A few years ago, this title might have flown under the banner of “Johnny DC,” but Dan Jurgens and Corin Howell’s “Bat-Mite” #1 is simply rated “E” for everyone. Colorist Mike Atiyeh provides watercolorish tones and textures to Howell’s drawings and letterer Tom Napolitano keeps it all clean with strong lettering and a variety of styles, including sound effects and logo shout outs.
Bat-Mite tells Batman his mission is to make him “a better you.” His methods are zany and wacky, perfectly inline with the “Brave and the Bold,” but Jurgens’ Batman is having none of it. He also isn’t moving to incapacitate the imp, which lends credence to parallels between that cartoon series and this comic. Batman serves the purpose of introducing the readers to Bat-Mite and providing a soft landing into this madcap world but, before the issue’s staples, Jurgens transforms this comic into a superhero/Animaniacs hybrid, complete with Bat-Mite letting fly with a “Hellooooo, Nurse!”
Howell’s art is cut from the Animaniacs’ cloth, and the characters have all the wild expressions that come with it. The artist draws in plenty of detail, from cobblestone floors to riveted, steel-enforced doors to overly busy costume design and piping, which manages to work quite nicely with the exaggerated characters romping through. Howell brings her own style to the DC Universe. The characters that appear in this comic are instantly recognizable but stand apart from anything resembling a “house style,” in much the same way that the characters of “Tiny Titans” once did.
Frequently, “Bat-Mite” #1 seems to be silly for silliness’ sake, treading a fine line between plot and hijinks, with convenient props and solutions snagged from thin air. Shortly after, it snaps back into place to address the plot, and that’s where the issue wobbles a bit. Jurgens takes the story to the absurd but does let the absurdity take the story. It’s a bit of a departure for Jurgens, but one that he should be able to confidently navigate.
In the end, there is a story at play, there is peril and there is adventure, but all of it is friendly and tinged with fun. It doesn’t seem as effortless as “Bizarro,” but “Bat-Mite” #1 is definitely a fine companion piece. As Bat-Mite journeys through this issue, he happens across Hawkman, a character badly in need of adjustment. Recognizing it as such, Jurgens — through Bat-Mite — declares, “Consider this the opportunity of a lifetime!” as he attempts to free the Winged Wonder. Personally, I’m all in on Bat-Mite’s adventures with Hawkman, which are promised to us in the next issue. Now that the New 52 is in the rearview, Hawkman needs some fine tuning and maybe, just maybe an all-ages book with a next-gen Animaniac is the way to introduce new audiences while mining for the true essence of the character.
“Bat-Mite” #1 is a far cry from anything the New 52 once offered, trading in grim, gritty and CW-marketable for a wider potential audience and more expansive product possibilities. Jurgens and Howell clearly have fun with this book, and the wacky, anything-goes nature of the character is starting to define the possibilities of this series. Now, it’s up to the creative crew to make it all exceptional. This is a decent start.