REVIEW: BATMAN: BAD BLOOD

CAST

Jason O’Mara (Resident Evil: Extinction)
Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck)
Stuart Allan (Son of Batman)
Sean Maher (Firefly)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Gaius Charles(Salt)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
James Garrett (Titanic)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars: Rebels)
Bruce Thomas(Legally Blonde)

Batwoman intercepts a group of criminals in Gotham that include Electrocutioner, Blockbuster, Firefly, Killer Moth, and others. When a fight ensues, Batman soon arrives. They are confronted by the apparent leader of the criminals, a man called the Heretic, who reminds Batman of his vision of Damian Wayne as Batman. Heretic detonates explosives planted within the facility. Batman flings Batwoman to safety and apparently perishes in the explosion.

Weeks pass. Both Batman and Bruce Wayne’s disappearances have not gone unnoticed – Alfred Pennyworth takes up the guise of Wayne in electronic communications using gadgets in the Batcave to maintain appearances, while sending out a distress signal to Dick Grayson. Meanwhile, Damian Wayne watches a news report of Batman’s disappearance and sets out to return to Gotham. Katherine Kane meets with her father Colonel Jacob Kane revealing she feels responsible for Batman’s apparent death and asks his help to track down Heretic. It is revealed that she was traumatized when she, her sister Elizabeth and her mother Gabrielle were abducted and held for ransom, although she was the only one not killed by her captors before her father rescued her. After her time in the military, she became a drunkard who was saved by Batman, the appearance of whom motivated her to never need to be saved again, resulting in her becoming Batwoman.

At the same time, Batman, wearing a different Bat emblem, apparently resurfaces and is quickly noticed by Robin and Katherine Kane. Both of them intercept Batman and quickly deduce that it is Grayson wearing an old version of the Batsuit. They begin their own investigations into the Heretic, unconvinced that Bruce is truly dead. Soon the Heretic and his henchmen attack Wayne Enterprises, forcing Lucius Fox to open the way into the vault by threatening his son Luke Fox, a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan. Though Grayson and Damian quickly arrive, they are unable to prevent the Heretic from escaping with Wayne technology, and Lucius Fox is non-fatally stabbed. Before they leave, Heretic kills Electrocutioner when he is about to kill Robin.

Heretic returns to his headquarters where it is revealed that he is working for Talia al Ghul. They have Bruce Wayne captured and Mad Hatter is slowly brainwashing him with a machine projecting laser like beams into his eyes and brain causing him to experience nightmarish visions of his parents and friends as well as several bats attacking him. Mad Hatter claims Bruce’s memories and experience, as well as his mental and emotional trauma, is causing the mind-controlling process to take longer on him than normal. The Heretic, apparently obsessed with Damian Wayne, then breaks into the Batcave and kidnaps Damian. Heretic explains that he is a clone of Damian, created by a genetics program created by Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, using Damian’s DNA to genetically engineer a perfect soldier with accelerated growth and development, but he was the only subject of the program to survive with Mad Hatter giving him an actual mind and consciousness. Due to his feeling of not being a real person, he wishes to have Damian’s memories and personality implanted within his own brain with the mind programming machine being used on Bruce, but Talia arrives and then shoots Heretic dead for his disobeying her orders to leave Damian out of the conflict. Grayson and Batwoman then arrive, having located Damian through a tracker in his costume. They are quickly joined by Luke Fox, clad in an advanced combat exosuit and styling himself as Batwing. The three rescue Bruce and Damian, but Talia and her henchmen escape.

Weeks pass and Bruce seems to have recovered from the ordeal, though he remains adamant that Katherine and Luke not be involved, insisting that their heroics remain within the “family”. Meanwhile, Katherine is suddenly attacked by her father. After disabling him, she discovers he had been brainwashed. She brings this to the attention of Grayson, Damian, and Luke. Dick immediately concludes that Bruce is still under the effects of Mad Hatter’s mind control, though Damian is unconvinced. Luke reveals that the League of Assassins are planning to brainwash a number of world leaders at a tech summit held by Bruce Wayne with the use of advanced earpieces being distributed to the attendees. As the brainwashing is taking place, Nightwing, Robin, Batwoman, Alfred, and Batwing arrive and fight Talia and her henchmen. During the fight, Mad Hatter is killed, thus stopping the mind control from undergoing to completion. Bruce, under the effects of the brainwashing, is made to fight Nightwing and defeats him. Talia then orders him to shoot Grayson and Damian dead, but Bruce, with the help of Grayson’s pleas, resists the effects of the mind control and disobeys her. Incensed, Talia escapes into her auto pilot vessel only to be met by Onyx, a member of Heretic’s team who attempts to murder her in revenge for the ruthless death of Heretic, causing the vessel to crash, resulting in both her and the latter’s death. The “Bat family” then returns to the Batcave to plan their next move. Nightwing explains that none of the Mad Hatter’s programming can function without his being around to activate it.The Bat skylight shines in Gotham City where Batwoman, Nightwing, and Batwing assemble to meet Batman and Robin on top of the police station where they see Penguin escaping cops by car. Batwoman and Batwing fly down, as Batman, Robin and Nightwing fire their grappling guns. On a nearby building, Batgirl observes the group launch their chase and fires her own grappling gun to join the pursuit.

This film has it all, really solid writing and voice acting. Nice to see Batwoman make it into these animated movies.

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REVIEW: BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD

CAST
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Neil Patrick Harris (The Smurfs)
Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan)
Wade Williams (Gangster Squad)
Carlos Alazraqui (Happy Feet)
Gary Cole (Chuck)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)

For several years now, the sticky underbelly of Gotham has been reigned over by a disfigured crimelord known only as Black Mask. There’s a new player in town, though…someone who’s seizing hold of Gotham’s drug trade. This masked man — the latest in a long series to have taken the mantle of The Red Hood — institutes his own set of rules. He demands a massive cut of the profits, and anyone caught selling to kids will be gunned down, no questions asked. It’s still a better deal than the competition is offering…enough to throttle Black Mask’s plans to claw his way up to the big leagues as an international arms smuggler. None of this escapes Batman, but strangely, even though the Red Hood has a strangehold on the distribution of drugs in Gotham City, crime as a whole has dropped. It’s as if Red Hood has established himself as the new Dark Knight, but rather than stamping out every trace of crime he comes across, he’s allowing it to exist on his own terms. He has the razor-sharp intellect, startlingly fast reflexes, and impressive arsenal of Batman but without a moral compass to stand in the way. Whoever’s underneath the hood has some connection to that night five years ago…to the murder of Jason Todd, but who…? Is it the Joker, the first man to torment Gotham as the Red Hood? International terrorist Ra’s al Ghul? A nameless flunky who happened to be in the right place at the right time and has only now decided to dethrone Black Mask? Whoever it is, he’s out for blood, and many will die before it’s all over…

Under the Red Hood shouldn’t be shrugged off as a kids’ movie, wholly earning its PG-13 rating. Literally a minute into the film, a teenage boy is savagely beaten with a crowbar. Later, an assassin’s masked head explodes. One thug is wholly engulfed in flames, and another has his eyes gouged out. The Red Hood makes his first entrance by throwing down a duffle bag filled with severed heads. Blood is caked across the ground and walls. The body count is massive. Nothing in the DC animated universe has approached this sort of brutality since Return of the Joker ten full years ago. With its emphasis so intensely oriented around action, the pacing throughout Under the Red Hood screams from the first frame to the last. The movie doesn’t have the same sort of rich emotional core that makes Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker such exceptional stories, no, but its approach to action is second to none. Bolstered by its impressively fluid animation, the fights showcased throughout Under the Red Hood are spectacularly well-choreographed.

Under the Red Hood doesn’t get too distracted by the whodunnit angle. Anyone who’s been reading any of the Batman books over the past few years already knows whose face it is under the mask, and considering the way the movie opens, there’s really only one person it could be. The identity of the current Red Hood is essentially revealed a half-hour in and is definitively confirmed ten minutes later. That’s a wise move, allowing the movie to better focus on developing strengths elsewhere rather than hinging too heavily on a last-minute twist. There’s a lot going on here — a fairly large cast…a story that spans quite a number of years — and the writing’s sharp enough to juggle it all without ever feeling excessively

 

REVIEW: BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD – SEASON 1-3

Image result for batman the brave and the bold logo

MAIN CAST

Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Marc Worden (Ultimate Avengers)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
John Dimaggio (Futurama)
Tom Kenny (Super hero Squad)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Corey Burton (Critters)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Vyvan Pham (Generator Rex)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Mikey Kelley (TMNT)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Will Wheaton (Powers)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Loren Lester (Batman: TAS)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Jeff Bennett (James Bond Jr.)
Oded Fehr (The Mummy)
Ellen Greene (Pushing Daisies)
Armin Shimmerman (Star Trek: DS9)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Tom Everett Scott (Scream: The Series)
Billy West (Futurama)
Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover)
Paul Reubens (Gotham)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers II)
Peter Woodward (Crusade)
Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother)
James Remar (Flashforward)
Jeffrey Combs (Gothman)
Ioan Grufford (Ringer)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
William Katt (Carrie)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Hynden Walch (The Batman)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mark Hamill (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Adam West (BAtman 60s)
Julie Newmar (Batman 60s)
Dana Delany (Body of Proof)
Tony Todd (Chuck)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Cree Summer (Batman Beyond)
Steve Blum (Wolverine and Thje X-Men)
John Wesley Shipp (The Flash)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Olivia D’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Mae Whitman (Independence Day)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars: Revels)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting)
Michael Jai White (Arrow)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Tippi Hedren (The Birds)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Ted McGinley (Highlander 2)
Henry Winkler (Happy Days)

There’s a gloriously meta moment in the back half of this season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold where the show’s producers are raked over the coals at Comic-Con. One of the twentysomethings in the crowd grouses and groans about how the Caped Crusader in the cartoon isn’t his Batman, and…well, he’s not wrong. DC’s comics anymore are joylessly grim and gritty…22 monthly pages of misery and scowling and torture and dismemberment and death and high collars and way too much crosshatching. Batman: The Brave and the Bold, meanwhile, is defined by its vivid colors and clean, thick linework. It’s a series whose boundless imagination and thirst for high adventure make you feel like a six year old again, all wide-eyed and grinning ear to ear.


You know all about The Dark Knight’s war on crime, and in The Brave and the Bold , he’ll duke it out against any badnik, anywhere. He doesn’t go it alone, either, with every episode pairing Batman up with at least one other DC superhero. Heck, to keep it interesting, The Brave and the Bold shies away from the obvious choices like Superman and Wonder Woman. Instead, you get more interesting team-ups like Blue Beetle (more than one, even!), Elongated Man, Wildcat, Mister Miracle, Kamandi, and B’wana Beast.
Other animated incarnations of Batman have been rooted in something close enough to reality. Sure, you might have androids and the occasional Man-Bat, but they tried to veer away from anything too fantastic. The Brave and tbe Bold has free reign to do just about whatever it wants. One week, maybe you’ll get an adventure in the far-flung reaches of space with a bunch of blobby alien amoebas who mistake Batman for Blue Beetle’s sidekick. The next might offer up Tolkien-esque high fantasy with dragons and dark sorcery. Later on, Aquaman and The Atom could play Fantastic Voyage inside Batman’s bloodstream, all while the Caped Crusader is swimming around in a thirty-story walking pile of toxic waste. He could be in a Western or a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a capes-and-cowls musical or even investigate a series of grisly something-or-anothers alongside Sherlock Holmes in Victorian England.

Batman has markedly different relationships with every one of those masked heroes. There’s the gadget geekery with an earlier incarnation of the Blue Beetle. With the younger, greener-but-still-blue Beetle, Batman takes on more of a mentor role.

More of a stern paternal figure for Plastic Man, and a rival for Green Arrow. Sometime it might not even be the most pleasant dynamic, such as a decidedly adult Robin who doesn’t feel like he can fully step outside the long shadow that Batman casts.

There are some really unique takes on iconic (and not so iconic!) DC superheroes here, and far and away the standout is Aquaman. This barrel-chested, adventure-loving braggart is my favorite incarnation of the king of the seven seas, and if Aquaman ever scores a cartoon of his own, I hope he looks and acts a lot like this. Oh, and The Brave and the Bold does a spectacular job mining DC’s longboxes for villains too, and along with some of the familiar favorites, you get a chance to boo and hiss at the likes of Kanjar Ro, The Sportsmaster, Kite Man, Gentleman Ghost, Chemo, Calendar ManKing, Crazy Quilt, and Shrapnel. The Brave and the Bold delivers its own versions of Toyman, Vandal Savage, and Libra while it’s at it, the latter of whom has the closest thing to a season arc that the series inches towards.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is every bit as fun and thrilling as you’d expect from a series where every episode’s title ends with an exclamation point. Each installment is fat-packed with action, and the series has a knack for piling it on in ways I never saw coming. Even with as imaginative and off-the-walls as The Brave and the Bold can get, it still sticks to its own internal logic, so the numerous twists, turns, and surprises are all very much earned.

The majority of the episodes have a cold open not related to the remainder of the episode. Despite its episodic nature, if you’re expecting a big storyline in these 26 episodes, you’re going to be pretty disappointed as the extent of an overarching story in the season is the occasional villain that appears more than once, like Starro, but that’s really the only connecting bridge between episodes.

Season 2 contains one of my favorite episodes of not only this particular season, but probably in the entire series, “Chill of the Night!”, which goes back to Batman’s origins as Bruce Wayne learns more about the man who murdered his parents, turning him into the crime-fighter he would become, it’s one of the most well known origin stories in media, ever, but it’s done so well here. Another reason I love this episode is my blinding nostalgia for the voice cast.

The original 1960’s Batman, Adam West, guest stars as Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, while Julie Newmar, who starred opposite of West as Catwoman from the original Batman TV show, plays Batman’s mother, Martha Wayne. My favorite Batman of all time, theatrical or not, Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman from Batman: The Animated Series and various other series/movies/games, voices the Phantom Stranger. Lastly, the baddie of the episode, The Spectre, is voiced by none other than Mark Hamill, the definitive voice of the Joker.

The Episodes in season 3 are wildly imaginative; so much so that purists will probably be put off, at least initially. They range from “Night of the Batmen”, where batman is incapacitated and it is up to Aquaman, Green Arrow, Captain Marvel, and Plastic Man to don the cowl, and keep gotham safe. As weird as that may sound, this episode is pure fun, and a joy to watch. Other stand outs are the never before seen in the states “The Mask of Matches Malone”, “Shadow of the Bat”, “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”, and “Powerless”.

Special mention has to be made of the final episode of the series however, “Mitefall”. In this meta episode, Batmite does a fantastic job breaking down why the series is ending, and the disconnect of the so-called “purists”, whose baseless, closed minded, ignorance eventually doomed this excellent series.

When all is said and done, we received three outstanding, and criminally underrated, seasons and it is a joy to see.

REVIEW: THE BATMAN – SEASON 1-5

Image result for the batman logo

 MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Rino Romano (Get Him To The Greek)
Alastair Duncan (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Danielle Judovits (Naruto)
Evan Sabara (The Polar Express)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Ming-Na Wen (Agents of SHIELD)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Jesse Corti (Bringing Down The House)
Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files)
Adam West (Batman 60s)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Joaquim de Almeida (Fast & Furious 5)
Amanda Anka (Lost Highway)
Diedrich Bader (Batman: TBATB)
Jeff Bennett (Porco Rosso)
Victor Brandt (The Head Mistress)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Piera Coppola (Phineas and Ferb)
Jim Cummings (Ben 10)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
Grey DeLisle (Danny Phantom)
Jack DeSena (JLA Adventures)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Greg Ellis (Dr. Dolittle 5)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Dave Foley (Monkeybone)
Will Friedle (Batman Beyond)
Gina Gershon (Bound)
Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
Louis Gossett Jr. (Enemy Mine)
Kevin Grevioux (Cradle 2 The Grave)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Chris Hardwick (Halloween II)
Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket)
Tom Kenny (The Powerpuff Girls)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Lex Lang (Power Rangers Turbo)
Wallace Langham (Daddy Day Care)
John Larroquette (Chuck)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Ian Abercromdie (Birds of Prey)
Kellie Martin (Army Wives)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)
Dermot Mulroney (New Girl)
George Newbern (Justice League)
Jerry O’ Connell (Superman/Shazam)
Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
James Remar (The Vampire Diaries)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Allison Mack (Smallville)
Charlie Schlatter (Batman Unlimited)
Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice)
Hynden Walch (Teen Titans)
Patrick Warburton (Family Guy)
Gwendoline Yeo (Vacancy 2)

 

It would be an impossible task to live up to “Batman: The Animated Series” and its various later incarnations. Not only has the series, which ran throughout the 1990s, been hailed by fans as the definitive representation of the Dark Knight, but it also ranks among the very best television series ever aired.

So when the folks at Warner Bros. Animation decided to put together an all-new Batman series to tie in with the impending release of “Batman Begins,” they made the daring but ultimately wise choice of completely revamping the world of Bruce Wayne, at least in terms of style and presentation. “The Batman,” which debuted in September 2004 on the Kids WB!, played out as something of a “Young Batman Adventures,” with the episodes focusing on the Dark Knight’s earliest years as a superhero. The deep, raspy voice of Kevin Conroy (who took the lead role in the 1990s series, and who still voices Batman on Cartoon Network’s “Justice League”) was replaced with Rino Romano, a thirtysomething voiceover veteran who sounds like he’s in his early twenties. Commissioner Gordon is nowhere to be seen; instead, we get two young detectives who are always on Batman’s trail – and in a nifty twist, one of them is Bruce Wayne’s best friend. Robin is also absent, Bruce has yet to get a handle on how to be Batman and run Wayne Industries, and the Rogues Gallery of villains are only beginning to emerge.

The most notable change is the stylistic choice to loosen up the storytelling, with a far heavier focus here on action and fantasy. “The Batman” is above all else a series that skews younger than its predecessors; taking a cue from the success of anime in grade schools across the nation, the series’ producers push the action sequences above all else. In some episodes, fight scenes and chases take up an entire third, or more, of the running time.

Accent is also placed on gadgets (Batman’s “Bat Wave” is a pre-Bat Signal pager-like device that flashes when crime’s afoot), alternate costumes (Batman faces off against Mr. Freeze in a souped-up arctic gear Batsuit), and anything else that might translate well into toy sales. Which is neat for the kids, but it takes up screen time, forcing into the background the character development and intelligent drama that made the older series such a hit with fans of all ages. Since all this tinkering was taking place, the producers felt that now would be a perfect time to also revamp the famous villains. The Joker is now a big guy, far more athletic than we’ve ever seen him before, his bare feet allowing him to climb and kick with ease. The Penguin is still short, birdlike, and obnoxious, but this time, he’s a kung fu expert with two silent female assassins (with scissor-like blades on their fingers) at his side. Mr. Freeze, not a scientist but a petty thief, now shoots ice from his hands – no ice gun is necessary.

These changes work for the tone of the series,  I’ve come to like the series. Now knowing what to expect has helped with the adjustment. Yes, it still has its many problems – mainly, most of the villain revamps come off as too silly (and the writers rely on the Joker and Penguin way too much in the early episodes) – but it also has so much going for it. For starters, the animation is breathtaking, the combination of influences (the series borrows as much from the sleek 1990s cartoons as it does from recent anime) resulting in a eye-popping visual style that’s a true joy to watch. And as with its predecessor, “The Batman” relies on a healthy dose of impressive guest stars, including Tom Kenny, Gina Gershon, Peter MacNicol, Clancy Brown, Jason Marsden, Udo Kier, Edie McClurg, Glenn Shadix, Fred Willard, Dan Castellaneta, John Di Maggio, and yes, even Adam West, who stars here as the mayor of Gotham City. Combine this with a top notch regular cast and you’ve got a series that matches Warner Brothers’ usual high level of quality.

With this season, the producers opted to play mix-and-match with baddies: Catwoman and Ragdoll, Catwoman and Penguin, Penguin and Man-Bat, Penguin and Joker, Penguin and Joker and Riddler, Mr. Freeze and Firefly.  The Catwoman episodes work much better; the series’ take on the Selina Kyle character is as refreshing as has ever been in the decades of Batman tales. She’s one of the few multifaceted characters in this uncomplicated series, working somewhere between heroine and villainess, assisted by clever writing and a commendable vocal performance from Gina Gershon.

Other episodes manage to shake the series’ problems and find a sturdy balance between fast-paced action and inventive plotting. The introductory adventure with the Riddler (here designed as some sort of Marilyn Manson wannabe) makes for a rollicking quest; an episode that takes Batman literally into the mind of the Joker allows for a fresh take on some overly well-worn cartoon material; a sinister Halloween tale about “swamp zombie” Solomon Grundy’s mythic return makes for ripping holiday viewing. These episodes all show the grand potential of this series. Consider the season’s best episode, “Meltdown,” which provides a return for Clay Face, last seen in season one’s finale. There’s a lot that happens in this episode character-wise, all of it both thrilling and quite emotionally touching.

In order to make the show more friendly to the notion of reruns, the producers avoid any serious episode-to-episode continuity. Instead, we see ideas that slowly grow – Detective Bennett’s evolution as a character in season one (and slightly in season two), Detective Yin’s secret partnership with Batman in season two – in tiny chunks over the course of a dozen or so episodes. The good news is that these seemingly unimportant arcs do get a payoff in the season finales. In its favor, the series does showcase some incredible animation; “The Batman” remains a genuine treat for the eyes.

The Batman” went through plenty of growing pains for its third season. Dropped without explanation from the story was Detective Ellen Yin, who had been working toward becoming a new sidekick of sorts to the Dark Knight (actress Ming-Na had become unavailable to return to the series); in her place, we have the arrival of Batgirl, whose presence takes the series in a whole new direction.

It’s something of a mini-almost-sorta reboot as a result. There’s a new opening sequence, with The Edge’s twangy theme song replaced by a crunchy surf-rock tune from Andy Sturmer, who also wrote the “Teen Titans” theme. That series’ popularity obviously had an influence on this new season, as Batgirl’s wide-eyed character design is similar to the heroes of the Cartoon Network series. In addition, the Gotham landscape is now slightly more abstract, most notably in the swirling red and purple skies above. An entire episode is designed to showcase an all-new Batmobile. Finally, season-long story arcs have been toned down, delivered on a smaller scale, with Dr. Hugo Strange’s ongoing manipulations from behind the walls of Arkham Asylum not carrying the full weight of, say, the Clayface and Ellen Yin storylines of previous seasons. Even Batman’s gradual acceptance of a sidekick is something of a restrained arc.


The most obvious adjustment is that Batgirl is introduced before Robin (who would not appear in the series until season four). This comes with its share of awkwardness, not because the deviation from Batman mythology (the retooling plays quite well, actually), but because Commissioner Gordon was just introduced in the series two finale. We never get a chance to settle in with him before he’s thrown into the thick of things, and now here he is with a teenage daughter – a daughter whose co-star status means the Gordons now become a key part of nearly every episode. Yet the series plows ahead with the Gordons at the center and never looks back, allowing for a rather quick adjustment to the change.
The season opens on a very high note, with the excellent two-part saga, “Batgirl Begins,” introducing not only our new heroine, but also Poison Ivy, revamped to be a high school pal of Barbara’s; she’s a young eco-terrorist who gets slimed with nasty plant-growth chemicals. Early episodes that follow manage to revisit old villains – the Penguin, Scarface, Catwoman – while offering new spins, thus keeping stories quite fresh. New baddies are also introduced, most memorably the cybernetic Gearhead (voiced by “Batman Beyond” himself, Will Friedle), whose race car exploits allow the show to provide some thrilling chase sequences, and Cosmo Krank (Patton Oswalt in a deliciously over-the-top turn), a flashy toymaker.

Few animated TV shows have improved as greatly and as rapidly as much as “The Batman.” When the program debuted on the Kids WB! network in 2004, it was a reboot of the franchise, and while repeat viewings did help the show’s more radical changes become acceptable to lifelong fans of the character, it still never quite hit the heights of the 1990s’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” deemed by most as the definitive presentation of the hero.

The season opens with the introduction of Robin, the Boy Wonder. Series producers took a brave risk the season prior by breaking from the continuity of the Batman mythology and bringing in Batgirl as a sidekick first; the official reason given is that Robin was tied up on the “Teen Titans” cartoon, but the switcheroo seems to go beyond that, as it led to a shakeup that helped breathe new life into the franchise.

Perhaps to counterbalance such changes, the season premiere strays very little from the established Robin backstory: young Dick Grayson (seen here at around age 10 or 11, unlike several other incarnations that aged him slightly) is the son of a successful circus act. Here, Dick’s father also runs the circus, so he’s directly responsible for shooing away the thugs that show up one night for a little extortion. Batman arrives to thwart the baddies, but they return to sabotage the trapeze. The Graysons are killed mid-performance, and Bruce Wayne, seeing a parallel with his own history, takes Dick in as a foster son. Dick later discovers the Batcave, dons his old circus outfit, and sets out to capture the mobsters; by episode’s end, he’s properly christened as Robin.

It’s interesting to note that every time this legend is retold, its writers find new ways of infusing some modern day logic into the proceedings. Like Dick’s circus costume, which now comes right off the bat with the familiar “R” crest, only for “Richard,” not “Robin.” He later decides to use “Robin” as his superhero alter ego not in tribute to Robin Hood, or because of the goofy motorcycle helmet design from “Batman Forever,” but simply because Dick’s mom liked that nickname. It adds a bittersweet human touch to the myth that feels so natural, I’m surprised it’s never been used before. (In a nice touch, Kevin Conroy, the voice actor who played Batman in the 1990s, appears as Dick’s father. It’s a wonderful passing-the-torch moment that reminds me of when Adam West showed up on “Batman: The Animated Series” as the Grey Ghost. Also providing guest star voice work this season are Mark Hamill, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ron Perlman, James Remar, Wallace Langham, and Brandon Routh.)

Batgirl is absent from this episode (wisely so – although it’s an excellent story, it’s also pretty cluttered with characters and events). She returns in the follow-up, and there we set the stage for the rest of the season’s tone. The sidekicks spend their time bickering and trying to one-up each other, in pure brother-sister mode. It’s a fun dynamic to the show that allows Batman to remain  his moody self without forcing the series to become overly brooding. A peculiar moment regarding the sidekicks comes late in the season, when Robin pauses in the middle of a dangerous mission to ask Batgirl if she’s afraid. After some fudging between the two, she admits that she is. Not only is this a deeper, more thoughtful character moment than the series would have ever attempted a few years earlier, but it’s a startling moment of character honesty that you rarely get in a children’s adventure.

Over time the show has definitely grown and it’s safe to say that it’s come into its own. Though this may be the final season it’s definitely one of the stronger ones and in the end this is a ride any fan of the character should take. In the previous seasons of The Batman all sorts of things happened that continue to have an impact upon Gotham in this fifth outing. Batgirl was added to the roster during the third season with Dick Grayson as Robin in the fourth. Several familiar villains were brought into the fold as well but most notably the finale of the fourth season featured an alien invasion and the introduction of The Justice League. That’s right where we pick up this time around with Gotham reeling in the aftermath of the alien attack.


Destruction is everywhere and the people are in need of support. Lucky for them Superman comes to town with a massive check from Metropolis but unluckily for Superman Metallo is waiting for his chance to strike. What transpires is a team up between Batman and Superman to take down Lex Luthor who has his eyes set on Gotham. In the meantime Superman falls under Lex’s control thanks to some help from Poison Ivy and kryptonite. Naturally it’s up to Batman and Robin to stop the man of steel and there’s plenty of fighting between the DC legends.

If you have been following the series this marks Superman’s first appearance on the show and you’ll notice a trend that follows throughout this year. The previous season’s introduction of characters such as Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, and Green Lantern fleshes out The Batman’s roster somewhat and really gives is a Justice League feel.

This season is very entertaining even though the focus shifts from Batman and his universe. At this point in The Batman’s run the creative cast definitely had it going on but you can tell that even in the final moments they were experimenting. I see what the producers were aiming to do with this season and for all intents and purposes it is successful.