The Batman Review: Fleurs du Mal (S3E08)

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Original Airdate: November 26, 2005
Writer: David Slack
Director:
 Anthony Chun

The year is 1857.

Hugo is seven years in exile, and the Bonapartes’ second wind is in full swing. Russia has been soundly whipped for its insolence in the Crimea, but who has the time to celebrate? The whole of France – the whole of the Continent – buzzes with news that America is headed for a split, and Victoria’s Empire may not be far behind. Into this harrowing pit strode a most unimpressive figure, an unreliable little dandy of a man by the name of Charles-

Okay, fuck it. I don’t know the first thing about Second Empire poetry, and neither do you. I’m really sorry, guys – I wanted this blog’s first anniversary to be marked by a review of Something Special, but my work ethic roughly matches that of M. Baudelaire’s, and you can see how that’s worked out.

In any case, the link between today’s episode and Baudelaire’s most (in)famous work are probably skin-deep at best. Still, it’s the classiest reference this show’s done so far, and a worthy welcome for David Slahominahominahomina…

David Slack
Fun fact: the “slack” is derived from the state of your jaw after Googling him.

Excepting Greg Weisman, Slack is the most high-powered writer this show’s tapped so far, having already masterminded five whole seasons of Teen Titans back when that name still brought cheers instead of retching from Cartoon Network’s faithful. Lest you still have any doubts, here’s just a small selection of what he can do in the writer’s seat.

So seeing his name on this episode is heartening, to say the least, but can his talents pull him through a show even Weisman couldn’t crack on the first try? We shall see.

David Slack
“We shall indeed. By the way, you losers still can’t use Robin. Just so you know.”

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The Batman Review: The Laughing Cats (S3E07)

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(Again – sorry for the delay, folks. Wisdom teeth extraction isn’t terribly conductive to productivity, a half-gallon of tranquilizers even less so.)

Original Airdate: November 19, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director:
 Christopher Berkeley

I recently came across a review of The Batman by one of my older e-buddies, in which he cited pacing as one of the show’s two biggest problems. My first instinct was to disagree, then mail him a hive of killer bees (only I get to criticize The Batman, donchaknow). Then I remembered today’s episode is the last time Catwoman gets anything resembling a spotlight, and she’s considered one of the less-wasted villains.

I don’t even like Catwoman that much, but after the bum deal That Other Show gave her, she definitely deserved better from this one. Instead, she gets a permanent demotion two seasons before the finish line, and her going-away party gets hijacked by Batgirl and the Joker, to boot.

But wait, maybe our special guest gatecrashers will do more good than harm! Let’s see what history has to say.

Catwoman and Batgirl got off to a fairly rocky start, since the latter was introduced in the ’60s and DC’s cure for writer’s block back then often boiled down to “rip off whatever Archie’s up to”. The Superman books got the worst of it, no doubt, but Gotham’s women were far from spared.

detective369-19

Fortunately, this angle was dropped after a story or two, and as Catwoman moved into grey hat territory, Batgirl became another upstanding Debbie Do-Gooder who could be teased and teamed up with – though never seduced, like Batman might be. Instead, Catwoman-Batgirl stories tend to be unapologetic girl-power affairs, with “Batgirl Returns” from That Other Show undoubtedly the most famous of the lot.*

(Of course, the two of them are nowhere near contemporaries in this show, so we’ll see how that shakes out.)

Catwoman and the Joker, meanwhile, have a much longer, twistier history. From a certain perspective, they’re almost siblings – not only were they both introduced in Batman #1, but they’d cross paths in the very next issue, in the first-ever meeting between two big-name rogues. And just like siblings, they could rarely stand to be in the same room for five seconds; team-ups were rare, and when they did happen the results were seldom pretty.

Pictured: one of Cesar and Eartha’s happier outtakes.

As the years went on, this animosity got worse. Modern writers love emphasizing Catwoman’s (relative) sanity almost as much as they love playing up how screw-loose the Joker is, and ever since Frank Miller introduced “Batman. Darling.” into Joker’s personality, well… the Bat-Cat-Bat love triangle might be dead, but the Bat-Cat-Clown one is still kicking.

Miller (and other writers like Mike W. Barr) would use that dynamic to turn out some of the most disturbing moments in the Joker’s history, but I seriously doubt this episode’s going to be anything like that. Still, one never knows…

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The Batman Review: Brawn (S3E06)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: November 12, 2005
Writer: Alexx Van Dyne
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

People like the Joker, right? What if… we put him on steroids?

You think it’s stupid. I think it’s stupid. But apparently Rocksteady didn’t, and as of 2016, this is still probably the closest thing The Batman has to an actual legacy.

I didn’t say it was a good legacy.

Anything else I can add to the history lesson? Well, the general idea of Venom falling into non-Bane hands is certainly older than this episode (hell, it’s older than Bane). That said, this episode was probably made around the same time Jose Canseco’s Juiced came out, so there may – may – have been a tiny seed of influence there.

This episode is also a Batgirl-centric one, so the choice of Joker for the main villain leads to some pretty inevitable parallels with a certain other work from DC’s past.

What’d you think I meant?

But we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of that later.

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The Batman Review: RPM (S3E05)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: November 5, 2005
Writer: Christopher Yost
Director:
 Christopher Berkeley

Folks, before we start, there’s something you need to know.

One episode in this season has an evil toymaker as the villain. It is not half the toy commercial this one is. And all because-

WHO THE PLUPERFECT FUCK ASKED YOU?!

But yes, the Batmobile is right up there with Robin as one of the most iconic elements in Batman’s world (and if we’re being honest its hatedom is much smaller). Still, basing an entire story around it is… dicey, to say the least. It made for a cute twelve-pager back in the ’50s, but the last time a cartoon – a modern cartoon – tried to make it a full-length story…

If there’s one small mercy here, it’s that The Batman was sensible enough to not draft the Penguin again. Instead, this episode features Gearhead, who’s probably the most obscure baddie this show ever adapted from the comics. I mean, Spellbinder got to be in Batman Beyond, Cluemaster got to father Tumblr’s favorite Batgirl, and even Ragdoll got some quality time with James “I did stuff besides Cry for Justice, honest!” Robinson. There’s exactly one writer who cares about poor ol’ Gearsy: his creator.

Chuck Dixon
“It’s okay, son. I still think you’re cool.”

Gearhead is far from my favorite Dixon rogue, but I’ll give him this – for a D-lister, he’s got one hell of an origin. It starts with all-around nogoodnik Nathan Finch plunging into a river during the dead of winter, and getting “rescued” by a guy whose idea of medical attention is this.

Gearhead Origin
[Insert Obamacare joke here.]

From there, the guy basically turns into an evil Ed Elric, using a variety of super-advanced cyborg limbs to get revenge on Batman (who was too busy dodging Finch’s bullets to pull him out of the water, the scoundrel). Like most of Dixon’s villains, he’s got roughly zero redeeming traits, but with the shit he’s gone through, it’s kinda hard to hate him for it.

And you know, I was all set to rant about how he deserved a better animated debut than an episode devoted to fellating Batman’s car. But then I went and read his second appearance in the comics, which was, in fact, devoted to fellating Batman’s car.

Well-played, Mr. Yost. Not that it can save the rest of this episode.

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The Batman Review: A Fistful of Felt (S3E04)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: October 8, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Anthony Chun

So here we are – The Batman‘s second attempt at a reformation story, and its last Ventriloquist episode. Much as I love him/them, I have to admit that’s probably for the best, since there’s really only two stories you can do with the Ventriloquist: the debut (which may or may not double as an origin) and the rehabilitation attempt.

This is an accusation more commonly leveled at Two-Face, and while I disagree in that case, I can’t deny that Arnold Wesker is in many ways a poor man’s Harvey Dent. Like Harvey, he’s a fundamentally good man plagued by an evil split-personality, but there’s no rise-and-fall arc, and far less complexity. Arnold and Scarface have nothing in common – to the point of using different names and different bodies – so their story is less “man confronts his darker side, compromises with it through random chance” and more “man gets pushed around by douchebag he just happens to share a brain with”.

And that’s when Scarface isn’t being portrayed as a literal demon possessing poor Arnold.

ScarfaceDemon

Long story short, Ventriloquist reform stories tend to go through the same beats no matter who writes them – you read one, you’ve read ’em all. That Other Show’s take stands out with a somewhat unconventional ending, but that’s about it. Let’s see whether The Batman can rise to the occasion.

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