Reviews: BATMAN The Brave And The Bold
I'm going to hell I prefer this over The classic 90's cartoo
So when the first thing we saw was concept art of a very 60's pre-school friendly looking Batman, with Green Arrow and the Beetle my first thought was "Man this is going to suck", now I thought The Batman was nothing more than a soulless toy commercial, so I didn't exactly miss it, but this just seemed so much more pandering. However when I turned out to be completely wrong about Spectacular Spider-man (rest in peace) as not only was it "not bad" but it was the greatest Spider-man cartoon ever I decided to give this cartoon a chance. Not only was I wrong and it was good, eventually I enjoyed it more than The critically acclaimed fan-favorite 90's series. Don't get me wrong, the 90's cartoon is a well deserved classic, hell its theatrical movie Mask of the Phantasm is still the best Batman movie bar none. But for every great episode like Heart of Ice, Feat of Clay, Robin's Reckoning, etc there were plenty of just kind of there episodes. Not once was I ever bored by Brave and the Bold, its just so much fun. And its completely respectable to the Batman character, I know fanboys aplenty like to pretend the goofy Batman never existed, but he did. The Brave and the Bold doesn't make Batman an idiot, he's very much the hero we've come to love (I get somewhat of a less wooden Val Kilmer vibe to be honest) its just his situations are very Silver Age wackiness. Dark Batman doesn't necessarily equal good. And Light Batman does not necessarily equal bad.
It could have been worse, but that's not saying much.
I'll admit that I do not like Silver Age camp, but I do believe Lighter And Softer approaches can turn out well. However, I feel TB&TB uses its campy style less to invoke comedy than it uses it as an excuse for being silly and unorigial. The show doesn't feel like an action series with comedic elements, it feels like an action series with a layer of silliness all over it (though admittedly, as I'm not a very frequent comic reader, some of its humour may be lost to me). While seeing these obscure "B-list" heroes is fun, there is one thing that prevents them from being endearing for long: Batman. Batman has no reason to even be in this show. His backstory, rogues' gallery, his sidekicks and his Bruce Wayne persona almost never appear, and the character feels cheapened as a result. But that's not all, because Batman's presence also makes the other heroes seem weak. Because Batman HAS to have the spotlight, none of the other heroes are allowed to be even semi-competent. They must always be completely dependent on Batman and helpless without him. In the long run, Batman feels tacked on to stories that he shouldn't be in. Are the Green Lanterns in trouble with Despero? Send a Green Power Ring to Batman! Is planet Rann being attacked by Gordanians? Call Batman, the greatest strategist of planet Earth! Will apes and tigers evolve beyond human intelligence far in the future and are at war? Batman must travel in time to give the humans a hand! All in all, the show would be far better if Batman WASN'T in it. Even besides that, Batman is a very irritating protagonist. He constantly subjects the viewer to internal monologue that most of the time is just blatantly obvious exposition (I'm guessing this was meant to resemble the narration boxes that pointed everything out in the Silver Age, but that's no excuse for being annoying). The show constantly sets Batman up to be more awesomer than every other hero put together, and much dialogue is wasted so the other characters can comment on how awesome Batman is (possibly the worst exaple being in "Fate of the Equinox", where Batman acts very rude torwards Dr. Fate's masters and is commended for it). This isn't a horrible show by any means, but neither is it a good one.
Finally we got back to what this genre is all about.
As a fan who started buying comics just in time for Rob Liefeld and his ilk to basically ruin everything, I've been waiting for this for decades. Comics and superheroes are fun. They occasionally work in more serious stories exploring broadly applicable themes but the comics of the last two decades or so have had far too much emphasis on being either "mature" in that way that you have to put in quotes that's about three day stubble and blood and sex, or about preaching which only very rarely works in a format where your stories are expected monthly and most of the rest of the time just kills the fun. I'm not saying I want everything to be like the Brave and the Bold but this series got what superheroes are about far better than anything else aside from maybe The Avengers movie and if the comics were like this, I'd actually buy them.
Too much quality fluctuation
Some people have a problem with Batman The Brave And The Bold because they think it's too silly and for children, as opposed to more serious takes on the character. They are partly correct, but there have been episodes (such as "Chill Of The Night") that are shockingly dark. Besides the series is chock-full of references that only long-time fans of the character (and DC Comics in general) would get, so clearly it is aimed at them as well. My problem with the show however is how much the actual quality of the writing varies. This is apparently because they have too many writers including guest ones like Paul Dini and Gail Simone. The second season in particular has several episodes with logic holes (such as "The Mask of Matches Malone", "The Criss-Cross Conspiracy" and "Plague of the Prototypes"); they feel as if the writers themselves said "ah, it's cartoon, no need to explain everything well." (check out the series' It Just Bugs Me page for examples.) This is in stark contrast to many other very well written episodes, including the Owlman/Joker two parter, the Starro plotline and the Musical Episode. The differences are enough that people who watch the series regularly can notice. Of course, since the nature of each episode depends on the guest stars, and those cover everything from Plastic Man to The Spectre, you have to expect a lot of variety. What I'm talking about is dumping in plot ideas without bothering to explain them well. The "teaser" segments are the worst to blame, since they often don't explain things like how or why Batman is interfering in a past era. Sure these are "In Media Res" sort of adventures (due to the short time they last) but something as simple as a line of dialog could explain many of them. For example, Batman may have found out that a Time-Traveling villain went to change the past and he got help from a scientist to follow him. There, one sentence. Couldn't they fit that in? And no, leaving it to the audience to guess doesn't count, that's a cop-out. Still, overall TB&TB is a fun series and I recommend it- just don't expect every story to make perfect sense.
When I was first aware of this shows release, I had a mixed reaction. I'm a DC fanboy, and I liked seeing certain characters in animation for the very first time, I thought that it was going to be dumbed down, strictly for the appeal of small children. Okay, obviously its not the dark brooding Bruce Timm Batman we all know and love, I like this show because its different, but not in a way that makes it unwatchable. It has that classic, narmtacular flair of the Silver Age, but it manages to make it so very badass at the same time. And the way they handled the B and C list characters in this show is sweet sauce too. I love how they focused on minor league heroes and villians and gave them the awesome treatment they deserve. Some people hate this show, because its not GRIMDARK Bats, but I feel people like that should lighten up. This show is mostly about having fun, and its made with every viewer group in mind. All episodes are mostly stand alone, introducing new heroes and villains in one episode to see them again in another. The voice acting in this show is awesome too, not to mention awesome guest voices like R. Lee Ermey, NPH, Julie Newmar, Adam West, Paul Reubans and even some the cast of B:TAS. All and all, if you relax a little, you may find this show to be one awesome interpretation of the Caped Crusader. And also, nachos. Batman does not eat them.
The Fate of Equinox!
I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of this show, not just because of its Crazy Awesome, Rule Of Fun style, but because, despite cries of Ruined Forever about embracing the Silver Age instead of Batman The Animated Series, characterization is still a pretty large part of the show. I've grown fond of several of the guest stars that I couldn't have cared less about previously; Aquaman has finally developed an identity separate from his Super Friends incarnation or his Namor-knockoff origins; and one-time B-lister Gentleman Ghost is practically the Big Bad of the series. After seeing what they did with GG, I was looking forward to what they would do with Equinox, an awesomely creepy Canon Foreigner. Unfortunately, what seems to be his final appearance was my first real disappointment with the show. This Batman/Dr. Fate team-up is a bit lacking. Equinox is revealed to be explicitly mystical in origin, but doing so robs him of his mystique. He's not the only one to suffer: devoting most of the episode to Equinox's origin and motivation leaves Doctor Fate with very little time to establish a personality. I never got to know the Doctor, so the Aesop about him being too set in his ways compared to Batman came out of the blue, IMHO. It would have been awesome to see the separate heroes deal with the unraveling of space-time in their own way, so including them as mere props for Batman have a All Your Powers Combined moment seems a waste. This season-finale material would've been best as a two-parter, letting us get both the raw, unprocessed awesomeness, and some better characterization. While there are bright spots (carnivorous Stegosaurs in the streets! Kaiju-Batman vs Kaiju-Equinox!), this episode strikes me as a Missed Moment Of Awesome that was rushed by the time constraints. Admittedly, the above can be dismissed as mere nitpicking. However, they are all outweighed by what I consider to be a Wall Banger. It involves the ending, and I can't use spoiler tags, but it's my real issue with the episode. I guess I'll post in the comments section, so PRESS AT YOUR OWN RISK. This episode is not Jump The Shark material, but it is a low point, and the writers can do better.
The happy days are here again
Do you miss the time when Batman was the kind of guy who would stop at a street corner for a rousing game of Rock-Em-Sock-Em robots? If so, then rejoice: that Batman is back. A show in stark contrast with most recent portrayals of Batman, this series gives us a Batman who is happy, well adjusted, and generally the sort of guy you don't just want to have on your team, you want to have as your friend. Unbridled optimism even amidst personal strife, a series of comedic gags, and never-ending action abound. So for those those of you who liked the Silver Age, or even those who just like their stories Lighter And Softer, there is a reason to triumph. Because happy Batman is back, and he is awesome.