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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

DVD Review: Beware the Batman Season 1, Part 1

Coming off the cancellation of Cartoon Network's entire DC Nation block (i.e. Green Lantern and Young Justice), Beware the Batman premiered in July of 2013 alongside Teen Titans Go!. Only 11 episodes aired, but all 13 are now available on this 2 DVD set.

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The main problem from this show stems from its identity crisis. It's too dark to be kid friendly, yet too kid friendly to be dark. It's obvious that they were trying for a happy medium between The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but fell way short.

The show tried to be too new and edgy starring a myriad of (not even) C-List villains. It's a hard sell when the most recognizable villain is Ra's al Ghul. I'm all for going in a new direction, but there has to be some familiarity and common ground. Batman has the most marketable and recognizable rogues gallery: the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, etc. but Beware the Batman chose to go a different direction with villains like Magpie and Grant Morrison abominations Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad. These are season 3 one-shot villains at best, but much of the plot involves these three.

The only villain I was excited about was Anarky. Dressed in white instead of his traditional red, he looked like an unfinished sculpt instead of a Batman antithesis. His chaos was too organized and he definitely didn't live up to his name.

Not only were the villains unrecognizable, but the heroes were as well. Instead of having Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, or even Spoiler as a sidekick, Beware the Batman employed the talents Katana, a B-List DC hero that wields martial arts skills and her trusty katana against criminals. It was actually neat to see Katana's ties to the League of Assassins, but her story arc is so drawn out that it's actually excruciating to watch.

Commissioner Gordon is pretty standard in this show, but I couldn't take Kurtwood Smith's (Robocop, That 70s Show) voice acting seriously.

The worst iteration of a character is Alfred. I like that they took more of a Military mold for Alfred's MI-6 background (much like Geoff Johns' Batman: Earth One). However, the look of Alfred is uninteresting and unappealing. His bald head and Scottish accent are very out of character and do not convince me that he is a butler. The original press release described him as a "gun-toting butler," which clashed with Batman's own stance on firearms and was eventually toned down after the Aurora, Colorado shooting. Starting out as Bruce Wayne's bodyguard, he is quickly injured and out of commission for most of the season, leading him to bring in Katana as his replacement.

Batman and Bruce Wayne are terrible, too. Batman's lips are more prominent than Terry McGinnis' and quite frankly, it's distracting. Anthony Ruivivar (Third Watch, Banshee) does the voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne. He's ok, but he's not very convincing as a main character. The costume is extremely bland and uninteresting, plus the character design makes it look like Batman only focuses on upper body and skips leg day.

As we saw with the Green Lantern show, the CGI shows are poor at best. The designs feel rushed and subsequently very bland. The environments are too polished and plastic looking for me to believe that Gotham is a dirty city that needs cleaning up.

As I slugged through this abysmal and rushed portrayal of my favorite superhero it made me long for quality shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Young Justice. I was extremely disappointed especially since shows like The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold were able to create new iterations with beloved and familiar characters to make it fun and appealing to audiences both young and old. 

This DVD set is only for true fans of the show, but I'm really not sure which audience that would be. Only 11 episodes were aired on TV, so the DVD has 2 bonus unaired episodes. Since there has been no official announcement on the status of the show, I'm guessing this is actually Beware the Batman: The Complete Series, rather than Season 1, Part 1.

Beware the Batman Season 1, Part 1 is a generous 3 out of 10 Bats.

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