Judge Paul Pritchard hitches up his tights and straps on his utility belt. He's not fighting crime, you understand, he's off to one of his "special" parties.
Our reviews of The Batman: The Complete Second Season (published October 9th, 2006), The Batman: The Complete Third Season (published May 2nd, 2007), The Batman: The Complete Fourth Season (published December 12th, 2007), The Batman: Complete First Season (published February 7th, 2006), The Batman: The Man Who Would Be Bat (Season 1, Volume 2) (published October 19th, 2005), and The Batman: Training For Power (Season 1, Volume 1) (published June 2nd, 2005) are also available.
Batman: "Another break-in. This time at the Gotham lens-grinding
And so the time has come to bid farewell to The Batman, with the release of The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season which, for now at least, marks the end of The Caped Crusader's animated adventures.
Facts of the Case
Set during Bruce Wayne's sixth year as Batman, The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season contains the final 13 episodes of the series, spread over two discs:
• "The Batman/Superman Story: Part 2"—With Superman under the influence of Lex Luthor, The Dynamic Duo sets out to bring down The Man of Steel.
• "Vertigo"—When Count Vertigo launches an attack on Gotham, Batman must team-up with The Green Arrow.
• "White Heat"—Firefly, a third-rate villain, gains devastating powers when he is exposed to radioactive phosphorous. Taking on the new name of Phosphorus, he plans to destroy Gotham City, and only Batman stands in his way.
• "A Mirror Darkly"—Mirror Master enters Gotham with a plan to trap its citizens in their own reflections. With the assistance of The Flash, Batman and Robin set out to thwarts his plans.
• "Joker Express"—When the citizens of Gotham start committing robberies while suffering bouts of hysterical laughter, Batman finds himself in pursuit of The Joker once again.
• "Ring Toss"—During a clash with Sinestro, Green Lantern's ring falls into the hands of The Penguin, who launches his own crime wave upon the city.
• "Attack of the Terrible Trio"—Three losers, mutagens stolen from Dr. Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat), transform themselves to exact revenge on their tormentors.
• "The End of the Batman"—Batman's real identity is discovered by Wrath, putting Bruce Wayne's crimefighting career in jeopardy.
• "What Goes Up…"—Batman teams-up with Hawkman to take on Shadow Thief, who has been hired to break Black Mask out of Arkham.
• "Lost Heroes: Part 1"—When the superpowered members of The Justice League are kidnapped; Batman, Robin, and Green Lantern must work together to find out who is behind the plot and what their motives are.
• "Lost Heroes: Part 2"—With the villains behind the kidnappings revealed, The Justice League must unite once more to save the world.
Not only is Batman unquestionably the greatest superhero of all time, the character has also shown to be amongst the most durable and adaptable fictional creations, well, ever. From his beginning as a remorseless vigilante, happily snapping necks and even killing criminals, to the camp Adam West series, the changes that numerous writers have brought to the character have made naming the definitive version of Batman almost impossible. Rather than being a negative, this has continually proven to play to The Dark Knight's advantage. For example, while I would never dream of showing my young nephews Batman Begins, I would have no hesitation in introducing them to the character by way of The Batman.
While each fan of the character has their own favorite interpretation, whether it be the Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams comics that revitalized the character back in 1969, Frank Miller's brooding, older Batman in The Dark Knight Returns or Tim Burton's gothic masterpiece Batman Returns, The Batman has taken elements from each of Batman's previous incarnations to craft its own account of Bruce Wayne's formative years as The World's Greatest Detective.
Picking up one year after The Joining invaded earth, in events that drew to a close The Batman: The Complete Fourth Season, The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season sees The Batman enter its The Brave and the Bold phase. Having given us Batgirl in Season Three, and introduced Robin in Season Four, Season Five ups the ante by having Batman frequently teaming up with The Justice League. From Superman, Green Lantern, and The Flash to Green Arrow, Hawkman, and The Martian Manhunter, Season Five is the big payoff fans of the show have been waiting for, encompassing some of the finest icons the DC Universe has to offer. That's not all. It's a well-known fact that Batman has the finest rogues' gallery of any superhero, but in a glorious tribute to all things DC, The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season sees villains such as Lex Luthor, Mirror Master, and Count Vertigo crossing over to balance the hero-to-villain ratio.
Despite this increased character roster, The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season never feels overloaded, skillfully managing the ample resources at its disposal to give all characters their moments in the sun, or in the case of Gotham City, their moment in the grime, with one exception—Batgirl. With Robin's increased presence, and with the introduction of The Justice League, Batgirl is given little attention this time around, which is a shame. The spunky female sidekick makes for a nice character dynamic, and her interactions with Robin are particularly well handled. But like Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl is used far more sparingly in Season Five, making only a handful of appearances and most of those not amounting too much more than a cameo.
As ever, the storytelling here is streamlined to the point of simplicity. While that may sound like a complaint, it really isn't. A big gripe I've had with comic books over recent years has been the elongated story arcs that spend too much time on exposition, with barely a hero's finger raised in anger. The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season reverses this trend and has its heroes actually getting down to business, arguably becoming the most action-packed, fast-paced season of the show.
The 13 episodes presented here are loaded with atmosphere, with Gotham City literally feeling like it could spill over into all-out chaos at any moment. Plagued by a cadre of villains bent on the destruction of both The Batman and the city he has sworn to protect, The Batman: The Complete Fifth Season retains the darker aspects of the Batman mythology, while presenting them in a family-friendly format, which is no mean feat. Helping to keep things kiddie-friendly is the inclusion of Robin as Batman's constant companion. I'll stick my neck out here and say that, with the exception of the comics, what we have here is the finest interpretation of the character yet. Full of wisecracks and enthusiasm, the Robin presented in The Batman is just as useful with his fists as he is with his mouth, frequently going toe-to-toe with super-villains and actually seeming like a worthwhile ally to Batman.
With the villains of Gotham frequently forming uneasy alliances to take down the Bat, it's a nice change of pace to see Batman turning the tables a little and becoming a vocal member of The Justice League. While Batman shows himself to be an indispensable member of the league, despite being one of the few non meta-humans in the group, true to his comic book origins he also hatches plans to take down the rest of the league's members should they ever go rogue. It's the small touches like this that, even with all the changes this series has made, ensure that this still feels like the Batman you know and love, reminding us that yes, he might be on your team, but step out of line and your ass is his.
Truly, this season of The Batman, perhaps more so than any other, feels like a love letter to Bob Kane's creation, and a gift to all his fans. The inclusion of so many other superheroes almost feels like an excuse to show who the real star player is. As a big fan of Batman, and for reasons I find myself unable to explain, I take great delight in seeing Batman open a can of whoop-ass on Superman, and sure enough those hungry for another Batman v Superman bout, following similar tussles in The Dark Knight Returns and Hush, will relish the events of "The Batman/Superman Story: Part 2," when these two titans go head-to-head in another classic encounter.
Picture quality on the DVD is excellent, with crisp images blessed with a great color palette. With the disc's audio also impressing, it falls to the special features to offer the only negative. Considering this is the final season of the show, it would have been nice to see something a little more satisfying than a few character profiles and a short feature on how series' producers took up the challenge of bringing superhero team-ups to The Batman.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I have never quite bought the interpretation of the Joker presented in The Batman. On a purely aesthetic level, the redesign of the character does nothing for me whatsoever; a suitably demented face is lost on an apelike body with hair that looks like a bunch of off-color bananas. More crucially, the Joker presented here is never given real arch-nemesis status. As a result, showdowns between Batman and the Joker lack the climactic tension that has driven previous incarnations. The flipside of this of course, is that The Batman allows other, often lesser villains, to take center stage and have their chance to shine, once again revealing Batman's rich rogues gallery.
With its bold redesign of iconic characters and alterations to the Batman mythology, The Batman took its share of knocks early on. Yet with each passing season the writers seemed to grow in confidence, producing a more assured series that ultimately, while retaining its own voice, can stand next to Batman: The Animated Series and feel no shame. That is about as big a compliment as I can pay The Batman. This is damn near essential viewing.
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