The new Batman television show Beware the Batman brings an animated Bruce Wayne and Batman back to the television screen. Historically, the Bruce Timm Batman: The Animated Series has been revered in the comic fan’s eyes, and the 2008 Batman: Brave and The Bold had a lighter, Adam-West feel to the caped crusader. The most recent incarnation is a huge paradigm shift from either of the previous series, moving from cell to computer animation, major character reinterpretations and a b-side rogue gallery. Quite possibly, this is the Man Of Steel for animated shows, driving classic fans away but perhaps appealing to a more general audience for The Dark Knight.
Comic fans fear change! From creative teams to character reboots to even the change of the paper being used on a book will spark endless debate online and at the very least fidgets and sighs. We had just gotten used to the campy and sometimes musical Batman: Brave and The Bold and even beaten the button mashing video game, all the while falling in love with that version of the swashbuckling and bearded Aquaman. In Beware The Batman there is a familiarity to the dark tones in both Batman: The Animated Series and The Dark Knight Trilogy.
There are stepping stones into another territory for longtime fans of The Bat in the new series that may endear you to it or have you check yourself into Arkham, driven mad by the seemingly infinite versions of Bruce Wayne and Batman.
The series is rendered in the same computer animation style as the cancelled Green Lantern Animated Series and Tron Uprising. If you can let the slick glass look of Gotham and complex architecture of Wayne Manor, The Batcave and the streets of the city wash over you (I watch on a retina MacBook) it leans toward an immersive experience. The fight scenes are well choreographed and fun to watch as the Batman clobbers the bad guys. The Batsuit owes a lot to the Nolan movies, all black, including the bat symbol, save his yellow or brass utility belt. It is a good but not great design of the Batsuit, which saddens me because I like to get excited when Bruce suits up.
Overall, the design and the computer rendering as a choice work for me with Beware The Batman, as I learn to let go of my nostalgia for cell animation and expect more of this from my heroes in the future.
The enemies in episode one are Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad, introduced by Grant Morrison in Batman and Robin. The masked freak and animal (respectively) are of the 99% and also environmental activists, seeking revenge a land deal signed by Simon Stagg and Bruce Wayne that forced many animals from their native wetlands. The Hitchcock-sounding Pyg uses kidnap and murder instead of words to resolve his issues. Toad has a sonic croak, used to break glass and knock his enemies to the ground. Batman gets involved when Alfred is kidnapped by accident (Toad mistakes him for Wayne).
Pyg and Toad drive around Gotham in a sweet steampunk Model T with a cannon in its trunk, capable of knocking out the Batmobile.
Speaking of Alfred, this is a very different butler than we’ve seen on screen before but is nearly identical to the version Geoff Johns wrote in Batman Earth One last year. DC is once again pulling together highlights of many storylines and interpretations of Batman to form yet another version for kids to grow up with.
Our Alfred here and in Earth One is an ex-spy of MI-6, a trained bodyguard and hand to hand combat veteran.
One can assume he is younger than our Michael Caine, but does reference taking care of Bruce after his parents died. Bruce struggles to maintain his identity as Batman as a separate person, with his nocturnal risks not affecting his daytime affairs. The conflict in this episode revolves around Alfred convincing him that this is not the case. By the end, Alfred has hired a Robin stand-in, sidekick Katana (who stars in her own New 52 book). I’m all about the female sidekick but ummm, what’s wrong with Batman and Robin?
Everyone’s getting all Wertham in this day and age. Let Batman and Robin get married, it’s a free country!
Besides, Damien Wayne, Batman’s son (though it would take some explaining) was a great Robin. Shouldn’t he be, I don’t know…in the new cartoon?
When Pyg and Toad trap Alfred, Stagg and Michael Holt, the prisoners are hunted à la The Most Dangerous Game. Batman saves the day of course, but Alfred gets to use his fighting skills to help out.
All of the press leading up to the release of the series promises that we won’t be seeing traditional Batman villains, but lesser known rogues. What I hope for as a comic fan is deep cut references to rare Batman stories and the introduction of Outsiders beyond Katana. For us dyed in the wool fans, this will be the hook that keeps us coming back week after week, adjusting to the new look of the show and watching Alfred kick some ass.
He’s a great fit, and his Batman one-liners rival Bale’s ability to strike fear into the hearts of men.
We’re looking forward to watching this season as the only current DC animated television offering. Hopefully Young Justice will come back, or something equally as good to join The Dark Knight on the small screen.
League of Ordinary Gentlemen Podcast Episode #158 – League-Poop-Cast
This week, spoiler-laden reviews of Beware the Batman, Sheltered #1, Lazarus #1, and olde toilets.
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