airdave817's Batman '66 #12 review

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Diamonds Are Forever

If there were a scale to rate the villains from the live action Batman '66 series, it might look like an outdoor thermometer. There would be the "Fab Four" at the top: The Riddler, Catwoman, The Penguin and The Joker, in that order. Then there would be the rest of the rogues falling toward the bottom of the scale as far as depth, dimension and interest. False Face might score high points as far as imagination and creativity; although he's a Chameleon one-off and a lighter version of Two-Face. King Tut is an interesting, original character combining history, multiple personality and re-incarnation. Toward the bottom of the scale would be characters like John Astin's The Riddler, Louie the Lilac, The Minstrel, The Archer, Ma Parker and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. The Archer was just a one-off of Robin Hood. The Minstrel was what became the Music Meister. John Astin did nothing in his portrayal of The Riddler except perhaps make producers pick up the phone to Frank Gorshin.

Legend has it that the Batman television series was so extremely popular that celebrities were calling producers to line up guest villain appearance. That may explain a lot of the "Kite-Man" rogues that appeared. It's almost surprising that a villain like The Cavalier never made an appearance.

Marsha, Queen of Diamonds is cut from the same cloth as Siren, Black Widow and Nora Clavicle. Forgettable. Disposable. It's a shame that characters like Poison Ivy were passed over in favor of characters like Marsha. The Queen of Diamonds only seems lame because she is a flat, one-note character. Her raison d'etre is power through diamonds. The woman has a diamond fetish. That's it. Oh, and her aunt is a witch. A hag witch. Wart and all.

Jeff Parker, Dario Brizuela, Tony Avina and Wes Abbott bring Marsha and her motley crew back in "The Queen of Diamonds' Big Heist". It's a sequel of sorts. Marsha is still after the famed, legendary Bat-diamond in the Batcave. Instead of trying to marry into possession, Marsha, and her Aunt Hildie, have concocted a chemical spell to slow down movement and trap their victims in a moment in time. Ultimately, they discover the location of the Batcave and steal the Bat-diamond. The Dynamic Duo follow her trail to recover it.

Parker's script once again is top notch, but seems to hit a wall. Marsha, Hildie and their gang tunnel into the Batcave and steal the Bat-diamond. They discover the Batpoles. What keeps them from climbing the Batpoles and discovering Batman and Robin's secret identities is the thought that the poles lead up into police headquarters. Instead, Hildie concocts a potion - a smoke bomb - to cover their trail as they cause a small cave in to cover their trail. Batman is alerted that someone has broken into the Batcave when Marsha touches one of the Batpoles. It's hilariously silly, and fitting the series. Still, it's that groan-inducing Kite-Man approach that keeps Batman a guilty pleasure.

The back-up story, "To Be Or Not To Be" features The Minstrel breaking into Wayne Manor, using knock-out gas to overpower Aunt Harriet and stealing the Shakespeare Bust! The conceit is that The Minstrel never noticed that the bust contained a hidden switch, or that the head was on a hinge, or that it was sitting next to a strange red phone. The point of Art Baltazar and Franco's story with art by Ted Naifeh and colors by Tony Avina is how the Dynamic Duo handle not being able to get into the Batcave to their costumes and the Batmobile! It's a wacky story, yes, with a nice wink and nod to the screen test costumes that were a throwback to the old movie serials. Still, it has a quaint Kite Man quality to it. There is a nice pun in The Minstrel's new device; The (wait for it) De-composer!

It was those very conceits, the Kite Man villains and plots, and The Bright Knight's wink and nod that kept fans coming back two nights a week, week after week, to the live action series. Parker has brought that approach successfully to the comic series. One can only hope that the main stories play out more fully to fill an issue - like The Joker/Catwoman story last issue - and that the almost short-shrift back-up stories fade - or that they are developed slightly to split an issue into two half stories. Maybe The Minstrel's next appearance will be the main story.

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