A few weeks ago, I weighed in on the first episode of Beware the Batman, the Batman franchise’s current animated iteration. The new series features a younger Bruce Wayne entering into his crime-fighting career with a slew of whimsical CGI escapades. The first one featured Professor Pyg and his assistant, Mr. Toad, who were out to get revenge for a corrupt land deal that Bruce Wayne himself had played a role in. Despite not being a huge fan of CGI cartoon shows or of some of the more recent Batman cartoons, I appreciated that the show was trying to put a new spin on Batman’s beginnings with some genuinely fresh ideas, such as the introduction of Tatsu Yamashiro as Bruce Wayne’s new chauffeur and bodyguard, and I came away liking it overall.
In that review, I had jokingly pointed out that Bruce Wayne’s careless involvement in the above mentioned land deal, as well as Batman’s disposal of Pyg’s lair by blowing it up and letting it sink into the very wetlands that Pyg was avenging, kind of made it seem as though the Dark Knight didn’t care too much about the environment. In the second episode of the series, “Secrets,” this Archer-like sociopathic behavior comes back at the very start of the episode when, just as Magpie is trying to escape from the warehouse she’d broken into, Batman kicks her aside. “Hey, you just hit a girl!” Magpie shouts. “No, I hit a criminal.” The whole thing was just a little off-putting, as though the writers had to right away inform the audience why it was going to be okay for Batman to be taking shots at Magpie throughout the course of the episode. Just sounded funny the way it came out, and made me wonder if I’m really supposed to like this guy at this point.
Anyway, it was pretty interesting to see the inclusion of Magpie this early in the series. She’s a character I don’t have much (or really, any) prior knowledge of, but who seems to be making a comeback right now between this show and her appearance in Batman: Arkham Origins. Wikipedia says she’s dead in the comics, but who knows right now, with the New 52 and all. In the show she’s taken to erasing people’s minds and kidnapping folks in order to get to the bottom of some experiments that were done to her during her time in Blackgate. Oddly enough, the nature of these experiments don’t seem to account for her Lady Deathstrike-like super powers, but I’m sure that’ll be explained in a later episode.
She’s also dressed like Marilyn Manson from the “Rock is Dead” music video and has an obsession with shiny things, including Batman’s utility belt, which tends to come off as mildly sexual, especially if you’re a 30-year-old comic book nerd like I am. Then again, the second time she meets the Caped Crusader she tried to kiss him, and when he shoves her away (he just shoved a criminal!), she makes a quick comment about how she’s just dying to get her hands “on that shiny, shiny belt,” which is delivered over a close-up of Batman’s crotch. So maybe it is intentional, and in that case… who is this show for? Still, she’s a cool character for the show. A little more Black Cat than Catwoman, I’d say, since she has kind of a more punk/Lady Gaga vibe to her. Which is cool, because that way when Catwoman does show up you can have more than one femme fatale for Batman and it won’t make Magpie a redundancy, at least not aesthetically.
This episode also gives us a closer look at Lieutenant Jim Gordon, who we only saw in episode 1 for a very brief, hoaky response to a television reporter interviewing him outside the wreckage of Pyg and Toad’s hideout. In episode 2, we get a glimpse into his home life with his daughter Barbara, and his efforts to quell her interests in the new vigilante that’s been making the front page lately, a guy who Gordon thinks is just as much a criminal as any of the other yahoos in Gotham. However, with Batman looking into the Magpie case at the same time he is, the stage is set for their inevitable rendezvous, giving Batman an opportunity to vindicate himself a bit and for them to slowly form their partnership.
The c-plot of the episode seems to be the fleshing out of the Tatsu character, something that Bruce does all by himself within about 30 seconds of sitting down with her for breakfast. This was something I really enjoyed seeing, as it seems that Batman’s Holmes-ian qualities are the ones that get the least play. The last episode had a bit of actual detective work in it as well, but I had criticised it for being almost entirely a result of the Bat-computer’s ability to zoom-in and enhance. In this episode, Bruce is able to tell from a few of Tatsu’s mannerisms and from the way that she addresses Alfred as “Major” that she was a child when she first met Alfred, and was likely the daughter of one of Alfred’s colleagues at MI-6.
Alfred explains to Bruce in private that Tatsu is in fact Alfred’s god daughter, giving her an eventual place in the Bat-family, presumably as Bruce Wayne’s own Kato. That seems to be what they’re going for, although she isn’t yet introduced to the Batman by the end of the episode (of course she’s already admitted to thinking he must be a lunatic based on what she’s read in the paper, setting her up for the big reveal later when she finds out he’s her boss) and I don’t want to look ahead and spoil the show for myself, so I’ll just go off speculation.
The look of the show is still quite impressive, with the clean, minimal CGI work giving it a very modern, and sometimes even futuristic edge. Sometimes this show seems to exist in a kind of overlap between Bruce Wayne Batman and Terry McGinnis Batman. At times you do get a very Batman Beyond feel from the show, especially from the physique of the character, the shape of his mask and costume, and the inclusion of Alfred as a hulking, bald figure hobbling around on a cane, trying to keep the younger guy in check.
I should also say that the episode’s twist ending, which is the revelation of Magpie’s true identity, totally worked for me. This was mostly because many of the female characters that were introduced in this episode all kind of sounded the same, something else that had me wondering if it was intentional or just a figment of my imagination. Either way, it was a good enough twist, even if I never felt too invested in it, since I hadn’t met any of the suspects prior to the episode and they all kinda seemed like they could’ve been her in some way.
Either way, “Secrets” is another solid entry from the show, one that I even enjoyed more than the last one. Great voice work from the cast all around, with Grey DeLisle delivering a fun, sassy, sultry Magpie and Anthony Ruivivar continuing to nail the tonal duality of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character. Kurtwood Smith, who you might remember as Red Forman from That ‘70s Show, is given lots of time to shine as a slightly Bryan Cranston-esque Jim Gordon (Cranston of course already having had his turn as the character in the animated adaptation of “Batman: Year One,” which kind of made me wonder, once again, if that was intentional or just a coincidence), and JB Blanc continues to impress as Alfred. All in all Beware the Batman is shaping up to be a pretty decent show, and I’m looking forward to episode 3.
Loving this series, sad to hear rumours it may not be what Cartoon Network wants and may not last beyond the first season.