Announcement

Hello, everyone!

In order to increase my viewership, I will be moving my Beware reviews and future content over here. Right now I’m doing only the reviews, but I plan on doing more content in the future.

As for this blog, I’ll see what I can do. It depends on the future. I probably won’t abandon it without warning, and I have no intention right now, so we’ll see.

Thank you for your support!

Beware the Batman “Allies” Review (spoilers)

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Written by Erin Maher and Kathryn Reindl

Directed by Rick Morales

Gordon continues to antagonize Batman, even after the vigilante brings Tobias Whale to justice. However, when Whale’s right hand man, Phosphorus Rex, takes Barbara hostage, he relies on Batman and his new partner, Katana, to save her.

After the last episode’s wild ride, the story arc takes a breather as the show develops something else: relationships and alliances. Whether they’re Batman and Katana’s newfound partnership, Gordon and Batman’s growing alliance, or even Phosphorus Rex’s respect towards Whale, relationships are a common theme in this episode and some of them even get their due.

Phosphorus Rex is this episode’s villain debut and another Grant Morrison creation. He gets a power upgrade as he is able to generate and control fire, instead of just serving as a distraction for Professor Pyg and his Circus of Strange. He fulfills his role of right-hand man well and his loyalty to Whale is surprising, especially when compared to Silver Monkey’s lack of it towards Lady Shiva. However, his sudden reveal as a metahuman should’ve raised a few eyebrows.

The Ghosts, a gang of criminals roaming The Cauldron, actually make a more notable impression. They are creepy, threatening, and their backstory and overall demeanor makes them more interesting mooks than the ninjas. The Cauldron in general, a decayed and lawless section of the city that evokes No Man’s Land, gives this universe’s Gotham City some flavor and adds to the show’s admirable efforts at worldbuilding.

Batman and Tatsu’s relationship takes a few steps forward as she takes on a domino mask and sword and once again takes the name Katana. This time, she uses the name fighting against the League of Assassins rather than with them. She does well for her first outing, but considering she was a former CIA operative, she acts a bit too reckless at first. Batman being overly condescending also seems off considering how he has fought alongside her plenty of times and has proven to have detective skills, loyalty, and initiative. If Batman found those skills in her and eventually considered her worthy  enough to learn his secret, then why does he expect her to just sit back and help out Alfred in the Batcave?

Batman and Gordon fare better in terms of development. After Barbara is kidnapped by Phosphorus Rex, Gordon swallows his pride and asks Batman for help. He insists it’s only this once, but deep down, he knows Batman is doing more good than harm, even if he bends the law to get results. His desperate attempt to arrest him at the beginning of the episode hints at this. Gordon hounding Batman makes for a new dynamic not usually seen in animation, but the fact that it slowly changes into their typical relationship turns it into a rewarding story. The satisfaction grows when it culminates in the creation of the iconic Bat-Signal. Barbara’s fascination with Batman is also highlighted, and Katana’s appearance only inspires her further to become a crime fighter herself.

All in all, “Allies” takes a break from the League of Assassins story arc to tell a small scale story about Gotham’s underworld. This move spaces out the arc and prevents it from becoming too repetitive or overwhelming. Instead, the episode spends time developing the roster of Batman’s allies. Some sketchy characterization aside, Batman’s support group is better defined by the time the story ends. This is definitely an advantage to him in case the League or any other problems he deals with later in the series start to get out of hand.

Additional Thoughts

  • I guess that one Whale henchman from “Broken” wised up and gave up entirely when faced with Batman. Good on him.
  • The Cauldron actually originates from Garth Ennis’s Hitman series. Considering just how run down and dangerous it is in the show, though, I wouldn’t expect to see Tommy Monaghan or the patrons of Noonan’s at all, particularly as its lawlessness is portrayed for drama rather than comedy.
  • In addition, it’s kind of funny how rundown and uninhabitable this version of the Cauldron is, since it was also portrayed in Batman: Arkham Knight as the location of the GCPD headquarters.
  • The use of Stagg’s weaponry is another building block in the show’s worldbuilding. It’s nice to see some consequences from the events in “Toxic”.

Beware the Batman “Family” Review (spoilers)

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Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

Silver Monkey makes a bold move to take the Soultaker Sword from Tatsu, something that threatens Wayne Manor’s very own status quo. Secrets are revealed, alliances are made, and nothing will remain the same.

Seven episodes in and the show is already into its first, as J. Michael Straczynski would call it, “Wham Episode”. It’s packed with plenty of important revelations and events that change the nature of the show, from finally following on the general premise of Batman working side-by-side with Tatsu, to the appearance of Lady Shiva herself. All while accompanied with some neat action and a well-paced plot that answers a few questions and raises a few more.

First things first, Lady Shiva is formally introduced after her off-screen cameo in “Safe”. She is able to command respect from the League, even Silver Monkey’s ninjas, and her cold demeanor makes an impression as she takes back her army and has Silver Monkey subdued and Bethany Ravencroft robbed of her soul. She manages to outfight both Batman and Tatsu simultaneously, even in an outfit with with high heels and excessive amount of jewelry that would make it impractical.

The most satisfying aspect of this episode is the fruit from all the seeds planted in the series so far. Besides Shiva’s introduction, the viewers learn that Tatsu was moving around from place to place because she was hiding the sword, and it’s implied she was reluctant to accept Alfred’s offer in “Hunted” because she likely didn’t want him to get in harm’s way. Silver Monkey also betrays Shiva, as it was hinted in “Safe”, though he ultimately fails. Batman is also able to deduce Bethanie was working with the League and trying to seduce and betray him for the Soultaker. This was hinted by finding her Argus key in “Secrets”. Finally, Batman, revealing himself as Bruce to Tatsu, tells her that she passed “the final test”, a callback to “Tests”. It’s not exactly said what he was looking for in this one, but it’s most likely her instinct to do the right thing and try to save Bruce instead of just running away with the sword when she gets the chance.

The ending of the show reveals Bruce’s whole plan to weaken the League. Beyond his discovery of the key and his “dismissal” of Tatsu and Alfred, there aren’t a lot of hints to his overall plot. It gave enough to make it seem sense, but it didn’t reveal enough to give away the surprise. It could be argued that his testing of Tatsu was just as much of a test of loyalty than character and skill. After all, a possible League of Assassins agent would be a huge liability. Now that she has proven herself on all aspects, she is worthy enough to be in on Batman’s secret and maybe even fight alongside him.

The episode’s direction and structure are also to be praised. While it still has some quiet moments like Bruce and Bethanie’s date, they’re spliced evenly with some of the more action heavy scenes. Every minute is economically used and nothing drags, making it an exciting episode from beginning to end.

One weak point in the episode is how media-res is used at the beginning. These openings usually work when something shocking happens out-of-nowhere that would encourage the viewer to keep watching for context. The opening only features Batman and Tatsu fighting ninjas before Silver Monkey appears. This scenario has been done before in the show, so it isn’t as exciting to see. It would’ve had more impact if the episode started with Silver Monkey shooting Bruce with the crossbow, since that would have been surprising enough to seek out an answer behind such scene.

“Family” is a terrific episode that changes the status quo. Even though Tatsu lost the Soultaker to Lady Shiva and the League, she is officially part of Batman’s crime fighting life. With some focused structure, entertaining action, and rewarding pay off, it truly feels like the beginning of a larger story.

Additional Thoughts

  • Bethanie becomes the show’s first present-time victim of the Soultaker Sword. Yes, Shiva says she’s not dead yet, but considering how gruesome the empty corpse is, and how Batman and Tatsu are forced to leave the body in the League’s custody, it’s safe to say she won’t be coming back.
  • Pay attention to the way Bruce gets shot. You will be quizzed on it later.
  • Bruce, those were some questions. Was Argus just a cover for the League? Or are they both different organizations
  • Now that I think about it, Argus sent Bruce that invitation in “Hunted” before Tatsu even brought the Soultaker. Was Argus trying to genuinely recruit Bruce before it tried to use him as leverage?
  • Despite popular belief, Alfred doesn’t actually fire guns or weapons often. So the rare time he does, it leaves quite an impression. “THAT rocket.”

Beware the Batman: “Toxic” Review (spoilers)

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Written by Erin Maher and Kathryn Reindl

Directed by Curt Geda

Security guard Rex Mason accidentally inhales a dangerous gas that turns him into the rampaging Metamorpho, a monster that can manipulate the elements at will. Batman must stop his wrath while at the same time investigating foul play in Mason’s transformation.

After some nods to the greater DC universe, the first non-Batman hero finally appears in Metamorpho. However, the story uses him as a tragic antagonist that goes on rampage. His brain is adjusting to his sudden transformation, so as a result, he lashes out. But when Metamorpho starts regaining control, he finds out Simon Stagg, his lover Sapphire’s father, was the one responsible for his fate and deliberately hunts him down. Metamorpho is an interesting enough character who is not really a villain, but definitely someone Batman needs to stop. Even Humpty delighted a bit too much in his revenge, so Metamorpho was refreshing for an antagonist. His voice acting is heart-rending and having his speech become completely coherent in his final scene makes it poignant.

As mentioned, the real villain is Simon, who sets Rex up to be doused by the Metamorpho chemicals to either use him as a human subject test or to kill him. Either way, he’d be separated from his precious daughter. His greed and ruthlessness was already characterized from his appearance in “Hunted”, so the reveal is not a surprise. The most amusing part comes from Batman not even bothering to hide his disgust and contempt of Simon. Those feelings are perhaps even stronger than with the last episode’s unsympathetic victim, Whale.

Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne, has a small subplot this time as he begins to date Bethany Ravencroft, the therapist from “Secrets” he suspected to be Magpie. It’s not anything amazing, but it does show more of him as Bruce Wayne. It was also quite interesting that he’s not portrayed as the playboy he usually is. He’s not incompetent with women, but he can also get flustered. The audience is also reminded of his recklessness in a brief scene where he and Alfred buy bovine glands to reduce his ability to sleep. It’s a small manifestation of his recklessness that hides behind his image of control and perfection established in “Secrets” and “Safe”.

This is the only episode in which Tatsu is completely absent. She’s apparently settling Jason Burr into his new lab after nearly being nabbed by ninjas. It would’ve been great to see Tatsu’s relationship with Jason organically develop, but there’s only so much time allotted to each plot, so it’s understandable.

While one of this show’s usual criticisms centers around its use of CGI and art style, they are actually one of the strongest points in this episode. Metamorpho’s powers are well-displayed and are very effective when it came to variety. The mix-matched textures on Metamorpho are also a great touch that makes him feel more authentic. His “messy” design is also an improvement, since his skin patterns usually come off as too symmetric and tidy for someone who is supposed to be a freak.

The highlight of the episode was Metamorpho’s final scene with Sapphire. Again, him being able to speak coherently worked well in building up to this scene. He asks if she still loves him as he is today, and she flat out says no. Usually these type of stories have a “love conquers all” ending with the love interest accepting the beastly or disfigured tragic figure. However, her love isn’t strong enough to accept that. It felt more realistic to see, as Sapphire doesn’t seem happy about the decision and it’s understandable due to being placed on the spot. But it also showed that she wasn’t the perfect angel Metamorpho was seeking either.

The one sticking point is the dialogue between Rex and Sapphire in the beginning of the episode. The exposition is laid on a bit thick and it sounds unnatural compared to the conversations throughout the rest of the episode.

“Toxic” tells the tragic tale of Metamorpho and is essentially the first DC “team-up” the show has, even though it consists mostly of Batman stopping Metamorpho’s actions. This type of story has been told before, but the strong execution of the voice acting and special effects, as well as the conclusion of the doomed romance and a Bruce Wayne sub-plot, make this episode worth a watch.

Additional Thoughts

  • Yes, this story is very similar to the one told in a two-parter from Justice League. To be honest, I always preferred this one since it didn’t drag the story in two parts and it didn’t have the creepy incest subtext from Simon.
  • “I’ll keep you bovine glands on ice”. Gee, thanks Alfred!
  • You’d think Simon would’ve permanently trashed that incriminating video footage from his computer instead of just putting in on the Recycle Bin.
  • Katana and Metamorpho on the same show? Hmmm…

Beware the Batman: “Broken” Review (spoilers)

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Written by Michael Ryan

Directed by Rick Morales

Batman investigates the disappearances and crimes orchestrated by Humpty Dumpty. He races to prevent him from capturing his next victim. Elsewhere, Tatsu misplaces the Soultaker Sword after hiding it from Silver Monkey.

After the exciting, action-packed previous episode, the follow up is a slow-paced adventure focused more on detective work and unveiling a mystery. It works very well, with an interesting take on yet another obscure Arkhamite, Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty, far from the pacifistic patient seen in the comics, is now a mad genius that kidnaps the people that he feels have wronged him and places them in explosive toys. With an unsettling appearance, child-like mannerisms, and a penchant for nursery-themed chaos, Humpty is a memorable villain. Just as Batman fights for justice, Humpty fights for revenge. He is equally dangerous and sympathetic, which makes him an unpredictable threat. His final scene where he makes his getaway, but tricks Batman into believing he would jump from the tower was also chilling. Matt L. Jones provides his voice, and adds a very creepy, yet innocent tone to him.

Tobias Whale also makes his show debut, his name shown in a previous episode and even appearing in the comic book tie-in before. He fills the role of the victimized crime boss quite well. Though his appearance begs the question of whether or not there’s a Black Lightning to oppose him.

Batman shows more of his detective work in this episode by tracking Humpty down with hints and computer work. Lieutenant Gordon is also involved and even though they don’t work together to solve the case, this could be considered their first team-up. Batman consults him for the connection between the victims and Gordon is later saved by Batman when he becomes a target. It’s not much, but it’s the closest they’ll get before they inevitably become partners.

Tatsu takes charge of the subplot as she tries to find the Soultaker Sword that she hid in “Safe”. Alfred, now healed from his injury, shows her where he hid it and the fact that he knows about it. The viewers are treated to some necessary exposition about the origins of the Soultaker and what it can do. It was a wise decision to immediately address the artifact since last episode didn’t provide too many details about it. The namedrop of Ra’s al Ghul also demonstrates that the show isn’t afraid to break its own premise and will acknowledge or even introduce some of Batman’s more famous rogues down the line.

The highlight of the episode is Batman’s approach to Humpty near the end. He knows he is dangerous and needs to be stopped. However, he also tries to reason with him and appeals to his former self by calling him his real name. It’s a small moment, but it shows how human this version of Batman is by first using his “villain nickname”, then correcting himself to appeal to Humphrey. Batman ultimately fails, but just like with Magpie, he displays a merciful side that is interested in reform instead of just prevention of crimes.

“Broken” is another strong tale that progresses the Soultaker Sword plot in the background while serving a classic Batman story as the main course. Between a more empathetic Batman, a creepy but sympathetic villain, a decent mystery, and  a pseudo Batman/Gordon partnership, there are plenty of strong pieces that are put together into a great episode.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Tobias Whale was previously hinted in the news ticker at the end of “Hunted”. Keep an eye on that when news reports show up, as they reveal some key characters before they show up.
  • Also keep the “castle” where the final battle takes place in mind. We’ll get back to that.
  • I liked the nods to Humpty’s comic book origin. If one can assume those events transpired the same way, then Humpty was unhinged even before the assassination attempts.
  • District Attorney Marion Grange? Was this referring to her role in Humpty’s case? Or was she the actual DA during this time?
  • Batman’s “corpulent tick” line to Whale felt like it could’ve been performed by Adam West or Diedrich Bader’s Batman and wouldn’t feel out of place at all.
  • That being said, the Batcomputer has the best line of the episode. “A wall”.

 

Beware the Batman: “Safe” Review (spoilers)

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Written by Mark Banker

Directed by Sam Liu

Batman, Tatsu, and Alfred must keep a scientist named Jason Burr safe from the League of Assassins, who want to abuse his revolutionary technology for their own ends. Along the way, Tatsu’s past begins to haunt her.

This episode finally places Tatsu on the spotlight as we see her in action and facing off against Silver Monkey and a few ninjas from the League of Assassins. Not only do we see her take part in the fight scenes and even team up with Batman, but we learn more about her contrasting morality to him by being wiling to kill when she gets the chance. It’s not a significant surprise, as we can assume from her background in the CIA and apparently in the League that she has killed before. It sets up an interesting dynamic with Batman for when they actually partner up and also acknowledges the implications of her using a katana while fighting crime with a non-lethal hero like him.

She also gains a “love interest” in Burr, whom they’re trying to keep safe inside Wayne Manor from Silver Monkey. He develops a crush as she tries to protect her, and it seems unrequited for the most part. She smiles at a couple of his jokes but beyond that, she switches from being strictly professional to rightfully irritated. Burr comes off as too pushy to cheer for, but at least a fun, non-Shaggy performance by Matthew Lillard remedies that a bit.

Silver Monkey makes a stronger impression as one of the major operatives of the League. He’s ruthless, professional, and has a flexible sense of honor he strangely sticks to. He sports one of the more successful redesigns in the show, particularly when it comes to his creepy mask. His conversations with Lady Shiva are also the first hint of a larger story arc forming, which is a nice refresher from the Villain of the Week plots.

Batman doesn’t do as much beyond his interactions with Tatsu and taking care of ninjas in bikes, but his arrival to Wayne Manor is a great moment, particularly with the Bat-Computer predicting his probability to break into the house alive and Batman stating that he needs to get a new security system after that. It’s a good display of Batman’s arrogance and perfectionism. Alfred also finally fires a gun after four episodes in quite a memorable moment. It feels appropriate and organic for him to do so. It’s better than the panic that was unleashed when the show was unveiled and Alfred was revealed as a gunslinger.

The action scenes are memorable and fast paced. The assault in Wayne Manor is a great set-piece  that surprisingly hasn’t been used much in other Batman tales. It makes sense for a billionaire like Bruce Wayne to create a security system surrounding his home, and it was used to great effect.

“Safe” is a very strong episode that features non-stop, exciting action while establishing the character relationship between Batman and Tatsu before they officially partner up. Add in a threatening villain and the promise of a larger, overarching threat and it becomes the best episode of the series so far.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Lady Shiva’s ending scene, particularly the white spotlight and her lack of concern about the mission going awry, reminds me a lot of Young Justice‘s usual end scenes with the Light. Thankfully, we didn’t get any flak about “JUST AS PLANNED/VILLAIN SUE!!!” with this as the latter series did.
  • Speaking of those scenes, Silver Monkey totally killed that ninja, right? You can tell by the way they’re dragging him out. It’s a subtle way to have on-screen deaths on the show. Glad it can still sneak moments like that considering the gun situation.
  • “He’s not my type.” Bruce, if you were trying to joke, why did you make it sound more flirty than intended?
  • Alfred looks so much better with a bowler hat. He should rock that more often.
  • “You’re never completely safe.” Sheesh, way to make one paranoid.
  • Pay attention to Batman’s motorcycle chase with the ninjas for the always-reliable Wilhelm Scream.