Sunday, July 27, 2008

Timeless

Because I took a five-hour nap today, I'm not really in the mood to sleep. In case you were wondering why the time stamp of this entry reads 2-something AM, there's your reason.

As I burn what's left of the midnight oil, I've been re-visiting the WB-era of Batman: The Animated Series (aka The New Batman Adventures). It's been almost eight years since I've seen any of these episodes but I remembered liking them when I caught the initial airings. So how do these episodes hold up as march to the end of the first decade of Century 21?

Incredibly well.

The series had a stylized retro design to begin with (the art deco architecture, the 1940s fashions, etc.), but so far, the stories have no dated elements whatsoever. This is crime drama of the highest order. Yeah, there are superheroes (Batman, Robin, Batgirl, and one appearance by Nightwing) but we really get into the heads of all the characters. And that is what makes this stuff so compelling to watch a decade after their debut.

Okay, Disc 1 just finished so I'll jot down some thoughts on each episode:

"Holiday Knights" -- A neat holiday episode where we get three complete stories in the span of 22 minutes. We learn that Harvey Bullock has a bit of a soft side when he and Renee Montoya team up with Batgirl to take down a now-thuggish Clayface. The second story involves more fun with Harley and Ivy. Lastly, Batman and Robin foil the Joker's dastardly New Year's Eve plot with an epilogue providing a look at the relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon.

"Sins of the Father" -- This is the origin story for the new Robin, Tim Drake. There's more to this kid than meets the eye and he's not annoying. In fact, I thought he was kind of cool. Speaking of cool...

"Cold Comfort" -- My favorite villain, Mr. Freeze, returns to his core: vengeance. We learn that tragedy had befallen him once again to the point where he's been driven mad as a result. His hiding from emotion has now been turned into ensuring everyone feels his pain. Initially acting out of love for his wife, he now hates everyone. That, to me, is the biggest tragedy.

"Double Talk" -- This was probably the best episode on the disc. Here we find the Ventriloquist working toward recovery of his multiple personality disorder. As he attempts to make progress on returning and contributing to society, he's constantly dogged by those who desperately want their crime boss to return. What I liked best about this episode is that it ended with the Ventriloquist back on the road to recovery, letting us know that not every criminal is a hopeless cause.

"You Scratch My Back" -- With Batman immune to Catwoman's charms, she turns her attention to Nightwing, the former Robin. Catwoman is shown as the ultimate manipulator here. Nightwing is the typical hot-headed archetype who "knows it all" but we learn that this may be a result of his former relationships now strained since his departure from the Batcave.

"Never Fear" -- Easily the weakest episode on the disc, but we get a look at the working relationship between Batman and the new Robin. A relatively simple story that more than makes up for it in atmosphere. The new design of the Scarecrow (not to mention the casting of Jeffrey Combs) is positively frightening.

Unlike other shows I remember enjoying only to realize they were pretty lousy, these episodes are terrific. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they're not just terrific Batman stories but terrific television period. If you haven't given this series a go in a while, you could certainly do worse for yourself. Like watch Wife Swap.

Okay, it's actually 3-something AM now. I really should try to get some sleep.

4 comments:

Siskoid said...

Bruce Timm's output is on the whole extremely watchable, whether it be Batman, Superman or Justice League.

angrygrrface said...

Hope you got enough sleep :)

Bill D. said...

This season has one of my very favorite episodes from any of the Timm DCU shows, the Batgirl/Supergirl spotlight "Girls Night Out." The bit with Batgirl riding on Supergirl's shoulders in flight, arms extended and obviously digging the ride, is such a fantastic little character moment.

De said...

The animated DCU was one of the most satisfying things to come out of the 1990s. It's neat checking these out again, sleep or no sleep.

I think "Girls Night Out" is on Disc 2 or 3. I'm looking forward to catching that one again.

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