Animation had always been DC’s strength. With series like Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, and features like Under the Red Hood, DC was the undisputed heavyweight champion of animated superhero flicks. Then, the company rebooted with The Flashpoint Paradox in 2013, in an effort to jump on the “shared universe” bandwagon. Suffice it to say, the post-Flashpoint films have not lived up to their predecessors. However, the latest installment, Batman: Bad Blood, is a definite step in the right direction.
Bad Blood is a direct sequel to 2015’s Batman vs. Robin, also written by J. M. DeMatteis and directed by Jay Oliva. It seems that DC is looking to invest equal time, if not more, in establishing a Batman animated universe in addition to the Justice League one. That’s not a bad thing; there’s a reason the Caped Crusader is as popular as he is. But, after three solo films, one hopes that the company will look into another member of the team (a Wonder Woman animated feature would be a great lead-in to the live-action one in 2017).
The story here is relatively thin; the villainous plot is generic. It borrows heavily from Grant Morrison’s run in the comics, though only in broad strokes (fortunately). In a nutshell, Batman has vanished, and the Bat Family has to step up in his absence. It seems elementary. Nevertheless, the film goes deep with its theme: family. It develops the relationships that Bruce has with his young allies, and develops their relationships with one another. Nightwing’s view of Batman is dissected, and animated Dick Grayson finally gains the depth that is so beloved in the comics. The “family” theme has made for some of the best Batman stories of all time, so it was a smart choice by DC to focus on it in their latest animated endeavor.
The art is the same as the rest of the series. The characters are ridiculously thick and bulky, and their lips hardly match their dialogue. Luckily, after five films, it’s becoming normalized. That’s not to say that it’s improving, or aging well. It’s just not as jarring as it used to be. It’s become more of a minor annoyance than a major issue.
This is not an outstanding film. DC still hasn’t gotten back to the glory days of Under the Red Hood, and their recent Justice League Action announcement is cringeworthy for fans of the old series. Bad Blood is a general improvement, though. Perhaps it has to do with involving an actual comic-book writer, but the story is actually worth listening to, even if the animation isn’t worth watching.
Batman: Bad Blood is available now on Digital Download; the DVD/Blu-Ray releases February 2, 2016.