By: Bob Marshall
**As always I will try to remain as spoiler free as possible**
There have been many solo (for the most part) animated shows starring the Batman in the past two decades. The first being Batman the Animated Series, which might just be the greatest animated series of all-time, a dark, gritty, noir setting Batman. As a child it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, it set a benchmark for everything that came after it. The second show, Batman Beyond, was a continuation of the previous show but this one was set in the future starring a young Batman mentored by an elderly Bruce Wayne and it was nothing short of amazing. The third show simply dubbed The Batman was a bit of a mixed bag really, with episodes ranging from bad, to mediocre but occasionally good and even fantastic at times. Unfortunately as a dark Batman show it always lived in the shadow of Batman TAS, always struggling to find its own identity and never quite hitting the same heights. The fourth show Batman: The Brave & The Bold, is a team up show where Batman would team up with different heroes in more light-hearted romps that very faithful to the comics to (mostly) silver age stories. When I first heard of this show I immediately dismissed it, but after catching a few episodes and then being hooked I can definitely say its one of the best animated versions of Batman ever. A show that was a lot of fun with a lot of the most astoundingly brilliant comic references.
So after all these successful Batman shows (and I didn’t even include the two Justice League shows, Superfriends, the filmation series, etc. or the direct to video movies) I ask do we need yet another Batman show? My answer is an astounding NO we don’t, but here I am reviewing the first episode of yet another brand new Batman show. Another dark gritty take on the character but this time in CGI. Now I’ve always been against CGI animation on the small screen but after absolutely loving the Green Lantern Animated Series I thought why not, at least it’s different to what’s come before. Also they said they were going to concentrate on the lesser known villains at first which is kind of cool I guess and the great Glen Murakami who worked with Bruce Timm & co on Superman TAS, Batman Beyond and The Justice League shows is one of the creators that developed this. However, that nagging feeling remained, it’s another Batman show. Are we going to experience Batman burnout? Well I can safely say after viewing the first two episodes, it’s a damn good Batman show and it’s dark, oh it’s dark and that’s a great thing. I do feel this show doesn’t need to be here but now I’m definitely going to tune in every week. Now on with the review:
Story: Batman has to stop vengeful villains in Professor Pyg and Toad from taking their revenge over a shady land deal. Also a worried ageing Alfred hires Bruce a bodyguard to take his place while he’s out if action.
The episode starts off perfectly with Batman stopping a bank robbery, this was like a scene straight from the best Batman comics. I was sold on the show just from this moment, it was cool as hell. It’s clear from this that this version of Batman isn’t that experienced but you’ll see what I mean when you watch the episode.
The main villains this week are two I’d never heard of before viewing this, Professor Pyg and Toad. I must say they were a strange choice and I didn’t much care for their plot, they hunt and capture rich people who were involved in a shady land deal which led to wildlife in the area being killed. Ok?! That aside, I have to say these might be the two worst villains I’ve ever seen on a Batman show. They just didn’t make sense to me, Pyg is clearly a guy in a mask while Toad appears to be.. well a human sized Toad, who has super sonic powers like Black Canary’s sonic scream. A little explanation on him wouldn’t have been misplaced. The episode is very grounded other than the Toad issue, it may take sometime to get used to but I think this shows going to go the grounded but not when it suits them approach. Which is fine, as long as its consistent and I guess it leaves the door open for them to introduce other super powered superheroes & villains later on down the line.
The Alfred subplot wasn’t bad and was there to introduce Katana which was necessary seeing as though she’s going to have a big part on the show. Alfred been both bald and clean-shaven was a strange choice (reminded me of Lex Luthor) but hopefully he’ll get some hair as the show goes on.
The CGI was pretty spot on and was actually an improvement over the Green Lantern Animated Series. Batman’s costume looked incredible and the action scenes looked very good. The only negative on the CG was he fact that the city looked empty far too often but this seems to be a consistent problem with CGI. Also I’m not sure how I feel about Bruce Wayne having lips don’t know about anyone else but he looks like Action Man to me.
The music was fantastic and one of the highlights of the show.
The Voice work both impressed me and didn’t, Anthony Ruivivar was excellent as Batman but I wasn’t quite sold on his Bruce Wayne. His Batman though was very Kevin Conroy and that’s probably why I liked it. JB Blanc’s Alfred took some getting used too but overall I liked it (I’m sure they’ve based him off Jason Statham), the voices for Pyg & Toad weren’t my cup of tea, they were the typical boring English accents we tend to get for clichéd British villains.
Look out for cameos by Lt. (not yet Commissioner) James Gordon voiced by the always brilliant Kirtwood Smith, he has a much bigger role in episode 2. Also Michael Holt (voiced by Gary Anthony Williams who was the Mutant Leader in the Dark Knight Returns Part 1) who is known to comics fans as Mr. Terrific and Simon Stagg (voiced by Jeff Bennett (The Joker on Batman the Brave & the Bold) who comic fans know as the evil father in law to comic hero Metamorpho (so expect him to pop up later in the series).
All in all other than a weak subplot and weak villains it was a decent start for the series. There’s plenty to get excited about with the references and cameos. The Batman looks terrific and it’s great to see a dark Batman show again. Here’s hoping it gets a long run..