Chief Justice Michael Stailey still wonders who Aunt Harriet was related to...
A leaner, more lighthearted Caped Crusader.
After striking gold with Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95, 1997-99) and The Batman (2004-08)—not counting a slight misstep with Batman Beyond—Warner Bros. and DC decided to once again revamp the televised Bat-franchise. Harkening back to the bright, playful 1940s and '50s Batman, given to us by artists like Dick Sprang and Bill Finger, the show borrows heavily from the Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams playbook and their glory days on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Instead of the angsty, emotionally tormented Gotham City modern audiences have come to know and love, we have Batman and friends teaming up in a city where heroes and villains operate in friendlier, more competitive environment. In all honesty, from the opening theme to the character's witty banter, Batman: The Brave and The Bold feels like the love child of the 1966 Adam West series and Ben Edlund's The Tick. And in almost every case, that's a good thing. This is a timeless Dark Knight, layered with references and in-jokes for Batman and DC Universe fans of all ages.
One of the aspects of the show some fans take issue with is the voice casting, but the root of the problem lies more in past incarnation loyalties than the performances themselves. Yes, I too consider Kevin Conroy (BTAS) the definitive Batman, but Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) does a really fine job with the character, instilling Bats with a sense of fun and wry wit we haven't seen in animated form. Playing off such voice over A-teamers as Tom Kenny (SpongeBob Squarepants), James Arnold Taylor (The Spectacular Spider-man), John Di Maggio (Futurama), and Corey Burton (Every Disney project you can imagine), Bader holds his own, and the entire crew seems to be having a blast.
This is strictly a Batman-in-action series, with little or no attention paid to anything other than teaming up with other heroes (some more reluctant than others) to beat on colorful bad guys. Credit the creative team—which includes such familiar names as Paul Dini and JM De Matteis—for not taking the easy way out. These are well written and executed tales, bite-sized in scope but not less grand to take in. Each episode starts with a pre-credits mini-tale (one of my favorite aspects of the show), featuring a team-up hero not often used in the main story. As a result, we get to see more of the DC Universe family than ever before, with a tremendous respect to and reverence for the rich history these characters share.
I say all that before dropping the hammer on the bad news. Warner Home Video continues its single volume installment plan, releasing four episodes at a time. Now, I know this is a major bone of contention with fans, who hold no love for the Warner Bros. marketing team. What people need to realize is that these are price point releases. In order to get them into high volume, impulse buy outlets like drug stores and groceries stores, they need to be at that $14.99 USD level. This is the same reason you see shows like Scooby-Doo, Where are You! and The Smurfs being re-released in volumes, despite already having seen full season releases. It's a necessary evil of the business. Are these volumes good buys for the hardcore fans? Of course not. You'll gladly wait for the full season release. But for parents who are looking for something to keep kids entertained in the car, on a plane, or while fixing dinner, they work. So you can put away the torches and pitchforks. A full season release will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, the four episodes on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Volume 1 are…
"Rise of the Blue Beetle" (Episode 101)
"Terror on Dinosaur Island" (Episode 102)
"Evil Under the Sun" (Episode 103)
"Invasion of the Secret Santas" (Episode 105)
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the series looks great on DVD. The colors pop, the background detail is ample for a modern standard def release, and there doesn't appear to be any digital enhancement to mar the picture. You can still notice the disconnect in integrating some the CG elements (mostly vehicles and tech weaponry), but it's minimal and doesn't pull you out of the story. The audio is standard Dolby 2.0 and nothing to get excited over. The Foley effects are solid and the underscore by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, and Lolita Ritmanis is top notch. This trio deserves a lot of credit for their work. Just wait until you see the musical episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" co-starring Neil Patrick Harris. Genius!
No bonus features, as is standard for these incremental volumes. Sorry Charlie. Hopefully, WHV will perform their due diligence on the Season One set.
"A" for creative ingenuity and execution. "C" for single volume releases.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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