Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Season One - Parts One and Two review
Starring
Diedrich Bader, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, John Di Maggio, Jeff Bennett, Kevin Michael Richardson, Will Friedle, Tom Kenny, Greg Ellis
Director
Various
Batman: The Brave and
the Bold: Season One -
Parts One and Two

Reviewed by Will Harris

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ou can tell a true comic geek by the way his eyes get all dreamy at the mention of the words “The Brave and the Bold.” Truth be told, you can get approximately the same reaction if you say, “Marvel Two-in-One,” as these titles, along with “DC Comics Presents” and “Marvel Team-Up,” are all part of the great legacy of the team-up book, which take the title’s designated hero – in the case of “The Brave and the Bold,” that hero would be Batman (voiced here by Diedrich Bader) – and puts him into a scenario where he’s forced to work with another hero, a concept which is most fun when that second hero is someone completely out of left field. For instance, I’m immediately reminded of the “Marvel Team-Up” issue when Peter Parker was in the audience of “Saturday Night Live” and found himself fighting the Silver Samurai alongside the combined might of the Not Ready for Prime-Time Players. (True story.)

No, there’s no Batman-meets-Belushi scenario happening in Cartoon Network’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” but the show does take the Dark Knight and team him up with some folks that’ll give the fanboys a serious thrill. It also takes a step back from the abyss and offers a look at Batman that’s both respectful to the comics and yet shows – gasp! – a sense of humor. They’re not trying to reproduce the feel of the campy live-action “Batman” series of the late ‘60s, although they do offer an awesome homage to the show at the beginning of the episode "The Color of Revenge!" Instead, it’s more a case of saying, “Um, hello, did you forget this is a cartoon? We’re allowed to have fun!” Sometimes, though, the fun is utterly unexpected. For instance, the show’s take on Aquaman (voiced by John Di Maggio) is hilarious, first painting him as a huge blowhard who seeks action at every turn, then shifting 180 degrees to portray him as a man in mourning, having unintentionally ordered many fish to their death, who needs Batman to pull him back to being the braggart that he usually is.

“The Brave and the Bold” gets maximum mileage out of team-ups by beginning with a teaser that’s generally unrelated to the episode which follows. It’s occasionally disappointing when you see a hero in a teaser, as it means that it’s likely to be the only time you’ll see them team up with Batman, but, really, would you want to see an entire episode featuring B’Wana Beast? Actually, scratch that, because that’d actually be awesome. But you get the idea: it’s a way to offer up folks like Hawk & Dove or Mister Miracle and Big Barda without necessarily having to dedicate an entire episode to them. What’s surprising, however, is how often (arguably) lesser heroes do end up with full episodes, including OMAC, Kamandi, and even Jonah Hex, who ends up with an incredibly cool storyline that finds him serving as one of Mongul’s bounty hunters.

There are two episodes from the first season of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” which stand head and shoulders above the rest. The first is “"Legends of the Dark Mite!", which takes an incredibly annoying inter-dimensional imp who’s obsessed with Gotham’s greatest crime fighter – he’s been in the comics for decades, but it’s possible you may also remember him from “The New Adventures of Batman” – and uses him to turn the series completely on its ear. Voiced by Paul Reubens, Bat-Mite uses his reality-warping powers to challenge Batman in an attempt to make him into an even better hero than he already is, and the end result is completely surreal (there’s a great bit involving Comic-Con) but thoroughly hilarious. The other stand-out episode of the season is “Mayhem of the Music Meister!,” which is – you guessed it – a musical episode, with Neil Patrick Harris as the evil character cited within the title. Harris’s best moment is arguably in a song called “Drives Us Bats,” which provides some of the best animation of the season, but the real shining star of the episode is Grey Delisle, who voices Black Canary and, as it turns out, is a lovely singer as well.

It’s easy to imagine the generation that was raised on “Batman: The Animated Series” or “Justice League” taking a look at “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” and sneering at the silliness, but drama often turns up when you least expect it, such as in “Hail the Tornado Tyrant!”, where Red Tornado tries to build an android son and ultimately ends up creating a new super villain. As a result, it’s the most tonally weird show to come out of the DC Universe in quite some time. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s why it might leave some fanboys shaking their heads. For those unafraid to experience action, fun, and good humor all within the course of a 30-minute program, however, “The Brave and the Bold” will be bliss.

Special Features: Given the great production being put out by Warner Animation, it never fails to disappoint when they mistreat the fans of their properties, and “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” is, unfortunately, a perfect example of this. First and foremost, although it makes sense as a money-making ploy, it’s still incredibly annoying that they opted to release the show’s first season in two halves. Worse, though, is that there isn’t a single bit of bonus material (excluding trailers for other WB releases) anywhere to be found on either set. Will this be remedied when the inevitable full-season set hits stores? And isn’t this pretty much the same question we asked when we reviewed “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season One, Volume One” a few weeks ago? It sure is, which is why I’ll say the same thing now that I said then: if it isn’t remedied, I’m going to be pissed.

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