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Beware the Batman is finally in full gear, and episode 8 is one of the series’ best so far. As I predicted last week, Bruce’s reveal to Katana that he’s Batman is an essential step in progressing the show forward. Now the crime fighting trifecta of Batman, Secret Agent Alfred and Katana, the Girl Wonder are in full swing. This is a truly new take on the Bat-Family, one that relies a lot more on espionage, spycraft, and cyber-detective work. If the show’s creators keep playing this up, Beware the Batman will be different than the other myriads of Batmen available for 2013 entertainment consumption.
Early in the episode Katana dons a mask, sharpens her sword, and picks her codename (it’s “Katana”). Does that mask look familiar?
It should: Katana is Robin! But, taking a departure from other cartoon Robins (Dick Graceon, Tim Drake, and even, arguably, Terry Crews from Batman Beyond) Batman doesn’t need to make Katana into a superhero. She’s as good at fighting crime as Batman. This makes Katana one of the strongest female sidekicks Batman’s ever had. The main problem with the duo is they’re not yet dynamic together, it’s a problem the show is conscious of and is incrementally trying to fix. The differences in each hero’s crime-fighting style probably won’t be reconciled until next season, but it’s definitely going to be an interesting progression to watch. Katana is bad ass: you’ll have plenty of time to get used to it.
However, the real Allies referred to in the episode’s title aren’t the Bat-Family. They’re James and Barbara Gordon. This interpretation of Gordon also owes its inspiration to Geoff John’s Batman: Earth 1. So far this season, the Police Commissioner has taken a jaded view of Batman/vigilantism. Gordon is always quick to point out that Batman interfers with police business. Batman, of course, disagrees, as he is of higher moral fiber than Gotham’s easily bribed policemen. Perhaps. But it’s nice to see a take on Gordon as a man slightly-distrustful of a guy who climbs around the city dressed as a bat.
What convinces Gordon of Batman’s usefulness is his daughter’s kidnapping. The crime syndicate (soon to be mentioned) takes Barbara from her house and Batman immediately responds. At the end of the episode, Batman even takes the heat for Gordon’s breaking of police prodicall. Obviously, Batman’s a cool dude, and he realizes that the only way from him to effectively “ally” himself with the police is by maintaining distance from the sworn duty of law enforcement officers. I like my Batmen to understand their respective duties.
The other Gordon is Barbara, an andronious looking teenager who’s another interesting depature from comic book continuity counterpart. Barbara is the show’s youngest character, probably around 15 years old, and probably only a few years older than the show’s target demographic. She’s also very aware of how detectives, like her dad, solve crimes and how bad guys, like her kidnappers, always screw up. She’s delightfully meta as she mocks criminals for being predictable and always losing. She’s also enamored with Batman, much like young viewers of the cartoon. I bet, as the show progresses (I wager by season 3), Barbara will become Batgirl. Until then, she’ll probably just remain a piece of ransom, as she is in this episode.
The villains this week are fine. We see the return of The Whale, the crime boss Whale. Whale is a vaguely-racist take on Kingpin. He’s a big, fat crime boss who talks a little too stereotypically for my liking. He reminds me of a blaxploitation villain. But maybe he’s not racist, maybe he’s just goofy. It’s yet to be explained whether he has a skin condition or he’s actually a hybrid whale-man. I hope the latter. He has a henchman capture Barbara in hopes of winning himself a Get Out of Jail Free card (usually messing with cops’ families does not work like this).
We also have Whale’s henchman, Phosporus Rex, which is perhaps a play on Oedipus Rex. Thankfully, he’s got nothing to do with the infamous mom-kissing king. Instead, he can turn into fire and shoot fire, like a lame Human Torch. The fire looks pretty dumb in the style of CGI animation (it looks like a video tape of fire hyper imposed over a computer game). The only cool thing about this guy is how Katana decides to defeat him, which, without spoiling, involves driving a truck through the walls of a warehouse. Pretty clever!
Lastly, the Ghost goons are my favorite villains this week. Apparently, Gotham has designated a failed industrial park as a criminal sanctuary. Low-profile crooks, the homeless, and other dejected members of society gather there and live in a crime-community boarded by five-story walls made of cars. This is a really creepy, and overall awsome, addition to Gotham. Maybe my favorite detail of this week. I hope these ghosts get more developed.
So this is a good episode of Beware the Batman. I like Katana, I enjoyed the Comissioner Gordon developments, yet the villains were meh. But still a good fight for our heroes and a solid showing of what the show can soon be if it keeps up the quality.