Batman swoops back to the small screen in this new computer animated series, which seems to take quite a few cues from the recent Nolan films. We find a younger, leaner Dark Knight and perhaps even more importantly, a younger, leaner Alfred than we’ve ever seen in any incarnation. Resembling a slightly older Jason Statham, this take on the famous butler is a former secret agent tasked with protecting his charge, Bruce Wayne, which isn’t easy after Wayne adopts his alter ego, The Batman. We first encounter the new badass Alfred when he attacks Bruce, who is slumbering, in order to test him. Later, it becomes clear that Alfred is close to a contemporary of Bruce and a more vital assistant than valet.
In the opening episode, Bruce Wayne finds himself the target of eco-terrorists Mister Toad and Professor Pyg. In addition to Wayne, the pair have targeted two other characters who should be familiar to DC readers, Simon Stagg (from the Metamorpho comics) and Michael Holt (a.k.a. Mister Terrific).
One thing that really stood out to me, is how very “now” the series is. First, there’s the computer animation, which marks a shift from prior Bat series. But then at one point, the villains post a video online and later Batman and Alfred chat via cell phone. “Batman: The Animated Series,” despite its computer technology, felt like it was set in the 1940s, while “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” borrowed heavily from the 1950s Dick Sprang-illustrated comics. The idea of a Batman series set here and now just seems quite unique.
At any rate, the two villains mistakenly kidnap Alfred thinking he’s Bruce Wayne and the butler helps lead the valiant Michael Holt and the treacherous Stagg to safety. It’s a bit off that Batman doesn’t really get to play the hero here, but I guess the point is to introduce this new, more dynamic version of Alfred.
In addition, we also meet Tatsu Yamashiro who will evolve into the DC character Katana and will be serving as Bruce’s driver/bodyguard.
If you weren’t aware, the producers of this series have consciously chosen to avoid most of Batman’s classic rogues with the exception of Ra’s Al-Ghul. So there won’t be (for now anyway) any sign of The Joker, The Penguin, etc. It was interesting to see Professor Pyg and Mister Toad, but at the same time, these animated takes on these grotesque characters seems more than a little watered down. Next episode, we’ll meet Magpie and eventually Anarky will play a major role. (He’s rumored to the first season’s main villain.)
I wasn’t floored by this episode. The art style hasn’t won me over. The CGI is just too clean and stiff for me and lacks any sense of character. I do like the fact that they are delving deeper into DC’s toy box and exploring some less well-known villains, even though they are really sanitized here.
I’m going to have to give this series a few more episodes before I fully form an opinion.