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Batman: The Animated Series – “Vendetta”

Vendetta-Title_CardEpisode Number: 23

Original Air Date:  October 5, 1992

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  Killer Croc

For the debut of mostly unheard of villain Killer Croc, Batman: The Animated Series decided to place the focus on Batman’s skills as a detective as well as adding a new dimension to his rivalry with Detective Harvey Bullock. I’ve been critical of the show at times for how Batman is able to seemingly solve every crime that comes his way by virtue of his amazing super computer he has in the Bat Cave. For “Vendetta,” writer Michael Reaves made Batman less reliant on that trope in favor of more traditional sleuthing skills, but when it came time to give Batman a clue to help him solve this little crime, the show still resorted to some flimsy story-telling.

“Vendetta” opens with a police boat at sea escorting a rather nervous prisoner by the name of Spider Conway (Aron Kincaid, who is also voicing our debuting villain, Killer Croc). Conway apparently has some dirt on Rupert Thorne, or so that is the thought, and in exchange for a statement he’s getting a reduced sentence. He’s pretty jumpy though and seems to expect an attempt on his life to come before he can safely reach Gotham PD. Commissioner Gordon is onshore watching when he sees his guards on the boat start abandoning ship as a result of a discovered bomb. We get to see a shadowy object place that bomb on the side of the boat before entering and abducting a pretty terrified looking Conway. Batman is also there to witness the boat explode. Conway is no where to be found, and the police get settled in for a long night of dragging the bay in the pouring rain. Meanwhile, Batman finds a lone toothpick on the dock where the boat had cast off.

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In this episode, Batman goes toe to toe with Killer Croc.

At Gotham PD, Gordon pulls Bullock off the case out of concern that Internal Affairs will be all over him. Apparently Bullock has a past relationship with Conway in which he was fingered for a crime, but later exonerated. Batman overhears this and decides he needs to investigate further and promptly breaks into Gotham PD and swipes Bullock’s personal record, just as Bullock was apparently about to do the same? Anyway, there’s enough there, coupled with the toothpick, to make Batman suspicious. A visit to the home of Thorne in which Batman comes away thinking he had nothing to do with it pushes him further down the path of suspecting Bullock. He voices his concerns to Gordon, who insists Bullock is a good cop. Things only get messier when an individual impersonating Bullock assaults a cop and abducts another prisoner by the name of Joey, another criminal who was about to sing to the cops.

Back at the wreckage, Batman finds an object that appears to be a scale. He takes it back to his lab to analyze it and finds that despite its appearance it actually came from a human. Alfred steps in to bring him his dinner, pointing out he’s serving it in a crock, which serves as Batman’s eureka moment. We then see him as Bruce Wayne at a zoo exhibit for crocodiles explaining their natural habitat that causes him to walk away smiling and announcing, “Of course!” This whole sequence is beyond stupid, even for a kid’s show. As we are about to find out, Batman has no prior knowledge of Killer Croc, so it wasn’t as if Alfred’s mentioning of the word “crock” brought that criminal to mind, Batman just literally decided that this must be the work of some kind of half-human half-crocodile individual. And Batman is also pretty damn smart, and has that crazy computer, so we’re supposed to believe he needed to head to the zoo to find out the most basic information on crocodiles?

Vendetta

There’s a couple of good fight scenes between Batman and Croc. These underwater scenes are always a bit intense.

Anyways, Batman goes searching underwater and find’s the cave of Killer Croc. The men he’s abducted are there and Batman and he have a brief exchange. Killer Croc does the villain thing of introducing himself and letting Batman know he has the strength of a crocodile. I know Croc is going to be portrayed as something much less than Batman’s equal when it comes to intellect, but this is pretty corny by any standard. Croc escapes, but Batman at least knows who is trying to frame Bullock. Apparently, Bullock had busted him previously with the help of testimony from Jones and Conway. Croc had since escaped from jail, and apparently no one thought to make this connection until now. Croc is simply out for a little revenge against the man who put him away. We’re heading for a showdown, and when Croc reveals himself to Bullock as the man behind all of this Batman is ready and waiting. They take to the sewers where we actually are treated to a fairly impressive confrontation. Batman and Croc beat the snot out of each other, but it’s hardly in question who will emerge victorious.

As a last bit of tension, we get Bullock pulling a gun on Batman as he emerges from the sewer. They speak not a word as Batman hauls an unconscious Croc behind him up and out of the sewer. Bullock questions why Batman went through all of the trouble to help him clear his name, and Batman responds with some mushy stuff about how he respects the detective and Bullock wants none of it and tells him to take off. He does admire Batman’s work once he leaves though.

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Once Batman blows up Croc’s plan he just heads straight for Bullock.

“Vendetta” is a fine introduction for Killer Croc, a C-list villain who is at least a bit scary and intimidating to look at. This little plan of his is more elaborate than anything else we’ll see from him as Croc will be portrayed as kind of dim in subsequent appearances. As a visual though, I do like this take on Killer Croc. More recent ones are pretty outlandish, but at least here he’s sort of believable as a big guy with a bad skin condition and an ugly mug. Some liberties are taken with the shape of his jaw, but it adds character and a little style which is appreciated. The show gives away too much information for us to ever doubt Bullock’s innocence, which feels like a missed opportunity. As a result, what should be a tense situation at the end when Bullock and Batman are face to face has little dramatic flair. The other missteps are less forgivable making this perhaps the most clumsy episode we’ve looked at yet. The atmospheric setting which includes a pervasive rain and the Batman/Croc confrontation rescue it from being a poor episode, but this is definitely not a shining moment for Batman:  The Animated Series.

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Batman: The Animated Series – “P.O.V.”

POV-Title_CardEpisode Number:  7

Original Air Date:  September 18, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Mitch Brian

First Appearances(s):  Officer Wilkes, Lieutenant Hackle

Batman:  The Animated Series is largely a “villain of the week” kind of show, or in this case villain of the day since it aired six days a week. Sometimes though it will change-up the format and do something a bit different and this week’s episode, “P.O.V.,” is one such episode.

The episode is basically broken up into two acts. The first act involves a botched sting on some drug dealers at a Gotham warehouse that results in an internal investigation of three of Gotham’s finest:  Detective Bullock, Officer Montoya, and rookie officer Wilkes. Each officer gets to recount what happened to investigating officer Lieutenant Hackle (John Considine) with Commissioner Gordon overseeing everything, but largely letting Hackle conduct the investigation as he sees fit. Gordon outranks him, so it makes me think either he gives Hackle a lot of authority and doesn’t want to question his methods in front of the other officers, or Hackle is part of Internal Affairs and Gordon has no authority over him. Anyway, the second act will resolve the first act as Montoya goes off on her own to right the wrongs of the botched sting.

pov

The scene of the interrogation.

This episode is not our introduction to Renee Montoya (Ingrid Oliu) as she was seen in the previous episode “The Underdwellers,” but it’s basically her debut as she actually gets to actually do something and affect the plot. Montoya is unique in that she was created for this show, but someone at DC apparently liked the character enough to add her to the comics where she ended up debuting before the air date of her first episode. She is one of the noteworthy creations of this show, and if not for Harley Quinn (still to come!), she would probably be the most important addition to the Batman comic-verse to come from it.

POV_01_-_Wilkes_and_Montoya

Wilkes on the left, and Montoya in the background, as they race to make it to the sting on time.

The episode opens with Montoya and Wilkes (Robbie Benson) racing to a sting operation where they are to meet up with Bullock. When they arrive they find him nearly unconscious outside a burning building. Bullock claims they’re late, which they vehemently deny and chastise him for going rogue. The two officers race off to salvage what they can, while Bullock sees Batman on the roof and passes out. This takes us to police headquarters where the three officers are now seated and being questioned by Hackle. He’s clearly playing the role of bad cop, and he invites Bullock to recount his version of the events. Bullock shares his story, and while doing so we the viewer get to view what happened with Bullock narrating over the scenes. This means we get to see when he lies, and when he does not. Bullock doesn’t necessarily change the events of the story, but he embellishes a lot. He does falsely attribute the appearance of Batman as his motivation for going in without backup, but otherwise he basically just lies to cover-up his own futility (he says he doesn’t know what tipped off the bad guys to his presence, when it was his tripping that did it. He also claims he rescued Batman from the flames, when naturally it was the opposite) and sticks to his guns that the other two were late.

Wilkes is allowed to go second, and his story is mostly about his encounter with Batman. Like a rookie would, his story reflects the awe he was overcome with at the sight of the Batman in action. He mistakes Batman’s various gadgets for actual super powers, but he does pick up some useful info about a “doc” when Batman apprehends one of the goons. Montoya’s story is also largely about her encounter with Batman, who saves her from a collapsing ceiling, which may have resulted in the death of Batman.

Hackle is dissatisfied with the stories from the officers, and promptly suspends him. The sting resulted in the loss of 2 million dollars that the police had used as a plant and only succeeded in catching one of the gang members. While on her way home, Montoya guesses the one gang member they captured wasn’t talking about a doctor, but a dock in Gotham Harbor. She decides to go off and check it out alone, without her sidearm and badge, and finds Batman captured by the same gang. It’s quickly revealed that Batman was just waiting to score some info from the goons in charge of watching over him before he frees himself from the binds they’ve placed him in and starts taking them out. Montoya helps him out, and the two are able to incapacitate everyone after a fairly lengthy exchange and even nab the drug lord boss, who’s never really shown up close leading me to assume they just wanted the viewer to wonder if it would be a more popular character from Batman’s rogue’s gallery.

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Batman and Montoya taking cover from mostly inept gunfire.

The setup for this episode is fun and rewarding. It may have been inspired by the 1950 film Rashomon which used the same point of view gimmick to tell a story. I really enjoyed how we’re shown the actual events in the Bullock version, while hearing his version as a narration. It adds some fun and it helps to keep the viewer in a state of distrust concerning the Bullock character, which will pay off down the road. This gimmick of sorts also means that the episode doesn’t need a Joker to make it feel important. The only real criticism I have of the episode is that the enemies Batman and Montoya deal with are the first really bad shots we’ll see in this series. One guy manages to shoot around both Batman and Montoya without actually hitting them. It’s comically bad.

Visually this episode is a real joy to behold. It’s nice and dark, like so many episodes of this series, and the visual effects on the fire look great. The characters are well animated and everything is in time with the visuals on screen. Batman really looks like a machine in taking out the gang member in Wilkes’ version of events and it’s believable the same gang member would be terrified into talking with Batman.

Montoya will be a consistent presence in the show going forward, while Wilkes will have a small role. Interestingly, the credits include a character named Scarface, but he’s not THE Scarface who will show up later, just a placeholder name for one of the gang members who happens to have a scar on his face. There are no villains in this episode who will resurface in a meaningful capacity, which is fine as this was a story meant to give some personality to the sometimes nameless Gotham PD and it succeeds quite well in doing so. It gives Batman another ally in the police department in Montoya, who proves she’s a worthy and heroic cop. And in Bullock we have to take a wait and see attitude to know just how far he’ll go to get rid of Batman.