Since 1986, many of the stories about Batman have been grim and gritty, most notably in the comic books of Frank Miller, The Animated [television] Series, and the films of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. However, the Dark Knight is only one successful iteration of the character. In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the producers returned the Caped Crusader to a bright and humorous world for three seasons on Cartoon Network, from November 14, 2008 to November 18, 2011.
Being aware the change of tone might meet resistance from some fans, the producers explain themselves to viewers indirectly in “Legends of the Dark Mite!” when Bat-Mite (Paul Reubens) responds to a disgruntled fan at a convention in the Fifth Dimension by stating, “Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it’s certainly no less valid and true to the character’s roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy.” In fact, very little of Bruce Wayne is dealt with in the first season, although in “Dawn of the Dead Man!” we briefly see his parents.
Created between The WB’s The Batman and Cartoon Network’s Beware the Batman, The Brave and the Bold teams Batman (Diedrich Bader) with different heroes, just like the DC Comics book series of the same name did. The television show succeeds at blending action and comedy together and features a vast roster of well-known and obscure characters to work with and against Batman, which should delight and test the knowledge of long-time comic readers, from Aquaman and Robin to B’wana Beast and Jack Kirby’s creations OMAC and Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, the latter drawn in Kirby’s style as a great tribute to the legendary comic-book artist. In addition, the show’s creators also demonstrate their creativity and willingness to take chances in the musical episode “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” featuring Neil Patrick Harris as the singing villain.
The writers maximize the amount of characters used by starting the show with a mini adventure in the cold open that usually has no connection to the remainder of the episode. Some of the best pairings are Batman teaming with the Joker to stop his parallel Earth counterpart in “Game Over for Owlman!”, Batman meeting Sherlock Holmes in “Trials of the Demon!”, and miniaturized versions of Atom and Aquaman taking a “Journey to the Center of the Bat!” to cure their sick comrade.
Bader gives a solid vocal performance as Batman. The character exhibits strength, confidence, and righteousness with moments of dry humor. Most of the laughs come from other characters like the inept Plastic Man and the clamorous Aquaman. The roster of characters are brought to life by a talented cast, including Tom Kenny and John DiMaggio who voice the previously mentioned heroes respectively, as well as notable names like R. Lee Ermey, Jeffrey Tambor, and Tara Strong.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The colors are vivid and pop off the screen. Blacks are inky and contribute to a strong contrast. Characters are drawn with sharp black lines Occasional banding appears in skies and bright light sources, but they are negligible. The audio says DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 on the packaging, but played more like a mono track out of the front center channel with very minimal LFE support. Dialogue is always clear, and blends well with the expressive score and solid sound effects that accentuate the action.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold has previously been released on DVD and now the first season is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive, which I highly recommend for comic-book fans.