The latest in comic books
See what we thought of ''The Batman Adventures,'' ''Barbie 41,'' ''Marvels,'' and ''Batman/Spawn''
Drawing power: an addition to the Archie canon, Marvel’s look back, and a joint effort by two comics companies.
AGES 5 to 8
The Batman Adventures 19 This series, based on the darkly deco television cartoon, may be the most stylish of all comics. It zips along like a coming-attractions trailer for a German Expressionist movie — Fritz Lang directing Bruce Willis. This issue’s bad-guy fearmonger, the Scarecrow, is just scary enough. A-
Barbie 41 A happy-face button with hair, this ’90s Barbie not only models but role-models, piloting the space shuttle in a pinch. Still, she’s often insufferable — Barney as a blond. C+
Jughead’s Baby Tales 1 With inventive stories starring Archie’s sidekick, Jughead Jones, and his new baby sister, Jellybean, this debut issue depicts a loving sibling relationship without a hint of saccharin, though with strained pizza and anchovies. A-
AGES 8 to 11
Marvels 4 This exquisitely oil-painted miniseries, retelling historic Marvel Universe events through the eyes of a photojournalist, concludes with a death that changed Spider-Man’s life. Both graceful and gruesome, with classically beautiful illustrations, it’s like a Brothers Grimm tale with superheroes. A
AGES 11 and up
Batman/Spawn: War Devil; Spawn/Batman: Red Scare These two comic books have Batman meeting the hyperpopular Spawn — a damned soldier-mercenary reincarnated with a too-cool costume and magical powers. DC’s is a solid if stolid urban-zombie tale; Image’s is wildly energetic, with wino-head cyborgs. Oddly, these two issues aren’t a two-part story — in each, the heroes meet for the first time. Both resonate less as fables than they do as a marketing calculation. War Devil: C+ Red Scare: B