Beware the Batman: “Tests” Review (spoilers)

1389115607155

Written by Jim Krieg

Directed by Curt Geda

Anarky, a criminal mastermind, enhances two common vandals to become formidable threats, forcing Batman to take action. Meanwhile, Bruce subjects Tatsu to a series of bizarre tests.

After the momentum built by the last episode, this installment unfortunately makes some missteps that slow it down. Most of the episode has Batman dealing with Anarky’s unwitting henchmen, Junkyard Dog and Daedelus. They’re not interesting foes by themselves and just appear to be pretentious thugs parading around and wreaking havoc. Some of their dialogue could also get irritating, which could be argued is the intention.

The true main villain of the episode, Anarky, only fares a little better. While he has a solid plan to test out Batman and outsmart him, it’s not as impressive as he believes. The fact that he throws childish tantrums and cares a little too much about Batman’s opinion of him weakens him as a villain as well. Wallace Langham turns in an entertaining performance as him and his leitmotif is VERY catchy.  His design, while not as iconic as his Guy Hawkes-inspired look, works fine to set him up as Batman’s opposite: the white knight to his dark knight. The chess themes are a bit heavy handed, but they are fitting of the relationship between the two. All the tools to make Anarky into a memorable antagonist are there, but they haven’t gelled well so far.

More successful is Bruce and Tatsu’s subplot. While attempting to solve the Anarky case, Bruce leaves behind some hints to test out Tatsu’s intellect and curiosity. It was an impressive display of his intellect as he improvised his hints while simultaneously dealing with the case. It also allows Tatsu to display her skills and have a more active part in the plot. We already see their relationship changing as she starts to respect him a little more, and the glowing sword she hides in the closet reveals she has her own secrets to keep.

Alfred is not given as much to do this time. He mostly helps Batman from behind the scenes and argues with him regarding Tatsu’s worth. His button-mashing scene as he controls the Batmobile was a good bit of fun. This wasn’t mentioned in the last review, but it was a nice touch that he is wearing a cast after his injury from “Hunted”. It’s a small detail, but it does wonders in fleshing out the world and adding continuity in even the smallest forms.

“Tests” moves along Tatsu’s development and introduces a major villain in Anarky. However, there’s not really much else going on with the episode. Some of the steam gained so far is lost due to mostly weak villain introductions and the unsubtle use of chess motifs. Still, some important seeds are planted that could lead to greater stories down the line.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Between Lunkhead, Junkyard Dog, and Daedalus/Doodlebug, I appreciate the use of characters in Batman Arkham Asylum: Living Hell.
  • The Bat-Cycle/Glider that Batman uses reminds me of the outrageous vehicles from Batman: The Brave and the Bold in the best way possible. It’s ridiculous that Mattel couldn’t conceive a toyline when the show already throws out some ideas for it.
  • Anarky in the comics is usually very different in term of characterization. Rather than being obsessed with chaos and destruction, he’s an anti-hero that wants to liberate people and his motivation is far more philosophically complex. While I would’ve liked to see the former, that doesn’t affect the merit of the actual episode and the characters in it.
  • Alfred mentions his service in the Cold War, and it left me wanting for him to go against KGBeast.
  • Seriously, who do I have to talk to to get a soundtrack release for this show? There’s a few themes I’d like to listen to over and over again from Frederik Weidmann’s masterful score.

 

Beware the Batman: “Secrets” review (spoilers)

tumblr_nh1835UrFt1rr0x4wo1_500

Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Rick Morales

Batman is on the trail of Magpie, a deranged thief on a crime spree that could be related to her tragic past. Meanwhile, Lieutenant James Gordon is also hunting both the criminal and the vigilante.

After finally getting the introductions out of the way, we are treated to, well, yet more introductions.We are introduced to Bethany Ravencroft, who acts as a possible suspect in this episode’s case. We learn more about Tatsu and her past with Alfred, which yields  information that is important to both the overall plot of the series and the characters themselves. We also learn more about James Gordon and his opposition to Batman, particularly as it clashes against his daughter Barbara’s enthusiasm towards the vigilante. We’re even treated to a rare moment where we see Gordon do some detective work parallel to Batman to catch Magpie. Considering this show is pre-Gotham, where Gordon is portrayed as a young detective, it’s appreciated to see him being more active as a law enforcement figure.

The main introduction concerns Magpie, another revamped villain from Batman’s large Rogues Gallery. For the most part, she is unchanged from her comic book self, only given a modernized take on her 80’s glam costume and a very tragic twist to her condition. Switching between lust, innocence, and just plain viciousness, she proves to be a fascinating villain. This bird manages to carve herself her own place on Batman’s list of enemies.

Magpie’s duality not only adds to the overall plot of the episode, but also serves as a foil to Batman. The most memorable villains are the ones that contrast the heroes, and Magpie is an excellent example of that. The personality shifts between Magpie and “Cassie” are disturbing to watch, and they demonstrate what would happen if Batman did not keep his personalities in check. This conflict emphasizes just how different “Batman” and “Bruce Wayne” really are, as well as how this could be a problem in the future.

Anthony Ruivivar and Grey Griffin do a great job at differentiating the fluid personas of their characters. The voice acting in this series is one of its strongest points. The voice director is Andrea Romano, a veteran to not just Batman cartoons, but animation in general. JB Blanc gives a warm, fatherly touch to a tougher, rougher version of Alfred, Sumalee Montano brings humanity and wit to Tatsu, and Kurtwood Smith is an inspired choice for Gordon.

This episode is also more impressive in terms of visuals and setting. Miskatonic Psychiatric hospital has plenty of terrifying details that make it a memorable location. The advantages CGI has over traditional animation are shown in smaller touches, such as the effect of Magpie swinging from a lamp.

The only weak point in this episode is the amount of damage Magpie endures. She is mentioned to be incapable of feeling pain, and that would reflect in her taking more punches and enduring longer in fights. However, surviving drops from buildings or impacts from metal cylinders make her seem like a long-lost Kryptonian. Unless the experiments she took part in were supposed to giver her super strength, these feats seem too exaggerated from the information we’re given.

“Secrets” is an excellent continuation from the first episode. It showcases another one of the show’s villains in a fascinating story, while also developing Batman and his several allies. All of these aspects are juggled quite well and expand the universe set up in the premiere. There is no question as to why this was an award-nominated episode.

Additional Thoughts

  • Ravencroft’s desk contains a key with the Argus insignia. The mystery continues.
  • Miskatonic seemed like an appropriate substitute to Arkham Asylum before its closing. Besides the obvious Lovecraftian connection, it also brought to mind Miskatonic University’s appearance in Mitch Watson’s previous show, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. I wonder if Batman ever ran afoul of some meddling kids. Or Harlan Ellison.
  • Speaking of asylums, Arkham’s name can be spotted in Tatsu’s newspaper during the dining room scene. So at least it exists in this universe.
  • To the same effect, the mention of curare brings to mind producer Glen Murakami’s previous show Batman Beyond, even though the poison exists in real life.
  • Neat cameos by Daedalus and Junkyard Dog as the taggers Batman scares off. We’ll see plenty of them next time.

Beware the Batman reviews!

So, for the one or two people still lurking here, remember how I promised back in August that I’d write episode reviews for Beware? Well, real life happened! However, I will have some time starting in March, so expect those to show up. I’ve shared my thoughts on the show before elsewhere on the ‘net and even done a pilot review, but this is sort of a retrospective/review series and a far lengthier one than the stuff I’ve done on tumblr.

There won’t be a set schedule since I’m still writing the first episode review and I don’t know how the year will fare. However, I plan on getting the entire season done before the end of the year! After that, I’ll see what I can do. Maybe Spectacular Spider-Man?

So, thanks for reading this and look out in the future!

Beware the Batman: “Hunted” Review (spoilers)

BTB011

Written by Mitch Watson

Directed by Sam Liu

In series premiere of Beware the Batman, seasoned vigilante Batman goes after Professor Pyg and Mister Toad, two criminals that are targeting some of Gotham City’s millionaires. Meanwhile, Alfred worries about being unable to assist Batman and recruits some unlikely help.

Pilots are often the hardest episodes to create or watch. They have to establish a general premise, characters, tone, setting, and a serviceable episodic plot. Many pilots are not reflective of how the final shows turn out, and there are few that completely hit it out of the park. So, how does “Hunted” fare?

The general plot for this episode is successful, for the most part, in establishing the series. It features many of the promised elements of the series, such as Batman confronting obscure villains like Pyg and Toad, Alfred taking an action role as he helps rescuing the duo’s hostages, and Batman making heavy use of his detective skills to solve the case. These are all mostly well-balanced and appear naturally throughout the episode. The one missing element is Katana. Though we’re introduced to Tatsu Yamashiro, her debut as a superhero is yet to be seen. Considering how busy the episode is, however, this is an advantage, and it opens the possibility of longer-term storytelling.

Batman is well-characterized from the get-go, as we explore his two facets as Bruce Wayne and Batman. His insistence on separating the alter-egos can come off as disturbing, but it really sets him apart from other interpretations. Alfred can also be difficult to adjust to, but his fatherly devotion to Bruce remains, which is arguably the most essential part of him. Pyg and Toad make for amusing enemies. Pyg is more watered down than in the comics and his motivation to protect animal kind is nowhere as memorable, but he works fine as an introductory villain. Toad actually HAS a character, and he works well as Pyg’s more sadistic partner in crime. Tatsu is mostly a non-character, but again, there is a larger story at play with her.

The show has a serious, slightly eerie tone. The main characters and the setting feel very realistic, almost evoking Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. However, that makes cartoonish villains like Pyg and Toad stand out more. While this isn’t displayed too much in this particular episode, their over-the-top crimes eventually come off as more horrifying because of this. The edited, censored guns can also be distracting, but there’s no sense in blaming the show for something out of producers’ control.

Unfortunately, most of the setting is rather sterile and bland. While the buildings seem to be influenced by German 1970’s architecture, the lack of civilians, cars and varying buildings in the city can reduce the excitement and atmosphere. Though the textures are impressive, the facial animation for the unmasked human characters can be stiff. Thankfully, the show’s limitations via the CGI loosen up as the season goes through and become less of a problem.

One more flaw to point out: Batman finds one of the victim’s location through an impossible and downright goofy use of “zoom/enhance” technique popularized by CSI. This wouldn’t be out of place in a parody of such trope, but considering the serious tone of the show, it did hurt it and the efforts to bring in more detective-focused stories.

All in all, “Hunted” succeeds as a pilot, effectively introducing several of the show’s element, while dropping a couple of seeds for future episodes. While there are some issues regarding tone and the CGI animation, it still introduces viewers to the series while also providing a singular episode plot. It is a solid start to a much stronger series.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Michael Holt, AKA Mister Terrific, is also introduced, but unlike Simon Stagg, his appearance is never really followed up on. Mr. T hasn’t been explored much in other media beyond some minor appearances in Justice League Unlimited and as a recurring civilian in Arrow, so this was a wasted opportunity.
  • Pay attention to the Argus invitation Bruce receives and Tatsu’s brief meeting with Alfred on the gate of Wayne Manor. These two moments will be addressed in a future review.
  • Similarly, Pyg and Toad’s willingness to punish Alfred in Bruce’s place brings up a subtle detail about their characterization that will be in play in future episodes.
  • Future reviews won’t be as structured as this one was. This was mostly to measure the strength of this episode as a pilot. Future reviews will have a far more relaxed format.

The Future!

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written on this blog!

Originally, I started this blog to try to get a writing job and advertise some of the blogging content I’d write. Considering neither one of those are applicable anymore, this places has been gathering dust.

I’ve been thinking on what to do with this space. I’ll stew on it for a little while longer, but I’ve been considering writing long reviews of Beware the Batman, and this place seems better suited than Tumblr for it. I also have other ideas, but I’m still thinking about them.

So, we’ll see what happens.

Star Wars: Season Two Trailer (Watch It Here!)

The Star Wars Celebration convention has just premiered a brand new trailer that previews season two of Star Wars Rebels.  

The season will pick up from the ending of the “Fire Across The Galaxy”, where Ahsoka Tano was (re)introduced and revealed to be Fulcrum, as well as hinted to be an occasional ally to the crew. In addition, the heroes will be involved in larger scale missions with other rebel cells against the Empire, particularly Darth Vader.

The trailer features the return of other beloved Clone Wars characters, such as Captain Rex and Hondo. Rex, as well as other retired Clone fighters, are shown to gave gone through accelerated aging as a side effect of the cloning process. Dee Bradley Baker and Jim Cummings will reprise their respective roles.

The larger stakes are also showcased, with a growing presence of the Empire on Lothal, including larger involvement from Vader himself, Star Destroyers patrolling Lothal’s skies, and new Inquisitors becoming involved. Darth Sidious, the Emperor himself, can also be overheard ordering Vader, which is consistent with the rumors of Sam Witwer voicing him once again.

The main characters also sport some different looks. Sabine’s hair is dyed with blue and green now, with a blue left shoulder plate that has a Frynock drawing. Ezra continues to have the facial scars from the season finale, and Kanan at one point will disguise himself as a Stormtrooper and wear a silver shoulder plate instead of his green one.

What do you think of the developments going on this season on Star Wars Rebels? Do you think Kanan and Ezra will survive their encounter with Darth Vader?

This post was originally published on News For Shoppers.

Rain of the Ghosts Kickstarter Project Announced

Greg Weisman, producer of animated series such as GargoylesThe Spectacular Spider-ManYoung Justice, and Star Wars Rebels, has unveiled one of his next projects: an AudioBook based off his first novel, Rain of the Ghosts.

The premise of the novels involves Rain Cacique, a young girl living in the chain of tropical islands known as the Ghost Keys. Feeling trapped in a life full of monotonous labor in her parents’ Bed & Breakfast, she seeks an adventurous life outside the islands. When her grandfather passes away, however, she gets her wish as the armband she inherits from him provides a key to embark on a dangerous adventure to solve the mystical mysteries of the Ghost Keys.

The AudioBook contains voice work from over twenty notable voice actors, with Brittany Uomoleale as Rain. Other voice actors involved include Steven Blum, Josh Keaton, Ed Asner, Marina Sirtis, and Vanessa Marshall. Music will be provided by Dynamic Music Partners.

All of the voice work has already been completed. However, Weisman needs backers to fund $43,000 in order to edit the voice recordings and create and mix music and sound effects. The appeal of the project is to allow the creator to continue to explore his characters and stories without the studio interference that plagued his previous productions.

Will you be backing the Kickstarter? Have you checked out the books?

This post was originally published on News For Shoppers.