The Batman Season 5 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  5
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The previous season (4) finale introduced the Justice League to The Batman, so it’s fitting that the final season of The Batman features several team-ups. These team-ups also featured the partner superhero’s greatest villain. I enjoyed the team-up episodes very much. The opening two-part story features a team-up between Batman and Superman – verses Lex Luthor. Batman still doesn’t trust Superman – which complicates things, but in the end they both learn how to work together as a team. “Vertigo” features a team-up between Green Arrow and Batman. Initially,  Oliver Queen (the Green Arrow) thinks Bruce Wayne is responsible for the sudden rash of people getting sick in Gotham. Batman has to convince Ollie that Bruce can’t possibly be involved in Count Vertigo’s actions – which was fun, of course. “A Mirror Darkly” features a team-up between Batman and the Flash verses Mirror Master. “Ring Toss” sees Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan battling Sinestro. And “What Goes Up” features a team-up between The Batman and Hawkman.

As much as I enjoyed the team-up stories, and I did enjoy them – the solo Batman adventures, well, adventures of Batman, Robin, and sometimes Batgirl, were less enjoyable. They just very much seemed to be the same old thing. Even the two Joker episodes, “Joker Express” and “The Metal Face of Comedy”, though they had interesting ideas behind them, seemed to fall a bit flat. The Joker in The Batman just never had the wonderfully villainous, interesting, and perfect quality of Mark Hamill’s Joker from Batman: The Animated Series and the various follow-up movies.

The finale for Season 5, and of the series, “Lost Heroes”, is a team-up of the entire Justice League. One by one the super-powered members (Superman, Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter) are kidnapped. It’s up to the non-super-powered members, Batman and Green Arrow to rescue the rest of the League and find-out what’s going on. And what’s going on is that the Joining are back thanks to Hugo Strange. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed very, very much how Batman and Green Arrow worked together. The Joining were an interesting extra-terrestrial villain in the final of last season and it was worth it to see them return.

However, there is one little problem with the Justice League as shown in this iteration. And that is – its an all-male League. No Wonder Woman. No Black Canary. No Hawkgirl. I seriously have a problem with this. The Justice League has always included female members. Wonder Woman is one of the original seven. Even the precursor to the Justice League of America, the Justice Society – included women. And Black Canary (Oliver Queen’s wife, girlfriend, or ex-wife depending on the timeline) was the second-in-charge of the late 1980s – early 1990s Justice League behind Batman. Since Batman tended to be busy – Black Canary ran the League. As much as I really liked the team-ups in the Batman, I felt there was something seriously wrong with not including any female superheroes – at all – in the Justice League. This series is from 2008 – there’s absolutely no excuse to completely exclude women (except Batgirl) from the series.

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The Batman Season 4

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  4
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

I very much enjoyed Season 4 of The Batman. Season 4 brings Robin (Dick Grayson) on to the show. It also continues to use the new theme tune brought in during season 3. I don’t like the theme tune at all, and I found myself fast-forwarding through it for most of the episodes I watched. However, that is the only negative, really, about Season 4. The first episode of the season introduces Dick Grayson who quickly becomes Robin. The bare bones of the story are there but it changed slightly, so that Dick is even more involved in the death of his parents. He is actually on the platform for their acrobatics act, but is unable to catch his mother when the rigging fails.

Some new villains are introduced in one-off episodes in Season 4, but they are interesting and different, which kept the show interesting. In the episode, “Artifacts”, a future archaeological team is investigating the Batcave, hoping to find a solution to defeat Mr. Freeze, who is destroying Gotham with a new city-wide freezing weapon. The team discovers the cray computer memory is destroyed and cannot be recovered. However, Batman – anticipating such a possibility had embossed or etched all the information he had in his computer memory banks on the walls of the cave, including how to defeat Freeze if he ever woke up from his cryogenic sleep. The code was also in binary – meaning a future computer could translate the data. Once the team does that, they get a video message from Batman and other information to defeat Freeze – it was an excellent story.

“Two of a Kind” introduces Harley Quinn. But rather than having her as a hangers-on to Joker, it’s almost the other way around. “Doctor” Harleen Quinzel is the host of an advice to the love lorn phone in telephone show. Her so-called “doctorate” is from an on-line degree program, and it probably had no practical experience, and was not accredited. Additionally, she offers flip advice, and insults her guests (such as Bruce Wayne) and customers who call in for advice. She’s also bubbly and gives the false impression she’s a total airhead. Joker, meanwhile, has become “addicted” to her call-in show, and even schedules his crimes in such a way as to be “home” in time to watch it. Joker calls in to the show, using the name “Mr. J.”. When Harley is fired after she insults the head of the television network that airs her show – Joker decides that it is unfair. Before long, Joker and Harley Quinn are on a crime spree together, Bonnie and Clyde style. What I liked about this version of Harley was that even though she was a really terrible therapist, a reason was given for that (she had a paper degree and no real training), and she has agency – it was her decision to join Joker, her decision to accept Joker’s offer to become Harley Quinn, and her decision to engage in criminal activities. None of these things are good or lawful, mind you, but at least it was her decision. Other versions of Harley, such as in the otherwise wonderful Batman: The Animated Series (and even there the dis-functional relationship is the point) I’ve seen she reminds me of a abused woman – she’s fallen hard for Joker, and even though he treats her terribly she keeps coming back. Even worse, Joker, as a true psychopath, is incapable of ever loving Harley, so he abuses her, but she continues to love Joker anyway. In “Two of a Kind” it’s Joker who is attracted to Harley and wants a partner in crime, who can take care of herself, though he is still incapable of love.

Finally, the two part season finale, “The Joining”, is awesome. Just awesome. Bruce introduces Dick to Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises, pointing out that Fox knows Bruce is the Batman – and that Fox helped to build the Batcave, and builds Batman’s special arsenal and toys. Batman meets Detective John Jones, who he quickly discovers is Martian Manhunter. John bit by bit shows all his powers – mind-reading, shape-shifting, flight, telekinesis, invisibility – and his weakness, an aversion to fire. But Martian Manhunter is also there to get Batman’s help – an alien race called The Joining is about to invade and destroy the planet. They are a robotic but networked race that uses materials from the planet they plan to conquer to do it – in this instance, metals from Wayne Industries. They operate by absorbing all information from a world then destroying it suspiciously like Brainiac from Superman. “The Joining” was written by Jane Espenson, known for her work on Once Upon a Time (and it’s universe), the new Battlestar Galactica (and it’s universe), and Joss Wheldon properties such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse.

Batman, Martian Manhunter, Batgirl, Robin, Lucuis Fox, and Alfred work together and eventually destroy the alien invaders, saving Earth. At the end, Martian Manhunter takes Batman to the Hall of Justice in Space (or maybe the Watchtower) and invites him to join the Justice League! I loved that and actually clapped.

Season 4 of the Batman was much better written, and more consistent than previous seasons. The tone of the episodes was more serious and darker, but having Robin there throughout the season also lightened things so the show didn’t get too dark. Batgirl was present some, and I enjoyed seeing Lucius who has always been a favorite of mine. And since Martian Manhunter was one of my favorite characters in late Silver Age/early Modern Age DC Comics – it was awesome to see him.

Recommended!

The Batman – Season 3

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  3
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Kevin Michael Richardson, Tom Kenny, Mitch Pileggi, Adam West (as Mayor Grange, uncredited)
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The third season of The Batman brings in a teenaged Batgirl and Barbara Gordon’s father, Commissioner Gordon. Batgirl’s origin involves her friend, Pamela Isley, who becomes Poison Ivy in the opening two-parter, then returns towards the end of the season. Yet, despite the new characters, The Batman just doesn’t tell the classic and memorable stories of Batman: The Animated Series, nor does it have the out there humor of Batman – The Brave and the Bold. The Batman is simply very flat.

The third season features stand-alone episodes with stand-alone villains such The Ventriloquist and Scarface, Gearhead, and the usual suspects of Joker and Penguin. Hugo Strange is in more than one episode, but his story isn’t strong enough to make the season compelling – especially not when compared to other versions of Batman.

“The Laughing Cats” has Batman and Batgirl working with Catwoman against Joker who in turn is stealing rare Black Siberian Leopard to sell to a hunter who lives on his own private island and gets his jollies hunting rare, even nearly extinct animals. Although it was great to see Batman working with Catwoman for a change – they have no chemistry in this series. And they could have done more with the greediness of the hunter, rather than emphasizing the maze escape in the second half of the half-hour episode.

“Brawn” has Joker stealing and using Bane’s “strength enhancing” pump (for Venom, which isn’t mentioned) but whereas a Joker with Bane’s size and strength should have been fascinating – it just makes Batman look like a bully for “beating-up” the normal-sized Joker at the end of the episode.

“Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind” – has Hugo Strange compiling the criminal psychological profiles of all of Gotham’s criminals in Arkham, plus his own warped psyche into a super-computer, named D.A.V.E. (Digital Advanced Villain Emulator) to “help” police solve crimes. DAVE escapes immediately, goes on a crime spree, then deduces who Batman really is. Batman defeats the super-computer of course.

There’s nothing disastrously wrong with The Batman Season 3, but there’s also nothing particularly memorable about it either. It’s just very flat.

The Batman Season 2 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  2
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Ming-Na Wen (credited as Ming Na), Kevin Michael Richardson, Tom Kenny
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The second season of The Batman starts, oddly, very much like Season 1 did – with completely disconnected episodes, that either bring back major villains (Joker, Penguin) or introduce new ones – Riddler, Soloman Grundy, Ragdoll, Spellbinder. Things get a bit more interesting towards the end of disk one. “Meltdown” sees the return of Ethan Bennett (aka “Clayface”). Bruce had tried to help Ethan, getting him medical treatment and giving him a job at Wayne Industries. But, unfortunately, Ethan’s feud with Joker and his anger and desire for revenge is too much for him – he ends up becoming Clayface permanently when he goes after Joker. “Fire and Ice” sees the mercenary, Firefly, working for Mr. Freeze, in this version of Batman, pretty much a gangster who’s mutated into an ice-wielding supervillain. The story itself was OK, but the animation was fantastic. There was a wonderful look to the ice and snow.

Although the second disc has  some of the “meet the new villain, who’s then captured – never to appear again”, there are some excellent stories as well.  In “Strange Minds”, Joker kidnaps Det. Ellen Yin, and Dr. Hugo Strange volunteers to use a new device of his to go into Joker’s mind to find out where she is. Batman piggybacks on to the signal and must search Joker’s mind without going mad himself. The episode is filled with wonderful visuals, and it’s very tense as Batman is in considerable danger – and of a nonphysical kind. In “The Laughing Bat” Joker decides that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, and becomes Batman – catching minor criminals (a man who litters, a jaywalker, a grandmother who drives with her turn signal on for blocks, a woman who takes eleven items to a ten-items or less checkout lane etc.) and “treating” them with Joker venom which freezes their face in a horrible grin. As Batman confronts Joker, Joker is able to hit him with a dose of Joker Venom. With a limited time left to live and slowly suffering the effects of Joker’s venom, Bruce must come up with an antidote. It’s brilliant stuff.

I also enjoyed “Night and the City”. Joker and Penguin are fighting each other for control of Gotham City (and Penguin is actually a surprisingly good fighter) when Riddler arrives. He proposes they not fight each other, but that they join forces against their common foe – Batman. Riddler then offers a reward to the first to unmask the Bat. Meanwhile, Chief Rojas has gone on the warpath against Batman – again. He catches Yin with the Batwave and arrests her. However, Batman is able to avoid Rojas’ trap, rescue Yin, and catch Joker, Penguin, and Riddler. Commissioner Gordon places the Batsignal on the roof of police headquarters, and tells off Rojas.

Overall, The Batman is not the classic that Batman: The Animated Series was. And personally, I don’t enjoy it as much as Batman Beyond either (which I consider an under-rated classic). However, it does have its moments. And the writers and directors would end up writing various Warner Brothers Animated DC Universe films (Batman, Superman, Justice League, and Justice League – New 52). Next up, Season 3 – the first I haven’t seen at all before on DVD.

The Batman – Season 1 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  1
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Ming-Na Wen (credited as Ming Na), Steve Harris
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

Premiering in 2004, several years after the classic Batman: The Animated Series (1992 – 1995), The Batman is almost the forgotten animated Batman series. It’s set in modern times, and Bruce Wayne even has a device called The Batwave which informs him of crimes in progress, escapes from Arkham Asylum, and can remotely control his devices. The series starts simply introducing, one per episode, the major villains of the Batman universe: Joker, Bane, Penguin, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze. Even lesser known villains such as Firefly and Cluemaster make brief appearances. This “intro a new villain, quickly move on” approach falls somewhat flat. However, Joker’s second and third appearance, the second appearance of Penguin, and the introduction of Clayface make the back-half of the short 13-episode season work.

Alfred is sardonic here, but he is also understanding of Bruce’s need to fulfill his self-appointed mission. “Traction”, the second episode of Season One, where Batman comes up against Bane and loses is one of the best – especially the flashback to Alfred making a promise to care for Bruce, and Alfred agreeing to help Bruce come up with a solution to defeat Bane, despite his misgivings about Bruce getting even more hurt or killed.

The series also has a “it’s for kids” quality – not that it’s “bad” or “immature” but the violence is much less than other versions of Batman, and often off-screen. There are also a lot less scares in this version.

This series also features two police officers – Ethan Bennett, an old high school friend of Bruce Wayne, and Ellen Yin – Ethan’s partner.

Season 1 feels very much like an introduction. I now have the rest of the series on DVD, most of which I haven’t really seen – so it should be interesting to see how it goes. Oh, one more note – several of the episodes were directed by directors who worked on the various Warner Brothers Animated Batman, Superman, or Justice League movies.