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The World's Finest Presents



Beware The Batman
#1 - Hunted

Original Airdate - July 13th, 2013
In the series premiere, villains Professor Pyg and Mister Toad (Brian George and Udo Kier) are hunting billionaires in Gotham City to make them pay for their crimes against nature. And since Bruce Wayne (Anthony Ruivivar) is on their list, Batman has to solve this case fast! When Alfred (JB Blanc) is kidnapped and taken to an abandoned oil derrick to be hunted with the other kidnapped billionaires, Batman must put the clues together before their heads end up hanging on the walls of Pyg and Toad's hunting lodge. Realizing that he might become a liability for Batman, Alfred recruits a new bodyguard (and potential new partner), the beautiful and deadly Tatsu "Katana" Yamashiro (Sumalee Montano).

Written by Mitch Watson
Directed by Sam Liu
Review by James Harvey
Media by Warner Bros. Animation, The World's Finest



Additional Images


The debut episode of Beware The Batman, called "Hunted," tells a down-to-earth and deceptively simple tale of revenge wrapped up in colorful CG trappings, and - to be straightforward - it shines. It's safe to say the producing team of Glen Murikami, Mitch Watson, and Sam Register have successfully pulled off the first Batman CG-animated series. Any worries you may have about this team tackling this series can be forgotten - they pretty much nail it. In fact, I'm surprised at how well Batman translates to CG. The flow of the fight scenes, the gadgetry, it all nicely finds a home in the computer-generated world of Gotham. And, like nearly every Batman animated series that proceeded it, it's already being lambasted by fans before a single episode has even aired, so it's obviously doing something right.

The show assumes the viewer already knows Batman and his modus operandi. He's Bruce Wayne, orphaned son fighting crime in a hopeless city. But, just a few moments in, the slight twists to the mythology already start to sneak in. Alfred is very active in Bruce's training regiments, going so far to pose as a burglar to keep him on his toes. And the criminals Batman's fighting - Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad - are nowhere near the usual super-villain standard our hero usually engages with. It's these little changes, which resonate much more than one would expect, that freshen up what's actually a very intimate adventure. This series is reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series, yes, and the comparisons between the two will be unending given the tone, but it's already stepping into it's own in the first twenty minutes of its existence.

Admittedly, Beware The Batman does take a little bit to get used to. The plastic-looking costume. The CG-animation. Even the character designs. But by the time the episode wrapped up and I got my first taste of what looks to be another excellent Batman cartoon, with an ongoing serial format akin to Green Lantern: The Animated Series, I was ready for the second episode. While it will definitely take time to grow on some people, much like Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice did, Beware The Batman is a great addition to the DC Comics animation library. I do want to emphasize, before I forget, this show does not deserve any hate for Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice not being renewed by Cartoon Network, nor was this show the reason why those two were not picked up. Direct it elsewhere, but not here at Beware The Batman.

The creative team seem to have intricately planned out how this new series will approach the classic Batman mythos, and I like what I'm seeing so far. The Dark Knight Detective. The villains. Even Alfred, whom I was very skeptical about going in. It's interesting how embracing something the comics rarely focused on, like Alfred's MI-6 past, and playing it up can really just change a character so utterly. But, despite that, he's still Alfred. Just like how Batman is Batman and Bruce Wayne is Bruce Wayne. Focused, with a goal, never wavering. Honestly, we don't see too much of Bruce Wayne in this premiere episode to really get a sense of the 'three personalities' approach the series is going to take with him (his Batman persona, his 'public image Bruce Wayne' persona, and the actual Bruce Wayne), but we get enough to form an idea of what type of Batman this will be. This Batman definitely has a bit of the "Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight" influence in there mixed in with the current "The New 52" comic book rendition of the character. It's what you expect Batman to be in a serious action series.

The first major mythology change in the series so far - the introduction of former CIA agent Tatsu "Katana" Yamashiro as an ally in his fight against crime - is just lightly touched upon here.

The voice cast for the debut episode is solid all around, and surprisingly tight. Anthony Ruivar is well cast in the lead role which, and this works against him, doesn't really offer him much to do. He gets some enjoyable scenes with Alfred, nicely plays up Batman's intimidation factor, but doesn't get a real great chance to flex his acting abilities as of yet. He's solid in the role, and I'm looking forward to that role growing as the series progresses. The same can be said about JB Blanc as Aflred, who provides some definite gruffness to the character, but with a hint of compassion underneath. Sumalee Montano and Kurtwood Smith only get a handful of lines between them, as Katana and Commissioner Gordon, but both seem well cast. Udo Kier as Mr. Toad and Brian George as Professor Pyg shine as the episode's antagonists, and definitely seem to positioned as regular returning characters. Jeff Bennett's short stint as Simon Stagg is also pretty excellent.

Turning toward the creative team work here, I found Sam Liu's directing for the episode was appropriately subdued. While he definitely played around with what CG can provide animation directors - such as long, complex camera pans which would be impossible in a 2D environment - it seemed like he was using this episode to bridge the gap between his 2D directing style and the CG. Next time he directs I assume we'll see him really cut loose, for example, but this? He's easing us into this new CG world of Batman and, to me, it feels appropriate. There's some great action choreography and some slick moments, but nothing that really goes overboard into wild CG-camera movements. Liu is excellent at staging action and he pulls it off nicely, to no one's surprise. The script by Watson, however, is a bit of a surprise. But given that his previous assignment was the amazing Scooby-Doo - Mystery Incorporated animated series, it should be no shock that he can come up with a pretty good yarn for Batman's first mystery (even if the straw that breaks the case is a bit of a cop-out). Also worth noting is the awesome score work by Frederick Weidmann. One episode in and it's already sounding like something fans will definitely want a soundtrack for. The dark cue when we first see the Batcave is perfection, as is the nutty theme for Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad.

Personally, and this might be a weird thing to compliment on, but I found the show's technology designs to be really interesting. Everything has a classic, retro feel to it, but it also has a modern twist. Look at the Batcomputer keyboard, for example. The keys themselves look like old-fashioned typewriter keys, but they're modernized with a glowing LCD hue. Ditto with the huge dials and gauge readers. And, naturally, the screens are holographic. Look around the Batmobile's cockpit. Covered in old-fashioned looking tech with a modern tweak to it. It's as if technology paused sometime after the 1950s and then restarted just over the last couple of years. It's just an interesting design choice that the creative team deserves a nod for.

Like with any new series, there are a couple drawbacks. The CG can be a bit stiff at times, the designs sometimes sparse and the streets empty, but it seems no different than most other CG-animated shows on television today. It does genuinely look good. And, if history teaches us anything, the CG will improve as the series progresses and becomes populated with more characters, environments, and tech. I recall being unimpressed with Green Lantern: The Animated Series' CG work in the initial two-part series opener, but that changed quickly as the first season charged along. And besides, the empty city streets and occasional weak bits of animation are no different than the complaints most would lob at a regular 2D-animated series. It seems like there is a lot of pre-judging going for this show based on the CG animation and, personally, I think it's unwarranted. This show really looks excellent, in terms of design work, animation and overall execution.

Beware The Batman is able to mix noir, western, retro, and modern sensibilities into this coherent ball of excellence. It should come as no surprise that, given their track record, Warner Bros. Animation and the fantastic production team behind this series are able to create yet another great series based around DC Comics' caped crusader. The first episode takes a novel approach to a Batman series, by making it an intimate affair rather than a bombastic over-the-top adventure, and immediately informs the viewer to prepare for something different. It also reminds us that, as great as Batman: The Brave and The Bold was, returning to the character's darker detective roots is the right direction for the next phase of the character's animated adventures. While I will always hold Batman: The Brave and The Bold in high regard for what it was able to do with the wackier aspects of the Batman legend, it is genuinely great to see him tackle street-level crime again. Beware The Batman is definitely worth your attention, and it looks like it'll be able to keep it for the long haul. Don't pass this show up, folks. Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network have another winner here with Beware The Batman.

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