Created in 1939, Batman is one of the most enduring pop culture icons of the modern world. At times a brutal vigilante, at others a campy crime fighter and most recently a post-modern statement on western civilization, Batman has so many facets but each one is generally regarded as definitive by fans. To some this means that the 1966 Adam West Batman is either an embarrassment or an icon, while others regard the Chris Nolan Batman films as perfection or perversion. as this is the latest in a very long line of animated versions of Batman, there is ample room for the creators to pick and choose how they would like to proceed.
Simon Liu of The Batman, Hulk Vs., and many other animated projects is helming this first computer generated Batman cartoon, one that will definitely divide fans straight away. As it also arrives on the tail of the Young Justice cancellation, it has a very steep uphill climb to earn new viewers. This is a very new take on Batman, a young crime fighter who is in prime physical condition yet still very mortal, something that his faithful butler and bodyguard Alfred Pennyworth is determined to fix. An-soldier (which is surprisingly in canon, for anyone interested), Alfred does his best to keep Bruce Wayne/Batman on his toes, but he has a secret edge… that we’ll get to later.
Professor Pyg and Toad are thankfully not the same distorted and violent characters from Batman and Robin, bit instead hearken back to the Dick Sprang hey day of the 50’s when Batman villains were over the top and bizarre. They drive around in a modified vintage car firing tranquilizers from a blunderbuss at industrialists who threaten ‘the animal world.’
For all its differences and visual changes, Batman still operates from a secret cave outside Gotham City, driving a jet-propelled Batmobile using batarangs and other high tech gear to fight crime. Rather than the faithful boy wonder, Katana is the assistant in this version of the Batman myth. Called into action for an old favor by Alfred, she should add an interesting edge to the series (no pun intended).
The cartoon strangely pays homage to many of Batman’s past mythologies and to DC Comics as well (with the Grant Morrison-created Professor Pyg and Toad kidnapping Simon Stagg from the old Metamorpho comics and Michael ‘Mister Terrific’ Holt also showing up). Pyg and Toad are seeking revenge for the ecological crimes that Gotham’s rich industrialists have incurred. Their punishment is to run the gamut like cornered animals, through a maze filled with booby traps.
Batman must endure the traps laid throughout Pyg and Toad’s fortress as well in his attempt to rescue the prisoners. using his wits and remarkable fighting abilities. Visually, the Batman moves very fluidly. There are several moments where he seems to disappear and re-appear as if by magic, making this one of the more impressive version of the hero in animated form. Newcomer Anthony Ruivivar makes a formidable voice actor for Batman (a role that many believe is owned by Kevin Conroy who voiced the dark knight for many years on the small screen, in direct to dvd films and even in video games).
I cannot say that you will love or hate this latest weekly Batman cartoon as it is so very strange and to be frank the animation style is a major hurdle. The entire episode felt more like a series of cut scenes from a video game ten years old. But that withstanding, I am in full approval of the new direction story wise and the inclusion of obscure and outlandish villains over the standard fare is a bold decision that the production staff should be applauded for.
Watch and judge for yourselves…
In addition to the new Batman, viewers this Saturday were treated to a surprisingly different take on the Amazon Princess.
DC Nation Short Preview; “Wonder Woman”