Directed by Sam Liu, the premiere episode of Cartoon Network's "Beware the Batman" aired yesterday morning on the DC Nation programming block. The stylized cg animation has come under fire in recent weeks but it was the star of the first episode.

OVERVIEW | The first episode of "Beware the Batman" wasn't necessarily about Batman. Sure, there's the shenanigans of Professor Pyg and Mister Toad for Batman to contend with but the driving element of the episode is Alfred and his desire to protect both Bruce Wayne AND Batman. Casual fans of the Dark Knight would identify Alfred as the elderly English butler of Bruce Wayne however, the show appears to be utilizing the "Batman: Earth One" take on the character. In Geoff Johns' graphic novel, Alfred is a tough as nails, former soldier of the Royal Marines which matches up pretty closely with the new show where Alfred is a former MI-6 agent who seems to be a fairly capable, albeit aging fighter in his own right. Thanks to the actions of Pyg and Toad, Alfred realizes he may no longer be capable of protecting Bruce and hires Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana as his replacement. The episode quickly establishes the relationship between Alfred and Bruce as that of "dotting grandfather" and "slightly arrogant yet still humble grandson."

PRODUCTION INTANGIBLES | Much has already been made of the CG designs of the cartoon, especially the cowl on Batman which does looks a little weird from certain angles but its imagery is reminiscent of the "Batman: Year One" costume and harkens back to the very early days of Bob Kane so there's definitely precedence for the look. While the design choices for Batman's costume may be polarizing, the rest of the 3D environment looks great. There's a surprising amount of emotion on the faces of the human characters along with careful attention to background renderings and the immaterial elements such as lighting, vapors and fiery explosions all look great in HD. The show also visualizes movement very well, from cars to fists and feet, the show moves as if it was filmed on a camera rather than rendered on a computer screen. However, the first episode isn't free of any misfires. Particularly, the designs for Professor Pyg and Mister Toad leave something to be desired which is but one of many gripes I had with the two villains.

QUESTIONS | Utilizing different Batman villains is commendable, after all, "Beware the Batman" marks the sixth animated foray for the Caped Crusader. It's understandable that the creative team will want to tell new stories that haven't been done before by the likes of Bruce Timm and co. Yet if the show is going to highlight obscure members of Batman's rogue's gallery, it has an obligation to inform the viewers just exactly who they are and what's their motivation. What we learn about Pyg and Toad comes from brief exposition delivered by Batman. But even that is limited as we only learn about what they're doing and who they're targeting, not why. Strangely enough, the show would be able to get away with this approach with more recognizable villains like a Joker or Two-Face, you already know their motivations. However, the Grant Morrison creations were given little background and it felt like they should be henchmen for someone else. That could very well be the case but we have no way of knowing at this early juncture.

HIGHLIGHT | What stood out the most for me while watching was seeing the injuries that Batman racked up while taking on Toad and Pyg. To conceptualize this, the Batman from "Justice League" would've taken down Pyg and Toad in about five minutes. This Batman struggled a bit, his injuries carried over into the next encounter and in the end he failed to capture the two evildoers. In short, this is a more realistic Batman, one who isn't going to jump out of an exploding Batmobile unscathed or shrug off blows from metahumans. Still, he fights through the pain and showcases some impressive but not inhuman athletic prowess to deliver a beatdown worthy of the Batman name. The show's producers have stated that going forward Batman will continue to rack up injuries and in some episodes they will be very extensive. It will be interesting to see if that's a continuing theme moving forward with the show.

VERDICT | While possessing some impressive imagery and fluid fight scenes, the two villains of the premiere lacked any defining qualities other than being evildoers. The first episode of "Beware the Batman" was solid but not exceptional. Future episodes will reveal whether they're playing it safe or if this is the best they can muster.

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DC References
Michael Holt (Mister Terrific) Created by John Ostrander in "Specter #54", Michael Holt adopted the superhero mantle Mister Terrific from Golden Age predecessor, Terry Sloane after being confronted by the Spectre. Holt possessed a vast intellect and being a wealthy businessman in his civilian life, he has a friendly rivalry with Batman.

Stagg Industries The corporation of CEO Simon Stagg, a character that first appeared in the "Brave and the Bold #57" (1964). Stagg is a villainous business tycoon who's evil machinations gave birth to the hero known as Metamorpho.

Professor Pyg Created by Grant Morrison in "Batman #666", the villain has a much more sinister aim in the comic books, his goal is to make people "perfect" and to that end he captures and performs brain surgery, genital mutilation and administers psychoactive drugs on his prisoners. In "Beware the Batman" he's revealed to be an eco-terrorist.

Mister Toad Also created by Grant Morrison and a henchman of Professor Pyg, there's not much else on the character in the published pages of DC Comics as he was killed rather soon after his introduction.

Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana) Ymashiro first appeared in the "Brave and the Bold #200" (1983) and is a creation of Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo. She's an original member of the Batman created vigilante group "The Outsiders."

Running Time: 30 minutes
Season One Premiere: July 13, 2013
MPAA Rating: Tv-PG
Starring: Anthony Ruivivar, Sumalee Montano, JB Blanc, Greg Ellis, Kurtwood Smith, Udo Kier, Lance Reddick, Tisha Terrasini Banker, Cree Summer
Directed by: Sam Liu
Producers: Glen Murakami, Mitch Watson, Sam Register (executive producer)

"Beware the Batman" is an American produced animated cartoon program airing on Cartoon Network starting July 13, 2013. Sam Reigster serves as executive producer with Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson as the hands-on showrunners. The voice cast features Anthony Ruivivar as Batman, Lance Reddick ad Ra's Al Ghul, Cree Summer as Magpie, Sumalee Montano as Katana, JB Blanc as Alfred and Kurtwood Smith as Lt. Gordon."
Posted By:
Mark Julian
Member Since 6/8/2011
Filed Under "Animated Features" 7/14/2013
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