- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 24th collaboration between DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation gives fans a closer look at the Dark Knight’s extended family in Batman: Bad Blood, Limited Edition Gift Set (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $29.96, 72 minutes).

Before I dive into the details, it’s no secret that I have not been a fan of many of these comic-book-adapted releases. Often, the original source material was much more visually impactful that its cartoon counterpart.

However, following the visual cues of its predecessor “Batman vs. Robin,” director Jay Oliva and his team of artisans seem even more determined to create a more brooding anime style akin to “Afro Samurai” and leave behind the mediocrity of other, early DC Entertainment releases.

And, that not only made me smile but also is a great decision for older fans.

The profanity-peppered and often violent story, based on Grant Morrison’s brilliant run on the Batman comics, picks up with Damian (Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul’s son) being stuck in a monastery learning to control his aggression, and Batman apparently meeting his demise after a battle with the mysterious and Bane-like Heretic.

With the real Dark Knight missing, Nightwing (Dick Grayson) wears the costume and with help from Robin (Damian Wayne), the complex Batwoman (Kate Jane) and Batwing (Lucius Fox’s son Luke), he hopes to protect Gotham and confirm the death of his mentor.

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Along the way, the group battles super-powered enemies, besides Heretic, including Tusk, Killer Moth, Electrocutioner, Firefly, Hellhound and The Mad Hatter through dynamic, close-quarters combat. Even Alfred the butler gets in some shots.

The, full-screen, high-definition transfer on Blu-ray highlights those multiple and dazzling fight scenes. One taking place within a strobe-lit enclosure at Wayne Tech Industries and another finding the Bat team battling against an army of nuns wielding M60s and katanas will require multiple viewings to truly appreciate its ballet-style orchestration.

Unfortunately, with the large collection of Bat characters squeezed into the too short of a cartoon, it’s impossible for a non-Batman comic-book fan to understand all of their history and nuances.

Luckily, extras help illuminate the colorful cast and ways of the Dark Knight.

First, the 14-minute “Expanding the Batman Family” featurette with creative director of DC Entertainment Mike Carlin and comic-book historian Alan Kistler briefly looks at the history of the many Robins (Damian Wayne, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Jason Todd), Batwoman, Lucius Fox, Batwing, Catwoman and Batgirl.

It’s also loaded with plenty of historic illustrations from comic-book masters such as Bob Kane, Jim Aparo, Neal Adams, Andy Kubert and J.H. Williams III.

Next, “Putting the Fight in Gotham” spends nearly 26 minutes deconstructing the animated choreography of a Batman brawl featuring a perspective from Mr. Oliva, movie fight choreographer Damon Caro (“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”), Mr. Carlin and various production staff.

They touch on some of battles in the Caped Crusader’s history in cartoon universe going as far back as “Superfriends,” “Batman: The Animated Series” and many of the later animated films. The battles show techniques that borrow from live-action movies, video games, various combat forms and martial-arts styles.

A second bonus that had me giggling with delight is a pair of 23-minute episodes from the well-received 2008 Cartoon Network series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

Set in a universe one would imagine if the 1960s live-action Batman show were a cartoon, the wonderful character-design choices, colorful action and guest stars never stopped amazing.

First, we get “The Knights of Tomorrow” offering a story about Bruce Wayne marrying Selina Kyle (Catwoman in her retro purple costume), retiring and passing the Bat mantle to Dick Grayson. That is until his son Damien Wayne is ready. Well, go figure, the Joker shows up to cause some serious problems.

Next, in “The Criss Cross Conspiracy,” Batwoman (in her vintage 1950s costume) has a score to settle with the Riddler and a dismissive Batman. She gets help from Felix Faust to set the Dark Knight’s mind in the right direction. It guest stars Batgirl, Nightwing, The Atom and Aquaman.

Additionally, owners will find in the package, a 4-inch-tall, highly detailed plastic statue of a masked Nightwing. The figure displays his current, black with blue bat insignia costume and holding a pair of clubs while standing on a faux cobblestone base.

Although a nice addition for a display case, I’m sure many of viewers would prefer a Mattel action figure with articulation to pose Batman’s former sidekick.



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