In my opinion any attempt to make a Batman-inspired cartoon is doomed to pale in comparison to the Batman: The Animated Series. Given the extreme liberties taken with the designs of Batman’s rogues gallery I could never get into The Batman, but I will admit a fondness for the sheer glee in which Batman: The Brave and the Bold embraced the Silver Age ridiculousness of the character (even offering us Catman riding his giant robotic cat in one episode!). Replacing Green Lantern: The Animated Series on DC Nation, the similarly CGI-animated Beware the Batman began its run this past weekend with the show’s first episode – “Hunted.”
Set in the early days of Batman‘s (Anthony Ruivivar) career, street criminals and super-villains seem to know about Gotham’s vigilante but Lieutenant James Gordon (Kurtwood Smith) and the police have no official comment about the city’s new hero. I’ve never been a fan of the all-black costume (especially without the yellow and black bat symbol), but I will give credit to the show with giving the character a sleek look and going against current comic and movie convention that always wants to overload the character in thick armor-platting. The Batman the series first episode presents is one that uses stealth and the shadows to his advantage. I’ll also applaud the emphasis the episode puts on Batman’s detective abilities (Christopher Nolan could learn a thing or two here) and the jet-like design of the new Batmobile.
Perhaps the biggest change of recognizable characters is the version of Alfred Pennyworth (JB Blanc) who is far more action-ready than any readily recognizable version of the character. True, the character in comics was given a spy background in different variations of his life story, but we’ve never seen Bruce Wayne’s butler be able to go toe-to-toe with the Batman in a fight (albeit for only a few seconds). We’re not going to get Robin (at least not anytime soon), but this first episode does introduce Katana (Sumalee Montano) as Bruce Wayne’s new bodyguard and driver (and, eventually, Batman’s sidekick).
“Hunted” gives us two recent Grant Morrison created villains in Professor Pyg (Brian George) and Mr. Toad (Udo Kier). On the plus side, I have no affection for the characters so any modification to their design or motivations didn’t concern me. On the other hand, it’s hard to garner any excitement for a show that couldn’t come up with a better first episode than Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad kidnapping Gotham millionaires like Simon Stagg, a very un-terrific Michael Holt (Gary Anthony Williams), and Bruce Wayne’s butler for a somewhat ill-defined revenge.
As the first episode of a new series, “Hunted” was actually better than I expected. I don’t think the design will take as long to get used to as I expected (and the sleek look of everything works well), even if I’d still like to see a little more color in the costume (particularly a little smattering of yellow in the upper chest region).
The plots for the next two episodes continue the trend of focusing on relatively new Bat-villains I have no real affection for, but this episode was able to sell me at least a little on Pyg and Toad (which is far more than Morrison was able to do with them). Although the show’s creators have stated they want to use more of Batman’s lesser known villains, I think the real test for me will be how the show introduces more classic villains such as Ra’s al Ghul (who is scheduled to appear in this first season) or various other classic characters (Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, or even someone like Deadshot), as well as those who are not as well known (like say Calendar Man in his classic costume awesomeness?).