Beware the Batman continues to be really entertaining and I have to say that I liked this episode even better than the last. I just got back from Comic-Con and made time before I crashed last night to sit down and watch “Secrets” on my DVR but while at the convention I was shown “Shattered” (I think that was the name) which featured Humpty Dumpty and that was fantastic too and way darker than these first two episodes! Now’s no time to be stubborn about the whole “Where’s the Joker?” thing. After seeing 3 episodes and talking to the producers and voice cast I think this could be the start of something good and you’ll want to be on board from the start.
Some of the problems I had with the pilot were that there wasn’t all that much Batman even though that did give us plenty of time to get used to the new Alfred, the detective work that was hyped up so greatly wasn’t all that prominent, and these relatively unknown villains never received a backstory. While I ultimately found that the core of Alfred was there and I started to like this new interpretation, the show is called “Beware the Batman” and the butler was definitely the most intimidating guy from episode 1. With “Secrets” the focus is all on the Dark Knight and Alfred only shows up a handful of times in some key scenes with Bruce’s new driver Tatsu that will undoubtedly play a major part in the big story weaving its way through each episode. Something fascinating about Beware the Batman is that while these episodes can and do stand alone there is certainly an over-arcing story and sense of continuity between each installment. For instanced, Alfred’s leg is still in a cast after the injury he suffered in episode one.
With more time devoted to Batman we finally see all the detective work that the creators of the show raved about. Watching Bruce psychoanalyze Tatsu and search for clues in a suspect’s office were really great scenes and even Jim Gordon is shown to be quite the detective himself– something we don’t see often enough in the comics and films. But we also see that this Batman isn’t all that great of a fighter just yet– at least that’s the best excuse for how often he’s beaten. He handles the average thug in some rather thrilling scenes of hand-to-hand combat but when it comes to battling the villainous Magpie he gets man-handled more than once.
I was relieved to see that unlike Professor Pyg and Toad, Magpie is given a full origin story. When the episode first began I thought that her characterization was far too much like Catwoman but without the sexual chemistry with Batman. Heck, she’s even voiced by Grey DeLisle who voiced Catwoman in Arkham City and Injustice: Gods Among Us! But as the episode goes on you’ll find that Magpie isn’t just a scantily clad thief. She gets crazier and crazier and crazier and her list of abilities grows as well so that by the time the episode is over there’s no longer any comparison with Batman’s feline foe.
Other characters that get introduced include Gordon (who we saw only briefly in a newscast at the tail end of last week’s pilot), his daughter Barbara, and Lunkhead. The writers appear to have a solid understanding of the Bruce and Barbara relationship but Gordon does seem a little off-putting at times in how he still distrusts the Batman. I think a big part of this is that we’re not shown a Gotham that has a corrupt police force in Beware the Batman. Gordon isn’t on his own when the Batman arrives so he won’t so easily recognize the force for good that Batman is. As for Lunkhead? Yes, Magpie is a really lame villain from the comics but she’s one that most folks who read the books have heard whispers of every few years. Lunkhead, however, has only ever been in 5 issues! He’s just an enormous thug with a child’s mind. He reminds me of Amygdala (a character I still mistakenly pronounce as “Amy-Guh-Da-Luh” because I didn’t know what that word was when I first read the comics as a kid).
“Secrets” is more brutal, has a greater mystery, features more characters, and most importantly its animation was better. With most of the story taking place on Gotham’s rooftops or inside of abandoned buildings the sense of Gotham being completely empty wasn’t there the way it was in episode 1. The location of the end of the episode had a nice spooky atmosphere too. However, I still wish the textures would improve more and everything didn’t have such a perfectly straight edge to it.
And with Andrea Romano handling casting and direction for the various voices on the show, the characters all sounded great this time. Yeah, it’s still kind of hard to not picture Red Foreman as Gordon, but I’m liking Ruivivar as a young Batman quite a bit. I’ll try and get a more detailed review up for next week’s episode but for now I’ve got a ton of SDCC things to get ready and I’ll just leave you with a list of spoilerish bullets giving a rundown of other things I enjoyed and had problems with and maybe that’ll get a discussion going. Be sure to write your own review in the comments section so we get more than one opinion around here.
- Miskatonic Psychiatric Hospital, I looked up “miskatonic” because it’s a word I had never heard of and it turns out that the term comes from “Miskatonic University” a fictional university from the Lovecraftian town of… ARKHAM.
- Although Batman gets his butt kicked throughout the first half of the episode, he more than made up for it with the way he brought down Magpie. Holy crap!
- I liked the brief glimpse of the Wayne murders via flashback when Bruce glanced the Rorschach test. It was a nice way to show how much that event haunts him and to get us through something that’s so ingrained in pop culture that spending anymore time on it might bore the audience.
- The experiments that messed up Magpie’s mind (and her sense of pain as a result) make sense but the retractable claws and nigh-indestructibility? That’s something I can only come to accept if perhaps Argus is behind all of this. Speaking of which, have you noticed that stylish “A” that’s shown up in both episodes so far?
- Although it’s somewhat Lady Gaga-ish, I liked the design of Magpie. However, I could’ve done without all the gratuitous butt shots.
- How is Magpie such a good fighter?
- Magpie’s repeated catch-phrase “Shiny, Shiny” was a little annoying to me.
- It can be debated whether or not it was in character for Batman to destroy the memory-gadget at the end of the episode. Seeing as how this Bruce isn’t quite the BatGod/super paranoid Dark Knight just yet I’m perfectly fine with him busting such a device. The “has a plan for everything” portrayal of the character would definitely have tried to adopt that tech for his own though.
I thought that the animation and story were better in this episode and that the series is showing real promise. If you can keep in mind that this is a Batman at the very beginning of his career and accept the idea of seeing unfamiliar foes then I think you could really enjoy this. We need more Saturday morning cartoons that don’t talk down to kids.