When DC Comics decided to reboot their entire universe a few years ago, I was mostly up for it because they had only a few good titles that really interested me at that time. Superman was boring for the most part except for a great Geoff Johns run and Batman felt stale and monotonously apoplectic. So while the Flashpoint storyline wasn’t a direct tie-in to the New DCU (it was just the major event BEFORE the reboot), it was my chance to get back into DC Comics after having given up on them for pretty much the better part of 10 years. Listen, I started with DC Comics as a kid. The first superhero characters I began drawing back in the day were Batman, The (Cyborg lead) Teen Titans and Hawk & Dove during the (his art is so terrible) Rob Liefeld days. However, outside of a few classics, the storylines and characters just got worse and worse, and after a silly Infinite Crisis story, then a fairly odd (thanks for nothing, Grant Morrison) and uneven Final Crisis event, I was mostly done with DC comics and had fully embraced my Marvel Zombie-ness. I was pretty sure the days of great stories like Identity Crisis were over.
A couple of the first titles I picked up in the New 52 were Batman & Robin and Aquaman. Goeff Johns did to Aquaman what he did so eloquently with Green Lantern and Superman. He gave them depth and GREAT stories, but the animated series adaptations have been anything but for the most part. While I still like Green Lantern very much in his own universe (comics), the Green Lantern in Justice League War was a horrible in the animated movie as he was in the relaunched Justice League comic book series where the story originated. The Aquaman animated movie was equally as bad and I just couldn’t latch onto much of it. Now, I don’t fault the Director, I fault the stories and their lack of substance.
The Batman & Robin series though was great from the start. There was depth, there was angst and just the right bit of comedy in the dynamic relationship between Bruce, Alfred and his genetically engineered son, Damien. Introduced (in the animated world) in the Batman & Son movie, this basically picks up a few months later as the pair still try to figure out this new relationship. Combining the Nobody and Court of Owls storylines into one, we are introduced to a new villain, Talon, the main assassin of the court.
The Court of Owls is as old as Gotham. They are a shadowy group of the super-rich Gotham elite that have been controlling Gotham for decades. In this game of subterfuge and control, they’ve been watching Batman’s every move and are now ready to take their city back from The Dark Knight. Bruce during his brief stint as a father has been trying to tame his assassin-trained offspring while grappling with the responsibility of being a single-parent. How do you train someone who was bred to kill, is a certified genius and a complete and total narcissist not to disembowel every opponent he comes across? The world’s great detective has to figure out a way to retrain a mass murderer in the form of a 10 year old boy raised by the League of Assassins. Good luck, my friend.
Once I figured out the direction of the story, I was okay that they combined the character Talon (William Cobb) and another character Nobody (Morgan Ducard) into one person – even though I wish they had kept Nobody’s total awesome costume. What you got was a character with longing, pent up anger and a mission that makes him as deadly, if not deadlier, than any foe Batman has ever faced. Talon is not only out to kill Batman but also rob him of his legacy. In the fight for Gotham’s very soul, Batman also has to fight for the soul of his partner and ward. Damien has a decision to make, and his decision could very well determine the fate of not only Gotham, but the world.
What I also enjoyed was the great pairing of Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Batman in some stunning scenes. The Dynamic Duo was back in action for a time and it was glorious. We also get to see a fantastic sequence where Nightwing and Damien get a rematch from their first encounter in a test to see who the better Robin is.
With all that said, the Batman lines of animated movies are really doing it up. While not perfect, they really do have a great sense of the characters and don’t oversell the stories. They ratchet up the action in appropriate and climatic ways, while not sacrificing the story for the sake of action. When you get to the end of this movie, I truly feel you can’t wait until the next one comes out.
Jay Oliva, you’ve done it again.