Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman was the third and final straight-to-DVD animated film put out by Warner Bros. Animation following the cancellation of Batman: The Animated Series (Mask of the Phantasm doesn’t fit into this group as it was made a decade earlier and saw a limited theatrical release). The movie keeps the Bruce Timm style of the series as well as most of the show’s regular voice cast including Kevin Conroy returning as the voice of Batman.
“I need it to be different now. I know I made a promise, but I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t count on being happy.”
The return of Bruce Wayne’s (Kevin Conroy) lost love (Dana Delany) to Gotham and the arrival of a new mysterious villain are the ingredients to what is, at least so far, the best Batman film ever made.
Taking pieces from both Frank Miller’s Barman: Year One and Mike Barr’s Batman: Year Two this animated flick gives us a new villain for Batman to fight and ghosts from the past which must be confronted. The best scenes of the film involve the flashbacks of Bruce Wayne weighing his new feelings for Andrea (Delany) versus the vow he made to his parents. Of all the Batman movies made Mask of the Phantasm does the best job of capturing the continually tortured soul of Bruce Wayne on screen.
Also included are flashbacks scenes of Bruce Wayne’s first night out as a vigilante, with missed success (something missing from Batman Begins) and a look back at the first moment Bruce Wayne donned his famous costume in one of the best Batman scenes ever. Neither Tim Burton nor Christopher Nolan have given us anything as perfect in this simple shadow non-reveal reveal of Batman’s first appearance.
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.
The third volume of Batman: The Animated Series continues with final 28 original episodes from the series which includes the few episodes that were released under the title The Adventures of Batman and Robin. All three volumes make a great collection, but this final volume is no exception including some of the best episodes of the series. With a host of returning villians and a stable of new characters introduced here the creators have enlarged Batman’s world and allowed for more variation from episode to episode.
The art deco animated Batman series won over fans and critics alike with its stylish retelling of the Batman mythos. Bruce Wayne prowls the streets of Gotham with the sometime help of his ward and young college student Dick Grayson to fight crime and dispense justice as Batman and Robin.
Season One (read that review) dealt with setting up the major Bat-villains, the city, and dealing with Bruce Wayne. Season Two delves deeper into the Batman universe in examining the more of the characters’ origins, motivations, and roles in the series. Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski really begin to knock out some winners as the series begins to hit it’s stride.
Season Two brings back the villains and Gotham natives from Season One while expanding the universe and adding a few new characters. We get some more Robin episodes, most notably the retelling of the Dick Grayson Robin origin story. Finally a Riddler episode “If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Rich?” tells the origin tale of the Mr. Edward Nigma and his life of crime involving riddles, a maze and a Minotaur. Commissioner Gordon will be shot in “I am the Night” prompting Bruce Wayne to consider hanging up the cape and cowl. The episode is also of interest for the sly reference O’Neil and Adams.
No digital cartoon here folks. Despite the fact that many cartoons had gone to digital at the time it came out Batman the Animated Series is old school, in more ways than one. Hand drawn on cells with painted backgrounds with a limited color palate and a breath-taking style that merges old school images into a new and exciting storytelling. Producers Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm deserve all the praise I can muster for this wonderful creation that got better and better year after year.
As you watch the main titles you notice they never say Batman (that’s pretty ballsy for a “kid’s show”). From these early images you can see the importance of the visual look to the series, which is very important on a show where the main character doesn’t talk much. Building on core concepts of who and what Batman is while adding a new dark art deco style and flair to the look of Gotham the creators make almost all the right choices including retuning the Joker‘s balls and allowing him to be a wickedly scary demented killer.