Beware the Batman: “Alone” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on August 21, 2016)

Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Rick Morales

Deathstroke takes Alfred hostage, luring Batman to a final showdown in the Batcave. Katana recruits some unexpected help for the dangerous situation. Harvey Dent embraces his true nature as Two-Face and betrays Anarky.

The grand finale is here! Batman and Deathstroke get caught in a helicopter crash! Katana gets thrown off! Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon are KO’d and Anarky is MIA. How will it all end?

Dark Mirror

Being away from Bruce Wayne for so long has made Batman slip a bit, as he chooses to pursue Deathstroke by himself, even though it’s an obvious trap. It feels like a small step-back from his development before, but he’s only human, and they all relapse back to their old habits. The dynamic between him, Alfred, and Deathstroke is the heart of the story and it has some emotional bits, such as when Batman rescues the burning portrait of his parents. At the very least, he comes to appreciate his allies both and new, and even makes a moral objection to Deathstroke’s final fate.

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Katana is the true MVP of the episode, however. Despite Batman’s stubborn insistence on going alone into Deathstroke’s trap, she contacts Oracle for assistance, and later recruits Metamorpho and Man-Bat for help. She basically creates the show’s version of the Outsiders, who end up helping him with the bombs that Deathstroke has spread throughout the Batcave and makes Batman realize that he doesn’t have to fight crime alone. Her role is understated, but important, to the point where her bizarre and unexplained recovery from the previous’s episode cliffhanger can be forgiven.

Deathstroke’s endgame unfolds as he finally confronts Alfred and intends to make him and Bruce suffer for his perceived injustice. Deathstroke has proven to be a formidable foe, and despite his scope being smaller than Ra’s al Ghul’s, he is a more personal villain. Despite his impressive plans, however, he is truly a raging, jealous brat throwing a tantrum, which is shown when Alfred tells him off on why he chose Bruce as a surrogate son. By the end, he loses his eye in a somewhat gruesome scene, but it’s not the only loss of the night.

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Double-Cross

Harvey Dent loses something as well: his mind. After going down a more (blatantly) villainous path by teaming up with Anarky to strike back at those that have wronged him, he betrays and tries to kill him in cold blood. While Dent was a more political villain, it’s still shocking to see him sink to new lows now that he has nothing to lose. Compare his last scene, mocking James Gordon for being such a “boy scout,” to his introduction, where he insists no one should break the law, not even Batman. Gordon being the last person he confronts is quite meaningful, as it shows how the show’s version of Dent is a foil to the commissioner. They are both lawmen that once opposed Batman. However, Gordon did it out of genuine respect of the law, while Dent only did to further his political ambitions. Now one is a valuable ally of the Dark Knight, while the other is on his way of becoming a deranged villain.

Anarky, in his final appearance, is mostly victimized by Dent. However, he gets the honor of dubbing him “Two-Face” before making an escape. This is honestly the biggest impact he’s had in the show as a supposed Big Bad. Most of his individual schemes were foiled by the end of their episodes. He returned Ra’s al Ghul’s body to the League of Assassins like nothing happened. He “hired” Deathstroke even though the assassin was already in Gotham to settle a personal score. Dent was seeking revenge even before Anarky entered the equation. There’s likely a bigger purpose to his character and his seemingly lack of impact in the greater scheme of things, but due to the show’s lack of renewal, it will remain unanswered.

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Team Work

Besides the resolution to last episode’s cliffhanger, one other weak spot that stands out and has caused some controversy is the solution to Deathstroke’s dilemma: he knows Bruce’s secret, so Metamorpho and Man-Bat use a ZIP compound created by the latter to erase his memory. Considering Metamorpho’s power-set, there’s nothing unbelievable or ridiculous about him doing so, and it’s a clever use of the duo’s specialties. However, it does come off as too convenient and quick of a solution, so the sudden death of tension can be a bit off-putting.

The amount of positives, however, outnumber these flaws. The conclusion still resolves most of the story arcs. The teamwork between Katana, Alfred, Oracle, Metamorpho, and Man-Bat is rewarding to see, and so is Batman’s realization to work in a team. The teased storylines look promising and they leave the characters on a bittersweet note, with Batman being part of team, but with his reputation still in ruins and Bruce Wayne still believed dead.

Farewell

Overall, it’s a strong finale for not just this story arc, but the series in general. Batman ending up with a strong network of allies resolves his character arc set up since the first episode. While there are still a few lingering threads (Bruce/Batman’s fate, Anarky’s endgame, Two-Face on the loose, Outsiders, etc.) it’s still satisfying.

From the moment Beware the Batman was announced, I was optimistic due to the strong previous work from the announced showrunners (Mitch Watson and Glen Murakami) and the desire to get away from the usual suspects in Batman’s Rogues Gallery. As much as I loved Batman’s usual cast of villains, I was looking forward to something new. The focus on a more vulnerable Batman was refreshing, as was the greater use of detective work. This show managed to create a new Batman world that was different enough to stand out while still being welcoming to long-time fans. Perhaps the greatest innovation this show was brought was not the use of CGI, the “gun-toting” Alfred, or the obscure villains, but the use of long-term story arcs and strong continuity in a Batman animated show.

Despite the reception this show has received, I hope that later years bring more appreciation to it. I want to thank everyone in the cast and crew for creating an innovative Batman experience. I also want to thank all of my readers. You have kept me motivated to continue this labor of love to the very end.

Additional Thoughts

  • According to the SDCC 2013 panel, there was something near the end of the season that pushed the boundaries of the censors. I’m wondering if Deathstroke’s eye loss is this.
  • Apparently a concept design for Two-Face was made, even though the show was never renewed. At least it was nice to know the crew had some ideas already in mind for him.
  • Anarky’s chess set is pretty sweet, and if this show had any merchandise, I would get it in a heartbeat. However, the fact that Barbara is among the game pieces has some unsettling implications. Does Anarky know of Barbara’s double-life as Oracle?
  • Yes, everything regarding the ZIP compound and the PKM-Zeta is based on real-life science, as most scientific elements in the show are. Look it up.
  • Despite Dent never getting any of his Two-Face trademarks besides his unseen, disfigured face, there are some numerical motifs present: he premieres in the second arc of the season, is disfigured in the last two episodes of the season, is burnt after interfering in an encounter involving two Batmen, is carrying two guns with him, and he would’ve become a full-blown villain in season two.
  • After seeing how the plot in this three-parter has unfolded, it’s worth checking out “Nexus” again to see all of the similarities and even some foreshadowing.
  • I’m curious as to how Alfred’s actions led to Slade losing his family.
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Beware the Batman: “Twist” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on August 15, 2016)

Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

Bruce Wayne continues to pretend he’s dead as Batman, Katana, and Alfred investigate Dane Lisslow’s involvement in the fake Batman plot. Meanwhile, a vengeful Harvey Dent pursues his enemies with the help of Anarky.

The second part of the trilogy focuses on unraveling the mystery behind Dane Lisslow, the Bad Batman, and Deathstroke, while setting the stage for the final confrontation. Does it manage to reveal plenty of information while moving along the story and providing some sweet action?

Batman finally manages to figure out the truth behind the recent plot against him. While the exposition interlaced with flashbacks runs a bit long, it is also the culmination of the focus on him as a detective. While he has solved plenty of mysteries in the past, they all pale compared to this one. Considering he’s being forced to sacrifice being Bruce Wayne for the time being, he shows a tremendous amount of restraint, particularly during the final ambush by the SCU. The one drawback of this is that, once again, we don’t see any hint of surprise or anger in him over the fact that Bruce was betrayed.

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The Prodigal Son

Deathstroke is revealed to have been both the fake Batman and Dane Lisslow in an elaborate scheme to make Batman suffer. Even more than that, Deathstroke was also Slade Wilson, Alfred’s estranged protege turned vengeful mercenary. This new backstory is a detour from the character’s regular backstory, but it’s not like that’s ever been portrayed outside the comics. It makes him an effective foil to Batman and works as a direct antagonist to both him and Alfred, just as Ra’s was one to Katana and Alfred. It also combines his common portrayals as an assassin and as a mastermind perfectly.

Alfred plays a vital role in this backstory, as he is revealed to have been Slade’s mentor and father figure in his MI6 days, before he was forced to have Slade burned out of the CIA for his dangerous behavior. The fact that Slade was lured to Gotham to get his revenge due to Alfred’s attempt to make amends during his time away is devastating. Sadly, Katana doesn’t really have a huge role in this episode beyond listening to exposition and being on the receiving end of a genuinely intriguing cliffhanger. Curiously, as shown in “Epitaph”, she was the one who partially solved the mystery ahead of everyone else by suggesting the entire scheme was orchestrated by one man.

Face-Off

Harvey Dent has changed since being caught in the blast during the last episode. With his political career ruined and his face disfigured, Dent has lost his mind and is seeking revenge against not just Batman, but everyone he holds responsible for his self-imposed misfortune. He even goes as far as teaming up with Anarky to target his rivals, Jocelyn Kilroy and David Hull, and eventually Batman by turning the SCU into a death squad. His transformation into Two-Face is noticeable, as he’s far more methodological and quiet than the hot-headed Dent was before. Christopher McDonald and veteran voice director Andrea Romano do a terrific job in crafting a Two-Face voice that differs from Dent, but also stands out as one of the few non-guttural performances for the character.

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Everything culminates in a showdown between Batman and Katana against Dent and the SCU in order to draw out Deathstroke. There’s some excellent choreography to be found, but it mostly sets up the duo’s confrontation against Slade. The only weak spot in it is Gordon’s attempt to arrest the villain. We see him quitting his job in protest of Dent’s abuse of the law, but he then just shows up to confront Deathstroke alongside the heroes via helicopter. His stance on Batman and whether or not he’s still a hero is also missed.

There is also a great moment that highlights the advantages of CGI when the camera fixates behind Kilroy and then her POV before she discovers Dent in her apartment. It’s a legitimately unsettling moment that just couldn’t have been pulled off in traditional animation.

“Twist” unfolds the mystery for the viewers, wrapping nearly every episode since Ra’s al Ghul’s defeat into a second arc, where Deathstroke is the man pulling the strings. The episode throws some surprises while answering questions, develops Dent into a full-blown villain, and prepares everything for the season (and series) finale. It’s an exciting episode that in lesser hands would’ve slowed down the pace, but instead, it fits organically in the three-parter and builds up momentum.

Additional Thoughts

  • Number of helicopters brought down by Katana: Three. Sadly, it’s the last one.
  • The Key’s client at the beginning of the episode, Mr. Payne, makes me recall Preston Payne, the third Clayface and one of the more obscure versions. I’ve always been fond of him, and it’s a shame his only appearance outside of comics was a small photo in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • This episode was originally titled “Switch”.
  • Apparently, Hush was considered to be used at one point, but another similar villain was chosen instead. I wonder if said villain was either Deathstroke or Two-Face. Nocturna would’ve been neat, too.
  • I’m honestly surprised how no one was questioning Dent running around in bandages.
  • Considering Katana put her sword through Deathstroke’s seat while he was piloting the chopper, was she pretty much going for the kill? Quite surprised if she was.

Beware the Batman: “Epitaph” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on July 6, 2016)

Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Curt Geda

Just as Harvey Dent’s anti-Batman witch hunt reaches its peak, Bruce Wayne is assassinated in broad daylight…by a gun-toting Batman?

The three-part season finale is here and it starts out with quite a bang, both figuratively and literally near the end. This episode has some major events that end up shaking up the status quo quite a bit as the series ends.

Double Trouble

A shocking opening threatens both Batman and Bruce Wayne as, in the middle of a speech during one of Dent’s rallies, he’s shot by an impostor Batman. Though it’s obvious the doppelganger is a fake (different voice, belt, use of guns), it’s still a surreal scene to watch. Catching Batman off-guard like that was great, as he basically was planning on the spot and had to improvise as a reaction to the impostor’s apparent death. He was able to anticipate Bethany Ravencroft, but but this event completely caught him off-guard. Speaking of which, it was a nice callback to have Bruce’s “death” mirror his other death via crossbow in “Family”.

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The culprit behind the fake Batman attacks is revealed to be Dane Lisslow. Considering his convenient disappearance when the impostor shows up and all the references to him being very similar to Bruce in “Doppelganger”, this isn’t a major surprise. Still, the strength remains in how the mystery unfolds. We learn near the end of the episode that Dane was doing this to save his son, which makes him a bit sympathetic. But Oracle’s reveal that Dane Lisslow doesn’t even exist, as well as Lisslow mentioning that Deathstroke is involved in this entire scheme, complicates the plot and keeps the intrigue high.

True Colors

Harvey Dent seems to be on top of his game now that this impostor has “revealed” Batman’s villainy to the public. In his heightened hubris, his true nature also comes out when he makes Bruce’s death about himself and rushes to chase Batman with the SCU alongside him. His downfall arrives when Batman discover Dent’s illicit weapon stash at the Gotham Armory, and after a fight with Dane, the corrupt District Attorney’s misdeeds literally blow up in his face. There’s a certain bit of irony over the fact that he’s gained his iconic disfigurement over committing his lone act of selflessness: rushing in to save Dane. However, considering the man he is, the incident feels more cathartic than tragic, very different from what Two-Face origins usually feel like.

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The way the episode is structured is efficient in escalating the plot and revealing some twists and turns along the way. There are a couple of neat showdowns along the way. The Katana and “Batman” fight in the beginning is brief, but surreal enough, particularly in how it takes place during the day. The final fight of Batman vs. Batman is also fun.

The only missed opportunity in this episode is the lack of emotion or personal perspective from certain characters concerning these events. Unlike with Ravencroft, Lisslow’s betrayal legitimately catches him by surprise, so his lack of reaction robs it of a punch. Does Commissioner Gordon truly believe that Batman has gone bad yet again or is he just playing his role, hoping that circumstances point otherwise like in “Nexus”? Even Ava grieving Bruce, who was her childhood friend and boyfriend, warranted a bit more attention. But considering the breakneck pace of the episode, it’s understandable why these points weren’t focused on as much.

With the second story arc coming to a conclusion, “Epitaph” sets up the final two episodes properly, providing enough information while still keeping enough details saved for later. Though some emotional touch is missing, the episode is still an explosive way to move through the series’s untimely grand finale.

Additional Thoughts

  • During Bruce and Dane’s conversation in the beginning of the episode, listen carefully to Harvey Dent’s speech, particularly his words about rival Jocelyn Kilroy (remember her?). Quite a lot of open, shameless misogyny thrown in there. Surprisingly, he’s being cheered for it, too. Surely this is something real-life political candidates can’t get away with in real life, right?
  • There are also a couple more of Penguin references. One occurs during the news report, where the news ticker identifies as Oswald Cobblepot as the “Penguin Man”. The second one takes place earlier in the episode, where a cop is reading a newspaper before facing the impostor Batman, as a small headline below Dent’s political ad mentioning the Penguin Man. This one is much harder to read. Again, some neat world-building for an upcoming season that never came to be.
  • Speaking of world-building, how about that history lesson regarding Humpty Dumpty’s castle from “Broken” (which was actually Gotham Armory) ?
  • According to an early production title list, this episode was originally titled “Enigma”. I suppose the title was changed to avoid invoking The Riddler, who is not in this series.
  • The bi-color opening credits are a nice touch, both for the origin of Two-Face and the reveal involving Deathstroke.

Beware the Batman: “Choices” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on June 29, 2016)

Written by Mark Hoffmeier

Directed by Rick Morales

Barbara Gordon goes out on a date! However, she has a rocky night ahead of her when her dad has undercover cops spying on her and Batman and Katana need Oracle when they fall for a trap set by Killer Croc!

Oracle’s Spotlight

We’re near the end of the season, and what better way to spend one of the final episodes of the series than giving Barbara her own story! It’s a rather peculiar choice to take on a story-driven, serious show like this, but it does give her some needed spotlight, considering she’s now working directly with Batman’s team.

While not the most innovative plot, it was neat to see a day in Babs’s life. It gives a unique hook to the episode. Plus, it was refreshing to see a jock like Creed shyly approach a geeky girl like her, when it’s usually the other way around. They also have some decent amount of chemistry. The scene where they’re having lobster and fries and overall messing with the waiter was weird, but in an endearing way.

Less endearing was Gordon as an overbearing, overprotective father. I understand that they live in Gotham and that her life has been in danger before. But the off-duty detectives following Babs and Creed around felt like too much, and the overall subplot didn’t have much pay off beyond a shouting match at the end between Babs and Jim.

 

Tick Tock

Killer Croc is back and continues to be an effective and menacing villain. He uses both his brains and brawn to trap Batman and Katana. Surprisingly, despite all of his charm and affability, he shows his monstrous side and tries to outright eat Barbara. It was teased last time when he bit Batman and remarked he “tasted like chicken”, but it was surprising to see Croc’s portrayal as a cannibal appear in a children’s show. It also makes him the SECOND one after Matatoa. Seeing Croc fall prey to the trope of abandoning the captured heroes and assuming they’d die was disappointing, but at least he stuck around to make sure no rescue attempts were made.

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Batman and Katana don’t really have much to do in this episode beyond being victims and taking care of Croc near the end. They have some nice banter here and there, particularly when Batman goes through the worst possible scenarios and Katana just hopes Alfred makes it on time. Alfred also gets to be more involved, but he probably should’ve worn his mask in front of Killer Croc.

Katana being fully healed and active feels off, considering the injuries she received in “Hero”. After seeing how Alfred took several episodes to heal from an injured foot, this feels odd, specially since Katana isn’t too essential to the plot and it could’ve been done with only Batman being trapped. In addition, Batman mentions that he’s banking on Harvey Dent backing off from them after winning the mayoral election. It’s a smart strategy, but considering he discovered that Dent was working with Anarky and hired Deathstroke, wouldn’t that make him yet another criminal to expose and bring down? It was jarring to see Batman take such a passive approach to Dent, considering he indirectly hurt Katana.

“Choices” provides some solid fun as the last one-off episode before the finale. It provides a look into Barbara juggling her duties as Oracle and her social life with some light-hearted fun. Despite some chinks in the armor here and there, it’s a fun diversion that brings some levity to the season.

Additional Thoughts

  • Is it just me or did that waiter that attended Babs and Creed look like the one from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
  • I was kind of amused at how Creed removing the lobster’s tail was filmed like one of the show’s action scenes. The camera movements are a bit hard to notice, but they’re there.
  • I’m not really understanding Killer Croc’s logic. So he managed to build his own criminal empire within Blackgate. When he left, I thought it would be about revenge against Batman. Yet he’s working with other crooks and robbing banks. Why would he take the chance to start from scratch in Gotham instead of sticking to what he already has? Is Tobias Whale taking over Croc’s Blackgate operation? Just some stuff that made me curious.
  • Being hit by a train and thrown against the wall and only be knocked out? Croc can take a LOT of punishment.
  • How was the theme of choices explored in this episode? The episode synopsis made it seem like sound like Barbara would choose between helping the heroes or continuing her date. But she never hesitated to do so and balanced her roles between Barbara and Oracle.

Beware the Batman: “Hero” Review (spoiler)

(This review was originally posted on June 20, 2016)

Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

Desperate to get rid of Batman after a series of humiliations, Harvey Dent makes an unlikely alliance with Anarky to solve the mutual problem. Anarky suggests bringing in a world-renowned assassin named Deathstroke. However, he proves to be far more than everyone bargained for.

The alliance between Dent and Anarky rears its ugly head in this intense episode. After bringing in an obscure DC hero last week, this time, we’ll see a famous DC villain.

Calm Before the Storm

Both Batman and Bruce Wayne seem to have their stuff together. Batman is back to being his less violent, selfless self, while Bruce Wayne is surrounded by people like Ava and Dane to keep him in check. Deathstroke makes for a surprising intrusion in his life as he outdoes Batman as a “hero”, challenges him in mind and body, and has the last laugh as he drops himself to his seeming death to make him feel guilty. Bruce claims that he knows it wasn’t his fault, but he likely doesn’t feel good about it either.

Deathstroke makes a great impression as one of the strongest villains to appear. He’s just as skilled of a fighter as Batman is, and is just as resourceful and clever. He’s ruthless, and unlike most of the other villains, he’s not afraid of targeting Batman’s allies to get what he wants. The only factor he underestimated was Batman’s compassion and unwillingness to let anyone die. Despite his apparent death, it’s obvious the viewers haven’t seen the last of the enigmatic assassin.

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Slippery Slope

Harvey Dent sinks to new lows as he continues his path towards villainy. His massive ego and desperation has him teaming up with criminals he claims to despise. His two-faced personality is really coming out, but it’s surprising that no one in the media has called him out on his poor decisions and blatant backpedaling. Why did Dent think it was a good idea to pass a guy called Deathstroke around as an official SCU member?

Anarky makes good on his promise to help out Dent in defeating Batman. At this point, he seems to be trying to be a simple catalyst for chaos and is having a blast seeing the aftermath. His role is minor, but very fun, particularly when he’s plays dead and waits for Batman to arrive after Deathstroke turns on him.

This episode has a great balance between plot advancement, characterization for Bruce, and splendid action sequences. We get to see Batman’s feud with the SCU escalate to very dangerous levels, Bruce’s life being expanded on, and Deathstroke being given some fight scenes worthy of his prowess. The fight between Batman and Deathstroke at the foggy sky tram was memorable and it reflects on how the show has grown in terms of storytelling and technology. Compare it to Anarky’s fight scene in the same setting in “Tests”. The recurring theme of heroes, their roles, and perceptions of them by people is also a solid one.

By introducing a very threatening villain, fleshing out the protagonist, raising the stakes of the season’s second main arc, and featuring memorable fight set pieces, “Hero” is yet another strong entry in the series’s second half. It’s a story that pushes Batman to his limits and knocks the story out of its comfort zone as the season finale approaches.

Additional Thoughts

  • Anarky’s refers to Dent and the SCU as a “confederacy of dunces”. This is a direct reference to the 1980 novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. However, the quote by Jonathan Swift that inspired it could be more aptly applied to Batman and his relationship with the SCU and likely Gotham in general: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
  • Number of helicopters brought down by Katana: Two. I’m not counting the one in “Unique”.
  • Tatsu’s awkward date with Dane has her rock out a nice dress. Probably the only change of clothes she’s had in the entire show.
  • Ava’s role helping in helping Katana heal after Deathstroke’s attack makes me wonder if she’s meant to fill in the role Leslie Thompkins usually has in the comics.
  • Seriously, you’d think the public would be more sympathetic to Batman after that “interview” with the news and Dent’s obvious deflecting of the truth. I mean, it’s not like contrarian voters desperately twist the truth to keep supporting their unqualified candidate in the real world, right?

Beware the Batman: “Unique” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on June 9, 2016)

Written by Ivan Cohen

Directed by Curt Geda

Bruce Wayne helps out his old friend, Ava, when she’s targeted by a shady organization called The Council. They seek her as leverage to use against her father, Paul Kirk, who is the international spy known as Manhunter.

Perhaps the least-continuity heavy episode of the series, this is the closest to a full-blown “team-up” episode this show has, as it explores the obscure mythos of Manhunter. No, not the Green Lanterns’ enemy android army. No, not the Martian either.

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Paul Kirk’s inclusion into this universe is a smooth one, as his story involving international espionage and evil organizations fits well with the show’s use of MI6, the CIA, and the League of Assassins. This specific version of Paul is based on the 1970’s reboot of the character by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, who was featured in back-up stories of Batman comics. While Paul himself isn’t too remarkable, his life and story are fun to watch. At the very least, his portrayal is far more respectful to his character than Mark Shaw or Kate Spencer’s outings in other media are to them.

Paul’s daughter, Ava, also adds another dynamic to Bruce Wayne’s life as his childhood friend and love interest. She mostly spends the time as a target to the Council, but her few scenes with Bruce are sweet. After the betrayal of Bethanie Ravencroft and the brainwashing of Jason Burr, it’s refreshing to see a romantic story actually work out.

The Council is mostly represented by its lead scientist, Anatol Mykros, and several inorganic clones of Manhunter. They fulfilled the basic antagonist role, but that’s about it. Despite their lack of presence, however, they’re probably the most largest scale threat Batman and his allies have faced. Even the League of Assassins wasn’t too interested in expanding its takeover beyond Gotham. I wouldn’t have been surprised if, had the show gone forward, the Council would’ve made trouble for Batman again.

 

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Batman mostly takes a backseat to Bruce’s relationship with Ava. More development on Bruce’s persona is always a positive, as he was rather unexplored earlier on. His new relationships with Dane Lisslow, Harvey Dent, and now Ava give him plenty more to do. Though it would’ve been nice if Ava had mentioned what exactly made Bruce “unique” from the other guys, and what attracted her to him in the first place.

Attack of the Clones

It’s been a long time since Alfred wielded guns, so hopefully this episode satisfies his craving. Likewise, this is the only time Katana can get away with slicing foes, even if they’re just inorganic Manhunter clones.

The most striking aspect of the episode is the use of color. Manhunter and his clones’ bright-red suit make a great contrast to the bleak colors in Gotham (not including Pyg and Toad). The flashback featuring Manhunter against the Council’s ninja was particularly gorgeous.

“Unique” is a serviceable adventure that breaks off from the main story arc in order to show off one of the more obscure heroes from the DC Universe. It’s a fun tale that fits well with the show’s penchant for secret spy/sci-fic action. It’s not one of the best, but there’s nothing wrong with a one-off chapter every now and then.

Additional Thoughts

  • This episode was written by Ivan Cohen, whose work includes DC animation’s tie-in comics, particularly Green Lantern: The Animated Series and this show’s. He wrote some of the strongest issues in the latter’s very short run, so it was a pleasant surprise seeing a proper episode written by him.
  • Why was Alfred willing to wear his burglar mask around Paul, but not around Man-Bat in “Doppleganger”?
  • While re-watching this episode, I had recently read the 1980’s Captain Atom run by Cary Bates, Greg Weisman, and Pat Broderick. There were some similarities, mainly featuring a man 20 years away from his era and reuniting with his daughter, who is around the same age. Just a fun similarity.

Beware the Batman: “Doppelganger” Review (spoilers)

(This review was originally published on June 2, 2016)

Written by John Matta and Matt Weinhold

Directed by Rick Morales

Katana is on the trail of Professor Pyg and Mister Toad, who are stealing chemicals for a sinister new plan. Meanwhile, a recuperating Bruce reunites with an old friend, makes new ones, and is haunted by visions of a Man-Bat creature.

This episode is quite busy as it juggles multiple storylines and developments. Does it succeed in doing so while also being entertaining on its own?

Shadow of the Bat

Another iconic Batman character debuts in Kirk Langstrom, AKA Man-Bat. In a twist, Man-Bat, not just Langstrom himself, ends up being an ally to the heroes after being mutated and brainwashed by Pyg and Toad. This is a refreshing take on the character, as he’s either portrayed as a tragic villain, or in the case of The Batman, a full-blown one. Man-Bat as an unlikely hero works, and it also pays tribute to his comic debut, where he tried to use his powers for good before losing control. It also makes him a good candidate for the Outsiders.

Batman also reunites with Alfred, while healing from the physical and mental damage he suffered in the previous episode. Being resentful at Alfred is odd, considering the duo left on relatively good terms back in “Reckoning”. We are also introduced to some fun dynamics to his life as Bruce Wayne as he becomes friends with Harvey Dent and Dane Lisslow. His relationship with Dent has a unique twist, as they are mutually using each other for their own ends, as opposed to their meaningful friendship in Batman: The Animated Series or their mutual animosity in the comics. However, he makes good friends with Lisslow, Dent’s SCU right hand man. They have so much in common, in fact, that Lisslow is arguably the titular “doppelganger”, instead of Man-Bat.

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Katana is left alone to take care of Gotham by herself, and unfortunately, she doesn’t quite measure up to Batman. While I understand that Batman shouldn’t be obsolete in his own, it would’ve been nice to see Katana be more competent as she’s filling in for him. At least Barbara gets to ascend as she takes on the name of Oracle. She’s even getting hand-to-hand fight training from Katana, though it’s unlikely she’ll be donning a mask and costume anytime soon.

Crusaders for Justice?

Professor Pyg and Mister Toad are perhaps at both their most humorous and their darkest. This time, they plan on creating an army of human/animal hybrids they can control with scopolamine. Physically altering people beyond recognition and using drugs to control them? That sounds more in line with Pyg’s modus operandi in the comics. However, Mister Toad wants a “bride” and the duo kidnap women to make him one, in what is a very disturbing scheme once the implications settle in. The fact that they’re barely concerned with animal rights makes it evident that their crusade for animals is nothing but a sham. They’re bored, probably rich psychopaths that use that excuse to go out, dress up as animals (well, Pyg anyway), and wreak havoc. In a way, they almost sound like someone’s negative perception of what Batman and Bruce Wayne are.

This episode is successful in juggling plenty of storylines and plots, but the one resolution that felt flat was Bruce’s return as Batman. Just as he’s hesitating to return to the cape and cowl after his battle with Killer Croc, he suddenly just puts on the costume again and the episode resumes as is. It felt anti-climatic after everything that came before, and Alfred continues to be Batman’s unhealthy crutch. Batman’s return could’ve had a more dramatic impact, or the storyline could’ve been spread to at least another episode. But as is, it’s just too sudden.

“Doppleganger” is a solid follow up from the previous episode that balances plenty of storylines, introduces new characters, and sets up the direction for the rest of the season. However, the resolution to a major story line takes away some of the enjoyment from this episode.

Additional Thoughts

  • Dane Lisslow was previously seen in “Monsters” and even had a minor cameo in “Animal”, but those are easy to miss.
  • Lisslow’s design reminds me a lot of Race Bannon of Jonny Quest fame. I wonder if it was intentional.
  • Man-Bat was spoiled to me very early in an interview with one of the storyboard artists before the show came out, and then again with the solicitation for the fourth issue of the comic tie-in. However, it wasn’t until I read the issue that I found out about his heroic nature. That issue also spoiled Barbara’s promotion to Oracle.
  • Harvey Dent reveals his motive for hounding Batman: He wants to appear tough on crime via the SCU and his quest to have Batman arrested. It raises the question on whether Dent was downplaying his hatred of Batman to avoid embarrassing himself in front of the others or that his self-righteousness is just a role to make himself look better. If it’s the latter, I doubt his indifference towards Batman will last.
  • Mister Toad’s victim resembles Selina Kyle from B:TAS quite a bit. Coincidentally, she was also going to be turned into a cat woman.
  • Once gain, what IS Toad’s deal beyond being a self-described “manphibian”?