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"The Batman" Vol. 1: Better Than Nothing

One thing I will say for The Batman Vol. 1 DVD: it’s much better than the [I]Justice League Unlimited: Saving The World DVD release. Even if it’s still a bit thin, it’s clear there was a generous amount of effort put in here, which elevates it a step above that bargain basement. Sadly, there aren’t many other good things I can say about this disc.

With the first three episodes produced for the hit animated series, The Batman Season One, Volume One: “Training for Power” is over way too quickly. The three episodes included, “The Bat in the Belfry,” “Traction,” and “Call of the Cobblepot,” clock in at just over an hour total and lack any real staying power. Aside from “Traction,” these episodes aren’t even that good to begin with.

The episodes quickly thrust us into the new animated series, making us very aware how different this series is from any that came before. Batman has just toppled the last mob boss of the city, unknowingly leaving it wide open to be taken over by the costumed lunatics waiting in the wings.

A good idea in theory, but executed poorly. Enemies come off more as gimmicky crooks than characters with any real development. As for our hero, we do get a few moments here and there, but Bruce Wayne remains a bit cardboard for the majority of these three adventures.

Though the writing might be sub-par, the animation is beautiful, and it has never looked better than on this release. The video quality is excellent, with compression only visible during the occasional red-heavy scene, and even then it’s hard to notice. No station logo, episode bumpers, or animated ads running across the screen mean an uninterrupted view of the show, and it’s a nice view. Like the video, audio is strong on this release, as well.

The extra features and animated menus are a nice bonus, though nothing of any real substance. The main menu is laughably animated, with model sheet poses awkwardly warped into animation. A good dose of Dramamine before loading up the disc might be in order. The only bearable part is the nice animation on Batman’s cape as he sits there, waiting for the viewer to make up his or her mind on a selection.

Like previous DC Comics Kids’ Collection releases, special features are quite slim, and even slimmer on actual communication from the creators of the series. For instance, I would have found an explanation of their intent in developing the show a rewarding topic. But kids would apparently rather see the toys, so the featurettes focus on that instead. But since I do not own any of the toys based on The Batman, and I’m not keen on buying them to write a review, I wasn’t able to “unlock” their supposed interactivity with the DVD.

“Building the Batman” is the only real highlight in the special features department. On a quest to discover The Batman’s true identity, Detective Ellen Yin visits the Mattel building, essentially interviewing everyone related to the toy production, but no one that actually produces the series these toys are based on. Though it’s clearly aimed at the younger set, the featurette is still worth a chuckle or two. Hopefully future extras will keep this theme going with a look at the creative process behind the show and not just the toys. Trailers and a simple quiz round out the extras.

With at least two more volumes on the way before the end of the year, we should be seeing some of the more superior early episodes on DVD in no time. If you’re a fan of The Batman, or if you’re looking for a kid-friendly interpretation of the Dark Knight, “Training for Power” will do nicely.

The Batman Season One Volume One will be released May 24.

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