The Watchtower of Justice: Beware The Batman [Episodes 1 - 6] (2013)

By Mike Huntley

When it comes to animated superhero shows, Batman The Animated Series is held by many to be the best of the lot. That series got everything right from the mood to the characters and especially the voice acting. Since then, Batman The Animated Series producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini have expanded the DC Universe they crafted with Batman when they switched from Fox to The WB in the mid '90s. Then we got Superman The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, and then finally Justice League/Justice League Unlimited. 

While Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were working on Justice League, Warner Bros. Animation wanted to make Batman a solo animated show again. The next solo Batman series titled The Batman was inspired by anime and featured a very different take on the Batman mythos by following Bruce Wayne in his 3rd year of being Batman and meeting all of his classic rogues for the very first time. The Batman is often bashed by hardcore fans due to its character design of The Joker as well as it not being on the same level as Batman The Animated Series. Even with this small backlash, The Batman still managed to run a strong five seasons and even spawned a movie where Batman had to fight Dracula. Now I used to bash The Batman like the rest of them, but not too long ago decided to give it a fair chance and you know what? I came to like it quite a bit. As good as The Animated Series? No. But it was a fresh and interesting take on the Batman characters especially Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Clayface, and Riddler. You just gotta adjust to the different style of animation and you may find yourself enjoying it for being different from Batman The Animated Series

Shortly after The Batman finished its 5 season course, Cartoon Network partnered with Warner Bros. Animation to station more animated shows based on DC Comics characters. In 2008, Batman The Brave and the Bold began, which was influenced a lot by the more campy Adam West Batman series from the '60s. A few years later, Young Justice began which was about the classic Justice League members' sidekicks training to join the next generation's JLA. Due to the popularity of Green Lantern in 2011, a CG animated series was made. By the ending of 2012/beginning of 2013, Cartoon Network decided to cancel Batman The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice, and Green Lantern. This infuriated fans quite a bit especially about Young Justice which from the looks of it, actually looked like a decent show. 

But, with these cancellations, Warner Bros. Animation/Cartoon Network announced a new animated Batman TV series that was going to be different from all of the other Batman animated shows we've seen in the past. For starters, it was going to be CG animation instead of the usual hand drawn animation we are used to seeing with these shows. And instead of Robin, Katana was going to be Batman's partner. Alfred was going to be a gun toting badass. Oh yeah and we were getting brand new villains that have either hardly been or have never been animated before instead of the classic Batman rogues. At first glance, I honestly thought that this show was going to suck. Never been a big CG animation fan, had no clue who Katana was, wanted to see the classic Batman rogues, and really thought that this series like Brave and Bold was going to be campy and only aimed towards kids. Shortly after the second episode aired, I watched a clip and it actually got me intriqued. So, I got On Demand and decided to give the first two episodes a fair chance. And you know what? I got hooked! Beware The Batman was a return of the dark and serious Batman, yet still appropriate enough where kids could enjoy this series too. Color me shocked and very surprised and pleased to be proven wrong! 

Beware The Batman is probably the most original and fresh take on Batman in animation. I still love Batman The Animated Series more due to not only nostalgia but because I consider it more classic Batman. It is still the definitive Batman TV show to me, but Beware The Batman is a very close 2nd! It brought back the more detective elements to the character which were missing from The Batman, which was more of a superhero series than the crime drama that The Animated Series was and Brave and the Bold where it was just a kid friendly superhero series. 

Batman in this show is very dark much like the version we saw in The Animated Series.  Sure the CG animation is new, but the portrayal of Alfred is completely different than the one we got in any of the other shows. This Alfred is an ex agent of MI6 and is a total badass! Alfred's military experience has been hinted at in other interpretations of the character, but it is better explored in this show. Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana is a great addition to Batman's allies. And I love that this time around, Gordon is not trusting of Batman yet. But, the biggest difference is that all the episodes are connected like a prime time live action series. You have to watch them in order to get what's going on. It's a fresh new take on The Dark Knight's mythology and that is a very good thing. So I will break down and review the first six episodes individually and start reviewing them every 3 episodes once more episodes are released. But, you can purchase the first 6 episodes of Beware The Batman on iTunes right now or watch them for free on IMDB! 

Episode 1-  "HUNTED"

There are two eco terrorists running around Gotham City and kidnapping wealthy industrialists. They call themselves Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad.  Batman is on the case, but things take a twisty turn when Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred ends up getting kidnapped by the criminal duo. Meanwhile, Alfred hires his friend Tatsu Yamashiro to be Bruce Wayne's new bodyguard and driver.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot episode to Beware The Batman. Professor Pyg looked like a slasher film villain with his heavy build and pig mask. Plus he wields a pretty big saw. I was kinda thrown off by Mr. Toad due to it actually being a mutant toad, but these two were a lot of fun.

Another strength to Beware The Batman, aside from the gothic and moody scenery, is the voice acting. Andrea Romano, who did the voice casting for Batman The Animated Series, does a great job at getting the best fit for these characters. Anthony Ruivivar makes for a solid Batman/Bruce Wayne and is actually just as great as Kevin Conroy. He gives Batman a dark and brooding voice while Bruce Wayne gets a lighter voice. JB Blanc is great as Alfred, who this time is just as badass as Batman. I just love this scene where Simon Stagg says, "And just who are you?" and Alfred replies with, "Oh, didn't I tell you? I'm the butler". And then he picks up a big pipe like he's about to kick someone's ass. They kinda made Alfred to be like an older Jason Statham. He rocks! Sumalee Montano is great as Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana. Here's a woman with real strength and is perfect to assist The Batman. Her backstory is still a mystery and is slowly unfolding. Jeff Bennett worked as corrupt billionaire douchebag Simon Stagg. He's the total opposite of Bruce Wayne. And then there's Udo Kier as Mr. Toad. A British pig and a German toad as a criminal dynatic duo? Hell yeah! Great beginning of a great series! 

Episode 2- "SECRETS"

A wacked out goth chick, who wears bird feathers to go with her mistress outfit, named Magpie has wiped out the memory of a man named Joe Braxton. Batman is on Magpie's trail, but so is Lieutenant James Gordon. Their clues point to a psychiatrist named Bethanie Ravencroft who had an experiement to wipe the bad memories out of criminals in order to give them a new life. Could Magpie have been an experiment gone terribly wrong?

Secrets is probably my favorite episode so far. Magpie is a very sexual character for a Saturday morning cartoon, but dammit she is so fun to watch! She felt like Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman crossed with Harley Quinn. If your child is going through puberty, then this episode may make him learn the hard way what an erection is.  This character hasn't been used since the 1980s, and I dug that they reimagined her design because otherwise she wouldn't feel right in this version of Batman.  This is also the first episode where we get a better characterization of this version of Gordon who we just saw briefly on the television in episode 1. We also get more Katana, who is slowly discovering Bruce Wayne's secret. Gordon's daughter Barbara also appears, who is best known to Batman fans as Batgirl. I love that they brought back Tara Strong from The New Batman Adventures to play her. Kurtwood Smith from That '70s Show is really great as Lt. James Gordon. Really love this episode.

Episode 3- "TESTS"

Batman busts two dumbasses for vandalism. The next night, the two idiots are back on the streets, swinging bigger and more destructive weapons. It turns out that a costumed psycho named Anarky is involved and sees Batman as being his greatest enemy. Anarky thrusts to be the polar opposite of Batman so he tries to throw Gotham into chaos by using the two vandal artists. Meanwhile, Katana discovers a secret elevator behind the fireplace in Wayne Manor that leads to a secret library. While she is being tested to be Batman's assistant, Batman's fight for order is being tested by his new nemesis. 

Anarky is an interesting villain, yet kinda rips off the Joker. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed him as a villain but I've always seen Joker in this kind of role. I did feel Katana's side of the episode was more interesting because you are wondering if and when she will discover the whole truth about her new boss. The two vandals are so dumb that it is hilarious. Plus, Alfred gets to drive the Batmobile, which by the way looks pretty awesome. I love how the Batcomputer is linked into the Batmobile and Batcycle. It sorta reminded me of Iron Man and Jarvis. The Batcave also looks incredible. I have a feeling we will be seeing Anarky again. 

Episode 4- "SAFE"

A criminal elite known as The League of Assasins are after a scientist named Dr. Jason Burr who has created the Ion Cortex. Tatsu Yamashiro saves Dr. Burr and decides to keep him secured at Wayne Manor. Meanwhile, Batman goes off to find out more about these ninja assasins. Lady Shiva, the leader of the League of Assasins sends a fierce hitman named Silver Monkey to assasinate Dr. Burr. As these assasins break the security of Wayne Manor, it turns out that Tatsu knows Silver Monkey from her past. 

This was a very intense and action packed episode! Batman dodging bullets in the air, an awesome motorcycle chase, some cool fighting, and more. For those of you who don't know, The League of Assasins or the Society of Shadows, or The League of Shadows is the ninja vigilante terrorist group ran by Batman villain Ra's Al Ghul. You may remember this organization in Batman Begins or The Dark Knight Rises. Lady Shiva too is a Batman villain that has briefly been out of comics. She was in that short lived Birds of Prey TV series in one episode. Here, we don't see her, but just get her voice. Dr. Burr is a bit on the annoying side, but he's played by Matthew Lillard (Scream, Scooby Doo) so it's all good. We also get Alfred with a shotgun. And Silver Monkey is one badass villain. It turns out that Tatsu/Katana has a green sword known as the Soultaker Sword that she stole from the League. 

Episode 5- "BROKEN"

When toy soldiers are found around Gotham with people trapped inside them, Batman and Gordon are on the case. All clues point to a genius mob accountant named Humphrey Dumpler who had gone insane after he was nearly killed while under Police protection. Now calling himself Humpty Dumpty due to his large egg shaped size, Humpty Dumpty aims to get revenge on those who broke his sanity, which includes Gotham's own Police Lieutenant James Gordon.  

You'd think a story about a villain named Humpty Dumpty would be corny as Hell, but no! This dude is creepy! It's like those horror movies that take a sweet little children's fable and turn it into a dark and freaky tale of carnage. Basically Humpty Dumpty traps his victims in statue horsemen that are in cased with a bomb so if someone tries to release them, they get blown up. There is a funny scene though where Batman asks the Batcomputer to give him the location of Humpty Dumpty and the Batcomputer responds, "A wall." Katana also mentions the name Ra's Al Ghul. So I have a strong feeling that we will be seeing him sometime this season. I would like to see the more classic Batman rogues show up at some point in this show, but I dig that they are starting off with lesser known villains. It makes me feel like I did when discovering the classic villains for the first time. It's always great to add to Batman's already awesome rogues gallery!  

Episode 6- "TOXIC"

Security guard Rex Mason is in love with Sapphire who is the beautiful daughter of billionaire scumbag Simon Stagg. One night the alarm goes off at Stagg Industries so Rex chases a masked intruder into a special room where he is trapped and exposed to an experimental gas. Batman saves Mason and takes him to the hospital. Later, Mason's body begins to turn and he changes into a multi colored monster known as Metamorpho. Metamorpho begins to attack Gotham in a rage for what has been done to him and wants to still be with Sapphire, but can the daughter of a famous billionaire ever accept his new monsterous appearance?

Toxic is a very sad and tragic episode. It's basically a mix of the Hulk and Beauty & the Beast. Metamorpho is a character who has appeared in animation before. Him, Sapphire, and Simon Stagg were all in an episode of Justice League, which also told the origin of Metamorpho. Although in that story, Rex Mason was an adventurer who was long time buddies with John Stewart who was the Green Lantern of that series. It's obvious that Stagg was behind Rex Mason's accident because he didn't approve of his daughter dating a security guard and wanted her to marry someone of wealth and ruthlessness. But, unlike the Justice League version, this episode doesn't really have a happy ending. Adam Baldwin did a great job as Rex Mason/Metamorpho, giving us a villain that we both feel bad for and really care about.

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