Something a bit different this Tuesday, since it’s been a quiet week for comics – at least, for comics worth saying anything about. While the series in question is already up to its second episode, I thought it worth taking a quick look at the pilot episode of the new DC-related animated series Batman : The Brave and the Bold…
The instinctive reaction, of course, is to say “What? Another Batman cartoon?” And coming so soon after the disappointing The Batman, it’s probably a valid one. However, targeted as it is at something of a younger market, The Brave and the Bold is arguably more distinct from the Dini/Tamm Batman series than the Begins-inspired effort, and quite frankly it’s all the better for it. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Teen Titans Go, it’s a slick, light-hearted, extravagant slice of all-ages fun, and well worth checking out despite its apparent simplicity.
It’s strange, though, in that it takes its cues from a version of Batman that was once the most common public perception of the character, but which has been finally eroded by two different movie franchises and the aforementioned early ‘90s animated classic. It’s Silver Age, pure and simple. This is a Batman who’s known more as a “superhero” than a grim vigilante, who bats nary an eyelid at flying through wormholes with rocket-powered wings, and who actually… you know… smiles.
But while there are tropes clearly lifted from the ‘60s TV series – a wry musical sting here, a rope-tied deathtrap cliffhanger there – there’s a crucial difference in that this Batman isn’t camp in an Adam West kind of way. There’s a sense of fun, and there are jokes, but it never takes the piss (even with comedian Diedrich Bader giving a suitably bombastic lead vocal performance) – the superheroics are genuinely on the level, and a strong balance is maintained. It’s nice to see a nod, too, to one of the strongest ever examples of the fusion of comedy and non-parodic superhero stories – the villain in the throwaway pre-credits sequence, the Clock King, while he’s changed quite significantly, is drawn from Giffen and deMatteis’ seminal Justice League run.
Another masterstroke, meanwhile, is in the use of the new Blue Beetle as the first episode’s guest character (each weekly, unconnected tale features, as if you hadn’t guessed from the title, a different character teaming up with Bats). While a few obvious changes and simplifications are made, it’s generally a note-perfect rendition of one of the DCU’s best new characters of recent years (we even get an appearance by Paco!), and merely strengthens the opinion that he (a) shouldn’t have had his series cancelled, and (b) should quite probably get his own cartoon. The young, generally-unsure-of-himself but occasionally-gets-carried-away hero is a good foil for a square-jawed, all-hero Batman, and his origins and power set fit well with the outer-space theme of the episode.
Topped off by some genuinely brilliant animation – fast-paced and McCracken/Tartakovsy-esque, with some absolutely lovely flashes – it may be a little simple and straightforward, but it’s a very well-produced cartoon, and it’s clearly got its heart in the right place. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but given the generally po-faced and overly “dark” nature of most DC properties nowadays, it’s nice to see someone doing something a bit lighter.