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Non-Review Review: Batman Beyond – Return of the Joker

The Joker holds a special place among Batman’s iconic selection of villains. Appearing as early as Batman #1 all those years ago, the clown prince of crime has managed to hold on to his position as the prime Batman bad guy for pretty much all of Batman’s publication history. It was the Joker who put Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair in The Killing Joke, and it was the Joker who killed Jason Todd in A Death in the Family. As such, it’s no real surprise that the character should eventually make his way to the futuristic setting of Batman Beyond, to give Bruce one last challenge.

Guess who’s back…

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The Adventures of Batman & Robin – House and Garden (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

It’s amazing how thoroughly Batman: The Animated Series was able to explore Batman’s iconic selection of bad guys, demonstrating how remarkably deep and varied his villains are. Paul Dini was perhaps the strongest writer when it came to drafting these psychological portraits of Arkham’s countless denizens, even inventing characters like Baby Doll and Harvey Quinn for the show. (With Harley now an established and iconic character in her own right.) While Poison Ivy had a strong debut episode, and a run of strong appearances, House & Garden stands as perhaps the most thorough exploration of the villain’s psyche, building a relatively complex portrayal of her psychology and pathology in under half an hour.

House call…

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Justice League Unlimited – Panic in the Sky (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Panic in the Sky is an interesting episode, essentially serving as the climax of the conflict between the Justice League and Cadmus. Divided We Fall would focus more tightly on the League confronting Brainiac and Luthor, with an after-thought given to the question of their authority to wield such power. Panic in the Sky, as such, feels a bit torn between positioning all the players (“the big seven”) for that final confrontation, while offering the inevitable conflict between the Justice League and the United States government. As such, it’s really one big extended fight sequence, allowing McDuffie to avoid some of the more complex and compelling issues he’d raised. Still, it’s an effective episode of the show, a fun confrontation, and an illustration of just how skilled McDuffie is at structuring these gigantic arcs with so many plots and characters in the air.

Power Girl Power…

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Justice League Unlimited – Flashpoint (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

While Question Authority kicked off this four-part climax to the arc that had been building through the first season of Justice League Unlimited, it’s Flashpoint that really serves to bring things into focus. Question Authority had been told mostly from the point of view of the Question, an outsider looking in – but Flashpoint explores the consequences of this inevitable conflict for the core of the Justice League. It’s amazing just how thoroughly and carefully writer Dwayne McDuffie was able to explore the concept of the superhero in this cynical post-9/11 world. While Divided We Fall would sidestep quite a few of the issues raised, I’m quite impressed to see them even broached in a half-hour cartoon action series.

All fired up…

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Justice League Unlimited – Question Authority (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

If Paul Dini’s writing can be said to evoke the best of Batman: The Animated Series, Dwayne McDuffie’s work on Justice League Unlimited fills the same niche. Dini’s scripts tended to generate pathos and tragedy for the massive and varied supporting cast of Gotham City, offering insightful character studies about the broken denizens of Batman’s world. McDuffie’s Justice League work offers a thoughtful and modern examination of traditional characters, often finding moments of character amid epic storylines built around exploring the tapestry of this shared universe. While the late McDuffie was responsible for quite a few memorable episodes of the show, it’s fair to argue that the four-episode climax of Justice League Unlimited‘s “Cadmus” arc capture those strengths almost perfectly – playing to his skills as well as Heart of Ice played to Dini’s.

Luthor’s got a gun…

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Batman Beyond – Meltdown (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

I was less than impressed with Victor Fries’ last appearance on Batman: The Animated Series in Cold Comfort, written by Hilary J. Bader. So I’ll admit to being quite surprised when she produced the story for Meltdown, a fairly effective conclusion to Mister Freeze’s character arc. Perhaps it’s a result of the bold new setting, or perhaps Alan Burnett’s work on the teleplay, but Meltdown does a rather excellent job wrapping up all sorts of loose ends and fairly effectively using Freeze as an unlikely, yet effective, counterpart to Bruce Wayne.

He never lost his head, and he always kept his cool…

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The Adventures of Batman & Robin – Showdown (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Bruce Timm’s animated DC universe introduced me to a wealth of comic book characters I would never have encountered otherwise. While I was familiar with most of Batman’s iconic selection of bad guys, The Demon’s Quest introduced me to Ra’s Al Ghul. Later on, you could see Superman: The Animated Series making a point to introduce other iconic characters like the Flash or Green Lantern. However, Batman: The Animated Series also did its shared of universe-building. While Zatanna introduced the magician as a co-star with Bruce, Showdown is notable for introducing another DC hero with whom Bruce never directly interacts.

Showdownworks superbly as an introduction to the character of Jonah Hex. It certainly works much better than the recent feature film carrying the character’s name.

He’s a sharp one…

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