It exceeded my expectations.
I think we all heard the collective groan when it was announced that Young Justice would be canceled and replaced by a computer generated Batman show featuring a gun-toting Alfred Pennyworth. This new Batman wouldn’t fight alongside Robin, but instead would partner up with a younger version of Katana. Perhaps even more surprising, the most beloved rogues gallery in all of comics (heck, anything) would be put on the back burner and Batman and Katana would be teaming up to fight such esoteric characters as Mr. Toad, Magpie, Anarky and other villains that have either vanished into comic book obscurity or are simply too new to be known by the general public.
It was a hard sell.
But in my case, I never gave Batman: The Brave & The Bold or Young Justice a chance until it was too late. Both programs seemed childish and it was easy to give them a glance, compare that measly assessment to the Batman: The Animated Series that I grew up with and scoff. When I finally did sit down and watch a few full episodes, guess what? Brave & Bold was a hilarious tribute to the silver age of comics and Young Justice turned out to be surprisingly complex and its depiction of the DC Universe would rival anything from the New 52 comics or the Justice League Animated Series. Afraid of being too late to the party yet again I tuned in to Cartoon Network at 10AM eastern Saturday morning and watched Beware the Batman.
I didn’t see a gun-toting Alfred and the approach was nowhere near as kid-friendly as I had suspected it to be. I really was prepared to see a very watered down representation of Gotham, but the opening scenes were actually quite violent. One thing that it made clear right off the bat was that this is not the BatGod, this is the more human Batman that I enjoy seeing from works like Batman: Year 100 (no, that’s not a typo, there’s a Batman Year One-Hundred). It also featured some wonderful interactions between Bruce and Alfred, had some nice detective work, and I would even go so far as to say that it had a tone that was reminiscent of some Batman: The Animated Series episodes.
The three points that will take the longest for viewers to adjust to are Alfred, the villains, and the animation style. Don’t worry, I kept this all spoiler free.
I know a butler who’s showing off his testosterone this week. Beware the Batman and recent events in the comics made for a pretty action-packed week for Alfred.
Without a doubt, Alfred is the element that makes Beware the Batman the most different from past cartoons. Not only because he’s used in such a different way, but because he’s used so heavily. Alfred comes off like an old Jason Statham, but the dialogue between him and Bruce makes it clear that the writers do have the core of Pennyworth intact and they want him to be an important part of the show. As for the more bad ass nature of Alfred, the creators of Beware the Batman seem to have taken note of all those fun little nods to Alfred’s more adventurous days and ran with them. Hard. In case you’re wondering what action-oriented Alfred’s I’m referencing I’ll just point to the Batman: The Animated Series episode “The Lion & the Unicorn,” his depiction in Geoff Johns’ Batman: Earth One, and the “We burned the forest down.” scene from Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but there are others. What results is an Alfred who’s arguably more physically impressive than Batman in this episode. He’s also the most developed of the characters so far.
As I said earlier, I never saw Alfred using a gun and his conversations with Bruce were some of the best moments in the show (their final talk in particular). Overall it’s a portrayal that works for this show quite well and I enjoyed it. I don’t think I would want this exact depiction to find its way into the movies or comics just yet, but I enjoyed it here.
This was probably the biggest turn-off for me. I heard a lot of great things about the Green Lantern Animated Series but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it because I just didn’t like the look of the show at all. With this being a Batman show, however, I gave it a shot and was surprised at how much more fluid it looked. I had expected all of the characters to come off as stiff and incapable of showing any emotions but I was wrong. Sure, the character designs will divide fans. Batman’s design especially is rather alien-like, but it also takes quite a few details from Bob Kane’s original drawings. But while my problem with the animation wasn’t the characters it was most surely the environments. Every setting came off as empty, flat-surfaced, sanitized, and boring. The characters looked and moved fine, but it was as if they didn’t truly inhabit the world they lived in. Adding more variety in the textures would go a very long way to improving the atmosphere of the show. That said, I thought the animation during the action scenes looked pretty good. I just could’ve done without so many “running from explosion” moments.
The villains were not too terribly exciting and were actually the most cartoony aspect of the entire show. This could be considered a plus since it kept attention on Bruce and Alfred so they could develop more as characters, but there is a part of me that would have liked to have seen some development for our bad guys as well. Hopefully future episodes spend some time telling the origins of these villains otherwise, what’s the point of using the obscure ones? While we can probably all agree that Batman’s origin can be skipped, I’m sure many would be very curious to know who exactly Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad are and how they came to be. After all, by choosing characters that the vast majority of fans have no attachment to it gives the writers a great deal of freedom to bring something entirely new to the Batman mythology.
Toad and Pyg are both Grant Morrison creations and they are very, very new to the comics. I can hardly even remember Mr. Toad, but Professor Pyg is, in my opinion, one of the best things to come out of Morrison’s run. Pyg was invented to be one of the most mentally disturbed villains imaginable, but there’s no way that the makers of the show could portray him in the exact same way as he is in the comics and get a kid-friendly rating.
Instead they turned him and Toad into partners in Eco-Terrorism. Rather than being drug-addicted surgeon obsessed with mutilation, Pyg is now a defender of the environment. He’s has a far more rotund build, an English accent, and he packs a black doctor’s bag full of weapons.
I’m still not loving the animation style but almost everything else far exceeded my expectations. I liked “The Hunted” and think it’s a pretty strong start for this series. The voice actors all did a great job, especially Anthony Ruivivar as Batman and most importantly the show has a good tone that children and older Bat-fans can enjoy. I watched it with my 6 year old nephew just to be sure of that. He piped down the whole time, laughed at all the right moments, and was anxious to see more (I hope that sticks, He’s been watching Transformers Rescue Bots too much lately and they are like 4th string Transformers).
I won’t say it’s going to blow your mind, but I think it’s definitely worth every Batman fan checking out. There’s potential here.