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BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, SEASON TWO PART ONE

 



Batman: Brave & The Bold - Season Two Part One

 

Format: Animated, Color, DVD, NTSC
Language: English
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Number of discs: 2
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: August 16, 2011
 


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From the first time it aired, Batman: The Brave and the Bold engendered more than its share of controversy. Hard-core Bat-fans, filled with visions of Christopher Nolan bad-assery, poo-pooed the show’s campier, over-the-top take on their favorite hero. But it persevered and its three seasons brought a distinct sense of fun to the Bat-verse: friendly enough for kids, smart enough for adults, and reminding the assembled masses that comic book characters are supposed to be fun.

Not that Batman himself would notice. As voiced by Dietrich Bader, he maintains the same grim determination and devotion to justice that every other incarnation of the character does. The only difference is that he’s operating in a universe full of giant robots, time travel and fellow heroes who say things like “Outrageous!” with their hands on their hips. It makes for a very fun combination, especially with the bright and colorful animation reminiscent of 50s Batman artists like Dick Sprang.

In fact, the 50s era of Batman serves as the primary inspiration for the show: a period of heavy censorship when everyone worried about how those costumed crime fighters were warping the minds of our youth. The Brave and the Bold views those restrictions as a challenge rather than a handicap: finding the properly camp tone and embracing rather than eschewing the ridiculous elements. It also digs deep into DC’s lore for characters like the Metal Men and Detective Chimp to find new partners for the Caped Crusader.

Each episode follows the same format: a short opening adventure followed by a longer story after the credits. In each one, Batman teams up with another member of the DC universe to bring the week’s miscreants to justice. Popular recurring characters include Green Arrow, the Blue Beetle and Aquaman . . . the latter of whom represents a real stroke of genius. After countless other projects failed to find the right tone for him – alternately painting him as a colorless nice guy or an overly grim thug – voice actor John DiMaggio delivers him as a slightly self-absorbed swashbuckler. The characterization aptly sums up the series’ approach to superheroics, as well as providing some comic relief for Batman’s born-to-play-a-straight-man authoritarianism.

This particular set encapsulates the first twelve episode of the second season, continuing Warners’ exasperating habit of dividing seasons in half rather than presenting them all at once. It’s particularly grating here because the second half of Season Two includes the “Siege of Starro” storyline, which several episodes here help set up. Watching the prep work without the payoff becomes a little frustrating, and further illustrates the general disregard Warners demonstrates for its audience by doling out things out piecemeal.

Despite that shortcoming, however, there’s still plenty of good fun to be had. “Chill of the Night,” recounting the tale of Batman’s creation, stands as an obvious high point. Adam West guest stars as Bruce’s father Thomas, with Julie “Catwoman” Newmar voicing his mother; Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill – who played Batman and the Joker in the brilliant Batman: The Animated Series – chime in as the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre, respectively, complementing a smart script from Animated Series guru Paul Dini. Other great episodes include “The Power of Shazam!” with Captain Marvel joining the Caped Crusader, and “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!” with the King of the Sea and his family on a decidedly bumpy vacation.

None of the episodes let you down, and the show’s producers had their formula humming like a vintage Mustang by the time the second season rolled around. Everyone loves Nolan’s films, and the grim, Gothic Dark Knight won’t be diminished by the silliness here. But it’s nice to see a lighter touch now and then, and The Brave and the Bold delivers it in supremely entertaining fashion.

THE DISC: The aforementioned division is a problem here. Besides the irritating presentation of only half the series, this collection contains no special features of any kind. The $20 price tag looks awfully pricey after that, despite the good image and sound quality on the disc.

WORTH IT? Yes, provided you know what you’re getting when you go in. The episodes are terrific; just don’t expect a single additional bell or whistle for your money.

RECOMMENDATION: The Brave and the Bold makes a terrific choice for families, comic fans and anyone who needs a little relief from the glut of angst-ridden superheroes. Bat-fans with children will definitely appreciate the chance to show their kids the Caped Crusdaer without exposing them to undue Christian Bale intensity.
 


- Rob Vaux


 



 

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