Review–Beware the Batman, stunning new animated series on Cartoon Network

beware the batman batmobile

If you find typical animated series on Cartoon Network visually boring, this new series is for you.  DC Comics’ DC Nation on Cartoon Network has finally achieved a satisfying blend of eye-grabbing visuals and smart storytelling in its newest animated series, Beware the Batman.   A follow-on to Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman is a fresh take on Batman that opens up possibilities for a long-term animated series with interesting villains of the week similar to those we enjoyed with the 1960s live action Batman series, but skip the camp and humor for some gritty situations and snappy dialogue.

What first will draw viewers to Beware the Batman is the high-resolution, three-dimensional effect of the cutting edge CGI animation itself, similar to the realism we’ve seen in Tron: Uprising, but even more so like the stylish visuals in The Incredibles.  Although the Batman himself may be the least eye-catching of the hundreds of Batman incarnations out there, he has his own style here that may grow on viewers.  But Alfred, the villains, Tatsu Yamashiro, all look incredible.  Wayne Manor is a beautiful mansion on the edge of a cliff, something you’d expect to see from Richard Branson.  Gotham looks like the moody covers to The Dark Knight Returns.  The action sequences are full of explosions and chases offered up in ways you haven’t seen before, too, with realistic and futuristic 3D technology effects like those in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.

Alfred and Batman

Batman/Bruce Wayne, perfectly voiced by Anthony Ruivivar (Starship Troopers, The Adjustment Bureau, Major Crimes, Burn Notice, Chuck) gets hurt a lot in episode one, needing to rely on others, especially Alfred, who is unlike any Alfred we’ve seen before.  Voiced by Burn Notice guest star and long-time voice actor JB Blanc, think of Alfred as ex-James Bond with the look and accent of Jason Statham.  Alfred is retired MI6 here but he doesn’t look much older than Bruce.  He is instantly likeable as Wayne’s Kato–if Kato were Sean Connery from The Untouchables.  Alfred enlists the aid of exotic goddaughter and ex-League of Shadows and ex-CIA agent Tatsu Yamashiro (voiced by Sumalee Montano), who DC Comics fans will know as Katana from The Outsiders and the subject of her own current monthly series in the New 52.  We don’t see a lot of her in episode one but enough to tell she has her own secrets and background, with a voice like Elizabeth Pena’s sultry character Mirage in The Incredibles.

Pyg and Toad bat villains

Like the better Batman stories, Beware the Batman focuses on the detective story, much like a procedural prime time drama.  And the story is quickly paced–not too much sulking Bruce whining to Alfred as is typically found in animated Batman series, and more Bruce as apprentice actually listening to the wiser lessons of Alfred the ex-spy.

Beware-The-Batman fiery explosions

Villains Professor Pyg (voiced by Brian George) and Mister Toad (voiced by character actor Udo Kier who was Otto Van Vogel in Chuck) are rendered superbly.  These obscure villains originally found in Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin series are brilliant and here to stay.  Pyg sounds and acts a bit like both Michael Caine and Alfred Hitchcock and Toad is all Peter Lorre from old gangster films.  Their dialogue is high-brow and clever.  Pyg sports a mask like you’d see in The Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder,” and Toad has his own variant on Black Canary’s sonic scream.  These aren’t just good Bat-villains, these are great Bat-villains.  Joker who?

Here’s a sneak peak at the series, which began Saturday, July 13, 2013:

In the tiny half hour time slot you wouldn’t think Warner Bros. Animation could cram so much great content into one episode:  A good Batman, a great Alfred, great villains, a solid story, character development, and a lot of stylish settings and costumes.  You even got a glimpse at Kurtwood Smith’s James Gordon.  You’ll want to add this one to your DVR list.  Beware the Batman airs Saturday mornings on Cartoon Network.

C.J. Bunce

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