Gotham is plunged into darkness by Ra’s al Ghul, an imprisoned Batman shares a cell with a sworn enemy, a trusted ally holds a sword to Alfred Pennyworth’s throat, and this is only the first episode of Beware the Batman: Dark Justice.
- Glen Murakami (Batman Beyond, Teen Titans, Ben 10)
- Mitch Watson (Scooby-Doo! Mystery, Incorporated, Duckman)
- Sam Register (The Looney Tunes Show, Teen Titans)
- Butch Lukic (Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Batman Beyond)
- Anthony Ruivivar (Third Watch, Southland, Banshee, The Adjustment Bureau)
- J.B. Blanc (Arkham Origins, Titanfall, Breaking Bad, Naruto)
- Sumalee Montano (E.R., Transformers: Prime, X-Men: Destiny, Skylanders)
- Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s Show, Robocop, Resurrection)
- Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, Requiem for a Dream, The Iron Giant)
The Blu-ray itself is as bare-bones as the last. It’s not a combo-pack so there’s no additional DVD and forget about an UltraViolet copy for your other devices (that would’ve been a major plus). You open the case and there’s no little booklet or even an ad slipped inside, it’s just the disc staring you in the face. Once inserted into your Blu-ray player you almost immediately go into the menu screen because there aren’t even any ads ahead of the content, which is actually a great thing so you’ll hear no complaints from me there! It is, again, sad to see just how plain the menu screen is and how there are zero bonus features whatsoever:
Frankly, if Part 2 of Season 1 had been everyone’s first impression of Beware the Batman, I don’t think it would have been canceled so quickly. All of the risks were taken in Part 1 and for the most part the reinvention scared casual viewers away, but there’s a lot more familiar territory to be found in Part 2 as well as an overall darker tone. We see Gordon as Police Commissioner, Harvey Dent is elected after the Gotham blackout and becomes a prominent figure in the series, Batman becomes unhinged after the loss of Alfred, and we see more of the freaks everyone loves rise up. I laid out three major reasons for the show’s failure in great length in my review of Season 1 Part 1 so I won’t waste your time with all that here. However, only two of those complaints still stand when discussing Part 2 because the villains here are indeed much improved with the questionable, esoteric foes stepping up as genuine threats and a number of recognizable faces from the rogues gallery’s A-list popping up throughout these 13 episodes.
Much like Part 1, Part 2 is serialized with a grand story cutting its way through its run. Whereas Part 1 was centered around the Ion Cortex and the Soultaker Sword (again, aspects that probably turned off many Bat-fans), Part 2 focuses on something far more Batman fans can latch onto: the rise and fall of Harvey Dent, Bruce’s loss of control in Alfred’s absence, and — to a lesser degree — the assembling of Batman’s group, The Outsiders. The problem with Part 2’s big storyline is that it’s not about a version of Harvey Dent that I think many fans will appreciate. Quite simply, Harvey Dent is a dick. A Walter Peck-type character. He’s even voiced by Christopher McDonald, who is a great actor famous for playing dicks in everything from Happy Gilmore to Flubber and on, and on, and on. It’s not a traditional portrayal. He’s more like Arthur Reeves, who many will know as an anti-Batman councilman from the comics of the 70s and 80s and from the animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The Harvey Dent of Beware the Batman is Harvey Dent in name only. Besides the name, the look, and the position as Gotham’s hotshot DA, this Harvey Dent is a complete reinvention. While I salute Beware the Batman‘s many attempts to try new things with the mythology — many of which turned out quite well — this approach to Two-Face is a step down. Without giving Harvey a deep relationship with Gordon and Batman and making him a fairly decent guy you’re robbing Two-Face of the duplicity that makes him so damn compelling.
My complaints with Harvey Dent are ones that only hardcore Batman fans like us will really understand. He’s a perfectly sound antagonist as long as you don’t know what might have been. As for the rest of the series’ cast, our heroes are portrayed exceedingly well. Watching Bruce fall apart without Alfred there to guide him is quite riveting. Tatsu doesn’t have much to do this season, Alfred’s past is fleshed out more and in incredibly surprising ways, Barbara becomes a much more important character and her scenes rank as some of the best, Gordon gets very little to do in Part 2 which is unfortunate, and basically any of the returning baddies from Season 1 Part 1 get an upgrade except for Pyg and Toad, who are terrible. Speaking of the best and worst, I’m going to finish out this review with a brief look at some of my favorite and least favorite chapters of Dark Justice!
Darkness & Reckoning
Parts two and three of the three-part Ra’s al Ghul saga that should’ve been included with the Season 1 Part 1 Blu-ray. Man, this is good.
Directed by Rick Morales/Curt Geda
Written by Mitch Watson
Arguably the best thing about Beware the Batman was this Ra’s al Ghul three-parter. Goodness gracious! “Fall,” the last episode of the previous blu-ray, was the best episode of that disc, hands-down. The two episodes that followed didn’t disappoint. Lance Reddick (The Wire) does a phenomenal job as Ra’s al Ghul, who is written perfectly here and stands as the greatest threat this Batman ever faced throughout the series (as he should be). While you could enjoy Fall, Darkness, and Reckoning on their own, the payoff you get for going through the entire Soultaker Sword saga makes the experience all the richer as you see every loose end perfectly tied up one after the other. The Ion Cortex thing? Done. Silver Monkey’s betrayal of the League of Assassins? Done. Gordon and Barbara seeing eye-to-eye on Batman? You better believe it! There’s so much going on here and it never feels like overkill. And speaking of kill, there’s definitely a body count here — I was definitely taken aback when some the deaths began to occur. It’s an undeniably dark chapter in Beware the Batman. Great drama, great fight sequences (something this show did better than anybody), and this Batman continues to show off his superior intellect. The only downside comes when the animators made certain sets look too vacuous (the Blackgate scene in particular is laughable, but was satisfying to see Ra’s pimp-slap Mr. Toad, one of the worst characters in the show)or repeated the same tree over and over again in a forest– the mundane scenery remains the series’ greatest weakness. Other than that, I think you could show any Batman fan this three-parter and they would definitely take an interest in seeing what more Beware the Batman has to offer.
Batman and others awaken inside a mansion where they must solve a murder or die themselves.
Directed by Curt Geda
Written by Adam Beechen (Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns)
Suspend your disbelief. Don’t worry about how exactly the rotund Humpty Dumpty managed to subdue Batman and everybody else, don’t worry about how he could have possibly built all of the death traps in this mansion, and definitely don’t second guess how these traps work (I’m looking at you, room with destructible floor tiles). Do that. Suspend your disbelief and you’ve got one of the most intense episodes that this series has to offer. Batman, Gordon, Tatsu, the mayor, and gangster Tobias Whale wake up inside a creepy mansion and are told that there’s been a murder and they have to figure out who the killer is or else they all suffer in a SAW-esque death trap. Each room has a different clue, a different death trap, and… it’s just fun. It’s smart (just ignore the stuff I said to), fast-paced, and really, really gripping and entertaining. One of the most fun episodes and one I’ll definitely watch again.
One of the best portrayals of Killer Croc in some time.
Directed by Sam Liu
Written by Mark Banker
The episode starts with the villain Key, who is reimagined as a little guy with weird fingers that can turn into any kind of key and you’re thinking “Aw, man, I don’t want to watch a whole episode about this strange twerp!” But then he’s caught almost instantly and sent to Blackgate Penitentiary. So what’s the big deal? Well, a guy who can turn his fingers into keys was just thrown into a prison. Batman sees the dilemma instantly and has himself incarcerated just so he can prevent Key from falling into the wrong hands and causing a mass-breakout. It’s pretty great. We see a smug Harvey thrilled about finally catching his vigilante, Batman has more than a few bad-ass moments (the main storyline here is that Batman is growing reckless and losing all control without Alfred in his life), there’s a funny Penguin Easter egg, and, most importantly, Killer Croc shows up for the first time. He’s a nobody who came to Gotham from some far away bayou in the hopes of becoming a big-time crime boss. Well, he’s big-time alright, big-time while doing time. Croc runs things in Blackgate prison and it’s he who desperately wants to track down Key. And now that Batman’s locked up in Blackage, Croc wants a piece of him too. Croc is played brilliantly by Wade Williams (who played the warden of Blackgate in TDK and Two-Face in DKR Part 1) who gives him a drawl. They really took Croc back to his roots as a smarter, more ambitious criminal and watching him push Batman over the deep end is fantastic.
More Killer Croc goodness, but this time Barbara Gordon gets in on the action
Besides an opening fight scene in which Batman appears to have forgotten everything about Croc’s weaknesses that he learned in “Animal,” this is a near-perfect episode. Barbara, who has settled in as Batman’s Oracle (yeah, before being Batgirl– crazy, right?), is out on her first date while Tatsu and Batman try to stop Croc from robbing a bank. Sounds simple enough until Croc proves to be more resourceful than anyone realized and catches Tatsu and Batman in one of the best death traps in the series. And the best part? “Choices” is a fine example of one of the few times in fiction where a villain caught the hero in a death trap and then hung around to make sure everything went according to plan! Everything relies on Barbara and Alfred coming to save the day, but Alfred won’t be able to get past Croc and Barbara is not only on a date, but being tailed by two detectives who her dad sent to secretly chaperone. My favorite line was Croc saying “Old men? Girls? How many does this chump have on the payroll?”
Epitaph & Twist
The first two parts of the three-part season finale that turned out to be a series finale
Directed by Curt Geda/Sam Liu
Written by Mitch Watson/Mark Banker
A gun-wielding Batman shows up at a campaign rally for Harvey Dent and apparently shoots and kills Bruce Wayne. From then on it’s just one crazy twist after another– in fact, the second episode in this trilogy is called “Twist.” The fight scenes are break, Batman’s plan is brilliant (yeah, he survives and decides NOT to let the world know he’s alive), and the cliffhanger ending to “Twist” is heart-pounding. Why didn’t I list the final episode as one of the best? Well, that’s spoiler country. Basically, “Alone” is a good episode, but it just brushed off the previous episode’s cliffhanger ending and didn’t even try to explain how so-and-so survived and that took the wind out of my sails. “Epitaph” and “Twist,” however are tremendous examples of the best Beware the Batman can be.
The back 13 of Beware the Batman is superior to the front. I could pick out a number of episodes in Season 1 Part 1 that were weak or downright awful, but when it comes to Part 2 I can only think of two episodes that I’ll probably skip when re-watching this series in the future.
Toad wants to turn people into animals and then get married. Unfortunately, also Man-Bat’s origin
Directed by Rick Morales
Written by John Matta & Matt Weinhold
I have fond memories of “On Leather Wings” and you, sir, are no “On Leather Wings”! Anytime Pyg and Toad show up, you’re gonna have a bad time. My theory is that Pyg and Toad are the biggest culprits in the downfall of Beware the Batman. They were the most marketed bad guys and that turned away a lot of potential fans who saw their designs as too silly to even bother with. Then they showed up and those of us who actually watched were greeted by the most underdeveloped baddies the show had to offer. This is not the Pyg and Toad from the comics. I don’t know who these guys are. Why don’t I know? Because the show never told me. They just showed up and we were told they are eco-terrorists. And now this campy, one-dimensional pair is responsible for the creation of Man-Bat. Oh, and Man-Bat looks more like an ape than a bat.
The origin story of Manhunter (Not Martian Manhunter)
Directed by Curt Geda
Written by Ivan Cohen
The sporty father of one of Bruce’s old girlfriends is cloned/copied or something. A bunch of robots of her dad show up and Batman has to team up with the dad and stop the guy who… I don’t care. It’s not an outright terrible episode, it’s just that I found Manunter to be a dull character and his daughter was just as forgettable. It felt like Batman was barely in this episode as well, which also happened during Metamorpho’s origin episode, but Metamorpho was interesting. Metamorpho had an arc– still has an arc. In fact, I should go ahead and mention Metamorpho shows up again in an episode on this disc and he’s pretty great. Unlike Manhunter.
I definitely recommend this. I 100% recommend it if you enjoyed Season 1 Part 1, this is the better half of the show for sure. If you didn’t like Part 1, I suggest you go to iTunes or somewhere and download Fall, Darkness, and Reckoning and if the Ra’s al Ghul story doesn’t convince you to watch more of it then Beware the Batman simply isn’t for you. The CGI looks off-putting whenever there’s no action on screen and some of the attempts at reinventing the mythology failed, but when Beware the Batman is good, it’s very good. I think Dark Justice absolutely proves the potential this take on The Dark Knight had and it’s a shame we’ll never see more of it.