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Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham Season 1 Part 1 Blu-ray Review

10 min read

Beware the Batman
Beware the Batman
A new interpretation of the world of Batman.

What They Say:
Another night falls in Gotham City and the ever-vigilant Dark Knight watches over his city and his citizens. With the help of his ex-secret-agent butler, Alfred, and sword-wielding assassin Katana, the Batman wages a tireless war against Gotham’s twisted criminal underworld.

Buckle up for new adventures and ride along as Batman battles the evil machinations of Professor Pyg, Magpie, Mister Toad, and criminal mastermind Anarky. It’s a crime-fighting collection of hidden clues, cool tech and detective thrills as Batman prowls in the shadows, ready to deliver justice.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is kept simple as we get an English language track only that’s in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is a fairly standard TV design with what it does as we get some decent action across the forward soundstage as it plays out with a number of scenes as there’s some good placement across it and the sounds move well with it. A lot of it tends to be a bit center channel focused though with impacts and the like as that’s where the camera tends to land but it all works pretty well since it goes for a quieter approach overall. Dialogue works in a similar fashion where a lot of it is very much center channel focused but it has its moments of moving around and a bit of depth as well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes we get here are kept to just one volume as there’s only the one audio track, one subtitle track and just under five hours of video. With a decent bit rate that hangs in the low twenties and dips regularly into the teens where appropriate, the end result is a pretty good looking show. Not surprisingly, it’s a very dark looking show since pretty much all of it takes place at night or in overcast settings, but it has a lot of lighter interior moments that lets it expand its palette a bit. With the CG animation style here, it has a very solid look to it throughout and colors look great, especially with some of the slick black areas such as Magpie’s outfit and the deepness of the Batmobile when it makes an appearance. Overall, it’s a pretty solid transfer that hits all the right notes.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release gives us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc inside. The front cover provides a nice touch of red and black along the top with the logo from piece from the show coming into focus there, but it lets the rest of the cover play to the dark blue-greens that exist in it and the black of Batman and Katana’s outfits, as well as a light nod towards Alfred. The show gives us an indistinct city background to it but rather lets the cape from Batman provide the main background focus. The back cover has a nice action shot of Batman from the side while the right has a red strip with a very small bit of detail about the premise of the series. THe episode count is listed clearly and we get a few additional shots from the show. The remainder is given over to the usual legalese and a very minor technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release goes with a really simple approach that takes the front cover artwork and zooms in explicitly on Batman himself while lightening up the background in a surprising way. The logo is kept to the upper right corner with the black and yellow design that always looks great and adds a nice touch to it. The navigation strip along the bottom goes simple with only a subtitle tab to switch them off and on while the last one provides access to the episode listing. Everything is quick and easy to load and navigate and it works smoothly and easily during playback as a popup menu. It’s not the most engaging or exciting of menus but it gets the job done and fits in well enough.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a Batman series of some form on TV screens for the last twenty or so years, Beware the Batman became the latest one to join its ranks after the really enjoyable Batman: Brave and the Bold was taken off the air. I had really liked that series, which took time for me to get into the groove of it, but I was really curious to see where they’d take this character next. Part of that was stemming from the way DC Comics had lucked out with two great series recently in Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. While I was wary of Green Lantern originally because of its CG approach, I really found myself enjoying that and kept a pretty open mind about this series with its being CG as well, a first for a Batman properly. Unfortunately, with poor advertising and beyond terrible scheduling issues, I only caught a handful of episodes out of order before it was yanked from the schedule. So I was glad that a Blu-ray release came out as I wouldn’t buy this stuff in standard definition.

This series gives us a Batman a bit into his career, not fully established but well enough known that more things are starting to happen in Gotham City that aren’t quite the usual thugs and criminals. The police are still quite wary of him and there’s an ongoing subplot about how Lieutenant Gordon is intending to arrest him and comes close a few times, but ends up starting to see that there is some good that the caped crusader does. Of course, part of that change comes only after Batman gets involved in a case that his Gordon’s niece Barbara getting kidnapped. For Batman, he’s got his skill set down and he’s certainly capable, but his own guardian in the form of Alfred Pennyworth is angling to get him a partner of sorts. Alfred’s the most radical change in a way from previous incarnations of the character and series as he’s a former MI6 agent that looks like a soccer hooligan caricature in a way. He’s got skills himself but has spent the years since Bruce’s parents deaths protecting and mentoring him in many ways. But he’s a far, far more involved and aware version of Alfred than we’ve had before.

Since Alfred obviously can’t leap across the buildings and go on the missions like Batman does since it’s obvious that he’s Bruce Wayne’s butler, he’s angling to get a partner/bodyguard in there to help him. While you could imagine that they’d do some sort of Robin approach, I was rather glad to see that they opted instead for a female character. Personally, I would have preferred Batgirl, but that would just be too much Bat-stuff for folks I suspect. So instead, they decided to bring in Tatsu Yamashiro, aka Katana. I’ve long liked Katana since her days as part of the Outsiders comics, but here she’s not really the same character for a lot of reasons, including outfit design since it’s just a black attire piece that’s form fitting. Bringing her in as a former member of the League of Assassins and setting her father as someone that worked alongside Alfred, it brings a bit too strong of a connection to things. But she does bring the strong, smart and savvy female character to the story as a lead rather than as a supporting character. And for a Batman TV series, that’s a pretty big step.

For Tatsu, she spends a good chunk of this half of the season trying to prove herself because initially she thinks she’s just up for being Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard, not realizing that he’s Batman. He’s not keen on any help, no matter how much Alfred vouches for her, but he does start putting her through an array of tests, which does fill out pretty much this whole set as she learns the truth while protecting a sword that she stole from the League of Assassins. That plays into the main subplot of the season that builds up towards the end which will become a bigger part of the second half of the series. With it working Lady Shiva and her minions as they try to get the sword back and deal with what Tatsu did in leaving them, we also get the first edges of Ra’s al Ghul coming into play as well and for me that’s a pretty nice and exciting development.

While that fills out the underlayer of the show, a lot of what we get are some of the more surprising choices for opponents for Batman to face. By and large, we don’t get any of the more well known opponents. No Joker, no Penguin, no Riddler or even a Clayface. Instead, we get a couple of Magpie episodes that actually work quite well with her psychological issues, Lunkhead makes a few odd appearances and a surprising couple of stories revolving around Anarky. Using him was the biggest surprise overall, though the execution left a bit to be desired on that front. Even when you get down to the thug kind of level, you get some odd choices like Tobias Whale. Even stranger is that they opened the series with Professor Pyg and Toad as the opponents – and brought them back for another one later on. The only character of any real note outside of the couple of League characters is Metamorpho, but that had him mostly in a coping with his origin story kind of freak out rather than shifting him to a hero or doing much more than a standard origin story.

With most of the episodes standalone in nature, it’s easy to follow and it has a decent narrative overall as we watch the mainline plots of Tatsu trying to win over Bruce Wayne as a bodyguard and then trying to prove herself to Batman, all while hiding what she did when she left the League of Assassins. The stories are obviously simplistic enough and small in scope in general, especially after coming off of shows like Young Justice and Green Lantern: TAS, but it’s working a slow but steady build that lets you get a good feel for the world that they want to create. It’s a series that really feels like it works better in marathon form than in the semi-weekly form that I attempted when it was first broadcast. When you get to see the larger storyline slowly come into focus, that helps a lot. and even though I was conflicted with what I had seen previously, I came away from this set quite looking forward to the next half.

In Summary:
While Beware the Batman had a lot of negative things going against it before it aired, I went into it with a pretty open mind, though I had a hard time catching the episodes for a few reasons. Marathoning it over the course of a day, I really found myself enjoying it for the most part as you can see the larger threads it’s trying to pull together for a bigger storyline. With other recent DC Comics animated series really playing this larger serialized storytelling, it’s one that’s harder to do for Batman while also playing to an episodic feel to appeal to younger audiences. They try to straddle the line here and largely do a decent job, but you can see younger kids being lost by the show and older audiences wondering why we’re not seeing more noteworthy opponents appearing. There’s a good bit to like here but the show is a bit of a mix bag. But when you factor in the price, the high definition aspect and the amount of episodes you get, this is a steal of a deal that’s worth trying if you can go in with an open enough mind.

Features:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Warner Archive Collection
Release Date: February 18th, 2014
MSRP: $21.99
Running Time: 286 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.