Beware The Batman: Shadows of Gotham DVD ReviewFebruary 23, 2014
Batman has always been one of DC Comics’ most popular characters, perhaps even more so than Superman. And so, for as long as I can remember, there’s always been a Batman cartoon on TV. While many fans hold fond memories of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, Cartoon Network’s Beware The Batman attempts to change things up a bit and differentiate itself from the rest. With a CG animation style similar to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, a new, more physically capable interpretation of Alfred, a new sidekick, and a list of unfamiliar villains, Beware The Batman certainly feels fresh. It’s so different, that if Bruce wasn’t wearing his BatSuit you may not recognize it as a Dark Knight show at all. Give it some time, though, and the show’s strong writing will likely pull you in.
Beware The Batman takes a look at the very first years of Bruce Wayne’s time as the Caped Crusader. Much of what you know about Batman hasn’t changed – Bruce’s parents are dead, he has a butler named Alfred and he prowls the streets of Gotham at night in search of criminals. But a lot has changed – Alfred is a well-built, retired MI6 agent who isn’t afraid to beat up a few thugs and even shoot a few guns, and Batman’s sidekick isn’t Robin, but rather a badass chick named Tatsu (who later takes on the alias of Katana). Overall these changes work well, and I really enjoyed the Katana character especially – it would be cool to see her on the big screen someday.
Fans of Beware The Batman certainly know by now that Cartoon Network unceremoniously pulled the show from its lineup back in October 2013. It was rumored that the show was set to return in January, but that never happened. While I applaud BTB for attempting to do something different, I feel as though they may have strayed a bit too far from the character’s successful elements. Familiar villains such as The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, Bane, etc. are nowhere to be found. While I like the idea of giving lesser-known bad guys a chance to shine, the fact is that there’s a reason most people have no idea who these villains are – they’re just not very interesting or memorable, with the exception of of the clinically insane Magpie, whose split personality very much mirrors Batman himself.
Mr. Toad is by far the most jarring, as he is a full fledged anthropomorphic frog that talks, and this is never explained. Is he some kind of mutant? There are other mutants on the show, but we actually get to see their transformations. Mr. Toad just shows up in the first episode and no one seems to question why a talking amphibian is shooting at them. While the new interpretation of Alfred (which felt very Jason Statham-y) eventually grew on me, the only other characters I really enjoyed were Tatsu/ Katana, Lady Shiva, and Ra’s Al Ghul, who we only get to see a few minutes of.
Beware The Batman stopped airing on Cartoon Network’s DC Nation in October, after airing only 11 of its episodes. It’s unknown at this point if we’ll get to see Season 1 in its entirety, but hopefully fans of the series get some kind of closure. At least two of the unaired episodes made it into the Beware The Batman: Shadows of Gotham DVD release – “Attraction”, and “Fall”. “Attraction” is a great episode focusing on Magpie and her infatuation with Batman, and her jealousy of Katana leads to some awesome fight sequences between the two. “Fall” brings Ra’s Al Ghul into the game, shedding light on Alfred’s history as an MI6 agent and his history with Tatsu’s father. We also get to see Alfred training a young Bruce Wayne, we learn more about the SoulTaker sword, and the Ion Cortex falls into the hands of the League of Assassins, leading to a complete shutdown of Gotham City’s electricity. This is where the DVD ends, on a hell of a cliffhanger that will hopefully not be the last we see of Beware The Batman.
While unfortunately the fate of Beware The Batman is currently unknown, with Cartoon Network staying quiet on the subject, Beware The Batman: Shadows of Gotham is a solid 13 episodes of well-written, engaging CG animation. Batman and Katana make a great new Dynamic Duo, and Anthony Ruivivar’s voice work as the Dark Knight is up there with the much-beloved Kevin Conroy’s work. Just don’t get too invested in the story, as we may never get a resolution to it. It’s disappointing that there are absolutely no extras to speak of, but at least fans can watch all of the broadcast episodes again, along with two brand new ones.