There are a lot of groaners like that throughout The Brave and the Bold, but the key to the series’ success is that its producers are fully aware of how awesomely corny some of the jokes are (heck, in “Hail of the Tornado Tyrant!,” the Joker literally sprays corn from his car to block the Batmobile). Later in that same episode, the diminutive sidekick Bat-Mite addresses a bored Batman fan convention, delivering a meta-defense of the entire series: “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.”
Not everyone was swept off their feet by this “lighter incarnation” of the Dark Knight, whose bright blue and gray uniform is decidedly, delightfully retro. This isn’t the brilliant, shadowy, mid-‘90s Batman: The Animated Series, which spawned the equally brilliant big screen outing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (the most underrated Batman feature film of all). But that’s fine, as long as you don’t mind a heavy dose of winking humor to go with your Caped Crusader’s adventures.
The Warner Archive Collection has surely made a whole lot of DC Comics fans happy with the recent release of Batman: The Brave and the Bold - The Complete First Season as a two-disc set. While Warner Archive is known for its manufactured-on-demand, DVD-R releases of vintage animation, this is a very welcome Blu-ray edition. All 26 first-season episodes, originally broadcast from late-2008 to late-2009, are collected here, presented in sterling 1080p high definition.
It’s a no-frills release that contains zilch in the way of bonus features, but at nearly ten hours it still packs in a lot of value. The simple but stylish animation is presented in a razor sharp transfer, with its rich primary color scheme unwaveringly vibrant. Each episode features lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 sound, as crisp and full-bodied as expected.
For those unfamiliar, The Brave and the Bold presents a series of mostly standalone episodes. Batman (drolly voiced by Diedrich Bader) teams up with a wide array of superheroes from the DC Comics universe to take down an equally wide range of supervillains. The exclamation mark at the end of every episode title is the first clue that a lighthearted tone is the series’ stock-in-trade. That’s not to say the series shuns seriousness. “Hail of the Tornado Tyrant!” finds the robotic Red Tornado assembling a son, Tornado Champion, in an attempt to become a parent. Surprisingly effective emotional territory is mined as Red’s experiment goes haywire (there’s a nice, if mawkish, moment at the end with Batman attempting to comfort his mechanical partner).
But most of all, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is consistently fun over the course of its first season. The penultimate episode, “Mayhem of the Music Meister!,” is a perfect example. A full-fledged musical Batman adventure? Why not? Throw in Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of the main baddie and you’ve got an off-the-wall season highlight (they even released a soundtrack album!). Again, as the Bat-Mite advised us, this is very much a lighter incarnation. Those already “in the know” will want to upgrade their old DVDs to this new Blu-ray edition. As for the newbies, if any of this sounds entertaining, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on this one.