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BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD takes a break from portraying the Dark Knight as a Gloomy Gus. But, no worries, those who miss the more morose version will be happy to note that this sucker's slated for cancellation after three seasons, with a new animated - and darker - Batman series waiting in the wings to restore order. Meanwhile, why not enjoy the ride? This is a really cool show. The hook, of course, is that Batman in each episode teams up with a different superhero. Makes it kinda hard to maintain that brooding loner vigilante rep.
The tone of the stories takes a cue from the breezy jazzy score and from the look of this Batman, his design decidedly inspired from how he was drawn back in the Silver Age, an era in which Batman stories leaned towards the lighthearted. This Batman is pretty chill. He doesn't mind engaging in banter. He even indulges in unashamed alliteration. Where else can you hear Batman throw out over-the-top lines like: "The Hammer of Justice is unisex!" or "Good work, guys. Justice wins the day, thanks to the Brave and the Bold." The Tick should take notes.
I still got love for Kevin Conroy, but Diedrich Bader is fantastic as the voice of Batman. He's got that good timbre. Granted, I was momentarily out of sorts because, for a while, every time Batman spoke I kept thinking of that borderline creepy (and yet hilarious) character Bader plays in OUTSOURCED.
The episodes are uniformly stand-alone, each kicking off with a teaser segment which often has nothing to do with the main storyline. Two exceptions are "The Color of Revenge!" and "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" What sets this Batman series apart from the other ones in the past is that the premise opens it up to the entire DC universe, instead of being confined only to the Batman mythos. The recent THE BATMAN, in its fifth and final season, got to play in a bigger sandbox. But BRAVE AND THE BOLD has the run of the entire friggin' park (if you get the analogy).
Gratifyingly, this series features the lesser-known heroes, from Adam Strange to Kamandi to Jonah Hex - and never mind that Bat-Mite doesn't think any of these cats are worthy to "buff Batman's batarang." Maybe my favorite team-ups showcase Booster Gold ("Menace of the Conqueror Caveman!") and Sherlock Holmes ("Trials of the Demon!"). This last one simply begged for a series of one-upmanship, and a sequence in which Batman and Holmes are trading deductions cannot be anything but gold. But, hands down, the best episode in this collection - and, frankly, in the entire series - is the Buffyesque musical episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" Neil Patrick Harris guest-stars as the Music Meister and he sings up a storm. As does the voice actress - Grey Delisle - who plays Black Canary. This episode is so awesome that I have to give this collection 5 stars out of 5, instead of my original intended rating of 4 stars (because I'm still a little cheesed that they're holding off on releasing a complete season DVD set).
By the way, I'm still lovin' the series' interpretation of Aquaman as this adventurer who is extroverted, devil-may-care, and prone to bombastic oratory. Again, the Tick should take notes. Jaime Reyes, one of my favorite new characters, gets a spotlight in "Night of the Huntress!" as he drools over the Huntress.
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD - Season One, Part Two is a two-disc set which collects the remaining thirteen episodes of Season One. There are no bonus features, which is supremely uncool (I would've loved to have had an audio commentary or at least a featurette on "Mayhem of the Music Meister"). Here are the plot breakdowns for the 13 episodes, including bits about the prequel segments (and here's the SPOILER alert):
- Episode #14 - "Mystery in Space!" - Prequel: Bats and the Question try to catch Equinox off-balanced. Then Batman and a peculiarly despondent Aquaman catch a zeta beam to the planet of Rann to help Adam Strange hold off an army of Gordanian invaders.
- Episode #15 - "Trials of the Demon!" - Prequel: Batman and the Golden Age Flash take on the Scarecrow and the Scream Queen. Then, in Victorian-era London, Bats and Sherlock Holmes match wits as they investigate a rash of victims being robbed of their very souls. Also, the Demon Etrigan rises, and he brung his rhyming ways.
- Episode #16 - "Night of the Huntress!" - Prequel: Bats and Black Canary treat Solomon Grundy like how the Road Runner usually treats Wile E. Coyote. Then, high schooler Jaime Reyes (a.k.a. Blue Beetle) visits Gotham U. and runs into the frankly disturbing crime couple, Baby-Face and Mrs. Man-Face. Jaime also starts crushing on the badassery on legs that is the Huntress.
- Episode #17 - "Menace of the Conqueror Caveman!" - Prequel: Bats and Wildcat tangle with Bane. Then, team-up mayhem ensues as opportunistic superhero from the future, Booster Gold, tries to hang out with Batman, purely to increase his marketability.
- Episode #18 - "The Color of Revenge!" - Prequel: Batman and Robin sews up that flamboyant fiend, Crazy Quilt. In the main story, Crazy Quilt returns to plague Robin who'd struck out on his own in Blüdhaven. The Dark Knight shows up and gets all mentor-y.
- Episode #19 - "Legends of the Dark Mite!" - Prequel: Can Batman and Ace the Bat-Hound chase the dastardly Catman up a tree? Then, that other-dimensional imp (and Batman's personal Mr. Mxyzptlk), Bat Mite, puts the Caped Crusader thru his paces. Loved it when the episode went meta with the Q & A sequence at the Batman convention.
- Episode #20 - "Hail the Tornado Tyrant!" - Prequel: Green Arrow and Bats compete to see who can first bring down the Joker. Then, the Red Tornado creates the next-generation Tornado-bot and infuses it with emotion. Uh-oh.
- Episode #21 - "Duel of the Double Crossers!" - Prequel: The Outsiders try to keep collateral damage to the city down to a minimum as they tackle Despero. Then, on Warworld, the time-displaced Jonah Hex is beholdin' to Mongol and is forced to work for him as a bounty hunter. And then Batman gets in the way.
- Episode #22 - "The Last Bat on Earth!" - Prequel: Bats and Mr. Miracle indulge in escapism. Then Batman pursues Gorilla Grodd into a post-apocalyptic future and teams up with Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth.
- Episode #23 - "When OMAC Attacks!" - Prequel: Batman and Hawk & Dove "finesse" a peace treaty between two warring alien races. Then, when Batman's mission for the Global Peace Agency goes fubar, the GPA assigns the One Man Army Corps (OMAC) as his partner.
- Episode #24 - "The Fate of Equinox!" - Prequel: Two-Face flips his coin and it lands on the good side, causing him to team up with Batman against his own henchmen. Then, things take a cosmic turn as Dr. Fate and Batman go up against Equinox, who has harnessed the powers of the Lords of Order and Chaos and now seeks to remake the universe.
- Episode #25 - "Mayhem of the Music Meister!" - BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD... The Musical!! The Music Meister - he's here to "settle the score" - compels our cast of heroes and nogoodniks to burst out into song. But that's not how the Batman rolls.
- Episode #26 - "Inside the Outsiders!" - Prequel: Batman and Green Arrow take on Catwoman. Then, the Psycho-Pirate, who manipulates and feeds on emotions, efs with Batman and the Outsiders.