Your opinion of Batman: The Brave and the Bold will be surmised by your reaction to the following sentence: “Batman in ‘Terror on Dinosaur Island!'” (exclamation theirs). If the preceding sentence caused you to scowl and declare it “stupid” or “childish” or “not at all dark and morose, the way I like my Batman,” while stroking your 18″ Sideshow Venom bust to the deep baseline of the Inception soundtrack, you should probably stay far away from this newest animated incarnation of the Caped Crusader.
Brave and bold are, in fact, excellent descriptors for the show. In the wake of Christopher Nolan’s immensely popular, joyless (but also very good) Dark Knight, the creators chose to go as far in the opposite direction as they could. Brave and the Bold is a funny, bright-hued romp through the fifty years of DC history that preceded the turn toward grim and gritty that comics are still sort of recovering from. The action almost never takes place in Gotham City, the normal Batman supporting cast (with one very notable exception) is replaced with a colorful menagerie of B-F listers from the greater DC universe and even Batman himself (voiced by Diedrich Bader, doing a pretty great Kevin Conroy) has a sense of humor. A dark, sarcastic sense of humor, but still. Even said notable exception, who I won’t spoil here, is introduced in a manner as far from their traditional depiction as possible.
Also, they turned Aquaman (voiced by John “Bender” Di Maggio) into the best character on the show. Think about that for a minute. Really let it sink in. They made Aquaman into a legitimately awesome character.
Growing up, I was a DC kid and the sheer number of semi and totally obscure characters that show up is kind of staggering. Just in the first half of the first season you get: Blue Beetle (both the Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes versions (and Wil Wheaton voices Kord)), Gorilla Grodd, Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Gentleman Ghost, Black Manta, Plastic Man, Elongated Man, The Outsiders (minus Geo-Force), Wildcat (R. Lee Emery), Fire (AKA Green Flame), Sinestro, Guy Gardner, Kite Man, Doctor Fate, Jonah Hex, G’nort (actually pretty much every Green Lantern), Bronze Tiger, Doctor Polaris, Clock King, Etrigan, Deadman, Kanjar Ro, Felix Faust, fucking Sportsmaster, Fun Haus, B’wana Beast, Slug, Dr. Canus, Chemo, the Atom, Despero, The Red Hood, and some others that I either missed, forgot or don’t want to spoil here.
So, anyway, yeah. Lot of DC characters. But, what makes it work is that each one is rendered with absolute love for the source material. They got Jeffery Combs to play Kite Man for a minute long flashback to Plastic Man’s origin. That is dedication to making a ridiculous character awesome.
The episodes themselves are formulaic. You get a short, out of context, introduction that is unrelated to the main plot, then jazzy opening credits, Batman teams up with his guest star, they go to a (usually) fantastic location and a lesson is learned. But, it works. The kids get to become better people, the parents get nostalgic over a Dr. Canus cameo and everyone gets to watch Batman punch a ghost.
The first half of the first season includes the following episodes:
The Rise of the Blue Beetle!
Batman and Blue Beetle travel to a planet where Beetle is worshiped by a bunch of little blob creatures. Kanjar Ro attacks. Space battles and a lesson in hubris ensue.
Terror on Dinosaur Island!
The plot of this actually involves Gorilla Grodd trying to turn human into monkeys. Dinosaurs also featured.
Evil Under the Sea!
Invasion of the Secret Santas!
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Also, a robot learns the true meaning of Christmas.
Day of the Dark Knight!
Batman and Green Arrow are abducted by Merlin and taken to Ye Olde Briton. Etrigan shows up.
Enter the Outsiders!
Batman teams up with his old mentor Wildcat to take down the Outsiders. Every single frame featuring Wildcat is bliss.
Dawn of the Dead Man!
Batman is buried alive by Gentleman Ghost, has an out of body experience. Meets Deadman. Stops army of skeletons.
Fall of the Blue Beetle!
The current Blue Beetle discovers the true fate of his predecessor. The Bug Ship is prominently featured.
Basically, Fantastic Voyage with Aquaman and the Atom.
The Eyes of Despero!
Batman teams up with the Green Lantern Corps to take on Despero. Morgo the Living Planet makes an appearance
Return of the Fearsome Fangs!
Batman teams up with Bronze Tiger to save the temple where they both trained.
Deep Cover for Batman!/Game Over for Owlman!
The less said to spoil this two-parter, the better.
In case the five hundred words I just used to give this disk a sloppy tongue bath weren’t enough, let me say that the show is great. Pretty much exactly what a super hero show aimed at kids should be. They made me love Aquaman. Aquaman.
Final Grade: A (quaman)