Monday, January 5, 2015

Recap: Batman: TAS "On Leather Wings"

Here's where it all begins!

...kind of.

So, long story short, the episodes aired in a different order than what they were made in. Technically, "The Cat and the Claw, Part 1" is the first episode aired, but this episode was produced first. And more importantly to me, it just feels more like a premiere. Mainly because it was supposed to be the premiere. "The Cat and the Claw, Part 1" replaced it because Catwoman became popular after the release of the then-latest Batman film. Batman Comes Back, or something.

Now let's take a look at the very beginning of the DC Animated Universe.

First impressions, people.
The series begins with that oh-so-familiar theme lovingly "borrowed" from the Tim Burton film. This intro is several kinds of amazing. The music is incredibly atmospheric, and the visuals are stunning, depicting Batman in his typical day-to-day operation. Some crooks rob a bank, but are quickly tracked down and subdued by the Dark Knight. Then he poses on a rooftop before finally being fully illuminated by lightning against the red skies of Gotham.

I've got chills.
Interestingly, the series title doesn't actually appear in this sequence. Because we all know who Batman is. We don't need a title; when that theme comes on, we all know that it's time for some Batman.

The episode proper opens on a police blimp reporting in an unusually quiet night for the city of Gotham. But we all know that won't last long in Gotham. A blip appears on the radar, and one of the pilots sees something resembling bat wings zip by. They go higher to investigate better, but find nothing. But the camera pans down and we see that something bat-shaped is indeed making its way through the city.

At Phoenix Pharmaceuticals, the security guard for that night is very busy doing his job. Well, his other job. He's roaming the halls while recording an amateur radio spot on a tape recorder. Suddenly, he hears something moving around and decides to investigate. He sees nothing, but the exciting music kicks back in to let us know that there must be something there. The guard turns around after the music kicks back in to see something horrifying behind him. Whatever it is decides to toss the guard out a window into the water below.

"I just wanted to be the next Leslie Willis!"
The next day, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon is not a happy camper. The local newspaper's headline states that the police have declared war on Batman, and Gordon has decided to chew out the officer responsible, Harvey Bullock. This is no doubt because Gordon and Batman are best of friends, right?

Gordon: "If you'd have kept quiet, he wouldn't know we're moving against him!"

Or not. Looks like this is in Batman's early "vigilante" days.

The mayor's in on this meeting, too. Harvey demands his own tactical squad to take down Batman, which Gordon says is a bad idea that he's already shot down. But the Mayor authorizes a small force to be mobilized against Batman, and the District Attorney in the room offers his assistance when it becomes time to prosecute.

Harvey Dent: "If you catch him, Harvey, I'll put him in jail for you."

"Not Arkham Asylum?"
"Why would we ever lock up criminals in a hospital?"
"...I don't know."
Later, at the Batcave under STATELY WAYNE MANOR, Batman reads the headline himself.

Batman: "Gotham Police Declare War on Batman?"
Alfred: "I gather you've been reading How to Make Friends and Influence People?"

After some Jeeves-and-Wooster-type banter, Batman goes over the facts about this apparent imposter who's been going around causing trouble. Apparently, last night was only the latest in a string of pharmaceutical robberies. Alfred cancels Bruce Wayne's scheduled date as Batman goes off on patrol to investigate. Arriving at his destination, he ziplines over to Phoenix Pharmaceuticals. And yes, there is something sketchy going on in the building. But we're talking crimes of passion, not crimes of stealing stuff. Two pharmacists "working overtime" start some smooching in secret, only to see Batman zip by. One of them goes to call the cops as Batman sneaks in by using sleeping gas on the officer keeping tabs on the crime scene.

Bullock soon gets called into action and demands as many officers and helicopters as possible. Because excessive force is the best kind of force. Meanwhile, Batman is actually doing actual detective work. Some spectrographic analysis, some footprint-finding, and he even recovers the guard's tape recorder.

"Note to self: Give back Cyclops' visor at some point."
After taking some infrared pictures and nabbing some hairs, the police arrive and do the stereotypical grunting that mobilizing officers always do in parodies.

Harvey Bullock: "Alright, you jokers, pipe down."

Nah, those aren't jokers.

These are Jokerz.
The team moves in as Commissioner Gordon arrives. He tells Bullock that another pharmaceuticals company on the other side of town just got robbed. So whoever's in this building, Batman or not, must be the wrong suspect.

Speaking of Batman, he narrowly escapes the heavily armed officers by breaking into an elevator shaft, leaving behind more of his trusty knockout gas. That's right, kids. Chemical warfare is what good guys do! Batman arrives on the bottom floor and engages more officers. Hearing the gunfire outside, Gordon demands that Bullock call off the team. But Batman can take care of himself. He corners a straggling officer and covers his mouth.

Batman: "Shhhhhhhh...."

Welp, there go his bowels.
One of the other officers, outside the room Batman's in, gets an idea: tear gas. He throws a canister into the room, and it lands right next to all the dangerous, flammable chemicals. Asploding ensues. Thanks to some nifty aerial acrobatics (I'm not apologizing for that pun), Batman manages to swing to safety with the urine-soaked officer in tow. After depositing the officer on the ground, Batman runs off with no apparent police resistance.

Later, at the Gotham Zoo, Bruce Wayne meets with a "Dr. Marsh" to get his clues analyzed by an expert.

Because connecting millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne to this deal won't raise anyone's suspicions.
Anyway, he meets with Dr. Marsh to try and figure out his "bat problem."

Dr. Marsh: "You donate a few million and you think you own the place...."

Hello to you, too.

Bruce spins a yarn about squeaks in his chimney and provides a sample of hairs from the crime scene. Apropos of nearly nothing, Dr. Marsh starts to go on and on about how bats aren't pests, and they'll outlive us all, and other vaguely villainous statements. But actually, he raises a good point. Bats have very good immune systems as a necessary evolution to go with their flight abilities. Because flying takes so much energy, they can't afford to spend energy on being sick. So they don't get sick. Scientists are already looking into it in an attempt to synthesize its immunity to things like Ebola.

No, seriously, look it up.
Anyway, after Dr. Marsh rambles on, his daughter, Mrs./Dr. Francine Langstrom walks in and apologizes for her dad's rant. Her husband, Kirk (also a doctor), enters and asks to see the hair sample. But it seems that Dr. Marsh was in a hurry to leave with it, no doubt still grumbling under his breath.

Kirk: "He's a little, uh, protective of all this."

Bruce takes this moment to whip out a snippet of the guard's recording of whatever attacked him, claiming he recorded a sound from his chimney. Dr. Langstrom (the male one) offers to check the high-pitched, inhuman wailing against the sound library. Bruce suits up offscreen and later goes over the sound himself in the Batcave.

Alfred: "I didn't realize you'd taken up listening to rock and roll, sir."

Sorry, readers; I'm not going to make jokes about Batman's hatred of rock and roll. That's Linkara's thing.

Bruce says that he still can't pinpoint exactly what this sound is and gets a convenient call from Dr. March. According to him, the fur was from...

Dr. March: "Common brown bats."

And the sound? Just starlings and brown bats, apparently. Bruce thanks him and hangs up, but he knows better. He checks the sound against the Batcomputer's combined bat and starling sounds, but it's not a match. Dr. March, for whatever reason, is lying.

Later at the zoo lab, a mysterious hand burns the recording and the hairs. The guy the hand is connected to turns toward a nearby table and makes some grunting noises before downing a bottle and leaving the lab. Batman sneaks in and checks the bottle's label: Phoenix Pharmaceuticals. Suddenly, Dr. Langstrom (the male one, again) enters the lab and demands to know what Batman's doing.

Batman: "I'm looking for Dr. March."

Batman begins to insinuate that Dr. March is misguidedly stealing chemicals to further his belief in bat supremacy, but Dr. Langstrom corrects him. The formula may have been Dr. March's, but Kirk had the guts to use it to transform. He outright admits that the other two have been trying to protect him by lying, that he's losing the will to fight his addiction to the formula, and that his beast form knows where to steal the chemicals from. And with one final chemical to go before the formula's complete, he once again becomes a Man-Bat.

This can only end well.
There's a quick scuffle before Mat-Bat pins down Batman and prepares to kill him. At that moment, Dr. Langstrom (the female one) enters and sees what Dr. Langstrom (the male one) has become. He flies away from her and crashes out the window, with Batman using his Batrope to hitch a ride.  Meanwhile, another slow night on the police blimp until Batman smacks into it, causing the pilots to request chopper assistance.

Pictured: Batman's average Tuesday.
Man-Bat's flight resumes, Batman in tow as the choppers mobilize, albeit with a delay. Commissioner Gordon is going along with Harvey Bullock to avoid another SNAFU. Man-Bat continues his flight as Batman continues his attempts to bring down Man-Bat. Thanks to some nifty ropework, he manages to climb on his back and cause Man-Bat to hit a wall and get knocked out. As the chopper arrives on the scene, Batman exits with Man-Bat.

Later, at the Batcave, Man-Bat is unconscious on a table while Batman looks over the list of stolen chemicals. He uses the Batcomputer to synthesize an antidote, and Kirk is returned, completely human, to his wife. No more formula in his system, no more urges to transform. Hopefully. Though Batman seems assured there will be a sequel episode.

Batman: "It's over. For now."

So it is. But the DCAU has just begun, and with this beginning comes a review.

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