REVIEW: Batman: Wayne Family Adventures

Batman Wayne Family Adventures Webtoon by writer CRC Payne and artist StarBite logo feature image

Amassing more than 200,000 subscribers on the day of its debut, Webtoon’s Batman: Wayne Family Adventures has had more eyes on it than most monthly print series published by DC Comics ever do. And evidenced by a near perfect rating, readers like what they see so far.

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures #1, #2, and #3

Jean Kim (flatter), Maria Li (storyboards), Lan Ma (backgrounds and rendering), CRC Payne (writer), Kielamel Sibal (letterer), StarBite (artist)
September 8, 2021

Batman Wayne Family Adventures by writer CRC Payne and artist Starbite Webtoon image depicting Batman, Alfred, Duke Thomas, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne, Cassandra Cain, and Tim Drake

The Webtoon doesn’t ask those readers to know 80 years of Batman canon. It doesn’t even presuppose that they know Batman is Bruce Wayne or that his son, Damian, is the current Robin. Instead, it aligns them with a newer (New 52) superhero and, in this canon, “Gotham’s Newest Vigilante” Duke Thomas and introduces him and other members of the Batfamily with captions. Paired with the vertical scroll, the Webtoon’s use of more traditional comics forms (including but not limited to captions, speech balloons, sound effects, and discrete panels) provides ample middle ground for print and digital readers to meet.

Anchoring these first few free episodes on Duke as he becomes the newest resident of the Wayne Family Manor makes the comic more accessible to users already familiar with the platform (app or desktop version), even as the characters attract those who might be unfamiliar. Readers learn about the titular Wayne family and their residence as Duke does. There’s Bruce, who I can believe is a just barely middle aged dad to a half dozen teens and young adults, dressed all in black, and Alfred, appropriately aged as a (grand)fatherly figure and uniformed. Then there’s Damian, who clearly takes after his mother thanks to the color work by the art team headed by lineartist StarBite. StarBite’s style perfectly marries the Webtoon format to the superhero genre — their versions of these DC characters do not appear out of place on the near infinite canvas or in Webtoon’s catalog of Originals — despite the fact that the comic itself is categorized as “slice of life.”

Damian introduces “the family,” which includes him, his father, Dick Grayson (Nightwing), Jason Todd (Red Hood), Tim Drake (Red Robin), Cassandra “Cass” Cain (Orphan), Barbara “Babs” Gordon (Oracle), Stephanie “Steph” Brown (Spoiler), Luke Fox (Batwing), Kate Kane (Batwoman), and now Duke Thomas (The Signal). Duke, Bruce, Jason, Tim, Cass, and Damian suit up at the top of the second episode, which features a (food) fight as the still costumed crime fighters duke it out over the last cookie following a successful patrol.

Panel from Batman Wayne Family Adventures Webtoon by writer CRC Payne and artist StarBite depicting Cassandra Cain, Duke Thomas, Jason Todd, Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, and Tim Drake seating around a dining table and staring at the last cookie

They’re superheroes but they’re not above fighting with each other, which is as delightful as Bruce’s “World Okayest Father” mug. They banter like superheroes and bicker like siblings. There’s a dynamic present in this Webtoon that readers have often sought out in and/or written for fanfiction (CRC Payne please drop your AO3 handle): these people dress up and fight supervillains, but they’re still human. They have personalities and relationships apart from their personas, and their (semi-)civilian lives can be just as compelling as typical cape comic book content, if not more. Batman: Wayne Family Adventures proves as much.

It does so while letting Damian, Tim, and Steph be kids and make mistakes. It does so without putting Steph, Cass, or Babs in costumes that look more like second skins than battle ready uniforms. It does so, maybe most importantly, by recognizing that Batman may be the head of the family but he isn’t its heart. This Webtoon could be what so many of us have wanted for the Batfam since we met our first Robin or read our first issue of Detective Comics: a look past the Batcave and into the personal lives of people who do good.