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Second Season Of "The Batman" Off To A Promising Start

by on March 28, 2005

When the final two episodes of The Batman‘s first season aired, they blew me away. This was a show I had really disliked, even hated at first. The Joker was awful, Bruce’s face was warped, Alfred seemed to have some kind of male-PMS thing going on, and the writing was near-Catwoman (2004) quality. But I loved the animation, and most of the character designs really popped. Designer Jeff Matsuda’s slight changes to Batman’s costume worked well. And when that finale aired, I thought the show was finally coming together.

Then I read that the first of two new second season episodes would feature a team-up between Catwoman and The Penguin, and I got worried. Was the quality going to fall right back down again? Thankfully, the answer is no. While the episode is no Batman Returns, it’s thankfully not Batman & Robin, either.

This episode, “The Bat, The Cat and The Very Ugly,” picks up on plot points left dangling at the end of the first season. Catwoman and Penguin team up, make kissy faces, and steal two statues that together can harness the power of the Sun and light. With these two statues, Gotham could be destroyed in an instant. Penguin wants to hold the city ransom, but Catwoman just wants one of the two statues for herself. This doesn’t fly with The Penguin, causing problems between the two new partners. The plot isn’t extraordinary, but it serves the episode just fine.

If I have any complaints, they’re about Catwoman. It’s true that, aside from her clown-like costume ears, her design is quite nice and faithful to the comics. It’s just that the voice work of Gina Gershon is so hard to take. The horrible puns and over-sexualization of her dialogue is laughable and entirely lacking in charisma.

On the other hand, Rino Romano’s Batman is really starting to come along. He sounds more confident and stable, making the most of even the clunkiest bit of dialogue. I will always think of him as Spider-Man from Spider-Man Unlimited and the popular Playstation games, but he’s doing a good job leaving his mark on this character as well.

In the second episode of the sophomore season we get our first glimpse at one of the new villains. The poorly-titled episode “Riddled” (I wonder if the next Catwoman episode will be named “Jiggled”) introduces us to Matsuda’s version of The Riddler. The design, which looked horrible on sheet, does well in animation. Aside from his odd mustache (or is that a bad make-up job?), Matsuda’s creepy Manson-esque design works for the character. We’re tossed right into the action as the episode kicks off with a series of deadly riddles from the brainy bad guy.

The relationship between The Batman and Detective Ellen Yin also sees more screen time, even if Yin’s portrayal is less than flattering. She needs Batman’s constant assistance to solve these riddles. I would’ve liked to see her take a few of these on her own. Then again, compared to the stunning incompetence the writers portray in Chief Rojas I suppose Yin gets off pretty light.

As for The Riddler himself, we have a well-designed character with spooky voice work by Robert Englund, but he lacks a plausible motivation. You could argue that he just wants to solve the greatest riddle of all, The Batman’s identity, but the riddle I’m left asking is why? Moreover, his methods to discover the Dark Knight’s identity fall flat as well, boiling down to a series of random questions that a child could come up with. That said, two out of three isn’t bad. Hopefully in the follow-up episode we’ll see more about The Riddler’s character and not just his gimmick.

Even though he plays second fiddle to the many bat-gadgets in this episode, Romano continues to put forth excellent voice-work as The Batman. The dialogue isn’t the best, but he can sell it when he has to. Though the omnipresence of the gadgetry is a problem, the episodes is fast-paced, fun, and serves a great introduction to The Riddler. All we need is some character development and we could have The Batman‘s best villain yet. If the show continues at this rate, we could be in for a second season solid enough to wipe away all my bad memories of the first.

The second season of The Batman is coming soon to Kids’ WB.

For more media from these episodes, check out The World’s Finest sub-section for The Batman.

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