'Toon Review - Beware the Batman Season 1, Part 1
When Green Lantern: the Animated Series and Young Justice were brought to an end on Cartoon Network, well, there was a mystery as to what new series would fill the now vacant DC Nation. Given the timing…and the fact that I’m a huge Superman fan…I was hoping that WB animation would commemorate the 75th anniversary with giving the Man of Steel another shot at TV. While Superman: the Animated Series, was well-received and still fondly remembered (and helped to serve as the springboard for the much-lauded Justice League to follow), Superman and the Legion of Superheroes was cut down after its second season…and even now that second season is unavailable on DVD (a rant-worthy topic…but I’m going tangential here…). No, instead WB decided we needed yet another Batman series and thus was born the CG Beware the Batman cartoon.
I’ll be honest, when the first promotional image came out, I can’t say I was a fan of the visual style…but that wasn’t going to stop me from checking out a least an episode or two. Hell, the biggest hurdle in my watching the series (in case you haven’t picked up on it from other articles) was my ever-growing “bat-fatigue”. And while that fatigue remains, I have to admit, I did enjoy the show.
First off, still images can always be deceiving. It’s called “animation”, after all. And yes, seeing the images in motion took that concern away. The choice of using Katana as the sidekick as opposed to the traditional Robin I was pretty ambivalent toward. Making Alfred ex-MI6 was a good move, as it helps to explain Bruce Wayne’s level of training, both physical and mental. The look of the series grew on me pretty quickly…again, images in motion…once you see how they move, the designs become more understandable. Maybe this is sharing too much information (yes, it is…I know that already before I type it!) but I will give big props to whoever designed Magpie. Um…yeah, so moving on.
No, wait, that’s a perfect way to go into the villains chosen for the series, which I like what they did (yeah, I know, me and 5 other people). See, here’s the thing, even with all my bat-fatigue, even I can admit that Batman has one of the best rogue’s galleries ever. There are SOOOO many to choose from and I thought it was fantastic that the powers that be chose to highlight some of the Bat’s lesser known foes. Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad, the aforementioned Magpie, Anarky, Lady Shiva, the League of Assassins and the ultimate big-bad of the series so far, Ra’s al-Ghul are given the spotlight as opposed to yet another run-in with the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, Penguin, Catwoman and so on. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a reason the big name rogues get the spotlight and attention, but this delving into the lesser heard of foes of Batman is what kept me watching from week to week. Hell, if the series were to continue, I’d actually be looking forward to see if they work in Calendar Man!
That leads to the big problem. You see, as of this writing, the show has been officially put on hiatus. Heck, even the last two episodes in this collection weren’t aired! Unofficially, well…Cartoon Network has released their 2014 plans and Beware the Batman was conspicuously absent. With the final episode ending, gasp, surprise, on a cliffhanger, seems a shame that we may not be getting any more. I’m not too worried about that though. With this year being the Bat’s 75th anniversary, I’m sure there will be exposure (and my bat-fatigue will become bat-exhaustion!) and what better exposure than a continuing cartoon? And, let’s face it, the CG Green Lantern Animated Series got a full season of 26 episodes…are they REALLY going to let GL have more than Batman? Come on…
Insert record scratch sound here! Turns out there are indeed more episodes on the way…if you live in New Zealand. Yup, March has seen 4 new episodes of the series over there…so it looks like the Bat will at least tie GL as to having one full season. The question remains, when will we see it state-side?
Okay, back to review mode. I haven’t touched on voices yet, mainly because, well…they’re all fine. Batman sounds like Batman and there’s some change when he switches over to Bruce Wayne…not a lot though. I’d say it’s a good thing Bruce in this show doesn’t go out a whole lot! Alfred, like his appearance and back-story, is much more grizzled here too, the voice more reflective of a working-class Brit as opposed to the “blue-blood” or aristocratic voice he’s had in the past. Then there’s the Bat-Computer. I don’t mind that it talks…that’s fine. The Bat-Computer has mostly always talked, or at least since the days of the SuperFriends. But the fact that it always addresses him as Batman…ugh. I get it, he’s not the only one using the computer, it could just as easily be talking to Katana or Alfred. But Alfred is sitting at the damn thing and I’m not sure Bruce has given Katana access, therefore…who else is going to be talking to it, eh? On top of that…it’s the goddamn Bat-Computer. It’s only going to be talking to one person most of the time…and that’s the goddamn Batman! (Sorry, I had to work that in there at least once…obligatory nerd-jab at Frank Miller over something I haven’t read, yet the internet seems to hate universally.) In some voice highlights, Udo Kier is unrecognizable as Mr. Toad…in what I would think is the highest praise a voice actor can receive. And I absolutely adore the decision to make Professor Pyg sound like Alfred Hitchcock. Sheer genius!
In spite of my Bat-Fatigue (yeah, in the span of writing this review, I’ve decided to capitalize it…it’s getting worse…) I found myself enjoying this series, only to find that it might be potentially pulled out from under me. But with the new episodes airing overseas, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before we see the conclusion state-side as well. I can’t speak highly enough of this series’ willingness to go to places and villains that have been either skimmed over or ignored entirely in Batman’s past animated adventures. The reward for that bravery is likely the current conundrum with Cartoon Network’s lack of support but story-wise I find the new avenues presented to be refreshing. And that gives this very winded Superman-fan a reason for yet another return visit to Gotham City.