Back in September I reviewed the first volume of IDW's Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics, which covered the strip's first two years (1966-67). Now IDW has put out Volume Two, which covers the Batman newspaper comic strip from January 1, 1968 to May 31, 1969. Click here to reserve our copy.
Picking up the "Shivering Blue Max" storyline from the last volume, writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist Joe Giella tie up loose ends with a massive (for a newspaper strip) body count. Giella is then replaced by former Superman artist Al Plastino, who takes over the penciling and inking of the strip, with some help from then current Superman artist Curt Swan (check out panel 2 of the July 30th 1968 strip; I'd swear that head shot was drawn by Swan). And sure enough, who should guest star alongside Batman and Robin in Plastino's first storyline ("Diabolical Professor Zinkk", which ran March 18-August 6, 1968) but Superman himself, who gets the Caped Crusaders to help him find out who's been stealing his powers.
Another DC Comics superhero, Aquaman, makes appearances in two storylines, a brief one in the aforementioned "Zinkk" continuity, and "Breathing Underwater" (August 7-December 15, 1968), where Batman, without Robin (who seems to be getting phased out of the strip at this time), must aid a scientist's daughter against an underwater smuggling ring. That's followed by "I Want Bruce Wayne's Identity!" (December 15, 1968-May 30, 1969), a suspenseful entry where Batman, as Bruce Wayne, gets amnesia, and winds up being replaced by a sinister lookalike and his gang, with only a suspicious Batgirl to help him.
Ellsworth's scripts, while sometimes emulating the style of the 60's Batman TV series (which went off the air in March, 1968), are pretty good. The Superman/Professor Zinkk storyline is the best, with genuine tension and some welcome humor. Ellsworth's not afraid to dispatch various characters if he has to; lots of villains end up usually dead by the climax of each story. Plastino's style hues closer to the work of then current Batman comic book artists Irv Novick and Bob Brown (both of whom were inked by Joe Giella), but is otherwise solid and compelling.
Volume Two ends with the start of a new storyline involving a mysterious woman with designs on Bruce Wayne. How will that end up? Guess we'll have to wait for Volume Three to find out!
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