I’m not entirely sure how my brother and I stumbled onto this cartoon aside from it was on when we came home from school. It was also my first foray into the superhero world. I of course knew basics about the major superheroes; I knew Batman, Superman, and Spider-man existed, but I never read comic books, I never played video games. This is essentially a continuation of Batman: The Animated Series, but I had never watched it. The stories though are what kept me coming back. It does feature Kevin Conroy, who has voiced Batman in any number of shows, as Bruce Wayne. And Will Friedle (Eric in Boy Meets World; he’d later go on to voice Ron Stoppable in Kim Possible) headlines as Terry McGinnis.
The first episode is a two-parter, entitled Rebirth and gives us the back story. Batman is breaking up a kidnapping, but he now has heart issues, so when he strains too much, he ends up breaking his one rule and picks up a gun to scare off a crook. He’s disgusted and retires. Twenty years into the future (where cars fly now, but obviously written before our technological advances because there are no smartphones) Gotham is rank with crime. Gangs modeled after the Joker roam the streets and cause problems. We meet Terry McGinnis when he takes on one. Wayne Enterprises is now paired with Powers, headed by Derek Powers, and we soon learn the merger was not for the best. Terry’s father, Warren works for Wayne-Powers; his friend delivers him secret information then disappears. Warren reads the information and realizes something horrible is going on at the company. He and Terry argues over Terry’s temper and fights before Terry storms out to join his girlfriend Dana at a club. Jokerz attack outside the club and Terry takes them on. Before they can hurt too many in the crowd Terry takes a bike and leads the gang away. He ends up on Wayne property and meets old Bruce. Terry attempts to keep the gang away, but Bruce uses his cane to great effect. But he’s overexerted himself, so Terry helps him back to the house and gets his medicine. Before he can leave, he finds a bat stuck in a clock and discovers the Batcave. Bruce chases him out.
Terry arrives home to find police there, and his mother. His father is dead, police are blaming Jokerz (we noticed a henchman of Powers waiting outside [Mr. Fixx, voiced by George Takei, aka Mr. Sulu from the Original series]). Terry finds the information tucked away and makes the same discovery as his father. He goes to Mr. Wayne, yelling “something stinks in your company!” When Bruce doesn’t respond, he shouts “you’re no Batman!” The episode ends with the gate opening. The second part of the episode reveals that Powers is using the company to make nerve gas to supply to a dictator. Wayne reads the information and is furious, but sends Terry to Barbara Gordon, the new police commissioner. Terry doesn’t trust the cops and ends up stealing the new suit to take care of business on his own, including finding out that Powers had his father killed. Terry’s got the quips down (“just in time for fall”) and learns the suit quickly. But Bruce is not happy with Terry and shuts down the suit. Terry pleads for help and Bruce relents. When the new Batman goes to break up the delivery of nerve gas, Powers is hit by a cannister. Batman goes after the boat and Mr. Fixx, ending up sending the boat to the bottom of the harbor. Powers is secretly treated, but it makes him radioactive and turns him into a more classic villain; he’s got the chuckle down.
Bruce visits Terry at his home the next day and offers Terry a job in front of his mother. A part-time assistant is the official cover, but Bruce tells Terry he needs an ally. “Welcome to my world,” he tells the young man when Terry agrees and they shake hands.
Black Out introduces Terry’s first villain, Inque; a woman who underwent genetic manipulation and can now slide through cracks and uses it to commit corporate crime. Powers has hired her to attack Foxteca, a company with times to the old Wayne Enterprises, knocking out his competition for a government contract. Powers is displeased with Batman interfering and sends Inque to kill him. She hides in the Batmobile (which flies now) and makes it back to the Batcave, but Bruce is crazy prepared. She does try to bring the cave down on them, but her new body dislikes being frozen by a freeze gun. Bruce calls Barbara Gordon (voiced by Stockard Channing, Rizzo in Grease, and the aunt in Practical Magic [I like the concept of that movie, but it’s also a bit creepy]); his new errand boy is making a delivery.
Batman has to take on a giant lifting machine in Golem, controlled by a teenaged boy (a classmate of Terry’s) who is going after a bully at school. As Terry tells Bruce, there’s a line of people that starts with him and wraps around the block, twice that has beef with Nelson Nash. Unfortunately, an accident fries the controls of the Golem to Willie’s mind. He’s ultimately caught and the machine is destroyed. Willie keeps the powers. Mr. Freeze [I know him more as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 90’s Batman and Robin movie with George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell] returns in Meltdown. A doctor tests a theory on him to give his head a new body; to see if it would work for Derek Powers. Bruce doesn’t trust Freeze, but Terry thinks he’s not too bad. When Freeze realizes the doctor and Powers mean to betray him, he tries to turn villain again. He ultimately saves Batman by shooting Powers, now known as Blight. The building collapses on Freeze.
Heroes brings new heroes to Gotham; accepted by the public and backed by the government (and as noted by fans, they’re very similar to Fantastic Four). They’re the Terrific Trio and they will wage a war on crime in Gotham. Terry’s younger brother Matt still thinks Batman is the coolest, so his big brother rewards him with ice cream. However, one of the members of the trio, Magma is dejected; this is not how he had planned his life. He discovers that their friend knew an accident would occur and didn’t stop them. The Army has turned on them and Batman gets embroiled in their fight. The Trio secretly escapes and Batman is still Gotham’s defender.
Batman’s second new villain shows up in Shriek. A scientist is working for Powers to use sound as a mean of demolition. Powers sends him to the old part of town to tear it down so he can turn a profit. Bruce gets the board to stop him, but he’s almost killed by Shriek when he visits the old police station. Batman saves him, but Bruce is admitted to the hospital. And he starts hearing voices. Powers is gleeful, but Batman breaks him out. Terry tries his hand at investigating and confronts the sound scientist. A batarang damages his suit and he ends up deaf. Bruce explains to Terry he knew he wasn’t crazy because the voice called him “Bruce.” He calls himself something different in his own head. Terry drops his voice, “that’s my name now.” “Tell that to my subconscious.”
The Royal Flush Gang returns in Dead Man’s Hand; they’re a family of crooks that steal from the rich. When Terry briefly breaks up with Dana due to his limited social life, he hooks up with Melanie; who happens to be Ten from the gang. Her father vows to get revenge on Batman for breaking up the gang. Bruce and Terry also get into an argument and Terry doesn’t feel any better when Melanie breaks things off with him; her family is pressuring her to put the family first. Terry traces the call to a hotel, to discover the trap that the gang left for him. He connects Melanie and Ten and then has to fight the family when they return. He ends up saving Ten, but has to watch as Terry while Melanie is led away. Bruce starts to tell him the story of Selena Kyle.
The Winning Edge could be called the “drug” episode of the show (very popular in the 90s). Terry falls asleep in class and his grades drop. His mother starts to believe that he’s using the popular drug going around “slappers.” She enforces a curfew, which cuts into his Batman patrolling. Bruce wryly notes he knows how to handle archcriminals; mothers are another thing. In the meantime, Terry discovers that one of his classmates is stealing and using the funds to purchase “slappers.” They examine one and Bruce realizes the formula matches venom, used years ago by Bane. Batman pays a visit to Bane to discover that the man is on life support due to using the drug. When Batman traces the shipment, he also discovers that Bane’s doctor is the one behind the drug; he had to make it for Bane and decided to make a further profit. Batman and the doctor fight, the doctor falling into a pile of the product and overdosing. Terry tests clean, to his mother’s relief and a story comes out about the kids on the sports team using the drug, the coach implicated by turning a blind eye.
Another new villain pops up in Spellbound. A man in a weird leotard uses an orb to hypnotize his victims and steal expensive items. First, it’s a classmate of Terry’s. Then a wealthy fashion collector. Terry borrows a different suit, belong to “DG” to attend a wedding where the villain shows up to collect priceless jewels. Batman rescues the bride, but ends up hypnotized. Bruce is able to help him out of it by connecting to his vidlink. At school, the psychologist decides to check in with Terry after the death of his father; and working for Bruce Wayne. Bruce hears a break-in and finds out Terry was hypnotized again. Bruce had made the deduction that all of Spellbinder’s victims had a connection to Ira Billings, the psychologist. Batman heads out to stop Spellbinder and tries not to get caught in the visions of zombies. Again, Bruce coaches him and Batman unmasks Ira. At the arrest, Barbara Gordon begins to make the connection between the new Batman and Terry (Terry also comments to Bruce earlier “guess you’re the expert on troubled kids. You collect them,” tying back to the animated series.
Inque is back in Disappearing Inque. She’s been imprisoned on ice, but her caretaker starts to take things too far and is fired (he’s been a bit creepy, confiding in her and even kissing the ice). The caretaker sabotages her containment and she escapes. But the ice has damaged her genes further and she can’t shift back into a human. So they break into a lab to mix a serum to fix that. The caretaker wants to become like her as a reward. Inque also plans revenge on Batman; she also wants the old guy she’s heard in the headset. Young Batman does end up captured and Inque threatens to kill him. In true hero fashion, Batman warns his mentor not to come. Bruce goes anyway, clad in his exo-suit that gives him incredible strength, but puts too much strain on his heart. Together, they do manage to defeat Inque (and you hear a bit of the animated series’ theme) and now the caretaker is the one locked up and has to listen to a woman tell him all her woes.
Barbara Gordon features in A Touch of Curaré. Curaré is an assassin sent by a society to kill Sam Young, the District Attorney, and Barbara’s husband. Batman helps stop her first attempt. Afterwards, Barbara visits the Batcave, to Terry’s surprise. He’s further surprised to realize she was Batgirl. Barbara warns Bruce and Terry to stay out of police business. Batman still keeps an eye on things and bundles a trap set for Curaré. Barbara is waiting for Terry afterwards; she takes him to a diner to have a conversation. She stayed with Bruce after Dick Grayson left (she was more than partners with Bruce at that point). On the streets, Batgirl and Batman were great. But to Bruce, there was nothing but the street. So Barbara left. She doesn’t hate Bruce, she just hates what he became; a great man all alone. Bruce will keep protecting Barbara, though Terry warns him he doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of her; he respects her. Bruce also warns Terry that Curare will be desperate now; assassins from the society who fail become the next target; they kill their own. Batman does end up swooping in to save Barbara and Sam, and Barbara proves she can still use a batarang. She comments to Batman is was like old times. And just like old times, Batman vanishes. The episode ends showing that Curaré managed to escape, but now someone else is after her with their own super sharp sword [that thing acts like a lightsaber, deflecting bullets, cutting through steel doors.]
Blight is back in Ascension; he’s burning through his skin that covers his radiation, not helped by his temper. New arrangements must be made; so he calls in his son, Paxton (voiced in this episode by Cary Elwes; most famous as Westley in Princess Bride, Robin Hood in Men in Tights, and the evil uncle in Ella Enchanted, and I totally want to check out Castle for Christmas). Paxton will be his front man, but Derek will retain the true power. However, in a board meeting, Derek loses his temper and reveals himself as Blight. He goes into hiding. The Batsignal lights the sky again; Paxton is asking Batman’s help in finding his father, under the guise of helping him. Bruce does warn Terry about sounding too vindictive going after Blight; the teen’s also not terribly sad that he may have inadvertently caused the accident that made Derek Powers into Blight. The man had Terry’s father killed and hides from the law. He taunts the man when he finds him aboard a nuclear sub. “This is personal,” he declares. You killed my father. “Do you know how little that narrows it down?” Derek is flippant. But Derek has a larger problem once Paxton steps out. He taught his son the only way to get power is to seize it, and Paxton has no problem killing his father. Batman tries to step in, let justice be served. But Blight goes supernova and the sub begins sinking. Paxton escapes and Batman carries some of the men he was just beating up to safety. But Batman is not sure that Derek is truly gone.
I like the banter in the show and how they develop the relationship between Bruce and Terry. And I am fine that this show is not all light and fluffy. It’s not too dark, which a lot of Batman movies and such try to do. Batman can get knocked down and it really is a team between Bruce and Terry. The creators also commented that while some of the original villains make comebacks, they also wanted a new Rogues gallery for this Batman. And yeah, as a teen, it was cool that Batman’s suit has jetboots and the Batmobile flies, and he’s a teen just like us who has to deal with school and homework.
Up Next: Season Two