Let there be no confusion about it; “Batman: Odyssey” is one of the stranger comics published by DC right now. Up until now, Neal Adams was known for drawing “Batman” but not writing it. Now that he’s getting a crack at writing one of the characters that made him famous… well, he’ll still be known for his art but not his writing.
I suspect most readers will be a little perplexed by a Batman who shouts, “Bull!” and “Jerk!” at Alfred in attempts to get the last word in, or after getting patched up from a fight shouts, “I hate this. I hate-hate this!” It’s an unrecognizable Batman, and I’m not talking about him strutting around in a white wifebeater-and-briefs set throughout the Batcave.
Dialogue is not Adams’ strong point in the slightest, with almost every page overrun with far too many word balloons, narration boxes, and thought bubbles. “Batman: Odyssey” is a comic where Talia will stop in mid-rant to twirl around and show off her new designer dress when it’s commented on, or suddenly act like a doting mother at the sight of a child. It’s safe to say that no one in this book is in character at all, and considering how many familiar faces are within the comic, that’s an impressive feat.
I will give Adams credit that his art is attractive in places. His shirtless, hairy-chested Batman splash pages that he’s opened each of the issues with are solid beefcake art, and some of the actions sequences just ripple with energy. Adams’ squiggly lines provide a loose, energetic look to the entire book, and if it wasn’t for the occasional overly-cartoonish expression on various faces I’d be completely sold on the art. It’s like watching the book veer from classic “Batman” comics into the Adam West television show’s pratfalls, then back into gritty art. One page will have a blood spray arc out of a villain’s mouth when Batman punches him in the teeth, while another will have Robin sticking his tongue out while saying, “Well, it’s icky.”
This book is a mess. I understand that Adams is a comics legend, and that DC was probably thrilled enough with Adams agreeing to “Batman: Odyssey” that on an editorial level they’re trying to keep him happy. But I can’t help but wonder that if this is the comic that made it through editorial, what did the first draft look like? If Adams was writing my dialogue, my next sentence would probably be, “Egads!” Which says it all, really.