Friday, August 9, 2013

Recap/Review: Batman TBATB, "The Mask of Matches Malone!"

Dear readers, sometimes, I feel generous. Basically, I’ve been having a lot of fun doing recaps, and you all really seem to enjoy them. So… here’s another. I’ve decided to treat myself, as well, so I’m going to look at an episode of my favorite Batman series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
And yep, I’ve made some enemies with that statement.

Batman: TBATB has been decried by many as being “childish,” “kiddy,” and “stupid.”  Said complainers haven’t been watching the right episodes. Let’s set that straight!

I’ll be recapping the “lost” episode. The episode with so many “hidden” dirty jokes that Cartoon Network skipped it in the series’ original run. (It still aired in Australia. Can’t say I’m too surprised by this.) Not only that, it was written by Gail Simone. Yes, THAT Gail Simone. One of the top comic writers in the industry. No, I’m not saying “female writer.” Writer period.  (Also, because gender has nothing to do with writing quality. As proven by Gail Simone.) Birds of Prey, Secret Six, and more.

Sorry, I’m gushing a bit, but she really is one of the top writers in comics. And she wrote an episode of my favorite Batman cartoon. So, yeah.  Let’s get started on this particular chunk of awesome, shall we? 
Ladies, gentlemen, smizmars…

This Review/Recap is not meant for kids, due to the episode's content. Let that sink in for a second.
We begin with the pre-credits-unrelated-mini-adventure, as per usual for this show. We open on an establishing shot of Gotham City at night. What a shock. Unusually, there’s a giant plant mass growing in the middle of the city. In the middle of this mass, women in Poison Ivy costumes are dragging a bound Batman to their leader, Poison Ivy. While porn music plays. I’m not even kidding, it’s straight-up 70’s porn music.  ….this is getting weird fast.

Poison Ivy: “Batman. Now that I’m the Queen of Crime in Gotham City, who better to be my king than the guy who puts the ‘A’ in ‘Alpha Male?’”

Um…. Yeah. And if you think this is overtly sexual, just you wait. Anyway, Batman rejects her, and Ivy commands her “flower children” to feed him to “Georgia.” Georgia is a gigantic flower that unfolds into a Sarlacc-pit looking thing. Right as Batman is going to be dropped in, he calls his partner for the case: the Black Orchid! (Black Orchid has a long, irrelevant backstory. All you need to know is that she’s dressed like a flower, and she kicks butt.) The porn music crescendos as Batman escapes and takes out Ivy’s henchwomen. It’s a really good fight, with amazing choreography and animation.
 “But, Newt!” I hear you interject, “Batman’s hitting girls!”
No, Batman’s hitting criminals. Also, it’s rude to interrupt me. Please stop.

Vines constrict Batman, and Poison Ivy gives Batman one last chance to join her.

Batman: “Leaves of three, let them be.”

And with that one-liner, Black Orchid swoops in and delivers a solid punch to Ivy, knocking her unconscious. Batman frees himself, and Black Orchid disappears right before Batman can thank her.

Batman: “Now I know how Commissioner Gordon feels.”

With that, the opening theme-song begins, and we begin the episode proper. Catwoman gracefully slinks into a museum from the roof, sneaking through the rooms, until she reaches the one housing the Cloak of Nefertiti; it’s one of those Egyptian things that they wore around their necks. It has a cat on it, so Catwoman wants it. She’s a lady of simple tastes.

Batman’s silhouette covers the room, and he swoops in, delivering exposition that the cloak is supposedly a gift from the cat goddess Bast that gives each wearer nine lives. They banter for a second, then Catwoman lunges at him, swiping and clawing. They scuffle, and the fight poses start to get… suggestive. As Batman holds Catwoman in place, Huntress and Black Canary (two fellow crimefighters; Huntress is like a female Batman with a crossbow, Black Canary has a sonic scream) smirk and watch. Batman insists that he can handle Catwoman, but Huntress informs him that they’re not there for Catwoman.

Not sure what these two are doing,
But these two approve.
The wall blows up, and in walks Two-Face and his goons, including a pair of ginger fraternal twins. 
Guess why they call him Two-Face.
No, really, guess.
I don’t know their real names, so I’ma call them Igg and Ook. Two-Face orders his henchpeople to open fire, and they do, spraying Tommygunfire everywhere. Batman and the others (including Catwoman) scatter. Black Canary sonics the guns out of their hands, and the heroes begin taking care of Two-Face’s goons. Catwoman, meanwhile, confronts Two-Face over the cloak, who outline his plan to sell the cloak to the highest bidder in a criminal auction. He takes out his gun and open fires, entering the fight. Catwoman ducks under a gigantic sarcophagus, and is saved from it falling on her by Batman.

In the kerfuffle, Two-Face got away with the cloak, though. Catwoman offers to help track down the cloak, and relays the information she heard a while back about a secret criminal meeting at the Double Decker club. Huntress asks what the plan is, and we cut to the club itself. Huntress and Canary are standing outside in fancy-shmancy dresses, and Huntress is whining about Batman letting Catwoman come along. Speaking of, she soon drives up in her Catmobile, stepping out while that sexy saxophone music plays… in the same dress as Black Canary.

I smell caaaaaatfiiiiiiiight!
...Because Catwoman.
Before anything starts, however, Batman shows up with a suit, sunglasses, and a fake mustache. (For those of you not in the know, this is Batman’s “Matches Malone” persona. He often masquerades as a petty crook to gain information that he can’t get any other way.) He briefs the ladies: he’s Matches Malone, they’re his bodyguards. He puts on a hilariously bad Brooklyn accent, and they walk inside, Catwoman on his arm.  Canary and Huntress agree with each other that they hate Catwoman, and follow them inside.

Inside, the Gotham criminal underworld is seated as Two-Face hypes up the cloak like he’s selling it on HSN. After ooh-ing and ahhh-ing, bidding starts, but a gangster readies his guns, and flat-out double crosses Two-Face. Batman and the ladies start attacking henchmen, and in the brouhaha, a stage light falls on Batman’s head. Two-Face punches out the rival gangster, and Batman comes to… thinking that’s he’s Matches Malone. Strangely, he doesn’t recognize the ladies as his “bodyguards,” instead calling them, “…da stinkin’ Birds o’ Prey!”

Um… when did they get that nickname? Granted, they’ve worked together as a team with that name in the comics, but not here. Here, they actually hate each other. Meh, it’s a minor nitpick; I could probably make up an adequate explanation if I had the wherewithal. But I don’t. Let’s move on.

Huntress whips out a crossbow from… somewhere, and the Birds of Prey escape. By taking out the rest of the mobsters, Batman claims ownership of the cloak, and takes over Gotham’s underworld. Yes, Batman is now Gotham’s Kingpin of Crime.

Following that, there’s a montage of “Matches” making off with all sorts of loot, getting shot, falling to his death, and more, dying and coming back to life a total of three times. After commercial, Batman, Igg, and Ook exit from a limo into the Iceberg Lounge, as the Bird of Prey watch through binoculars from afar. They exposit that, because he’s always hanging out at the biggest criminal hangout, it’s impossible to get close to him. Catwoman says that “something of hers” is in there, and she doesn’t want it getting ruined.

Huntress: “Are we talking about the cloak, or Batman?”

Catwoman exits, Stage… um, jumping down from the building, as Canary shouts impotently at her. The ladies join up on the ground, knock on the Backstage Entrance, knock out the guard, and make their way into the back of the club. Staying back-to-back-to-back, they sneak around… until the curtains rise and their caught onstage in a Charlie’s Angels pose in front of every criminal in Gotham. Igg and Ook reach for their guns, but Batman stops them with a gesture; he wants to know where this is going. Catwoman’s response? She tells the band to hit it.

And so, we come to the most infamous part of this episode, and indeed the series.
"Birds of Prey": a surprisingly-choreographed Big-Band musical number all about the sexual inadequacies of the male superheroes. I s*** you not.

In fact, go search for “Birds of Prey Batman” or some such in any decent search engine, you can find the sequence to back me up. For those of you not doing that, not to worry.  Here’s the lyrics. Again,  I swear I’m not making this up. I could only dream of writing this song.

The Birds of Prey! ...Even though only one of them has a bird motif!
"Good evening, all you gentlemen/ Mobsters, creeps and crooks
Men in tights come after you/ And still you’re off the hook
For those who scare and terrorize/ It’s the dawn of a brand new day
You scum can just simply call us/ The one and only Birds of Prey 

Green Lantern has his special ring (Pretty strong, that little thing)
Blue Beetle’s deeds are really swell (But who will bring him out of his shell?)
Flash’s foes, they finish last/ Too bad sometimes he’s just too fast!
While all the boys can always save the day,
No one does it better than the Birds of Prey (The one and only Birds of Prey!)
While all the boys can always save the day,
No one does it better; no one does it better than the Birds of Prey 

Green Arrow has heroic traits/ That is, when he’s shooting straight (Hey!) (I’m just saying!)
Aquaman’s always courageous/ His little fish?  Less outrageous
Plastic Man can expand/ Becomes putty in our hands 
While all the boys can keep you punks at bay,
No one does it better than the Birds of Prey (The one and only Birds of Prey!)
While all the boys can always save the day,
No one does it better; no one does it better than the Birds of Prey 

Batman throws his batarang/ What a weapon; what a bang
Check out that utility belt/ Sure can make a girl’s heart melt
He’s always right there for the save/ I’d like to see his secret cave 
While Batman does things in his special way,
He'd do it better with the Birds of Prey (The one and only Birds of Prey!)
While Batman always seems to save the day,
No one does it better; no one does it better than the Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey 

Okay.  To summarize:
  • It’s not the size, it’s how Green Lantern uses it.
  • Blue Beetle’s got “performance” anxiety.
  • Flash suffers from chronic premature ejaculation.
  • Green Arrow experiments with other men.
  • Aquaman has a tiny penis.
  • Yes, Plastic Man uses his shapeshifting in that way.
  • Batman is a sex god. And Huntress, Catwoman, and Black Canary all want in his tights.
Apparently, Cartoon Network thought this wasn’t appropriate for kids. Pshaw. Where else are they going to learn this stuff from?

There was a point to the song, though. The Birds of Prey walk over to Batman and try to strongly hint that he’s Batman with the last part of the song, before going back onstage. The song was a big hit, and all the criminals there applaud accordingly. Batman himself even congratulates the “sirens,” as he calls them, before getting ready to have his mooks shoot them. They realize they didn’t reach him with their song, so they get ready to fight. And by “get ready,” I mean “Catwoman smashes a plate over Batman’s head.”  Unfazed, a fight ensues, and he easily takes out all three of them.

Later, the three are tied together, hanging from a rope over a shark tank, and Canary’s gagged, so she can’t use her sonic scream. Batman gloats and lowers the three into the tank. After more banter between the Birds, “Matches” reveals his master plan: attempt to kill the Birds of Prey so that Batman shows up, then kill Batman. I hope I don’t have to point out the obvious flaw in that plan.

Huntress: “And… uh, what happens if Batman doesn’t show up, Mr. Crazy-Matches-Person?”
“Matches”: “Well, I guess these sharks are gonna need some toothpicks.”

But, amazingly, Batman casts his silhouette over the proceedings.

Batman(?): “Matches Malone! You’re the weed of crime, so prepare to be plucked for 20 years in Iron Heights prison! …you loser!”

Batman(?) swoops down and attacks Matches, and it seems that one of Batman(?)’s eyes is larger than the other. Hmmm….  After “Matches” lands a solid haymaker, Batman(?) whips out a couple of guns and starts firing, accidentally hitting the rope controls. Working together, the Birds of Prey fire Huntress’ crossbow, ricocheting it into Canary’s gag, and she lets out a scream, breaking the tank. “Matches” realizes that “Batman’s” a fake, and chases him to the roof, unmasking him as Two-Face, who says that now that he knows the cloak actually works, he’s going to keep it for himself. They scuffle some more, and Two-Face shoots the Lounge sign, and it falls, crushing “Matches” to death.

Huntress takes out Two-Face, and Catwoman does some math, realizing that “Matches” on his last life. “Matches” runs at them, and beats them up as the Birds try to talk sense into him. When he gets ready to push Catwoman off the building, she kisses him… then kicks him off of the building instead. He hits a car hard, and the others berate her for killing Batman…. Who then comes back to life and rips off the Matches Malone mask.

Wow, this takes the term "Love/Hate Relationship" to the next level.
When the ladies meet up with him on the ground, he exposits that he used up Matches Malone’s last life, not Batman’s, as Catwoman suspected would be the case. Before he can congratulate Catwoman’s quick thinking, she’s gone. And so is the cloak. Batman decides to call it even… until next time.

This was a really good episode. The fight scenes were well-choreographed, and well animated. The voice acting was top-notch (par for the course for this show). The guest characters meshed well, and the banter was really good; they all had really good chemistry.

My only criticisms with the episode are the “Birds of Prey” name coming out of nowhere, and Poison Ivy’s MO with the henchwomen seems more out of Queen Bee’s playbook. (Interestingly enough, the villain was originally going to be Queen Bee, voiced by Marina Sirtis, aka Counselor Deanna Troi. Ah, what could have been…).

The musical number is easily the best part of the episode. It’s catchy, all three characters are voiced by talented singers (Black Canary - Grey DeLisle, Catwoman - Nika Futterman, Huntress - Tara Strong), and it really pushes the boundaries on what can be hinted at in a “kids’ show.” Yeah, people think this show’s too “kiddy” for some reason. It’s not “kiddy,” it’s “Silver Age.” There’s a difference. I rank this episode as one of the best in the series. Seriously, go give this episode a watch, even if it’s just for the song.

Until next time, old chums!

1 comment:

  1. Looked up your review after watching that episode. I thought it was fantastic as well