Beware the big green dragon on your doorstep.
Despite a good amount of hype, Beware the Batman received dismal ratings when it debuted, and after a few weeks, the network pulled it from its time slot and burned off the remaining episodes with late night and early morning airings. Was it because the show was too different a take on Batman, or was it just everyone feeling superhero fatigue? I can’t say. All I know is that as of this writing, a second season does not appear to be in the bat-cards. Fortunately, we can all enjoy how Batman, Katana and Alfred’s adventures wrap up on this Blu-ray, the second and final volume of Beware the Batman.
Batman (Anthony Riuviar, Third Watch) protects Gotham City from evil, with his ever-growing group of supporters, including his hard-as-nails bodyguard Alfred (J.B. Blanc, R.O.D. The Series), sleek martial artist Katana (Sumalee Montano, Transformers Prime) and teen genius Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong, Ben 10). Together, they face a variety of enemies, such as the mysterious plots of the League of Assassins, and the antics of criminal activist Anarky (Wallace Langham, CSI).
These thirteen episodes wrap up the storylines started in the first volume of Beware the Batman. The show began with a mission to not include the famous villains like the Joker, the Penguin, etc., and instead put the spotlight on lesser-known baddies like Professor Pyg, Magpie, and Humpty Dumpty. In this second half of the season, however, some of the classic villains eventually make appearances. Chief among these is Ra’s Al Ghul, who unites a bunch of the other supercriminals against Batman in an ambitious multi-part episode. Harvey Dent is introduced, and although he has just the one face, his running for mayor on an anti-Batman platform complicates life for ol’ Batty-boy. Standby tough guys Deathstroke and Killer Croc show up as well.
The show tries to find a balance between a younger, more inexperienced Batman, and the darker, ultra-cool Batman. Martial arts fights make up most of the action scenes, and Batman gets roughed up as much as he shows off his cool moves. He does the usual brooding on rooftops and puzzling over clues in front of the Batcomputer, but he’s more open about his friendships with the likes of Alfred and Harvey Dent. This means he can be driven and relentless in his pursuit of crime, but still ?human? enough so that he can be put on the spot and questioned about drive and relentlessness.
The show’s biggest alteration to Bat-mythos has been its treatment of Alfred. This Alfred is not Bruce Wayne’s butler, but his bodyguard, who fights alongside Batman with either his fists or a variety of guns. Basically, it’s Jason Statham as Alfred. While this might bother purists, the places the show’s writers go with the character is interesting. His background is tied into the League of Assassins, as is Katana’s, providing personal stakes for our heroes. Also, Alfred leaves for several episodes in a row, and we see his absence having a negative impact on Batman. Katana, meanwhile, continues to be the humorous one of the group, undercutting serious moments with the occasional deadpan quip.
Another plus for the show is making Barbara Gordon a part-time member of Batman’s team. Some of the show’s most fun moments are Barbara doing the secret identity thing, trying to be an ordinary teenage kid while also being Batman’s personal hacking genius. Like they’ve done with Alfred, the writers have tweaked Barbara’s origin story considerably, but she’s still a fun character, and a nice addition once she more or less joins the regular cast.
Most shows like this will have a main villain — the “big bad” — and an ongoing arc threaded throughout the season. Beware the Batman, however, has two competing season-long arcs, bouncing back and forth between the two, depending on which episode you’re watching. One is the aforementioned plot with Ra’s Al Ghul, with him leading a full-blown assault on Gotham. The other has Harvey Dent arriving on the scene, wanting to bring law and order to Gotham, only to get involved with Anarky. The writers do their best work with the obscure, one-off villains, however. I never would have guessed that a character as cheeseball as Humpty Dumpty would end up be one of the most compelling antagonists in a Batman story, but that’s just what the writers have done, taking this formerly one-joke character and making him equal parts creepy and tragic.
Not all the scripts can be winners. An episode introducing the DC character Manhunter goes so far into wonky sci-fi territory that not only is it impossible to follow the plot, it feels more like something out of Star Wars: The Clone Wars instead of a Batman tale.
The all-CGI animation isn’t up to Arkham City standards, but it works for what it is. The fight scenes are show’s standouts, with characters busting out flashy martial arts moves with fluid smoothness. At other times, the characters are stiff, and Gotham often feels more like empty streets and buildings rather than a thriving city, but these are more nitpicks than hard criticisms. As expected for 2013 CGI, the 1.85:1-framed 1080p HD transfer to disc comes across clean, bright and colorful. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio is no-frills, but dialogue, score, and effects are nonetheless clear. Zero extras.
Beware the Batman will never be remembered as a definitive take on the character, but it’s still a lot of fun. Recommended for those who want their Bat adventures (Batventures?) to have a little less darkness and a little more action and humor.
Not guilty. Because if I find it guilty, Alfred will punch me in the face.