Welcome back, Bat-boys and girls! We now arrive at the stunning conclusion of the Batman: The Audio Adventures limited issue series. In the penultimate chapter, horror unfolds in two places at once. Batman attempts to stop the prophecy of the Demon, as Robin and Killer Croc unexpectedly find themselves on a collision course with the Penguin. The question is, who will survive the night in our final tale of life and death in Gotham City?
End of the Crusade
For decades, readers tend to associate Batman with being “The Caped Crusader.” However, Dennis McNicholas shares his own opinion on what Batman may think of the title. Firstly, in Batman’s perspective, the term compares his mission to the violent Holy War of the same name. In fact, he makes a point of expressing that we should learn from the Crusades, rather than undertake a new one. Instead, Batman chooses to morally distinguish himself from the zealots he fights. Batman insists that destruction is the only result for those who only seek to destroy. Alternatively, Batman sees himself not as simply giving his life to destroy an enemy, but to build along the way.
As a result of Batman’s choice to dispose of the Scimitar, The Demon’s Brood triggers the ritualistic culling of the orphans. Yet, in another twist, the culling doesn’t involve the endangered orphans of Haly’s Circus across town. Shockingly, they seek to choose their messiah from the sole survivor of a ritual suicide instead! While Batman doesn’t like Ra’s nor the Demon’s Brood, he is unwilling to let any of them die. Although Batman’s care for them is outstanding, it’s still naïve to try protecting three hundred year old assassins from killing themselves or an even older immortal. The act of standing between the killers emphasizes his willingness to lay down his own life but not others.
Can A Killer Croc Tip His Scales?
Meanwhile, the long running b-plot of the series comes to a head. The dangerously delirious Killer Croc returns to Haly’s Circus after failing to get help from Leslie Thompkins. Ironically, Croc’s guilt for the gruesome accident at the circus is the core of what drives his delusions. Haly’s Circus even puts up hilariously exaggerated police sketches to scare people! Croc may have become a killer, but despite the gnarly illustration, he was never a monster. Coincidentally, Penguin also choses Haly’s Circus as the venue to settle his score with Robin and the Scarecrow. Naturally, Croc’s return and atonement with The Penguin is paramount to concluding his “heroes journey.”
Likewise, the same is mostly true for Robin as well. Dick Grayson spent his entire life in the circus before losing his family in the accident. Moreover, Robin’s victory at Haly’s has endless cathartic possibilities. His return to the circus to save lives directly mirrors the night he lost his old life. In fact, Robin gets the opportunity to slip back into his old circus routine while saving lives. Even if readers never find a conclusive answer about what Penguin knows about Robin, the act of disposing of Penguin’s bomb is also closure for Grayson. I’m not a fan of where it ultimately leads, but I appreciate the symmetry.
What Are We Looking At, Exactly?
I’m a fan of big picture storytelling. When listening to the Batman: The Audio Adventures podcast, Dennis McNicholas treats every character like tiny gears driving the larger story engine. Therefore, all the flashbacks and character relationships need pay off in the end. In the beginning of the story, it is okay to plant seeds of tension or mystery to explore later. By the end, so many moving parts within this series don’t justify the series long foreshadowing. In retrospect, most of the characters feel extra and plotlines don’t go anywhere.
That said, the smaller touches don’t go unnoticed either. For one, the artwork and flat color palette is still heartwarmingly simple and pleasing to look at. At least, outside of the butt-ugly mutant seals. The tongue and cheek dialogue like “sweet mother Mavis,” “ding-dong,” or “scrumpy” are also quirky highlights. Even Easter Eggs like Bat-Mite or any of the comedic background characters are lovable features of the book. Unfortunately, there are some portions of the artwork with bad framing and under rendered backgrounds. Not to mention, there are massive loose ends involving Scarecrow, Hugo Strange, Joker, Harley Quinn, and the constantly referenced Ra’s Al Ghoul. Sadly, this doesn’t feel like a finished thought at all.
- You are a fan of light-hearted comic strips.
- You’re a listener of the Batman: The Audio Adventures podcast.
- Waiting for a Batman comedy for the whole family.
These first seven issues follow the story of a band of confusing cultists chasing a sword around the city as Killer Croc goes insane elsewhere. While not exactly anti-religious, the story heavily criticizes rituals, prophecy, and themes of self sacrifice. Toward the end, McNicholas implies that following anything blindly can be dangerous. Overall, whether a voice in your head, demonic doctrine, the whims of an adversary, or a mentor with good intentions; striving for the best path for yourself is more important. Tonally, the book feels good, but thematically it falls short. At times it can be surprisingly mature, but it mostly has the tone of Nickelodeon’s Doug (1991). I think it still serves as a good companion piece for the podcast, if not entirely satisfying or cohesive as a comic book series.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.