Review by KC Carlson
How engaging to have another 12 episodes (on two DVDs) of the most charming Batman: The Brave and the Bold series — the first half of Season Two — to dive into. Since I’ve raved at length about previous sets, no need to repeat myself — let’s dive right into more Bat-foolery and Bat-awesomeness!
Guest stars this time around include Plastic Man (and Woozy Winks!), Blue Beetle, Aquaman, The Green Lantern Corps, the Justice Society, the original Teen Titans (except they’re not called that due to that other DC Animated show), Metal Men, Booster Gold (and Skeets), Firestorm, Green Arrow, Captain Marvel, B’wana Beast, Vixen, Detective Chimp — and more! Plus, cameos by the Challengers of the Unknown, Enemy Ace, Zatanna, and Matches Malone (hee hee), as well as other don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-them appearances!
And, oh the foes that they face: Shaggy Men, Kite Man, Starro, Evil Star, Blockbuster, The Fisherman, The Penguin, Mongul, Steppenwolf, False-Face, Per Degaton, Ra’s al Ghul and Talia, Chemo, the Gas Gang, Riddler, Doctor Double X, Kanjar Ro, Dr. Savanna, Black Adam, Abra Kadabra, Professor Milo, Grodd, Monsieur Mallah, Gorilla Boss, and Joe Chill are just the rancid icing on a murderous cake!
Having the season split in half means that you’ll have to wait for the next DVD set for the resolution of the ongoing teaser storylines on this set. (Holy bad planning!) But there are enough great episodes here to keep you going during that long wait! Most of them keep the wacky tradition of odd-ball Bat-team-ups that this series specializes in. Such as “Death Race To Oblivion!” — a lost episode of Wacky Races (not really) in which Batman and four other heroes (including The Huntress) race five villains (including Catwoman, Black Manta, and Gentleman Ghost) in their special vehicles (Plastic Man is, of course, his own car) in a deadly race for survival on an alien planet. Or the classic goofball episode “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!” (he named it himself!), in which the Sea King has promised to stop adventuring while on vacation with his wife Mera and his son Arthur Jr. — seeing America in a oversized RV! Or does he…? Lots of cameos in this one…
And then there’s Grant Morrison’s favorite episode (I’m guessing here…), “The Super-Batman of Planet X!” in which Batman meets the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh on a distant planet, where our Batman gains super-powers and virtually becomes Superman to fight the mad genius Rohtul. You’d think it was 1958 all over again! In “The Golden Age of Justice!”, you’ll discover that Batman is a junior member of the Justice Society (but not for long!), in a great dramatic episode that spotlights Black Canary (both of them!) and Wildcat. And in “Sidekicks Assemble!” you’ll witness Robin the Boy Wonder literally growing up before your own eyes.
Hang on to Your Handkerchiefs!
The standout episode this time around (maybe of the entire series) is no laughing matter. “Chill of the Night!” (written by Paul Dini) relates the story of how Batman reacts when confronted with information about the man who killed his parents. It’s a recapping of Batman’s origins, largely adapted from the underrated Untold Legend of the Batman by Len Wein, Jim Aparo, and John Byrne — one of DC’s first miniseries. It’s also a homage to the original Batman: The Animated Series with various images and scenes from that honored series, as well as special guest voices from both it and the 1966 Batman TV series: Adam West voices Thomas Wayne, Julie Newmar voices Martha Wayne, Kevin Conroy voices the Phantom Stranger, and Mark Hamill voices the Spectre. Notably, this episode is also the first time we see the full unmasked face of Bruce Wayne in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold series.
It should be noted that once again the episodes are shown in the order that they were originally aired, rather than the order that they were made (via production numbers). Fortunately, this time around, that doesn’t really screw up any continuity or dramatic pacing of the series (like it did in the last set). There’s also not much in the way of any extras (no commentaries or special features), although there are a couple of previews for other DC animation programs, including a quick peek at the upcoming Green Lantern animated TV show.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Batman: The Brave and the Bold series has wrapped up in other countries (notably the UK), there are still a few episodes of the “final 13” to be aired on Cartoon Network, although a couple of them have been available for purchase on iTunes. At least the show is back on the air after having been gone for months, but amazingly, they’re currently just re-running previously aired episodes. At this rate, we may not get to see the series wrap-up until the Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season Three DVD is finally issued sometime down the road (I hope). It’s a very sad state of affairs for such a wonderful animated series — but one that no longer fits into DC’s or Warner’s current corporate “vision” of what Batman is. The next animated Batman series is said to be “darker” in tone. Like I would imagine an animated Gordon Gekko might say — “Grim is good.”
Well, not in our house.
At least I’ll have these wonderful collections of Batman: The Brave and the Bold to re-watch when the mood strikes, for a look back at a truly excellent (and fun!) Batman series. And one that will never be a problem for young kids to watch! (A review copy was provided by the studio.)