Where MARVEL pumps out a never-ending stream of SuperHero blockbusters, rival D.C. Comics sweats bullets on each dicey new release. No wonder they keep coming out with BATMAN resets, safe harbor with a variety of demographically designated product, from the ‘camp’ of the old tv series to Christopher Nolan’s darkness trilogy. So too in the myriad of animated BATMANs on offer. (One intriguing idea, a sort of graphic novel sprung to life, should work, but doesn’t.*) This one, a collection of short, medium-dark adventures, features six stories running about a reel each, with different production crews handling the limited animation technique in distinctive styles. The opener is the most fun with three street toughs relating separate encounters with the urban crimefighting legend that literally draw their hero in different lights. One makes him a near-satanic figure, much like the villain in Disney’s NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN from FANTASIA/’40. But none of the six has much room for character development, the conflicted conscience that makes Batman a standout among SuperHeroes; nor proper time for misdirected narrative, everything is too straightforward. But it’s often handsome to look at and marks the return of vet Batman voice-over actor Kevin Conroy who has a cult following of his own.
DOUBLE-BILL: *The animated DVD version of the graphic novels came out in 2009 as BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE.