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: A Fistful of Felt (S3E04)

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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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The Batman Review: A Dark Knight to Remember (S3E03)

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(This review dedicated to the late Darwyn Cooke.)

Original Airdate: October 1, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Okay, everyone’s waited long enough for this, so let’s just get something out of the way. Fat, obnoxious villain? Batman having memory issues? I think we all know where this is going.

I mean, if I had the slightest cause for hope, I’d be trying to link this episode’s inspiration to Puckett, Templeton, and Parobeck instead. But that part of my brain has been on life support ever since I found half my family are voting for The Donald, so let’s just dive in.

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The Batman Review: Night and the City (S2E13)

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Original Airdate: September 10, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

And once again, ladies and gents, we come to the end of an era. The end of a status quo. And the end of certain beloved cast members.

Just not funny
“Wait, what?

                                                 

Things Get Worse
“Didn’t ya hear? Accounting says this show’s waaay over budget.”

                                                   

JokerUhOh
“So we’re gonna have to lose ourselves some dead weight.”

                                              

Alfred Mistake
“Indeed? And who, might I ask, is on the proverbial chopping block?”

                                                

Final Riddle
“Ah, ah, ah. Ask yourselves not who in. Ask w-“  

Ah-pa-pap. Let’s leave that little surprise for later, Eddie.

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The Batman Review: Pets (S2E05)

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Original Airdate: June 18, 2005
Writers: Christopher Yost & J.D. Murray
Director:
 Sam Liu

So. Penguin/Man-Bat team-up, yadda yadda yadda, never been done in the comics (best to my knowledge), probably never should. Let’s just get this over with. It’s gonna take all of my inimitable comedic prowess to make this one bearable.

Bag of tricks
Okay, WHO left that out in the open?!

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The Batman Review: The Batman vs. Dracula

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Release Date: October 18, 2005
Writer: Duane Capizzi
Directors: Michael Goguen, Seung Eun Kim, Sam Liu, and Brandon Vietti

(Thank you for being so patient, everyone. Your wait has not been in vain.)

Welp. I’ve done it. Seventeen reviews, and I’m finally ready to rip off Mouse even more than I usually do for my first movie critique. Whoopee!

So… Batman versus Dracula. As a kid I bought it instantly, but as a full-grown geek I have to admit it’s a tougher sell. The purist in me can rarely stand Batman mixing it up with magic & monsters (okay, sure, he was doing just that literally five issues into his debut, but I like to think there’s a reason the Monk has gotten about three stories in seventy-five-odd years) and this particular monster is such a genre icon that he’s nigh-impossible to fudge into “our” history for the purposes of Like Reality Unless Noted. That’s not an instant dealbreaker, but it does leave a weird taste in my mouth, akin to the time Batman ran into a 120-year-old Sherlock Holmes.

Bee jelly was involved. Seriously.

In any case, DC only trots out the Count on very rare occasions, and pretty much never with fanfare. Which isn’t to say this movie has no lead to follow, because one of those occasions just happened to be…

Some number Red Rain among the best of Elseworlds – one that doesn’t just go “What if our hero grew up in X time and Y place?” but actively, permanently disrupts a status quo we all know and love, in this case making Batman fight and eventually replace the King of Vampires. Others call it a misguided, misshapen mess, crammed with cheap stakes, cheaper gore, and prose purple enough to make Anne Rice wince – all trying and utterly failing to hide all the goofiness in-between-

(Let’s not get started on the art. We’ll literally be here all day.)

-and I can’t really disagree with either. It’s always struck me as a very unbalanced comic, with just as many lows as highs and not much in the way of reread value. Still, there’s no arguing its legacy: sequels, toys, the all-important Lego game cameo

And maybe, just maybe, a flick that can boil it down for twelve-year-olds and still have something to be proud of.

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The Batman Review: The Bat, the Cat, and the Very Ugly (S2E01)

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Original Airdate: May 14, 2005
Writers: Thomas Pugsley & Greg Klein
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Welcome back, everyone. Didja miss me?

Okey, those of you who are still here, your wait has not been in vain. It’s time to tackle Season 2 of The Batman, a distinct improvement over Season 1 in most every way. Though admittedly, that might not be very apparent with this premiere episode, scripted by the same folks who brought us “The Man Who Would Be Bat”.

More than that, this is the show’s first bona-fide supervillain teamup, a formula that many superhero fans tend to approach with caution. In the movies, it often carries a whiff of executive interference, of number-crunchers who want to attract the widest audience possible by tossing together as many big-name characters as possible. And in the TV shows – at least in my opinion – it often signifies that the writers have run out of interesting things to say about or do with the villains in themselves, and have resorted to throwing them at each other in hopes that the script will write itself.

As for the history of this particular teamup… well, most of Batman’s big-name villains have been around long enough that everyone has met everyone else at least once. You’d think Penguin/Catwoman would be one of the thornier pairings, since…

CatsEatBirds

… but their shared A-list status has ensured that they’ve teamed up not once, but twice on the big-screen. One a flawed but still very enjoyable and idiosyncratic picture, the other quite possibly the greatest Batman movie ever made, if “greatest” is taken to mean “fulfilled all potential that it promised, and no more”.

Which is which? I’ll leave that for you to decide. But I will say one thing: the writers probably had Returns more in mind when they made this episode.

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The Batman Review: Bird of Prey (S1E11)

one (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: February 12, 2005
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Good evenin’, all you Penguin fans, wherever you may be…

U.S., Russia, Ireland, Mexico or Greece…

What a mediocre tale that we have here today…!

You nerds can simply call it… the one and only Bird of Prey!

Alas, today’s episode is no showcase for Oracle, Black Canary, or any other sexy, asskicking ladies. One “s” makes all the difference.

What it is is basically “Batman vs. The Media”, an idea that sounds fairly interesting but which has never worked for me outside the grimy, super-political, dated-but-not-too-dated atmosphere of The Dark Knight Returns. Why? Search me – maybe pre-Sin City Frank Miller was just that damn good.

btdk-042

In any case, you may have surmised that this kind of plot doesn’t really need a specific villain to work, and you’d be absolutely right. The Batman volunteers Penguin for the job, which should surprise no one familiar with That Other Show; Penguin’s always been harder to nail down specific, character-driven plots for than the likes of Joker or Two-Face, so he’s often saddled with the thankless task of carrying “gimmick” pitches (Batman gets KO’ed in some kid’s basement! Batman’s car gets jacked! Batman is blind!) that the writers were too lazy to invent a new villain for.

That’s not to say, however, that such episodes are inevitably terrible. The Adam West show used this sort of plug-in-villain-here plotting with abandon, and the results – at least in small doses – were often delightful. It was an approach that let the actors, rather than the writers, scope out the villains’ personalities and quirks – and when you have dedicated souls like Frank Gorshin or Burgess Meredith on the job, you get character portrayals that are still kicking in the public consciousness to this very day.

Let’s see which side of the divide today’s episode falls on.

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The Batman Review: Call of the Cobblepot (S1E03)

(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: September 18, 2004
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Poor, poor Oswald Cobblepot.

Fandom’s a fickle thing, innit? One minute you’re the undisputed number-two of Batman’s rogues gallery, with page and screen alike portraying you as a cunning, ruthless, yet classy threat who can stand alongside the Joker himself without looking out of place. The next, you’ve become an embarrassment to all things Batman, a symbol of silliness and camp best left forgotten, and fans start treating you like the other number two whenever your name comes up.

Generally, if a Batman fan has anything besides sneering contempt or crushing apathy for the Penguin, it’s because of either his Arkham City or Gotham incarnations, neither of which I particularly care for. I don’t want to sound hipstery-

conceptual image of an alarm clock showing that you are too late

– but the whole idea of the Iceberg Lounge and the mob-boss gig is something I’ve become very ambivalent about. Even at the best of times, it makes the Penguin look like a bargain-bin Lex Luthor, someone who’s not good enough for real supervillainy and thus has to stick to a desk before Calendar Man sends him crying home to mommy (for related reasons, I have a knee-jerk reaction against people insisting that Penguin has to be the token “sane” rogue in Gotham). And more often than not, writers just portray him as a sleazy stool-pigeon to get beat up by Batman (or one of his sidekicks) or outsmarted by a newcomer. In short, Iceberg!Penguin is a colorless symbol of the status quo, and there’s nothing Gotham likes breaking more than a status quo.

I mean, I don’t want to rag on whoever thought up the Iceberg Lounge, but…

Oh.
Oh.

I love most of his stuff, guys. I swear.

So, yeah. I like me some openly criminal (and loving it) Penguin, the kind of guy who whips out boxing-glove umbrellas at a second’s notice and thinks nothing of sending poison-beaked hummingbirds after Batman, all while hamhandedly romancing the star of his favorite soap with overpriced chocolates. At knifepoint.

And it seems that I’m in luck. The Batman‘s take on Penguin is renowed for being a black-hearted bumbershoot bandit through and through. Surely this is just what I’m looking for!

Right?

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