Retro Novel Review: The Further Adventures of Batman (1989)

This review contains spoilers.

The Further Adventures of Batman is a collection of 14 short stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg and published in 1989.

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The first story, “Death of the Dreammaster,” is a Batman story that very much takes place in the future. The story begins with the death of the Joker and it is revealed soon after that Robin, Bat Woman, Bat Girl, the Riddler and Penguin have all recently died as well. This has left Bruce feeling depressed as he discovers a case. This case is actually rather dull. It is very clear that Robert Sheckley was much more interested in writing a James Bond story. The only real comic book ties this has are mentions of other characters such as Superman who gets brought up a lot.

My favorite thing about this story is that Bruce has actually created a third disguise; this is a man named Charlie Morrison. Bruce pretends to be this person as a way of traveling out of Gotham. Thus, Bruce Wayne and Batman are never in the same city except Gotham. All suspicion is on Charlie Morrison who doesn’t even exist. That is kind of a neat idea. The disguise is never explained and Bruce doesn’t seem to change his mannerisms but it is a cool concept.

Unfortunately, the main plot is fairly standard and actually dated. The military man, Director Nelson, plans to unleash a computer virus on enemies. This was written at a point when computers were new, exciting, a little scary and a lot of writers didn’t understand them. There is a lot of effort in this to be timely and it just doesn’t play. Overall, the story has good ideas but it is ultimately a standard James Bond story that had Batman grafted onto it.

The second story, “Bats,” shows Batman pretending to be insane in order to catch a group of corrupt doctors that are using drugs to control the police and city officials in Gotham. This story is a decent mystery. It is unclear what is going on with Bruce throughout the story especially since it is told from Alfred’s point of view who doesn’t know Bruce’s plan. It is obvious that the main villain, Dr. Lace, is evil from the second she shows up but Bruce’s “madness” is fun to watch. Interestingly enough, this story also takes place after the death of Robin. What’s weird is that he is always referenced to as Robin. Alfred never calls him Master Dick or Master Jason; he says Master Robin. Why? That seems pointless. Did Henry Slesar, the writer, not know his name? He knows Barbara Gordon is Batgirl so I can’t imagine he doesn’t know who Dick Grayson is but he never mentions that name. Also, both in this story and in “Death of the Dreammaster” Batman is seen doing weird things like going to therapy or having a drink in full costume. It’s just a weird image to have. Also, everyone knows that Batman’s parents were killed when he was a child and yet, no one can figure that Bruce Wayne is Batman. That is ridiculous. This story is fun but it’s got a lot of weird problems.

The third story is “Subway Jack” written by Joe R. Lansdale. In this story, Batman investigates a serial killer targeting homeless women. The strange thing about this story is that it is a script for a comic with details about panels and notes about thought balloons. I am curious why the format was not changed for this publication. The story is fairly dull with some weak dialogue but there are interesting ideas. There is a mystical element that works and the story is fairly creepy at times. Also, Batman is portrayed similarly to the Adam West version. He is overly chipper and way too much of a goody-two-shoes. He spends much of the story lecturing Gordon about the dangers of smoking; it is fairly silly. If he just did it once, I wouldn’t mind but he is a dick about it to Gordon.

The fourth story is “The Sound of One Hand Clapping” written by Max Allan Collins. This one focuses on the Joker going through a mid-life crisis and desperate to find a wife. A criminal called the Mime coincidentally arrives in Gotham and Joker makes it his mission to court her. This is a very silly story with lame lines and is hard to take seriously. It feels like something out of the 1970s Filmation cartoons.

The fifth story is “Neutral Ground” by Mike Resnick. This is a very quick story about a man who makes the equipment and costumes for the various heroes and villains of Gotham City. It’s a very short but interesting story. I think it would be more interesting if he made equipment for just the villains. The idea of Bruce Wayne walking into a store to buy a utility belt seems a bit strange to me. Other than that, this is fun. There is a bit where the Riddler demands that he put exactly 100 question marks on his costume which is hilarious.

The sixth story is “Batman in Nighttown” by Karen Haber and Robert Silverberg. In this story, a man in a Batman costume crashes a party thrown by Bruce Wayne in order to steal valuables. This is an okay story. There is a fun chase on the highway and it is a nice contrast to the other stories in that this a young Bruce that just recently became Batman.

The seventh story is “The Batman Memos” by Stuart Kaminsky. The story is entirely made up of memos about creating a film based on Batman’s life when an actress is kidnapped. At first, I was taken aback by the format but it really works. It was actually fun to see the events as reports and how that slowly revealed a mystery. It sort of reads like you, as a reader, are a researcher trying to determine what happened. It’s a lot of fun.

The eight story is “Wise Men of Gotham” by Edward Wellen. This is the most straightforward and traditional Batman story in the book. Riddler has an overly complicated plan and Batman has to use his detective skills to figure the mystery out. It’s not bad but it’s fairly dull and hard to get through. Additionally, Bruce goes to a costume party dressed as Batman. That is painfully dumb and something that is made fun of in “Batman in Nighttown.”

The ninth story is “Northwestward” by Issac Asimov. In this story, Bruce Wayne is an actual person whose life was turned into the comic book character that we know. I hate this story mainly because of the premise. It is just a dumb idea in my opinion. And the story itself ends up being pointless. Bruce tells a story to some weird council about how a butler stole valuables from him but then it turned out that he didn’t steal anything.

The tenth story is “Daddy’s Girl” by William F. Nolan. In this story, Dick Grayson is held hostage by a teenage girl and her father’s killer robots. The girl has never been outside and Dick is the first person she has met besides her father. This story is great. The set up is great and sufficiently creepy with a great reveal of who the father is. There is a bit of weirdness in that Dick and the girl, Sue-Ellen, fall in love after knowing each other for five minutes but it’s a great read besides that.

The 11th story is “Command Peformance” by Howard Goldsmith. In this story, Dick Grayson faces off against a hypnotist running a drug ring. This is a pretty good story. It’s a little slow in place but another solid story for Dick.

The 12th story is “The Pirate of Millionaire’s Cove” by Edward D. Hoch. I don’t have much to say other than Batman fights a pirate. It’s as awesome as it sounds and all you need to know.

The 13th story is “The Origin of the Polarizer” by George Alec Effinger. In this story, Batman faces off against the Polarizer who knows his secret identity. The premise is interesting but the story is fairly dull. It’s always frustrating when we, as an audience, know information that the protagonist does not. At that point, we are just waiting for Batman to to catch up with us which isn’t fun and the Polarizer is very whiny and goes nuts out of nowhere.

The 14th and final story is “Idol” by Ed Gorman. In this story, a young man is dealing with an identity crisis that leads him to murder. At first, this story seems to have nothing to do with Batman but he is actually quite important to the story despite never making an appearance and is never named. It works okay but it’s not great.

Verdict

As an anthology, this is a mixed bag. Some of the stories are great, some are bad and some are in the middle somewhere. “The Batman Memos” and “Daddy’s Girl” are my favorites with “Northwestward” being my least favorite. Additionally, there are a lot of typos in every story. Some more time should have been spent cleaning this up before publishing. If you can find this cheap at a used bookstore, I would recommend picking it up. While not everything works, the good stories are really worth checking out and this does feature a wide assortment of creativity and styles.

 

3outof5

 

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Sean Blumenshine

I am currently a senior at Wichita State University studying communications. I started reading comics in 2013 because of how much I loved Man of Steel and season one of Arrow. My favorite hero is the Green Arrow and my favorite villain is the Joker.