There's absolutely nothing brave or bold about Judge Jim Thomas.
Our review of Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Volume 1, published August 15th, 2010, is also available.
Biff! Bam!! POW!!
One of the many, many, many, many DC Comics titles featuring Batman was The Brave and the Bold. This title, like its Marvel Comics counterpart Marvel Team-Up, brought together two heroes for a one or two-issue storyline. It was a great way to introduce readers to other characters in the universe. Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which ran for three seasons on Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2011, pairs Batman with an assortment of heroes.
The artwork for Batman (and Robin, in his lone appearance) is patterned after the Dick Sprang inspired opening sequence for the 1960s Batman series starring Adam West. And while this particular rendition of the Dark Knight isn't nearly as campy as its live-action predecessor, it is most assuredly a light-hearted affair. The tone os established right out of the gate as Batman (Diedrich Bader, The Drew Carey Show) snarks back and forth with Green Arrow (James Arnold Taylor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) as they try to escape from the death trap of the Clock King (Dee Bradley Baker, Phineas and Ferb), establishing a friendly rivalry between the two that plays out over several episodes.
Some of the more entertaining episodes include…
"Evil Under the Sea"—Batman visits Aquaman only to discover that Aquaman's brother Orm is conspiring with Black Manta to conquer Atlantis.
"Fall of the Blue Beetle"—Batman and the new Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, find themselves revisiting the fate of Ted Kord (the previous Blue Beetle).
"Day of the Dark Knight"—Merlin (David McCallum, NCIS) magically summons Batman and Green Arrow to medieval England to help him stop Morgan le Fey from overthrowing King Arthur.
"Day of the Deadman"—Buried alive by the Gentleman Ghost, Batman must create an astral projection and team up with Boston Brand (aka Deadman) in a race to save himself.
"Journey to the Center of the Bat"—When Batman is stricken by a disease while fighting Chemo, Aquaman and Atom must travel into Batman's body to save him.
"Deep Cover for Batman / Game Over for Owlman"—This two-parter spans two universes, features the Injustice Syndicate, and features a plot so out of hand that Batman finds himself striking an alliance with…The Joker?
"Hail the Tornado Tyrant"—Feeling lonely, Red Tornado builds a son named Tornado Champion imbued with the one thing RT lacks—emotions.
"The Color of Revenge"—Robin has left Batman to strike out on his own, but the scheming of Crazy Quilt forces the Dynamic Duo to work together again.
"Legends of the Dark Mite"—Bat Mite (Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure), Batman's greatest fan from the 5th dimension, shows up and tries to make Batman a better hero.
"Mayhem of the Music Meister"—Music Meister (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met your Mother) tries to take over the world. Musical numbers (and chaos) ensue.
All of these episodes have a light touch, even ones that have some fairly poignant moments, such as "Hail the Tornado Tyrant." Some even paint Batman in a poor light. The episode feturing Robin is presented more or less from the boy wonder's perspective, so Batman comes off as an overbearing jerk always running Robin down. And yet Batman: The Brave and the Bold is still very true to the character. Bat-Mite offers some insight in "Legends of the Dark Mite," as the character often breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience. At one point, he stands in front of a comic book convention crowd who are outraged at the liberties taken by the show, and reads a prepared statement from the producers…
"Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy."
That pretty much says it all. When you combine the light tone with the freedom of animation, the result is a surprisingly entertaining show. Bader hits just the right balance with his voice work, balancing snark and gravitas quite nicely. The animation lets them use heroes such as Plastic Man, Etrigan, and Red Tornado, and get away with villains like Crazy Quilt (swear to God) and Fun Haus (ditto). Plus, A fair amount of liberty is taken with characterizations. Aquaman, for instance, comes across as a goofy egomaniacal dork, with a pet dolphin that acts just like an excited puppy around Batman. In addition to a solid set of voice actors, they bring in a number of a guests, such as R. Lee Ermy (Full Metal Jacket) as Wildcat and Tim Matheson (Animal House) as Jarvis Kord.
Technically, Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Complete First Season (Blu-ray) is great. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfers are crisp and vibrant. While the set does pack thirteen 22-minute episodes on each disc, the fact that it's a more traditional animation prevents much in the way of compression artefacts. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is mixed wonderfully, with low piano notes on the jazzy theme music.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold may be targeted primarily towards younger audiences—my seven and ten year-old sons absolutely love it—but this disc is, as they say, suitable for kids of all ages. Myself included.
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