abandon him, leaving him to rant all by his lonesome… that is, until some inmates get tired of hearing the geek go on. We close out with the Mastermind deposited in a garbage can!
I totally slept on this series when it was coming out. I think the X-Men Adventures tie-in comic kinda ruined me on animated series books. I just always looked at these as low-priority “cheap” books the companies put out to cash in on unwitting parents who might wanna pick up a mag for their kids. I’m still not convinced I’m wrong… but, I gotta say… this was a fun read!
Let’s start with the art. I’m sure I’m not the first fella to extol the virtues of the late Mike Parobeck. The dude was great… his work here looks effortless, and yet… painstaking. Not sure if that makes any sense… I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would have to work mighty hard to make my work look so perfectly simple.
The “animated style” isn’t one that I always cotton to. We discussed an issue of Adventures in the DC Universe last year, which had similar art… and I really didn’t dig it. I think Parobeck makes all the difference to me. His work just comes off as first-rate… and not as an artist trying to make their work look “DC animated”, you follow?
The story was… silly, and light. Perfectly fine, and as I’d mentioned, perfectly fun. I like that the story’s focus was on the baddies. It offered a different and novel perspective, and allowed us to explore the fellas’ quirks and idiosyncrasies. In doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that Mastermind and Mr. Nice are both established characters in the DC Universe… with Mastermind showing up in an early Challengers of the Unknown story. Mr. Nice has actually showed up in post-Rebirth Nightwing comics… which is pretty neat. The Perfessor appears to be an original character for the animated series, and seems to have been based somewhat on Denny O’Neil. How fun is that?
Overall, this is a light, fun Batman story… that Batman doesn’t really loom all that large in. I’d say if you are a hard-copy fan (like I am), this might be worth it at cover price and below. Wouldn’t recommend paying much more than that. If you’re not like me and digital comics don’t make your teeth itch, this issue has been made available in that format. Worth a look.