Archie Meets Batman ’66 #3: The Batman of Riverdale
J. Bone (artist), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colours), Michael Moreci (writer), Jack Morelli (letters), Dan Parent (artist), Jeff Parker (writer)
Archie Comics and DC Entertainment
26 September, 2018
The villains of Gotham are taking over Riverdale. But there is a major flaw in their plan. The Siren’s song doesn’t work on teenagers. They can’t control Riverdale if they allow the meddling teens of Riverdale High to get in their way.
Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, and Jughead Jones are unaware of any of this. They are simply desperate to get back into Pop’s after he unceremoniously kicked them all out to make way for adults. But Pop is still having none of it. His shop is closed to teenagers, indefinitely. This puts Archie and Betty in a quandary. They had promised their new friends, Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson, a great time at Pop’s, but they can’t even get in!
Fortunately, Archie manages to organise another party for Riverdale’s newest students to hang out at, but Jughead is too hungry to join them. He needs to get to the bottom of Pop’s bizarre behaviour, and hopefully get a burger, or a hundred, to eat. But, little does young Jughead know that he is playing right into the Joker’s hands. Is Jughead walking into his doom? Or can Batgirl and Robin uncover the villains’ dastardly plans before the worst happens?
Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Batman is hot on the trail of Footnote, an associate of Bookworm’s. Will Batman finally catch Bookworm and his wily associate? Or will he be undone by the Bookworm’s genius?
Not much happens in this book, despite it being the halfway point of the series, which gives one cause for concern. How are the remaining two issues meant to wrap up this story when so little has happened till now?
In all honesty, 20 pages is just not enough for a story that has so many different characters. Three issues in and Batman has yet to visit Riverdale. Dick and Barbara appear to be faffing about with the Riverdale High teens. How exactly is that supposed to help them find out what’s controlling the adult men of Riverdale? There is so little in the way of plot development, one would expect this to be the third in a 30-issue series.
As much as I loved the cliffhanger in this issue, I did expect it to occur much sooner than it did, especially as it was so heavily teased in the final pages of the previous installment. It felt like the writers had this one plot point that they had to get to, so they dragged out the rest of the story for 15-odd pages, until they could finally reach their big reveal. The whole plot suffers as a result.
The writing, which started off strong, has already waned. It feels almost lackluster at this point, which is unfortunate, because there is such a wealth of canon material to draw from for this crossover. Sadly, one can only assume that the final two books in this limited series will rush the story to a conclusion, presumably an unsatisfactory one.
The character interactions, as well, leave much to be desired. Archie and Betty felt instant attraction to Barbara and Dick in the previous issue, but that isn’t developed here. Batman is left to his own devices and only appears for a quarter of the story. I understand that this is an Archie-led crossover, but the Gotham heroes are being left by the wayside.
However, I must add that Penguin’s dialogue, and the inclusion of Burgess Meredith’s signature “wak” grunt, was such a welcome throwback to the Batman show, and put a big smile on my face. Can we please have more of that for nostalgic fans?
I had mentioned in my review of issue #2 that the story would have been better focused on the Batman villains, and I stick by that. The interactions between the villains continue to be the highlight of this series. The heroes have had little to do thus far, whereas the villains have a clear plan, and ways to get around any hitches they face. They are a fascinating bunch and deserve to be the leads of this story.
The art in this issue is decidedly more cartoonish than in earlier installments. I would say that the characters are drawn almost entirely in the stylisation of the Archie comics. It is far more pronounced in this issue and took me out of the story at times, particularly with regards to the Batman villains. I can understand the push towards a coherent stylistic narrative, but it should have been implemented at the outset, not halfway through the series.
Though Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colouring has been consistently beautiful and vibrant throughout the series, this issue doesn’t give her enough opportunity to play around with her colour palette. The settings are limited to Pop’s shop, Veronica Lodge’s pool, and a dull car chase in Gotham. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have enough of a canvas to play with, and the overall reading experience also dulls as a result.
All in all, this has been a rather boring entry in the series. The previous issue promised a great deal more, but what we have ended up with is a by-the-book installment with a story that has already run out of steam. There is so much one can do with the characters and settings, but not enough effort is being given to the story. I really hope the final installments will see the creative team bring their a-game to give readers a strong plot and great characterisation. However, if this issue is anything to go by, I really wouldn’t hold my breath.