- Title: Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts
- IMDb: link
Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts is odd to say the least. Cobbled together from a variety of Batman storylines over the years, Batman Unlimited cherry-picks pieces of DCU continuity to offer a new (but not really fresh) take on the characters involved. Set in the not-so-distant future of Gotham City (with a definite Batman Beyond vibe) the straight-to-video movie opens with Batman (Roger Craig Smith) clad in a Beyondish red and black costume before eventually donning his more classic colors.
The film centers around the a group of animal-themed villains in Silverback (Keith Szarabajka), Cheetah (Laura Bailey), Killer Croc (John DiMaggio), and Man-Bat (Phil LaMarr) all working together as “the Animalitia” under the leadership of the Penguin (Dana Snyder). The Penguin also has an army of robotic animals who range from nearly unstoppable to easily destroyed (in the climax our heroes easily dispense with a number of the creatures while they struggle to deal with even single one for most of the movie).
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The second-issue of Dick Grayson‘s new series featuring Batman‘s former partner working undercover as an agent for a shadow spy organization known as Spyral finds Grayson and Helena Bertinelli after the mad-scientist inventor of a bizarre piece of technology known as an “enhanced stomach” which has gifted the woman with super-speed but also turned her into a bloodthirsty cannibal.
Although it keeps the feel of last month’s opening issue, Grayson #2 isn’t quite as strong (probably because the enhanced stomach sounds more dumb than exotic or dangerous). The second issue does continue to develop Dick and Helena’s relationship while offering us a good look at how motivated Spyral is to get its hand on technologies which can help them in their secret endeavors.
Also of interest is the fact that Midnighter returns for a cameo, still fuming at being beaten by an unknown Spyral agent meaning we’re likely to get another battle between the pair fairly soon. For fans.
Ever since he returned the cowl to Batman and became Nightwing once more DC Comics has struggled with what to do with Dick Grayson. The New 52’s choice to make him a traveling circus owner and business partner with the daughter of the man who killed his parents fizzled quickly. After the events of Forever Evil DC decides a fresh approach to the character which is better than expected.
Making Dick an agent of the secret spy organization Spyral, whom he may be secretly investigating for Batman on the side, blows much of the dust of the character throwing him into a James Bond-style comic filled with gadgets, espionage, and a beautiful female companion in the first appearance of the New 52’s Helena Bertinelli.
With beautiful art from Mikel Janin which captures the character’s acrobatic roots and a fight sequence against Midnighter reminding us Grayson can hold his own, the first issue offers a glimpse at a retrieval op for Dick as he continues to learn the ropes of the organization. I’m far from sold on Spyral itself, but there’s a lot to like about this version of Dick Grayson. Worth a look.
My issue with Batman and Robin Annual #2, which is a mostly unremarkable recreation of Dick Grayson first day as Robin, is the comic is simply yet another example of DC continuing to shit all over their own characters’ beloved comic history by rebranding the first Robin costume as a crappy version of Tim Drake‘s pre-New 52 costume.
Although the Annual’s story allows it to weave in Damian (reminding us how much the Bat-books miss him right now), it doesn’t actually do much to compare Damian and Dick’s versions of Robin (which is really supposed to be the point). I will say the joke about an average day in school for Dick was funny (but didn’t need to be repeated). But the villain, Tusk, is completely forgettable, and even this younger version of Batman comes off like a complete prick through 90% of the story.
Even with the fan bait of giving Batman fans a taste of the character Grant Morrison killed only because he could, Batman and Robin Annual #2 is unremarkarkable except for the fact it will likely continue to piss off longtime DC fans. Pass.
Offering another quintet of black and white Batman tales, Batman: Black and White #5 is anchored by a Two-Face story from Len Wein and artist Victor Ibáñez which features a complicated two-pronged attack, misdirection, and an appearance of Nightwing in his pre-New 52 costume (complete with the fan appreciated finger stripes).
“Hell Night” from Ivan Brandon gives us Batman on one brutal night (with a late twist I don’t quite buy) and beautiful art by Paolo Manuel Rivera. Blair Butler and Chris Weston offer a bizarre story featuring the death of the Caped Crusader (sort of), and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Andrew Robinson give us a story featuring Bruce Wayne mostly out of the Batsuit finding his “super-power” (but when he does appear as Batman it’s in the classic costume complete with the yellow ellipse Bat symbol).
Although I enjoyed the tone of Keith Giffen and Javier Pulido’s “Cat and Mouse” featuring a crook’s version of his encounter with Batman, it’s probably the weakest of this month’s stories. Worth a look.