Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season Two on Blu-ray
I’ve already listed the 26 episodes contained here on two discs. There are no extras, just clear animation and sound.
The set opens with something of a departure from the usual take on Batman. He’s not operating out of Gotham City at night on his own. Instead, he and a bunch of other heroes and villains — including the Huntress, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Plastic Man, Catwoman, and the Joker — have been kidnapped by Mongul to the desert for a “Death Race to Oblivion!” The whole thing feels like a more serious episode of the Wacky Racers, with similarly exaggerated vehicles. Batman is determined to win to protect Gotham, which surprises the other heroes, who thought he’d have more of a master plan.
The pacing in this series is excellent, as the next episode, “Long Arm of the Law!”, is more of a domestic comedy, a pleasant change from the racing action of the previous installment. After we see how the stretchable hero admires Batman for his self-control, Plastic Man has to take his baby to the art museum to get some “cult-cha and class” (as the redheaded wife? girlfriend? nanny? Ramona puts it). Of course, while there, they stumble into a robbery in progress, which gets mixed with some classic slapstick as Woozy protects the kid and, for extra comedy, a wiener dog named Schnitzel. There’s drama as well, with Kite-Man wanting revenge in a way that involves Benjamin Franklin.
After a coming-of-age story with young hero Blue Beetle in the midst of galactic war (“Revenge of the Reach!”), there’s an over-the-top comedy with the blustery and boisterous Aquaman taking his family on an RV road trip (“Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!”). The series continues to keep a balance between grim and silly, providing a balance and a diversity that other Batman projects can’t always accomplish.
The allusions and all kinds of references, including history (both real and from fondly remembered comics) and other types of stories, makes this series incredibly entertaining for all ages. Plus, the cartooning is just great. Where else can you see Batman temporarily get Plastic Man’s powers, or amazing feats of heroism, or imaginative devices and vehicles?
There’s a JSA reunion and a sidekick mission with Robin, Aqualad, and Speedy and appearances by the Metal Men, Captain Marvel, Detective Chimp, Zatanna, Booster Gold, and surprisingly, since he gets a lot of focus, B’wana Beast. (Given his loincloth-based outfit, that his fight with the bad guy is based around wrestling moves seems particularly appropriate.) Firestorm’s origin in “A Bat Divided!” results in multiple Batmen, including slacker Batman, while Starro makes several appearances leading up to a two-part grand battle with a bunch of possessed heroes.
Before that, “Chill of the Night!” retells Batman’s origin with his parents voiced by Adam West and Julie Newmar. In that episode, Batman goes back in time via the actions of the Spectre (Mark Hamill) and the Phantom Stranger (original animated Batman Kevin Conroy). It’s a surprising high point for what some will wrongly write off as a children’s cartoon. Adam West returns to voice a conflicted Bat-robot in “Plague of the Prototypes!”
The old Batman team the Outsiders — Geo-Force, Katana, Black Lightning, Metamorpho, and Halo — make an appearance before a Flash-centric episode that emphasizes the generations of heroes. There’s a Doom Patrol installment that covers a wide range of the team’s history and a Birds of Prey focus that includes Catwoman, Black Canary, and the Huntress doing a musical number (with some insinuations about male heroes I’m surprised made the show) in order to help restore Batman’s memory, corrupted by a criminal artifact.
We even get to see a short segment with the Haunted Tank and the return of Rainbow Batman. The animators clearly know their old comics, and they’re not afraid of acknowledging all aspects of Batman’s long history. Their use of Bat-Mite is hilarious, since the sprite reads Who’s Who to the readers before giving them a tour through classic Joker stories, even if the “Emperor Joker!” episode ends up a bit gruesome. (Although it is funny that, as the villain puts it, Bat-Mite looks like “someone put a pig in a Bat-suit”.)
Bat-Mite returns in “Batman’s Strangest Cases!”, which assembles three different styles of cartoon: one based on a Mad magazine parody by Harvey Kurtzman and Wallace Wood, one similar to the Bat-Manga by Jiro Kuwata, and the last is a team-up with the Scooby-Doo gang. The final cartoon in the set returns to more straightforward adventure (but with a touch of weird) as the Marvel Family helps out a de-aged kid Batman. Let’s hope we see the final Season Three on Blu-ray soon.