On Batman: Bad Blood

Also part of the massive DC Animated Film Universe (Justice League: Gods and MonstersJustice League DarkBatman Beyond: Return of the JokerBatman & Mr. Freeze: SubZeroSuperman/Batman: Public EnemiesBatman: The Dark Knight ReturnsSon of BatmanWonder WomanGreen Lantern: First FlightJustice League: Crisis on Two EarthsJustice League: The Flashpoint ParadoxJustice League: WarJustice League: Doom, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights), Batman: Bad Blood is a very bat-centric film, featuring a better version of Batwoman than seen in Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, as well as Luke Fox’s version of Batwing. According to the Washington Post article, “Haven’t watched DC’s animated Batman? New ‘Bad Blood’ is the most dynamic reason to begin“:

“Bad Blood” leans heavily on Batman’s supporting cast to provide the action and tell a tale based loosely on the fairly recent Batman comic-book “event” Battle for the Cowl, as well as moments inspired from Morrison’s Batman Inc.run.

Besides the anticipated Bat-helpers, Nightwing and Robin, we also see Batwoman and Batwing in action. When Bruce Wayne disappears, Nightwing (Dick Grayson) — forced to take on the mantle of Batman — teams with Robin (Damien Wayne) to try to stop Robin’s mother, Talia al Ghul (who is never up to anything good).

Another comics-sprung surprise is the presence of the Heretic, a fully grown, genetically enhanced clone of Damien who is pure evil –and under the control of Talia.

These animated films — which aren’t complete adaptations — balance elements from the comics storylines with enough new material that they don’t feel like beat-for-beat repeats.

What especially sets this movie apart from previous DC straight-to-video animated works is “Bad Blood’s” full embrace of exploring how to deploy Batman’s large supporting cast. Even when Bruce Wayne does eventually return (it is a Batman movie, after all), Nightwing more than holds his own as a leader, making executive decisions (like including Batwoman in on the Bat-family secrets) that Bruce Wayne wouldn’t make.

And Batwoman is the wild card here. She puts a Bat symbol on her chest out of respect for Batman, but she doesn’t consider herself accountable to his rules (which is why she isn’t afraid to bring a gun to her crimefighting nights).

Then there’s Luke Fox, who stumbles into the Batwing armor after his father, Lucius, is temporarily taken out of the equation and can’t help the Bat-crew. Batwoman and Batwing, who join the team by default, prove themselves invaluable to the mission of saving the one true Batman — hopefully earning a permanent spot on the team in future Batman animated movies.

“Bad Blood,” which does not shy away from Batwoman’s dark back-story or her homosexuality, is rated PG-13. And given all the bullets, katana blades and martial arts, that rating is pushed to its edge.

As for the deft voicework: Kevin Conroy is not voicing Batman this time, but Jason O’Mara continues to be the next best thing.

The one drawback is simply that both lesbian Kathy Kane and African American Luke Fox are supporting characters, meaning they aren’t truly seen as comparable to Batman, even though the function the same way as Bruce Wayne – only as a shadow to him.

According to the Lifed Geek review:

Taking off from their clearly “New 52” centric start, the current DC Animated universe asks the question, “who will save Gotham when the Batman’s gone?” The Heretic, a new heavy hitter in Gotham collects some of the Bat-family’s C and D-List villains to take out the Bat while a shadowy organization pulls the strings from behind the curtain.

The film opens with the group of baddies aggressively interrogating a man they kidnapped. There is no Joker or Two Face here, rather the Heretic brings together the likes of Electrocutioner, Killer Moth, Firelfy, the Calculator, Tusk, Hell Hound, and the Mad Hatter. While separately these super villains pose no match for the Dark Knight, as a unit they surprisingly hold their own pretty well.

Batwoman makes her animated debut here before Batman jumps in to save her skin. When Heretic is finally introduced, after a brief exchange of fisticuffs Batman manages to push Batwoman out of the window into the safety of Gotham’s bay before an explosion seemingly kills him. After a while, the city begins to notice the absence of a certain caped crusader. Damian is still studying at a mysterious monastery in the Himalayas (if you saw Batman vs. Robin, this is where he was headed after the ending) and Nightwing’s work is business as usual in Blüdhaven until Batman’s disappearance brings the two sons back to Gotham. Dick Grayson dons an old batsuit, taking up Bruce’s mantle while tracking down any leads that can shed some light on Bruce’s sudden disappearance. Batman has faced the madness of the Joker, a seemingly immortal Ra’s al Ghul, stood toe-to-toe against and beside Superman… I’m sure Nightwing shares my sentiments, I’ll be damned if the likes of Killer Moth or The Calculator can take down Gotham’s Dark Knight.

While the emblem of the bat is featured predominantly in this film, Batman plays a surprisingly minor role in the film itself, expected with the synopsis focusing on Batman’s disappearance but also quite refreshing. Most of the scenes showing “Batman” were actually Dick Grayson in an old batsuit rather than Bruce himself. Katherine Kane, the Batwoman, plays a pivotal role in the story as does Damian Wayne’s Robin. Though it takes about half the movie to introduce him, Luke Fox (son of Lucius Fox) dons the Batwing armor and makes his glorious animated film debut bringing to the home-video market the trappings of what could eventually become Batman Incorporated.

The voice cast is stellar, as have these Jay Oliva directed DC Comics animated films have been since Justice League: War. Jason O’Mara reprises his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne with Stuart Allen returning as Robin/Damian Wayne, Sean Maher from Firefly fame returns as Nightwing/Dick Grayson with fellow Serenity crewmate Morena Baccarin as Talia al Ghul. New to the animated fold; the lovely Yvonne Strahovski (swoon) voices Batwoman/Katherine Kane, Friday Night Lights alum Gaius Charles voices Luke Fox/Batwing, with Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame taking the role of Lucius Fox… a role made famous by Morgan Freeman in the Dark Knight film trilogy. All the players are here with a robust cast of Bat-family characters, only thing missing from the fold are the likes on Batgirl and Red Hood… though I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll get them in the near future… no spoilers but the ending has a surprise cameo right before the credits roll.

In closing, Batman: Bad Blood was one of the more enjoyable DC Animated films in recent years, while I appreciate it when they adapt the tried and true comic story arcs, I do love it when they can adapt the tales of Gotham’s protector with their own original story. The film’s action sequences mesh wonderfully with the film’s dialog. Nightwing is as sarcastic as ever with Batwoman mouthing off some comedic gold that surprised me a few times watching it.

The last couple Batman animated films were loosely adapted takes on iconic comic book arcs, some are more faithful than others; like in Batman vs. Robin (adapted from parts of the “Court of Owls” arc) stayed fairly true to the source while films like Son of Batmantook more liberties with the source material… and by liberties I mean share nothing with the “Batman and Son” arc aside from very similar names.

Like I mentioned earlier, Bad Blood has all the pieces it needs to eventually follow up with a Batman Incorporated film, though the series was short lived post-Flashpoint in the comics… it did bring about one of Batman’s darker tales in recent memory… dealing with the death of Damian Wayne. Could that be where this DC animated universe is heading? Only time will tell. As for the now, Batman: Bad Blood was an enjoyable original take on one of the many trials and tribulations the Bat-family faces. A story centered on familial bonds, Bad Blood bolsters the ranks of the Bat-family and I wished this one came out before Batman vs Robin, at least we’d get a more faithful take on the whole Court of Owls arc.

Fun, frantic, Batman goodness to its core… oh and Nunjas… yes there are Nunjas… Nuns… who are Ninjas… Nunjas.

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