Batman Tales: Once upon a Crime

DC Comics. Feb. 2020. 192p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781401283407.
Gr 5-8–Fridolfs and Nguyen combine the Bat-family and the world of fairy tales in this collection of stories. Dreaming that he is Pinocchio, Bruce Wayne’s son Damian lies on purpose to make his nose grow, then breaks off the long wooden nose and uses it to fight bad guys. Butler Alfred Pennyworth takes a trip through Wonderland after drinking strange tea in the Batcave. Nguyen’s impish character art and Fridolfs’s fast-paced scripting are delightful, though some of the action is merely implied and characters’ Bat-universe origins are left unexplained. Portrayals of the villains’ schemes are the most eye-catching, though baddies are, of course, foiled by each tale’s end. Illustration quality wavers between cute, streamlined depictions of adults and children and emoji-esque facial expressions. Full-page and wide-panel moments allow Nguyen to pull out all the stops, particularly in the final story, “The Snow Queen,” in which Batman, lost in a blizzard, fights not only for his own life but also for anyone he can save. This showstopper is the most thoughtful and painted with the most detail, placed for maximum effect after the pranks and pratfalls of the earlier entries.
VERDICT These inspired mash-ups bring new flavor to both the fairy tales they’re based on and the Bat-family, heightening readers’ appreciation for both.

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