Sunday, September 8, 2013

Recap/Review: Batman TBATB, "Evil Under the Sea!"

...I have nothing to say here.  Let's get started with one of the earlier Batman: TBATB episodes!

Evil is better down where it's wetter, take it from me.
The customary TBATB teaser begins in an ancient, ruined building somewhere in… well, let’s say Grome. There’s red skies and blue lightning, so some wicked-bad voodoo must be going on, and indeed there is as we cut to an evil sorcerer named Felix Faust monologuing to a chained up Batman about how he’s about to release all the evils from Pandora’s Box and use their power to destroy Batman. Uh oh, if he opens the box, the New 52 will happen!

Pointing finger of doom!
Also, wait…  If I remember the story of Pandora’s Box, it was that she opened it, releasing evil into the world. So… there shouldn’t be anything left in there.  Well, according to some myths, hope was locked inside. And according to the Tomb Raider sequel, there was some kind of deadly virus.

Anyway, Faust magicks up a gag for Batman and locks it before speaking some kind of Latiny incantation from a floating spellbook to open the box. The lid slowly rises off of the box, and tentacles and eyestalks appear. Ah, he must be summoning the Ogdru Jahad. Careful, Felix, you might only succeed in bringing Hellboy to Earth.

Meanwhile, the lock on Batman’s gag seemingly undoes itself, and Batman begins to taunt Felix. He zaps Batman with magic, but Batman’s chains undo themselves and he jumps clear at the last second.

Batman: “Nothing up my sleeve…”

And with a few gestures by Batman, the lid to Pandora’s Box closes itself, and the spellbook flies into his hand. Felix throws around a few more magic bolts, and Batman dodges them all, but tossing the book into one of the blasts, destroying it. One of the pages folds itself into a paper airplane and flies around for a second. Felix is dumbfounded, because he knows that Batman can’t use magic. Suddenly, Batman flies in the air as Felix zaps him, and the Atom, a size-changing hero, jumps off of his shoulder and grows to normal size. They both punch out Felix, and the teaser ends. Ah, Batman was just screwing with Felix.

My only complaint with this teaser is that Atom can’t fly, but let’s just say “miniaturized jetpack” or “a wizard did it” and move on.

Not a bad teaser, but not one of the more memorable ones. It does its duty; it occupies two minutes, introduces a hero and a villain to possibly use in more episodes, and then it’s over. But it does no more than that.

After the intro, the episode proper opens on the Batplane flying over the ocean. Batman picks up some seismic activity from close to Atlantis, and converts the plane to a submarine to go investigate. Batman monologues in his head about how meetings with Aquaman always turn into adventures, due to his “larger-than-life” personality.

Oh, this is what I’ve been waiting for since I started recapping these! An Aquaman episode! See, in this series, Aquaman wasn’t considered the lamest Super Friend, he was the breakout character. This Aquaman (voiced by living CAPS LOCK John DiMaggio) is loud, fun, and loves to fight. He comes across as very similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Thor in many respects. The beard helps a lot. In fact, the first shot of Aquaman that we see is of him riding two dolphins while a scribe writes down the adventures of his that he’s dictating.

Like a boss.
Batman, from his sub, catches a glimpse of something shiny, then ejects and tackles Aquaman, protecting him from the incoming trident that someone shot at him by moving the Batsub in its way.

Batman: “Aquaman! Are you hurt?”
Aquaman: “Yes… I’m hurt that you didn’t tell me you were stopping by!”

They're Super Friends!
He gives Batman (who’s wearing scuba gear, if you were wondering) a bone-crunching bear hug, and sends out some sonar waves, because “there’s someone else who wants to say ‘hi.’” After we hear some dolphin noises, a dolphin appears!

Batman (internally): “Fluke… the most obnoxious dolphin on the planet.”
Aquaman: “Boy, did he miss you, Batman!”
Batman: “...tell him to release the suit.”

Aquaman summons a ball made out of hard water, and throws it for Fluke, who stops biting Batman’s cape to chase after it. What, you think Aquaman’s a wuss for having a dolphin for a pet? Dolphins routinely murder other animals for fun. Yeah.

Batman picks up the spear used to try and kill Aquaman, who shrugs it off, saying that it happens all the time. From above, a dark-haired Atlantean named Orm appears and asks his “little brother” Aquaman what happened. Aquaman tells him that everything’s fine, and that Batman saved the day.

Batman: “Orm!”
Aquaman: “Big shock, I know. But we’re talking again, for the first time since I became king.”

We then flashback to when Aquaman was but a mere Aqualad, being crowned King of Atlantis over his older brother, Orm.

Oh, yeah, he looks trustworthy.
Back in the present, Orm says that he was upset at first, but he’s mellowed out, now that he’s grown and matured. He takes the spear from Batman and vows to find the would-be assassin. As he swims off, Aquaman tells Batman that he knows that he doesn’t trust Orm, but insists “He’s family.”

Changing the subject, Aquaman asks why Batman came along, and Batman tells him about the seismic tremors. Aquaman tells him that it happens all the time, but mirrors Batman’s earlier sentiments when he says that when Batman comes along, adventures follow. The two go off to investigate, as Orm head off into the outskirts of Atlantis, meeting up with Aquaman’s would-be assassin, a high-tech pressure suit wearing villain named Black Manta.

How does his head fit inside that helmet?
Orm: “You failed me, Manta!”
Black Manta: “Only due to Batman’s unexpected interference.”

They vow to get Orm the throne, for which Orm will reward Manta with Atlantean treasures. Manta blasts a shrimp, one of Aquaman’s spies, and they begin to plot anew to kill Aquaman and Batman. Meanwhile, as Aquaman and Batman swim over to the oceanic shelf, Aquaman regales him with several of his adventures. “The Mystery of the Stolen Statue,” “The Secret of the Mechanical Sea Monster,” “Coral Reef Rescue,” and the time he wore an eyepatch to infiltrate a gang of pirates.

Aquaman: “I call that…”
Batman: “’Aquaman’s Undercover Adventure’?”
Aquaman: “No, ‘The Time I Wore an Eyepatch to Infiltrate a Crew of Pirates!’ But what you said is good, too.”

Suddenly, a shark swims past them, fleeing from something. They look up, and see a whale and two narwhals attacking. Aquaman tries to control their minds, but it doesn’t work for some reason. The narwhals go after Aquaman, and rightly so. Aquaman’s the best warrior under the sea. If you want to kill him, use narwhals. The whale sucks Batman into its mouth. When Batman muses that things can’t get much worse, they do. Tentacles emerge from deeper in the whale’s guts to attack Batman. And he doesn’t have any narwhals to keep Cthulhu from eating him! He makes do with a few Batarangs, but ends up overpowered by tentacles.

Meanwhile, Aquaman fights the narwhals with twin swords made out of water. Appropriate, seeing as how narwhals are the Jedi of the sea. Yes, he actually does swordfight against their kick*ss facial horns. But he soon abandons that plan for simply punching them, before jamming their horns in the ground.

Polar Bear < Narwhal < Aquaman
He finds some strange mind-controlling doodads on their heads and removes them. Looking up, he spots the whale, which attempts to swallow him, too. He removes the whale’s controller, and commands it to free Batman, and it does.

Aquaman: “What’s it like inside a whale?”
Batman: “I won’t be ordering the calamari for a while.”

So, why was there a squid in there? Eh, it was probably something leftover from when Felix Faust tried to summon the Ogdru Jahad earlier.

Aquaman shows Batman the controller he took off the whale, and tells Batman that the whales said something told them to attack. Batman muses that Orm can control fish as well, and suggests that he might be behind this. Aquaman wants to believe in his brother, and he tells Batman that he’s giving Orm a second chance.

Aquaman: “Besides, Orm’s no genius. This is no doubt the work of my arch enemy, Black Manta.”

Yes, his lines do echo spontaneously when he says “Black Manta.” He exposits that it woudn’t make sense for Orm to team up with him, because Black Manta wants to destroy Atlantis. Batman tells Aquaman that he’s just blinded with guilt over being the favorite child, and Aquaman simply and quietly tells him to drop it. His quiet reserve is actually quite chilling, considering his standard larger-than-life delivery.

They head off to the site of the original seismic disturbance. Batman can’t find anything that would create a disturbance, and Fluke shows up to remind Aquaman about the night’s banquet. Aquaman and Fluke leave to prepare, while Batman stays behind. A mind-controlled octopus watches from the shadows.

Later, at the Atlantean banquet, Aquaman delivers a speech in front of the entire kingdom, then flexes for the crowds. Batman watches from the corner as Orm slips something into Aquaman’s drink. He recognizes it as “deadly sea-urchin toxin” and readies a Batarang. As Aquaman raises the goblet to his mouth, Batman’s Batarang knocks it out of his hand. All of Atlantis gasps as Batman tries to subdue Orm.

Batman: “But I saw him…”
Aquaman: “What, flavor my drink?”

He takes the sea-urchin quill from Batman and puts a few drops on his tongue, savoring the flavor. Batman releases Orm as Aquaman exposits that the venom isn’t toxic to Atlanteans. He has his guards escort Batman back to the coast, and he and his brother go to have a word in private.

As Batman’s escorted by sharks to the coast, the lurking octopus sneaks away from the shadows. Meanwhile, Orm and Aquaman stand inside a room filled with various tanks of marine life, and Orm breaks one open, allowing an octopus to latch on to his head. After the tanks empties all its water, it seems as though Orm’s fashioned himself a suit of armor out of the octopus… somehow.

"I put an octopus on my head, and now I have claws!  This was a good plan!"
Orm: “Does this make me look like a king?”
Aquaman: “Orm…”
Orm: “A king deserves a royal name. You became Aquaman. Call me ‘Ocean Master!’”

And with that, tentacles spring from his back and grab Aquaman. Orm steals Aquaman’s trident, and the two begin to fight. Also, I just realized that Ocean Master has a cape made out of tentacles. Nice.

Aquaman: “How could you? I welcomed you back with open arms, even after all you did!”
Ocean Master: “I’m only taking back what’s mine, brother!”
Aquaman: “I’m done apologizing for mom’s decision! She loved you, but she gave me the throne because she knew you couldn’t handle the power!”
Ocean Master: “Then let’s see how you do.”

Suddenly, Black Manta sneaks up behind Aquaman and shocks him with some kind of super-stun-gun. Aquaman realizes that Batman was right, and Ocean Master hits a button, activating the mind-controllers on Batman’s shark escorts. Better hope he’s got Shark-Repellant Bat-Spray, Aquaman.

No, actually, Batman prefers to punch one shark in the face, like you’re actually supposed to when a shark attacks, then grapples onto the other. The sharks get in a few lucky hits, though, and Batman’s sent down to the bottom of the sea.

Meanwhile, Aquaman wakes up, chained in a dungeon, with a telepathy-inhibitor on his head to keep him from calling fish to his aid, as Manta exposits. Ocean Master gloats about finally being king, and Aquaman warns him about Manta’s upcoming backstabbing. Ocean Master won’t listen, but is quickly zapped by Manta in the same way. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

He falls to the floor, and Black Manta begins his “endgame.” Orm quickly ends up subdued like Aquaman, and Manta outlines his evil plan.

Black Manta: “The tremors Batman felt were tests of a series of destabilizers I set along the continental shelf. Once started, the shelf will collapse, and I’ll have the pleasure of plundering the ruins.”

He leaves to go enact his plan, and we cut to Batman, who ends up being saved by Fluke. As they ride off, Batman shorts out the sharks’ controllers with an energy net. Back at Atlantis, Aquaman’s queen, Mera, stands in front of the cheering crowds as Black Manta projects a hologram of himself to the Atlanteans. He gives an evil speech, and sets off the destabilizers. The Atlantis bubble dome begins to crumble, and we cut to Orm and Aquaman. Aquaman whistles, and shrimp appear to unlock their chains. They head off together, and team up to save Atlantis.

Aquaman summons ALL OF THE SEA LIFE (yes, including narwhals), and Batman heads towards the destabilizers. Manta tells him he’s too late, but the cavalry arrives. The heroes and sea life take out Manta’s goon squad, and Aquaman saves Orm from Manta’s trident burst. Aquaman summons hard water spheres to take out the destabilizer as Orm starts hitting it, and Batman tussles with Manta. He takes out Manta by borrowing the royal trident, and Orm and Aquaman destroy the destabilizer. Aquaman congratulates his brother on their victory.

Orm: “It was easy. Every time I smashed a machine, I just imagined it was your face!”
Aquaman: “Oh. Well… good job.”

Later, we cut to the dungeons again, where Aquaman visits his imprisoned brother.

Batman: “You could have exiled him.”
Aquaman: “I know. But you don’t give up on family.”

Aquaman reads from his autobiography to his brother, and Batman leaves for the surface world. (Amusingly, Aquaman says his earliest memories are of a lighthouse, in keeping with his comic book origin.) And with that, the episode ends.

Final Thoughts/Review
Not a bad episode, but not as good as later ones featuring Aquaman. Aquaman would later become louder, stupider, but a lot more fun. I’m glad that they only used Ocean Master once. Not because I think he’s a bad villain (I don’t), but because this story works much better that way. We can still hope that Aquaman makes amends with his brother, even if we don’t see it.

This story is the odd one out, when compared to the over-the-top later Aquaman episodes. It doesn’t go to the fun heights or the emotional depths of other episodes, and so it’s just stuck in a sort of limbo where it’s good, but doesn’t excel at anything.

Don’t worry, the next Aquaman episode we do will be nice and exciting. The Atom will even show up again!
See you then!

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