Looking at Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel #1, you can’t help noticing how much times have changed. There was a time when if you said “The Avengers”, people were far more likely to recall a slightly surreal and fashionably mod British television series about spies John Steed and Emma Peel, than they were a super-team. And there was also a time when the culturally definitive version of Batman was the tongue firmly in cheek high camp television version portrayed by Adam West from 1966 to 1968. These both may have technically been adventure shows made an ocean apart, but they shared a sensibility. Both were comfortable drawing from pop art to influence the story-telling, and neither shied away from introducing sly humor, camp and even absurdity, into the fabric of their respective series.
What’s interesting is that, after DC spent decades struggling to return the Caped Crusader to his more serious roots to great success, the once lambasted TV series has become fondly remembered. To some people, Adam West and Burt Ward will always be their Batman and Robin, and the the once derided campy tone is now looked on with fondness. Similarly, John Steed and Emma Peel (and her predecessors and replacements as Steed’s partner) occupy a special place in the history of the spy craze of the 1960s. Steed and Peel were sexy but reserved, trading double entendres and witty repartee as they fought crazy schemes of world domination. Diana Rigg’s cat suited Emma Peel represented the newly emerging woman of the 1960s, powerful, sexy, cool and confident, the equal of her male counterpart. And Patrick Macnee’s John Steed, in his bowler hat, Savile Row suits and ever-present umbrella, embodied a singularly stuffy and reserved aspect of British cool.
Now, Boom Studios and DC have teamed up for a digital first mini-series that sees these two iconic properties teamed for the first time, and if the opening chapter is anything to go by, it’ll be pure frothy, wonderfully silly fun, provided its plot matches its tone. The series launches today as a 12-chapter, bi-weekly, DC Digital First series before being released in print in July as a 6-issue series.
The first chapter reveals only the barest of set-ups, but writer Ian Edginton perfectly captures the tone of both “Batman ’66” and “The Avengers,” resulting in an instalment that breezes by and concludes with excitement at seeing these two famous partnerships spark off each other. For instance, there’s the fun in seeing the cat suited Emma Peel face off against a similarly attired Catwoman, which is great.
From a plot standpoint, there’s very little revealed in such a short opening, so I can’t speak to how original or compelling the central conflict will be. There was certainly nothing that happened that intrigued me from that point of view, and indeed, the narrative of the opening chapter is pretty by the books, offering no surprises to speak of. But, as with most digital only books, this issue is so short that it’s hard to expect much more than establishing the tone and getting the ball barely rolling. I do wish there was something more inspired to hook the reader, but you can’t fault the opener for its sense of fun.
Artist Matthew Dow Smith does a great job evoking the respective series’, from the Batmobile to a minidress that looks like it was designed by John Bates. The action occasionally is a little muddled, and there’s a prolonged sequence where Emma Peel is kept obscured before a big reveal that kind of goes on too long (we all know it’s going to be her, why not do a solid splash page at the beginning she we can see her kicking butt in full?), but overall, Smith’s style meshes with the vibe the book is going for, and doesn’t try to take the book away from the source material.
Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 winds up being a fun read, even if its plot so far seems more workaday than inspired. That’s why I’m giving it a 7/10.