- 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.
The Wrap is reporting Girls star Adam Driver is the front-runner for the role of Nightwing in 2015’s Batman vs. Superman
The Vulture is reporting that David Cross will make an appearance on Community for “at the very least, the second most important game of Dungeons & Dragons ever”
Variety is reporting Gal Gadot, Elodie Yung, and Olga Kurylenko are all in the running to play Wonder Woman in Batman vs. Superman
Bruce Wayne‘s obsession about his son’s death continues in this issue as Alfred reaches out to Nightwing when Batman becomes lost in a virtual recreation of events trying desperately to change the outcome and save his son’s life. Although the structure of the story feels a little off, the emotion works well especially once Nightwing, and later Alfred, join in.
With Nightwing’s help Batman is able to “save” Damian, but it’s the advice Dick gives Bruce back in the real world that seems to finally start the healing process. And the comic’s final few pages dealing with Alfred resetting the simulation shows us, and Batman, just how much grief the butler has been carrying around for allowing Damian out of the Batcave on that fateful night.
Although the final former side-kick issue is done, the comic will continue the Batman and… with villains such as Two-Face and Killer Croc leading into Batman and Carrie Kelly #25 which may, or may not, begin a new direction for the title. Worth a look.
The Bat Boys come out to play as Gotham finds itself under siege from the threat of the new villain Termius. While Batman goes all Iron Man to fight the armored dying madman obsessed with destroying Batman and Gotham before he draw his last breath Damian gets assistance from the former Robins as Nightwing, Red Robin, and even the Red Hood, show up to stop Terminus’ hired mercenaries and odd mutated creatures.
Okay, Batman and Robin #12 isn’t great, and there are a couple truly groan worthy moments, but it’s certainly high on action (even if it never bothers to explain the reasons behind Terminus’ obsession with destroying Batman and Gotham).
I like seeing the Robins together in this issue and if DC is looking for another Bat-title to replace one of the underperforming New 52 books may I suggest something along the lines of Robin Team-Up (featuring Robins current and past teaming up for short arcs – which would allow for the inclusion of Stephanie Brown, too). Worth a look.
After surviving an attack from Paragon and his acolytes in the Republic of Tomorrow‘s secret lair Nightwing continues to piece together who is framing him for murder, and why. At first he’s sure Detective Nie is responsible, but a little more investigating leads him to a new conclusion.
The issue also continues the tenuous relationship between Dick and Tony Zucco‘s daughter Sonia. The pair have their first fight when she breaks the news that his loan was denied because of what happened when Haly Circus returned to Gotham. I’m really, really hoping writer Kyle Higgins isn’t going to try to link these two romantically.
Paragon cleans house of the disloyal soldiers before looking for a new ally to take down one of Gotham’s self-appointed saviors. The story continues, but doesn’t really advance that much (even Nightwing’s eureka moment is kept from readers) so aside from the developments in the subplot with Sonia you could probably skip this one and not miss a beat. Hit-and-Miss.
With the “Night of Owls” crossovers now official done Nightwing moves forward with a new arc as Dick Grayson makes several important decisions about his future. We also get our first look at the army of vigilantes dressed up as knights and led by another New 52 villain – Paragon.
Nightwing, at least for the forseeable future, seems to be staying in Gotham and so is the Haly’s Circus as Dick comes up with a new plan to fix up Gotham’s run down amusement park Amusement Mile perhaps with the help of Tony Zucco‘s daughter Sonia. We also finally get back to the story of Nightwing being framed for murder (remember that?).
The issue finally fills in some information about the corrupt cop Detective Nie who tried to pin a murder wrap on Batman by planting evidence looks to be the man behind Nightwing’s stick showing up at a recent murder as well. This story works better for me than Paragon (although I’m betting the two are related). This was a make-or-break issue for Nightwing for me, and although it’s not great there’s enough here to bring me back for another month. Worth a look.