The DC Universe Animated Originals vault has some impressive films in its catalogue, and the Batman issues are always highlights. While we will probably never reach the dizzying heights of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns this doesn't stop DC trying. For fans of the old Batman: The Animated Series, it is a treat when DC release a new Batman cartoon, so Following on from 2014's Son of Batman and the 2015 hit Batman vs. Robin, Bruce and friends are back for Batman: Bad Blood.
It is quite literally back to the source as Bad Blood fills its 72 minute runtime with material from Battle for the Cowl, Court of Owls and Batman Incorporated. It is a pick 'n' mix of Easter Eggs for true fans as you spot characters and plot-lines from the rich tapestry of Batman history. Arguably some will be left disappointed, because each of these stories warrant an outing of their own, but for a quick-fix of Batman, Bad Blood does it well.
It also seems back to page one in drawing style; the fluid lines and beautiful colors are at their best here against the monochrome backdrop of Gotham City. Just as the Burton-era was all steeples and gargoyles, director Jay Oliva brings this back to the series. Vibrant reds and grisly greys are this year's must have color scheme. While the live-action versions of Gotham are expansive, I feel they have always lost the comic book grime of the animations. With no set restrictions, weather problems, or lighting issues, the world of DC comes alive from the pages it was born.
What else Bad Blood does best is give Dick Grayson the justice he deserves, forming the main character in what should be retitled Nightwing: Bad Blood. The opening introduces Heretic, the muscular masked antagonist, whose identity we spend 90% of the time trying to figure out. A brief battle leaves Bruce Wayne missing in action and Gotham teetering on the edge of decay. Grayson steps up to the mantle and dons the cowl to be the stand-in Batman before anyone notices. At first a pale version of Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson proves he has the wings to be The Bat. Together with Damian Wayne, the two make a comedy duo worthy of the dynamic duo.
Pulling rank is Kate Kane's turn as Batwoman – another personal highlight of the episode. I have never been a huge fan of Oracle, so to have another female as opposed to Jim Gordon's whiny daughter is a refreshing boost. Kane serves as the ally/hindrance to Robin and Nightwing, proving three's a crowd. Kane's relationship with her father, Colonel Kane, is also well expanded – the lonely daughter, pushed into the life of vigilantism to appease her father. Her father's military background is key to her character flaws too, choosing to introduce guns to the Batman family... A big no-no for all involved.
Unfortunately it is Damian Wayne who is possibly one of the only downfalls. The lovechild of Talia and Bruce, he was introduced in the superb Son of Batman and continued to play a major part in Batman vs. Robin. With Bruce absent for most of this tale, Damian and his bright green eyes take up far more screen-time than he probably deserves. Damian's spoilt brat approach to life echoes what a young Bruce Wayne could have (but thankfully hasn't) been like since his parents passed. Well with Batman as his father and Talia al Ghul as his mother, who else is to blame? To have a whole trilogy based on Damian was a risky move to make, but one that has mostly paid off.
In an al Ghul reunion, his mom is back too. Talia is once again on fine form as Bruce's ex/Damian's mother. Talia's history (much like Catwoman) often crosses the lines of good and evil, but she is always best as an opposition, acting as bad to the bone in Bad Blood. Elsewhere in opposition: Heretic's reveal was unexpected and not who I thought he would be, while the secondary villains make for an enjoyable rogues galley. Killer Moth and Firefly may be slightly too close in appearance to warrant a joint appearance, but it is fantastic to see some of the lesser known villains getting their dues. Just as the DCU's animated Suicide Squad made bigger roles for the likes of King Shark and KGBeast, Bad Blood ensures no one is forgotten.
Villains aside, the core 'bat' cast includes Nightwing, Damian Wayne, Kate Kane and a new addition...'Batwing.' Couple this with the never ending swarm of villains and a closing scene addition of another 'familiar face' and you are left slightly overwhelmed. Not that any of the characters are underdeveloped, or that you can't warm to them, but the sheer volume assaults you from all sides. The addition of Lucius Fox's son as 'Batwing' feels like a late night (and unnecessary) plot turn. What doesn't make Bad Blood the perfect adventure is the over ambitious cast.
At the heart of Bad Blood beats the heart of the Bat-family. But as Batwoman says, tapping the bat symbol on her costume:
Just because I wear this [touches Bat-symbol] doesn’t mean I’m part of your little cult
It isn't all rainbows in paradise and the stoic return of Bruce Wayne shows us that the Bat-family aren't as close as they think – a sad and thoughtful end to the story. Comparing to Batman: Year One and Gotham Knight means you can't give this outing a perfect score and some slight stripping back is needed. Thankfully Bad Blood is a fitting tie up to the Damian Wayne trilogy and stops before we get too much. Although the earlier mention of a final scene hints that there may be more to come.
Have you seen Batman: Bad Blood?