After doing a comic combining the 60s TV Batman with the Green Hornet (two shows which did crossover back in the day), DC followed up with a Caped Crusader/Man from U.N.C.L.E meeting. U.N.C.L.E.’s retro style made it seem an obvious choice for mixing with BAM! POW! Era Dynamic Duo. DC’s new project, co-published by BOOM!, is in theory even more appealing. Steed and Peel’s adventures were filled with wit, excitement, colorfully outrageous villains, a bit of social satire and a large amount sexual tension. Also Emma Peel remains one of the most charming and independent female action protagonists to grace screens large or small. Their show The Avengers had a long run on British television, going through several iterations. However, the years with Diane Rigg playing Emma Peel opposite Patrick Macnee’s John Steed are simply some of the best television ever. However, the franchise has pretty much stumbled whenever transferred to comics. Something about the natural charm and chemistry of Macnee and Rigg has defied later writers, a trend which unfortunately continues.
The setup for the series is pretty straightforward. Bruce Wayne is escorting the dashing young British beauty Michaela Gough through Gotham City’s rare gemstone exhibition. (Gough’s name is surely a nod to actor Michael Gough who made his name during the 60s appearing in Hammer horror films; later he would play Alfred in all four Batman movies from the late 80s/90s). This being a comic book, the gemstone exhibit on page one needs to be burglarized by page three. Hence, enter the Catwoman, who is followed closely behind by Steed and Peel. It would seem that the exhibit was merely bait in order to draw out a mysterious thief. Complications naturally ensue, which include some sinister antagonists recognizable to Avengers fans.
The real problem with the story is not the serviceable plot, but the flatness of the dialogue. Steed and Peel are famous for their quick banter liberally littered with puns and double entendres. Edginton’s writing comes nowhere close to this, leaving much of the patter being forced. This also extends to the scripting of Batman and Robin. As a whole the dialogue feels as if it is simply surface gloss. Something similar can be said about the art. Dow Smith does a decent job of rendering all of the famous faces familiar. However, that is all he does. His figural work is stiff and his backgrounds barely sketched to non-existent. Not all comic book art needs to hyper-naturalistic; indeed, a goofy pop art feel would be a nice match for either franchise. What art does need though is a pulse and that is distinctly lacking here.
Given how well these four characters could have meshed, this new series is a bit of a disappointment. In that, at least, Edginton can take solace from being in good company. Mark Waid’s stab at the characters fell completely flat as well, which was odd. His Crossgem limited series Ruse was a delightful romp which channeled all the charm of Steed and Peel through original characters and settings. Perhaps novelty is the key. Whatever key ingredient for success may be, it is missing here.