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TV Series Review

These days, Batman is more likely to be seen as a brooding, troubled vigilante who struggles with dark evildoers and his own inner demons in equal measure. At least, that's the way he's seen in the movies. But on Cartoon Network, there's a more colorful caped crusader at work, as prone to uttering lame puns as trading fisticuffs with the nearest supervillain.

"Looks like the joke's on you, Joker!"

In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it sometimes can be hard to tell what hurts Batman's nemeses more: the superhero's right hook or his dry wordplay.

This is the lighter side of Batman, a not-so-Dark Knight, if you will. Oh, perhaps he'd be prone to give his glower a go if he had enough time and space to do it. But he has neither, thanks to Cartoon Network's tight template. In each stand-alone episode, Batman must battle baddies with the help of another superhero. Sometimes they're wildly popular protagonists, such as Wonder Woman or Green Lantern. But just as often they're pretty anonymous. (I don't think the folks at DC Comics are rushing to make a film based on Blue Beetle anytime soon.)

With so many fellow superheroes to talk with and so little time to take down the barrage of bad guys, Batman has precious little time to do dour. The result is a show that feels lighter, brighter and sometimes sillier than Cartoon Network's first Batman incarnation, the brooding and much-lauded Batman: The Animated Series. It's part Powerpuff Girls, part Superfriends and part 1960s-era Batman.

"I'm calling in a big, Saturday morning bowl of cereal," producer James Tucker told CBR News. "It definitely harkens back to simpler times."

All this makes The Brave and the Bold more kid friendly than some of Batman's other recent appearances. No character, to our knowledge, has impaled anyone with a pencil here. Yes, there's plenty of cartoonish violence, but rarely does it rise above what you'd see in Powerpuff, and it's almost always nonlethal. (The series has dealt with Batman's origins, when Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered in a dark alley.) Batman's job looks fun again … not some sort of psychological coping mechanism.

Gotham's streets haven't been completely expunged of dimness, of course. Animated women sometimes sport miniskirts or short shorts and low-cut tops (often in keeping with their original comic book outfits), and they can be prone to seduce certain crime fighters with their womanly wiles. The outlandish plots can feel, at times, downright mystical or magical. Merlin, for example, zaps Batman and Green Arrow into King Arthur's time during one early episode. And mummies and ghosts rise to do battle in others.

That said, I'll return to my original point: This Batman gives us a heroic crime fighter who, even if he doesn't smile much himself, can coax a grin out of his audience. That's a Batman we've not seen flap across our entertainment screens for a while, and he's been sorely missed.

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BatmanTheBraveandtheBold: 5272011



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Voices of Diedrich Bader as Batman; James Arnold Taylor as Green Arrow; John Di Maggio as Aquaman; Dee Bradley Baker as Clock King; Jeff Bennett as Joker; Jeremy Shada as Robin; Nika Futterman as Catwoman




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Paul Asay

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