Cartoons based on comics hold a special place in my heart. If it wasn’t for shows like X-Men (90s) or Batman the Animated Series I would have never picked up a comic book. I loved these shows so much I would record every episode on VHS and watch them over and over. These cartoons defined my early childhood and fostered my infatuation for comics. So when I saw we would be getting a new Batman animated series (Beware the Batman) I knew I would have another show to add to my DVR.
Batman has seen many incarnations in the animated realm; all have a very different style and take on the character. Cartoon Network’s Beware the Batman maybe one of the best. The show premiered on July 13th and to be honest I was ready to hate it. Producers said this would be a Batman world unlike one we have seen on TV and none of his prominent rogues would feature in the first season. This worried me as too much change to the cornerstones of a character could go from interesting to god awful very easily.
Beware the Batman does change up the status quo but Batman is still the Dark Knight we know and love. In fact he is one of the best portrayals of Batman on any screen. In our first episode, entitled “Hunted”, it appears that Batman is still a little new to the crime fighting gig. This was a great start as I find this to be such an interesting period for our character. It shows us a point in the hero’s career when they are most vulnerable.
My favorite scene is the opening in which Batman comes upon two thieves. The first he takes out with his old standard: taunt, sneak, and subdue. The second hits him hard into a truck dislocating his shoulder. So what does he do; this badass Batman pulls a “Lethal Weapon” and slams his shoulder back into the truck to pop it into place. This is a Batman I like to see, and not only is he tough and relentless but the show also displays that he is first and foremost a detective.
“Hunted” features two of Batman’s most obscure villains in Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad. Although not as dark as their Grant Morrison created counterparts - these two are scary. Pyg and Toad are eco-terrorists out for revenge against those that have caused crimes against nature. Batman’s detective prowess comes into place when he needs to find out whom these two deviants are targeting. Batman expertly breaks down video and finds clues to try and beat our villains to the punch. The detective work is so much more procedural than before, it felt very CSI. This Batman uses everything at his disposal to help solve the case.
The biggest change to this series makes is to the character of Alfred. Here he is less butler and more bodyguard. Alfred is an ex British intelligence agent whom assists Batman on a much more physical level than before. And although it appears this may change as the series progresses this Alfred will play a much bigger role in the lives of Batman and Bruce Wayne. I found that this added much more depth to the character and I feel I know more about this Alfred than most other animated versions.
My only complainant with this show lies with the fact that it didn’t really feel like it was for kids. The animation which is meant to draw a younger crowd is very Gothic and dark with a lot of sharp edges. They use CG animation which once again I was initially against, but it really works here. The lack of background detail and the smoothness of it all really fit the world that is being created. Unlike Green Lantern which shared a similar animation style here colors are darkened and light is used sparingly. This creates an ominous almost horror movie feel especially in the scenes involving Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad. This darker vibe may tune the younger crowd out but on the up side may draw in us older guys who loved the original animated series.
This show is great and presents a Batman outside of the comics that longtime fans have been waiting for. It will have a few hurdles though if it wants a second season. The lack of notable villains and the much darker tone may hinder the show in finding its audience but to longtime fans it’s a welcoming treat. This show is going to be a slow burn but a good one. We are finally getting the procedural detective drama starring Batman we have all been clamoring for.