Things in Gotham only go from bad to worse.
What They Say:
The groundbreaking all-new CGI animated series returns. Batman, Alfred and swordstress Katana are back to take on the underworld likes of Anarky, Professor Pyg, Mister Toad and Magpie. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, this action-packed detective thriller deftly redefines what we have come to know as a “Batman show.”
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.
Originally airing in 2014, 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 disc 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.
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 blue 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 yellow and gold that exist in it and the black of Batman and his motorcycle. The show gives us an indistinct city background to it that works well enough but there’s also an interesting city night-time vibe going on with the brightness of it all. The back cover has a nice action shot of Batman from the side while the right has a blue 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.
The menu design for this release goes with a different style from the first release, which used the cover artwork, as instead we get an image of Batman in shades of blue and black as if we were underneath him as he swoops down from atop the rooftops. It’s an odd angle and odd color choice and even weirder still that they logo is in a very similar blue, making it all feel really bland. 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.
I had gone into the first half of Beware the Batman not exactly enthused, partially from my awkward introduction to it with the broadcast episodes that left me underwhelmed and partially because the show was yanked from the schedule, something that often doesn’t speak well to the quality of something. In the time since the first half came out, we got more of those episodes broadcast and then another disappearing act. And then the weekend before this release, the remaining unbroadcast episodes got a late night marathon run with barely a mention as they were burned off by Cartoon Network. Which is a real shame because this set proves once again that this is a really solid show worth watching. And it reinforces that I want little to do with Cartoon Network anymore after so many shows have suffered like this. I really feel like pleading with Warner Animation to find a new partner for any future projects.
This set brings us the second half of the show with thirteen episodes and it has a whole lot of ground to cover. The first couple of episodes actually bring events from the first set to a close as Batman has to deal with Ra’s al Ghul and what he’s done in trying to end Gotham and signal to the world what changes the League of Assassins will bring to things. It works quite well as it touches upon many of the villains introduced in the first half who end up sort of working alongside Batman to save their city from this interloper. It’s self interest at its best, but it works since there’s a lot going on. What really shined for me though is that as events progress, Batman finds himself relying on others more for key jobs and that even includes Barbara Gordon. She may be nudged up easily as the cyber genius, but it’s done in a fun enough way you can roll with it and the nods towards Oracle. But what really makes it work is how well she and her father play off of each other when the chips are down and they both have to do what’s needed to save the city.
The series does smart shift things ahead by about six months after that arc comes to a close so it can introduce the next phase, which does dominate the remainder of the season. It’s a rather solid if once again slow build kind of story as it focuses on a lot of different things. The main thrust for many is that it provides Deathstroke the chance to take over in a way, which ties in nicely to his own appearances in the Arrow live action series as a bit of corporate synergy, but for me I really felt it was more all about Harvey Dent. Deathstroke has a couple of appearances – and some fantastic fight scenes before the finale – but what we get for a lot of this is seeing how Harvey is making his move as the D.A. to be something more and really clean up the city. The formation of the Special Crimes Unit is his thing and he gets intense about stopping Batman, figuring that without him all of this supervillain crime will dry up. It’s a foolish angle that I wish would have been dealt with better, but it’s an easy enough narrative to work with for a show aimed for an all ages audience.
The eleven or so episodes this arc runs definitely works in a way that it interconnects so many things, particularly with Harvey driving a lot of the changes, whether through intent or accident. We get Rex Mason back in the picture for a bit as he tries on the hero mantle for those in the Old Gotham area that really need help and he finally takes on a code name. There’s a few instances of Outsiders being bandied about in the series as a whole and it really would have made for a good second season to play that out more. Man-Bat makes his appearance, which figures into a twisted little plot by Professor Pyg that again makes my nose wrinkle, but he’s handled well both in character and design. The use of some of lesser known Batman villains is appealing as I hate the over reliance on the name characters, but Pyg, Mister Toad, Tobias Whale and Humpty Dumpty are not compelling. Ra’s needed to be in sooner and Deathstroke needed to be more prominent to really people behind. There’s also a lot of use of Anarky in this series, which is a mixed bag as he has potential but has always felt a bit too gimmicky for me in his design.
One big plus for me in this season is the use of Paul Kirk, which brings in a variation of Manhunters and his past, as well as his daughter Ava that’s handled in some fun ways. I’m a very long time fan of the whole Manhunter mythology, which has been reworked far too many times over the years, so getting a little time with the older character to wear the mask and have some fun with it definitely made for a fun episode. But in the end, it all comes down to the last couple of episodes where things heat up and we get three episodes that go back and forth about control of the city, which is just a facade for the other main story of the season.
That being the relationship Alfred has with Bruce. We get some time without Alfred for awhile as he goes off on personal business to deal with mistakes from his past after some of it came to light in dealing with Ra’s. That sends Bruce into a bit of a slow build frenzy over the months as he’s lost the grounding in his life, something Katana can’t really take over for, not that she doesn’t try. But Alfred’s past is the driver here – once again – as Deathstroke was his pupil as well and he’s furious at what Alfred has done recently that cost him his own missions and assignments. It’s a little loose in how they handle it, but it comes down to the classic tale of two students who were treated very differently by their teacher and one of them wants revenge on both of them and anyone – and anything – they care about. It doesn’t delve deep into things, but it goes just a bit beyond the surface to make it work really well, especially when marathoned over the course of a few hours.
Going into this series as a whole, I’ll admit I wasn’t enthused but I wanted to see it through for myself. And once again, like Brave and the Bold, I’m glad I did. The show isn’t flawless by any means as it has to deal with the structure of broadcast serialized storytelling aimed at an all ages group, but it builds a pretty good narrative through the two main arcs that have a good bit of character material, nuance and growth along the way for many of its cast. It also has a lot of action, which is always a big plus. The Ra’s al Ghul arc starts off the disc with a lot of great fights and we get a large scale one at the end of the Deathstroke arc as well, which really works the cast that’s built up over the twenty-six episode run in a strong way. At this point, I really wish Warner Animation could make the shows something they can just sell directly or work with streaming agreements on rather than dealing with broadcasters and toy necessities. There’s some great 3DCG work here in a world I didn’t think would fit with it, but they nailed it over and over and left me wanting more of it. Definitely worth picking up the two sets and really digging into it to see what they’ve done here.
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: September 30th, 2014
Running Time: 286 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.