Beware The Batman Season One Part One Shadows of Gotham:
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Warner Archive Collection
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Blu-Ray Format: 1080p High Definition 16:9 1.85:1 Dolby Digital English 2.0
Closed Captioning: Yes
Run Time: 285 minutes
Episodes: Hunted, Secrets, Tests, Safe, Broken, Toxic, Families, Allies, Control, Sacrifice, Instinct, Attraction, and Fall (Episodes 1-13)
Synopsis: All-new adventures against vicious villains! Another night falls in Gotham City and the ever-vigilant Dark Knight watches over his city and its citizens. With the help of his ex-secret agent butler, Alfred, and sword-wielding assassin Katana, the Batman wages a tireless war against Gotham's twisted criminal underworld. Buckle up for 13 all-new adventures from the first season, and ride along as Batman battles the evil machinations of Professor Pyg, Magpie, Mister Toad and criminal mastermind Anarky. It's a crime-fighting collection of hidden clues, cool tech and detective thrills as Batman prowls in the shadows, ready to deliver action-packed excitement and justice!
Beware The Batman brings the Caped Crusader back to his Dark Knight roots, with many refreshing tweaks, to make this show one of the more unique animated permutations our beloved vigilante. Coming off the heels of the mostly Silver Age-inspired Batman: The Brave and The Bold, fans are treated to a more down-to-earth and serious take on Batman. The first thirteen episodes of season one included in the Beware The Batman: Season One, Part One: Shadows of Gotham home video collection highlight an intricate tapestry of conflicting forces using Gotham City as the unwitting battlefield.
While we usually meet most animated Batmen a decade or so into their career, Beware the Batman appears to present earlier years of the hero's career. Batman (portrayed by Anthony Ruivivar) hasn't yet completely turned the Gotham underworld into a superstitious cowardly lot. In fact, they mockingly recite his warning, "Beware the Batman" before and after firing. However, this Batman is far from a rookie and is actively experimenting ways to overcome his physical limits as he utilizes his inner detective. Alfred, the traditional family butler, has been given arguably the most interesting makeover among the cast. While still into cooking, this Alfred is straight blue collar and serves more as Bruce Wayne's bodyguard and mentor. Even though it has come up occasionally in the comics, Beware The Batman specifically highlights Alfred's time as an agent with England's MI:6 agency. J.B. Blanc voices the hardened yet caring bloke. And in what has become a polarizing addition to the series, Katana is the newest member to The Family and partner of Batman. Voiced by Sumalee Montano, Katana's reliance on anger and emotion provides a welcome contrast to Batman.
The show runners Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson were given the green light to helm the first Batman CG-animated series in the fledgling years of 3D animation at Warner Bros. Animation. Both bring impressive resumes to the table. Murakami is famed as a member of the fabled Bruce Timm gang who ushered in an age of treasured DC animation starting from Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, and then found success as a producer in his own right with Teen Titans and Ben 10. Watson, writer for Freakazoid!, recently had success as a producer and writer for Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Despite the producing power, many fans were instantly divided once they heard the next Batman show was in CG animation and had a 'gun-toting' Alfred in the mix. Of course, that was before a single episode or footage was ever shown. Luckily, from the opening scene in the first episode, it becomes very clear very quickly that this Batman is a force to be reckoned with. I admit, it took some time to adjust to the nature of fights, lighting, and character animation in CG animation, but even by just the second episode, the animation keeps getting better and surprising. The frenzied battle style of Magpie alone was quite an amazing feat to watch unfold. The music is done by Frederik Wiedmann, who got his start on DC animation with Green Lantern: The Animated Series, a recent favorite of the fan base. While it is no easy chore to score a unique soundtrack for Batman, Wiedmann taps into a mix of electronica and spy themes while delivering some familiar pieces we've come to know as Batman.
Beware The Batman, like its predecessors Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, follows a serial storytelling format. Coupled with the CG animation and inconsistent airing schedule, the show took awhile to gain acceptance among the fans. But upon re-watching the first 13 episodes in one glorious run, the grand scope of things the staff has planned burns bright in the back drop. Gotham and Batman teeter ever so close to darkness cast by an eclectic cast of obscure, known, and top-tier villains. At first glance, this show seemed like a hodgepodge of Golden Age comics and the current works of Grant Morrison. But after 13 episodes, it's become apparent this show takes its cues from the Batman that emerged in the 1970s after the campy 60s (which is fitting considering this show follows Batman: The Brave and The Bold). Under Dennis O'Neil's writing, Batman was the Dark Knight once more and, well, became rather obsessive-compulsive (a trait we see in this show best presented with his admission he can't stop seeing crime around him).
Like most shows, "Beware The Batman" does not painstakingly lay out Batman's origins, but instead lets the moving pictures do the heavy lifting. He fights endless crime in a gritty city while being constantly groomed by Alfred and his years of experience. Concerned with his own mortality, and Batman's future, Alfred recruits his goddaughter Tatsu Yamashiro to succeed him as Wayne's bodyguard. After passing many tests, Yamashiro is officially welcomed into the Bat Family and returns to her discarded Katana codename (more on that later). Mentioned earlier, Batman finds himself fighting an eclectic gallery of rogues - Professor Pyg, Mr. Toad, Magpie, Anarky, Tobias Whale, and Lady Shiva. The endearing 90s villain Anarky was given a radical makeover that many viewers argue stripped him of what makes him “Anarky,” so much that many cast him off as a Joker clone. However, in truth, there appears to be a lot of potential laid in Anarky's initial appearances that he is on the path to truly becoming his namesake. As the show's tie-in comic has presented, we will hopefully see him engage in plots that are more of a mix of his comic book version's politically charged agendas with the white knight machinations of his animated version. Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad are realigned as environmental terrorists with an air of sophistication. Magpie is reimagined as a deeply troubled villain struggling with identity and trust. Tobias Whale is finally Tobias Whale in name after several alternate animates versions in various shows. Lady Shiva, who is traditionally on both the side of good and bad, is cemented on the side of villainy and serves Ra's Al Ghul as a general in the League of Assassins.
As a side, another smartly done addition to the show is the father-daughter team of James Gordon and Barbara Gordon. James Gordon isn't Batman's best chum in this show. He leads the manhunt for Batman and doesn't trust him. Fans are treated to the formation of one of Gotham's greatest alliances and friendships over the serial format. While an animated teenage Barbara has been done, and so has one that's adored Batman, don't count on her suiting up as Batgirl. Where this character seems to be going is worth the wait. She's also got great at banter.
One of the most intriguing differences of Beware The Batman is the ongoing theme of mortality. This Batman is perhaps the most 'mortal' of all animated incarnations. Ever so the efficient warrior, Batman refuses to eat anything and seeks to hack his body to give him an edge. He partakes in a strict liquid diet, sleeps only four hours, and purchases adrenal-rich hormone free bovine glands to keep him up. And he gets hurt a lot, even at one point having to realign his broken arm in the heat of battle against bank robbers. Perhaps the most daunting is Batman's three distinct personas - Batman, the private Bruce Wayne, and the public Bruce Wayne - dangled at the edge of the abyss of darkness. Can Bruce Wayne hold onto his humanity while still being Batman, a personification of darkness?
The payoff of Alfred and the focus on his past work in the intelligence community pays dividends as the show heads toward the end of the thirteenth episode. At the start of the series, he is framed as a former agent who wants to educate Batman with the traumatizing and humbling cases he has survived. By the 13th episode, Alfred's past emerges in the present and creates an amazing generational conflict that makes the serial nature of the show even more spectacular to watch and take in.
For the first time, Beware The Batman's first home entertainment release Season One, Part One: Shadows of Gotham was offered as both a wide release two-disc DVD collection and a single-disc Blu-Ray release available online only through Warner Archive Collection. The two disc DVD follows the standard bare bones format that has plagued recent home entertainment releases - cookie cutter menus and no special features aside from trailers. The Blu-Ray is the definite stand out between the two. Clearly, a CG animated show made in the modern era plays better in the Blu-Ray. The look of the show is punched up several notches thanks to the format. It's how it was meant to be viewed.
Beware The Batman Season One, Part One: Shadows of Gotham Blu-Ray is a worthy home entertainment release all Bat-fans should purchase. Did I mention both versions include two episodes of Beware The Batman that have yet to be aired on TV? Boasting enriching serial storytelling, compelling yet mortal characters, and an intriguing spin on what fans have come to know, Beware The Batman is another honored addition to an animated Batman collection. Beware The Batman is unique, addictive, and thrilling. If you're hooked by the end of the 13th episode, I'd recommend the equally great tie-in series from DC Comics (but note, the comic does spoil some future developments and is ending after six issues in March). Six months and counting, the show still hasn't returned to DC Nation and fans are pining for the other 13 episodes of the season with Batman's 75th anniversary looming on the horizon. But if you're straying away from the show... Beware. The best is yet to come.