Steph and Ian recently got their hands on the Batman: Wayne Family Adventures Volume #1 in trade paperback, and of course, they had to sit down together and gush over it.
Steph: Ian!!! Are you ready for our super-duper, special, mega review of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures Volume #1 trade paperback?
Ian: I am super-duper alley-ooper ready! This trade is such a cool book!
Steph: It’s so pretty! I’ve never had a Webtoon trade in my hand, though I have seen Lore Olympus on the shelves.
Ian: I’ve thumbed through quite a few in the Walmart sections. These are DEFINITELY designed to match those other webtoons books, and I think that’s very smart.
Steph: I have so many observations about the actual stories and the conversion from digital scroll art to comic book-sized pages. Which do you want to gush over…I mean discuss first?
Ian: Let’s start with the stories! They are, after all, the root of why we love Batman: Wayne Family Adventures! 😄
Steph: For sure. Well, first how does reading the “new guy/exposition” episode read now that we’re near the end of season 2?
Ian: I think it’s a bit misleading, honestly. I think Duke is a very fun character in the series, but it’s a rotating ensemble piece, not really a dramafocused around one character or plotline. That being said, the next two episodes don’t mislead, and the status quo DOES include Duke living at Wayne Manor, so I can see what the goal was.
What about you?
Steph: I think I enjoyed it a bit more after being more familiar with the WFA Bruce, Duke, and Damian. I also think it was a decent trickle and not a fire-hydrant introduction to the Batman family. Many people only know Batman from films where he’s a loner, and so this massive family could be a bit overwhelming to be introduced to first thing, assuming we all know who everyone is.
Ian: Excellent points! It allows for the family tree and “new guy” devices to give the reader exposition naturally, so that’s quite smart.
Steph: Next, going through my book notes chronologically, is, what I decided, was my favorite episode, #6 Favoritism, where each Bat-child has a different non-Batman favorite hero. Seeing Jason in the Wonder Woman sweat pants made me giggle. I was imagining him thinking of them as Artemis pants.
Ian: That was a delightful episode full of the kind of humor and references that make the series both very accessible (I think) and also a tease for the wider DC Universe that could help new readers want to track down a Green Arrow or Aquaman trade! Though I will say I think the voices for some of the characters (Stephanie Brown, ahem, you knew it was coming) were still developing a bit.
Steph: I think that’s fair. I think it was probably meant to be a bit more accessible at the beginning while still adding Easter eggs for the die-hard fans to love on.
Ian: For sure! And I think it worked well.
Steph: I did notice that, though we get actual appearances Superman and Ollie in this episode, they don’t get name tablets.
Ian: That’s such an interesting device, to be sure! Helpful to notice when a character first appears in the series overall! Plus the flavor text is almost always hilarious.
Steph: That’s true. Next I wanted to talk about episode #7 Vigilante Bingo.
Ian: This is the kind of conversation fans love to see in fanfic and talk about in shops, so it’s just delightful to see WFA tackle it with the “new kid” device!
Steph: Was the “Crime Syndicate” Dick mentions for his death the time he became a secret spy agent?
Ian: That’s how I read it!
I would love to see some flashbacks to that era, but perhaps it’s a bit too confusing!
Steph: Maybe. But if anyone can do it, WFA can.
Ian: Do it, WFA! We believe in you!
Steph: My other question on this one, as it is pretty rich in Batman history, was about the pranks. Are the pranks they mention something from the comics or are they WFA originals?
Ian: I don’t recall any of them myself, though there’s still many, many comics I haven’t read!
Steph: Next, is more of a redaction of something I said in a recent review, but Steph’s mustache in episode #9, Crush, Part Two is NOT the same Bruce wears in #105 Trivia Night. And, though Bruce is obviously wearing a blonde wig, it’s Steph’s real hair and not a wig in this episode.
Ian: Oh, no! It’s still probably from Bruce’s disguise collection, though!
Since they were training in the cave at the start of the episode!
Steph: That is very true, I’m sure.
My next favorite is #14 Unaccompanied, where Bruce is remembering taking all his children to formal events in the past. I think this one shows off each one’s distinct personality really well. What did you think?
Ian: I agree – I think one of the best things that reading a collection like this rather than one at a time is seeing the various ways the comic takes to highlight the relationships between the characters. Especially when you get an episode like this one where it’s able to compare and contrast a large group of the family.
Steph: Next was just a little something that I noticed about #16 Family Ties, Part Two, and #24 Opening Up, Part Two, aside from the fact that they are great emotional two-parters. Margie from the PTA is mentioned, who makes her big debut appearance much, much later, and Jon Kent is mentioned, even though his debut was much later. I love how it really seems like, even though this is an episodic series, for the most part, there is quite a lot of thought and planning that’s going into it.
Ian: CRC Payne and the editorial team seem to have a solid “series bible” setup, and I really love the sense of reality it lends to the world!
Steph: It really is awesome.
Next I wanted to talk about Talia’s first appearance, #18, Mother and Son. What did think of her? Was she out of character for you? Would Talia of the comics come check on her son’s mental well-being instead of dictating it?
Ian: I think this is a perfectly reasonable way for a comic that’s trying to be appropriate for all ages to depict Talia al Ghul. We get a lot more depth and darkness when Damian’s backstory is revealed much later in the series (though that episode, interestingly, specifically refuses to implicate Talia directly in the darkness). As someone who doesn’t like how Grant Morrison depicted Talia, I’m perfectly ok with a less “destroy the world for the lulz” version of the character. Additionally, since my eldest niece is named Talia, I am especially happy when I get a chance to read this to her, and she gets very excited because “That’s my name!” It’ll be a while before the Denny O’Neil comics or The Dark Knight Rises are appropriate for her, but this one lets me share Batman with a 5 year-old! 😄
Plus since it’s a hard copy now, I don’t have to worry about screen time – it’s just reading a book to her!
Steph: I love that. Yeah, even though she’s not really the Talia I’m familiar with, I do feel like this is a good depiction of an absent parent who still cares about her kid’s well being.
Oh, the next thing I wanted to ask is me just being pedantic. In the wonderful and lovely episode #21 Holiday Spirit, Bruce tracks down all his kids via tracking devices while they’re in their civvies, including Kate Kane…would they have trackers on as civilians and would Kate ever let Bruce track her?
Ian: It reminds me a bit of how Dustin Nguyen portrayed Talia in Li’l Gotham.
I mean, I can imaging Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne, first cousins, having a friendly rivalry over who can find each other’s trackers first and disable them.
Steph: Lol. I think so. I mean, I understand for patrol time and Oracle keeping track of everyone, but something about that seemed…unrealistic to me? 🤣Gosh, what have I become.
Ian: Well, we have only gotten one look at Kate’s past, and she doesn’t pop up nearly as much as most of the other Bat-family, so it’s hard to say how WFA Kate really functions in this universe. I’m personally happy to go down the fanfic rabbit trails of Bruce vs. Kate rivalry. 😄
Steph: I might need to get some recommendations from you later.
Oh, next I wanted to point out the range of history that WFA pulls from. We have things as recent as Damian and Jon’s friendship, Dick’s time with the Syndicate, and goes as far back as…The Discowing in episode #22 The Tournament.
What are your opinions of the suit? Is it punishment or amazeballs?
Ian: I’m with Babs – it’s definitely punishment. But I love that Dick has no shame about it – and I have fond memories of talking to Suzi Blake, one of the background artists, who put in lots of Sailor Moon sparkles around the Discowing suit!
What do you think about that V-neck?
Steph: It’s soooo deep. 😅 I do love the sparkles. It’s a nice touch.
Ian: It adds to the visual texture of the series!
Steph: Oh oh, next thing I wanted to get your opinion/history knowledge on is Damian’s love for drawing. It’s what bonds him with Skylar in episode #24, Opening Up, and it’s what gets him teased in issue #2 on the brand new Batman and Robin book. Is this something Damian had been doing previously in the comics to pull from?
Ian: Well, I have to admit there’s a chunk in the middle of Morrison’s Batman and Robin I have not read yet, but I don’t recall it in any of the Tomasi N52 run or in Robin: Son of Batman. I think it’s a new thing that Williamson and WFA are developing in parallel because it helps give Damian some “hidden sensitivity”. Quite nice, I think.
He’s such a prickly character it can be hard to like him.
Steph: There must be something about him that gives off “artist” vibes for both to do that. Unless Williamson borrowed from WFA, which would be AMAZING. I’d love for the main canon to take from WFA more often.
Well, that’s all I had for the actual WFA stories. Did you want to talk about or point anything out?
Ian: Well, I did want to mention that I find the way WFA uses Steph as one of the “veteran” kids – teaching Duke how to drive the Batmobile, helping Damian figure out how to make friends, etc – warms my heart after she’s struggled with being an outsider and “the new one” since 1992. 😄
But let’s move to the specific packaging of this collection release!
Steph: Yeas! Well, first, do you know who did the cover art? Cause that does not look like Starbite.
It says “Vasco’ 23 Georgiev” on the bottom right. Is that an artist?
Google says “yes”.
Ian: Yes! He’s a relatively newer artist who’s been doing a lot of cover work lately at DC. He did all of the Webtoon collections and also a few Nightwing and other covers for the main books.
What do you think of the cover image?
Steph: I like it, it sets the tone for the book, but it is a little sad, because I think I like Starbite better. It’s a little more gruff and not as “cute” as the rest of the series.
Ian: I agree it’s not quite the match with the interiors that I might expect. I also think Starbite could totally turn in a professional, glossy cover! Though it would likely cut into the schedule of illustrating main episodes!
Steph: I think the editors did a great job of converting the scroll style art into comic book arrangement. Most of the panels look really good. I will say, some panels really look like they’ve been expanded. They’re not pixelated or anything, but the lines are a lot thicker compared to other panels just because the panel itself has been enlarged to fit on a whole page.
It doesn’t take away or distract too much, but it was something I noticed while preparing to review.
The first major example is the 2nd episode about nabbing the last cookie.
Ian: Yeah – there’s sometimes full pages that were clearly blown up from regular panel-sized images, and the scaling is noticeable. It’s not bad, but it definitely takes some getting used to. I have the second volume as well, and skimmed it to see if the same issues applied, and it looks like that’s just the price paid for trying to create interesting page layouts from the scroll format!
Steph: Webtoons, and scroll comics in general (I don’t know if that’s the official term, but it’s what I’m using) can use their format to tell a story or build tension that is lost when it’s converted to traditional format. However, I do appreciate them making a great effort to cut and splice and shift things around not only make it “standard” but to add life. Going back to the cookie episode, there is so much fun in just how the panels and characters are laid out, it makes up for the loss of the scrolling format.
Ian: For sure! It would be a shame to try to just plop panels down four per page.
Steph: And then you have attempt to still use it, like the end of #10 Crush, Part Three, where the image of the characters is on the bottom with nothing but gradient white space above them, like you would get on the app.
Now, I did notice there was a bit of cropping going on, and the ONLY reason I noticed was that in #13 Stupid Traditions, Damian’s pile of presents includes a whip from Selina…and in the trade the note is GONE!! You can’t even tell it’s a whip. I don’t know if that was a censoring edit or a space saving crop, but it broke my heart, as it was Selina’s first “appearance” in the series.
Ian: That is very sad indeed!
I’m sure that there were just too many decisions to make based on what looks best on the page with scaling and layout and rules of three etc! Quite a good eye to notice it!
Steph: And the only other thing I wanted to point out, as someone who is SUPER oblivious and does NOT do their homework, unlike you, I had no idea that Starbite was non-binary, or at least uses they/them pronouns! I love their picture in the back of the book. Very cute.
And CRC Payne looks like someone I would have been friends with in high school. I love seeing people I admire look like normal humans.
Ian: Haha, very true! It is a fun thing about going to conventions, even though I personally wish publishers would spend more time to send editors and publicists to local comic shops instead of cons. 😄
What’d you think of the bonus material in the back – the character designs and notes, and the “read more” recommendations?
Steph: Oh yeah! I loved the character design and the sample of story board to finished product!
I did think it was a pretty boring segment of Vixen to show. It didn’t really make me want to read more.
I loved the reading recommendations for Damian. Lots of Williamson there. And I thought it was interesting that Urban Legends Vol 1 was suggested reading for Jason, but I totally agree. What did you think of the reading recommendations for Steph? I thought you might be bummed she was lumped in with Cass.
Ian: Yeah, I think it’s very frustrating that they didn’t recommend either the upcoming Dark Knight Detective Vol 8 trade collecting her original origin story for the first time, Batman Eternal for her new origin story, or her brilliant run as Batgirl. I know some of those are out of print, but they are available on DCUniverse or Kindle! And Tim Drake’s recent solo series being recommended felt like a really bad fit – but that could just be because I have a strong preference for his 90s adventures and think his recent solo was really, really poorly written.
Steph: Oh yeah…and the other Tim books is Robins: Being Robin. Wasn’t that the weird one where Tim is digitally kidnapped or something and the other Robins have to save him? I feel like Tim, Cass and Steph were shafted a bit on the recommendations.
Ian: haha, I like Being Robin quite a bit, but it’s definitely not one of the most popular books out there!
The 90s children have struggled a lot vs. the Golden and Bronze Age children and the Modern children.
A shame, as the 90s was the root of so much that I love most about Batman.
Steph: Did you have any final thoughts before we go?
Ian: I think this is a very worthwhile collection, even though you COULD read the whole thing on your phone (or even in browser). Having it available to lend out to those who don’t want to read digitally, or to read to small children is very valuable!
Steph: I agree! It makes it accessible to a whole new demographic.
If we were rating this, I would give it a 4.75/5. I absolutely love this series, I love most of the stories in volume one and the ones I don’t love I like a lot, I LOVE Starbite’s art, and the book just feels and looks so good…even though Selina’s one and only “appearance” was cropped out.
Ian: I think it would be a 4/5 for me – I think it’s a really wonderful collection of wonderful episodes, and very worth getting for new and old fans!
Steph: Well, I gotta bounce, but thank you for chatting with me! Happy reading, Ian!
Ian: Happy reading to you, too! 😄