The Rise of the Blue Beetle! | Episode 01
Aired: November 14, 2008
Heroes: Batman, Green Arrow, and Blue Beetle
Supporting: The Gibbles and Paco Tejas
Villains: Clock King and Kanjar-Ro
Objects: Utility Belt, Trick Arrows, Blue Beetle Scarab, Kanjar-Ro's Fleet, and Gamma Gong
Places: Earth 23, Justice League Watchtower, and Gibble Homeworld
Beasts: Space Worms
Written By: Michael Jelenic
Directed By: Ben Jones
Review By Yojimbo
The pilot of the latest Batman series is a great blend of childhood memory and mature sophistication. The episode begins in the heat of action. Batman and Green Arrow are suspended upside down on a set piece death trap finely crafted by the Clock King (No, he ain't your brother's Temple Fugate). After preemptively declaring victory, the Clock King makes his exit. Who knew the Clock King would have knockout gas in his wristwatch? But did anyone think Green Arrow would have a guided homing trick arrow or Batman would have a spare Batarang hidden on his chest? Unlike most animated incarnations, the audience is now privy to Batman's inner monologue as he admits that Green Arrow and he compete to show each other up but it makes them better.
The opening title sequence pulses on with an upbeat jazz ensemble. Those who can't wait to know which characters will appear on the show are in luck. The names of characters flash across the screen in the shape of buildings and the like. You even get a few early looks at some heroes and the Batmobile.
The first episode tells the story of an amateur superhero proving himself in the eyes of Batman, not a painful memory about that fateful night in Crime Alley. Some fans will have to adjust to origin-less characters, much more action, and more witty quips. Instead of starting out in Gotham City with the Bat-Family, the Gotham City Police Department, or the classic Rogue's Gallery, the story shifts to El Paso, Texas. As one teenage boy flicks through channels on television, the other rants about Batman. Littered on the walls of the room are torn newspaper clippings, Batman and Green Arrow; Batman and Aquaman; Batman and Blue Beetle (with a reference to the original episode title); Batman and Plastic Man; Batman and Green Lantern (he is not who you think he is) battling Starro; Batman and Fire; and the Atom resting on Batman's shoulder.
Suddenly, Jaime breaks in and asks Paco a hypothetical scenario: what if Poison Ivy took control of Superman (sound like an recent series?), is Batman helpless? Of course not, he always has Kryptonite. After a rather clever Streaky reference, the opening sequence is revisited in the form of a live news report. Batman and Green Arrow defeat (more like humiliate) the Clock King. Jaime, now alone, wonders aloud if he could ever be a hero. Batman appears at Jaime's window with a well-timed geek joke. This is an interesting take on the classic Batman of the Dick Sprang era, quite refreshing after years of watching the more modern version.
It seems like a definite teacher-student motif has been set up between Batman and Blue Beetle but things take a quick 360 degree turn. Batman finds himself second potato to the highly revered Blue Beetle. It's too bad that these aliens don't realize that the Blue Beetle legacy has changed hands but that makes no difference when a power hungry space pirate named Kanjar-Ro rears his ugly head. Kanjar's crew is another nice callback to long-time DC fans. Most of the henchmen are design swipes from a previous series called Justice League.
The ever so vigilant Batman warns Blue Beetle to use his brains over his brawn. But when you're a brand new hero idolized by a race of aliens that look like amoebas, you get a little cocky. Kanjar soon gets the upper hand but like any standard superhero formula, good prevails. The episode ends with Batman endorsing Blue Beetle as his new partner.
The voice work is a testament to the tight-knit DC animated community. All six actors on this episode have experience on previous series such as Batman Beyond, The Zeta Project, Justice League, and Legion of Superheroes, to name a few. The characters come off as earnest and likeable, maybe a little corny. My two concerns, going into the episode, were more a curiosity: how would Will Friedle play an ethnic teen superhero and could Diedrich Bader, more known for his comedic career, own the Batman voice?
The only problem I have with the series is the plot. It seems like every episode will play as a stand alone, beginning with Batman humbling a third rate villain, then advancing to the main story involving the hero and villain of the week. Without the inter-weaving sub-arcs of the Spectacular Spider-Man or the totality of continuity from Bruce Timm's run on the DC mythology, how long can this series last? Jokes get old fast and utility belts get predictable. The only way to truly enjoy this show is to view it side by side with your inner child. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is set to premiere on Cartoon Network on November 14, at 8:00 p.m. (ET, PT).