Batman: The Animated Series Redux

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2008

in DVD Reviews , Theme Week

  • Title: Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Four
  • tv.com: link

After a couple of years working on the animated Superman cartoon Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and their team returned to the mean streets of Gotham to present The New Batman Superman Adventures.  The hourlong block was divided into one episode of Superman and one of Batman, including a few crossover episodes. 

The new Batman episodes revamped the look of the show into a darker and sleeker look while keeping the original style.  Dick Grayson had moved on, Tim Drake would become the new Robin, Batgirl joined the team, and Batman took to the streets of Gotham to pursue the cowardly lot of villains.  For reviews of previous seasons click here for Season One, Season Two, and Season Three.

These final episodes are quite interesting as they are similar the previous episodes but also different.  Almost every character gets a new look including Batman.  The relationships of the characters, especially Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, are delved into in more detail.  Some of the best episodes of the series are found including a fan favorite Legends of the Dark Knight which includes scenes drawn in the style of both Frank Miller (from The Dark Knight Returns) and Dick Sprang (which is perhaps the most perfect segment of the series entire run). 

Even though Robin has left the fold Batman (Kevin Conroy) continues to fight the good fight on the mean streets of Gotham with the help of Batgirl (Tara Strong) and street urchin Tim Drake (Matthew Valencia) who will become the new Robin.  Dick Grayson (Loren Lester) will also return to Gotham City as Nightwing.

The major new character of this season is the Tim Drake Robin who is a merging of the Jason Todd and Tim Drake comic characters.  The younger and cockier Robin gives a little more fun and excitement than the older college aged Robin.

The extras include commentary for a handful of episodes including what might be the worst of the series “Critters”.  Dini and Timm defend the episode and talk about there enjoyment for choosing an least liked episode.  With the commentary the episode is actually watchable and not quite as wince inducing.

Sins of the Father / Old Wounds

These two episodes examine the Batman and Robin relationship.  In the first Tim Drake is introduced as the son of a deadbeat father and low-level criminal.  Taken aside by Batman Tim takes it on himself to become Robin and join in the fray.  “Old Wounds” involves Nightwing relating his final adventure working alongside Batman and the differences that finally led to the end of the Dynamic Duo.  Nice stuff here and Dick Grayson is one character that gets much more fleshed out on these revamped episodes.

Legends of the Dark Knight

The jewel of the collection.  As with “The Demon’s Quest” from Season Three where Dini and his team lovingly worked to retell the Dennis O’Neil story here they take an opportunity to give us a chance to enjoy other versions of Batman.  The story is setup as three kids talk about what Batman is really like.  The first version is the astonishingly perfect recreation of the Dick Sprang Batman and the old Filmation Batman cartoon The New Adventures of Batman.  We get puns, huge props, and the Joker and his thugs who all look like they were drawn by Sprang himself.  And Michael McKean provides the voice of the Joker which so closely matches voice from the old cartoon I would have sworn they had tracked down the original actor.  Even the lighting of the style is affectionately recreated.

The second version of Batman we get is the Frank Miller Batman from his masterpiece.  Here’s the female Robin, the Mutant Gang, the “bat-tank”, and more than a few shot-for-shot, line-for-line, scenes ripped straight out of the page of Dark Knight Returns.  Just awesome.  Although the rest of the episode doesn’t compare to these segments it is truly a joy for long time Batman fans.  The episode also contains commentary where the creators talk about their joy in making the episode,how it came to be, and mention that maybe they should have done a Neal Adams version as well.  Yes please!

Over the Edge

It begins with the death of Batgirl as she is thrown off the roof of a skyscraper by the Scarecrow and her body hits Commissioner Gordon’s (Bob Hastings) windshield!  On discovering the identity of Batman, Gordon, mad with grief, goes to great links to apprehend Bruce Wayne.  Okay, it really begins with Batgirl getting dosed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, leading to her vision of her greatest fear. The episode also contains commentary and a great ending.

There are a few missteps (and a missing episode, see if you can spot it!).  First is the needless and rather less interesting redesign of the look of Catwoman (though the episode trying to seduce and win over Nightwing is quite good).  “Critters” resembles one of the worst episodes of the Adam West show.  The episode with the love story between Croc and Baby-Doll isn’t too pretty either.  The second to last episode is something of a mixed bag as it tells the origin of the Joker and also creates a new Creeper character for the series.  Still, in all it’s a good closing chapter to an amazing series.

The revamped look gives the episodes a slightly different style and feel, although it doesn’t work for all the characters.  The emergence of Nightwing and a Dick Grayson’s different style and view on crime fighting are expertly handled.  The new Robin has a little too much Jason Todd in him for me, but is a nice contrast to both Batman and the Dick Grayson Robin of the previous seasons.  Batgirl gets a huge bump in the ranks as she becomes Batman’s most regular partner.  A nice end to the series and a good seq-way into the Batman who will show up in the Justice League.

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