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TV for Nerds: Brave & the Bold Ep. 20

“Hail the Tornado Tyrant!”

Reader/Commentator/Pal Ian A. has goaded me into writing reviews for the Batman: Brave & the Bold animated series (Cartoon Network, Friday nights, 8:30 Eastern!), and so I am compelled to comply. It is, after all, the most fun show on television right now. Sure, you’ve got the usual contingent of fanmen who complain that it’s far too light-hearted, and should clearly be ferociously dark like the Dini/Timm series apparently was. I say fooey to those people. B&B is brilliant.

Now, watch as I shamelessly rip off the A.V. Club‘s TV Club.

“Hail the Tornado Tyrant!”

Written by: J.M. DeMatteis (No foolin’!)

What Happened: The catchy two-minutes-and-done opener once again features the willy-measurin’ competition between Batman and Green Arrow to be the coolest superhero on the block. I particularly enjoy this show’s willingness to mix together fun bits from every era of Batman continuity, but its main inspiration lies in a combination of the 50s Dick Sprang era and the 70s/80s Haney-and-Aparo Brave and the Bold run from which the show takes its name. This atmosphere delivers a straight-to-the-pointiness that works in Batman’s favor. We get a car chase with the Rat-Pack-esque Joker that naturally ends in the villain’s capture, and then Batman and Green Arrow are immediately off to capture Catwoman, each hero using their respective automobile’s hidden ability to transform into a jet to chase after her. Simple but classic.

The main plot of the episode, however, involves Red Tornado. I am not a Red Tornado fan– as far as sympathetic super-androids go, I’m a Vision guy. Also, the fact that he’s voiced by Corey Burton makes me assume that he will reveal himself as Brainiac at any second, but I digress. Batman swings by Tornado’s lab to see what’s happenin’, and Tornado reveals that he’s built himself a son, programmed him to have emotions, and named him Tornado Champion. Kid Tornado’s appearance invokes the red-and-purple Silver Age attire of big Red. It’s not too long before the trio are summoned to deal with a rampage by none other than Major Disaster.

In the ensuing battle, Batman’s Bat-Gyro goes kablooey and Tornado Champion gets struck by a lightning bolt courtesy of the major. This kickstarts his emotional circuits or whatnot, but puts them in overdrive, as we’ll soon find out. He develops a distaste for humanity, as they hate and fear him as “some robot” despite his human feelings, and he decides to take it out on Major Disaster, and then– the world! Batman puts him down, but Champion later rebuilds himself as the bigger, fiercer Tornado Tyrant. These silly names are apparently all references to Red Tornado’s ludicrously complicated comics backstory, according to Wikipedia.

Tornado Tyrant’s plan is to flood Coast City with a massive tidal wave, wiping out those despicable humans. Again, it’s up to Batman and Red Tornado to stop him with some scrambler doohickey and good old-fashioned fisticuffs. The Tyrant’s view on humanity is that they’re weak and foolish and must be destroyed, but Red Tornado instructs him as to the hoping, dreaming nature of humanity, their wonderful gooey center, and then makes his robo-son go kaboom. Batman believes that Red Tornado’s shown he’s got more humanity in him than he thinks, but Tornado shoos him away to mourn in silence– as only an “emotionless machine” can– with robo-tears!

The Moral of the Story: Never build your own sidekick. Human nature is more complicated than it looks. Even an android can cry.

Verdict: Eh, s’alright.

Comments:

– Man, these Red Tornado episodes are real downers. First we get the Christmas episode with the world’s most traumatizing Batman origin ever, and now we have the ol’ robot hero building himself a family and being forced to destroy it. Dag, yo.

– “Uncle Batman.” Aww, that’s cute.

– I was waiting for an “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!” line. No dice.

– Well, of course the Jokermobile shoots death popcorn.

– DeMatteis is a good fit for Red Tornado; when he’s not bwa-ha-ha-ing it up, his stories veer towards examinations of identity and the spirit.

– It’s not my favorite episode, but they can’t all be the best episode ever, can they?

What did you think?

12 Comments

Reader/Commentator/Pal Ian A. has goaded me into writing reviews for the Batman: Brave & the Bold animated series (Cartoon Network, Friday nights, 8:30 Eastern!), and so I am compelled to comply.

Heheh! I honestly didn’t think you’d do it. A tip of the hat to you, sir.

I haven’t watched the ep yet (it’s next in line on the DVR), but Red Tornado going all Geppetto sounds pretty promising, even if, as you mentioned, the Tornado-centric episodes are always downers. Nothing brings the sadness like machines trying to become people, I guess.

More thoughts once I actually watch the ep.

I love the Brave and Bold, have only seen a couple of episodes, but it is what a comic book cartoon is supposed to be.

I haven’t seen the episode yet, but from what I’ve seen of the trailers I was expecting it to be one of the weaker episodes (although it looks like it had a stronger cold open; weirdly the episodes I don’t like tend to have better cold opens than the episodes I do like on average.)

The show’s standard formula is “Hero X has a flaw and teaming up with Batman helps Hero X overcome that flaw” and unfortunately for the show, Red Tornado can’t actually overcome his standard flaw of being less human than he likes. If he returns, Red Tornado really ought to be paired up with a third character where he can mostly be himself and we can explore the other hero’s problems in his interactions with Red Tornado(a la the Batman/Ryan Choi/Aquaman episode, where Ryan Choi’s brain is played off of Aquaman’s brawn).

Any word on how long the season is or a DVD release? I catch eps when I can, either on CN or the net, but this show definitely needs to be in my library…

I don’t think I’d ever describe the Dini/Timm series as “ferociously dark.” Sure, it had a muted color palette and took itself more seriously than the average action cartoon, but good generally triumphed over evil, and it could portray a whole range of moods.

Now, the Spawn cartoon, *that* was “ferociously dark.”

You thought the first Red Tornado episode was a downer? I thought it was uplifting, if for only three words:

Evil. Robot. Santas.

If talking gorillas riding dinosaurs to steal yachts didn’t already make me love this show, that certainly would’ve done the trick.

@s1rude: The first season is 26 episodes, so a full season release is still a ways off. I do think they’re planning for a 4-episode single disc soon.

@Jeremy
Don’t forget the whole “tingling sensation” part. I don’t know why but I loved that.

@Bill
You really need to review the previous episode. Dini does Batmite with a healthy dose of geek reffies.I can’t believe they worked “The Great Piggy Bank” robbery in there.

I watched the episode thinking “Didn’t Data already do this?” ST:TNG

Does anyone else think that it was at least partly Batman’s fault that Champion went bad?

Through it, Batman acts paranoid over Tornado’s creation, even when there was no indication he’d go out of control. Champion only went nuts on Major Disaster because he thought he had killed his “father”. And what does Batman do while Tornado is trying to talk him down? Hit him with a batarang to chest, not only ruining the conversation but likely making the kid hate humans even more.

The final straw comes when Batman insists that Tornado shut down his son, despite him begging not to. (Sure, it doesn’t work anyway because the robot had already removed the failsafe device, but the heroes don’t know that- in fact, it proves that what Champion really wanted was to know if his father would go that far.)

Why couldn’t Champion simply have had his powers removed, then left under Red’s care to rehabilitate? If he’d been a human, he WOULD have been given a chance, but nooo, sentient machines are too dangerous, right Bats? Oh, wait, RED TORNADO IS A ROBOT TOO! Why do you care when HE gets destroyed, hmm?

Yeah, I know, the whole thing was a set-up for the father-versus-prodigal-son battle. I just don’t feel the way it happened was fair, and Batman came across as more of a dick than usual (for this show.)

In general, I find TB&TB’s writing to be inconsistent- some episodes are pretty good, others feel weak. It needs better quality control.

Speaking of Data, I think I’d prefer it if Brent Spiner voiced Red Tornado. For as much range as Corey Burton has, his Tornado is, really, the same as his Braniac, and that’s unnerving. Obviously, voicing dispassionate, robotic characters is a challenge, but couldn’t he mix it up at least a little?

Also, aesthetically speaking, I’m not a fan of how high Red Tornado’s mouth sits on his face. He looks like he’s trying to suck off his arrow-eyebrows when he’s talking or something. And, there’s no good, practical reason for him having such a huge chin as a result.

The coloring on Tornado Champion during the fire rescue scene was terrific, however. The high contrast there, splashing his face in shadow, was a clever bit of foreshadowing.

Otherwise, yeah, a pretty typical “Android Who Wants Emotions” ep. That subset of sci-fi is pretty played out by now, but I guess it’s still new for younger viewers.

The teaser was fun, though. I like that they’re only offering small samples of Batman’s rogues gallery to keep the focus on fresh(er) interactions. There are so many viable villains in the DCU that there’s really no need to see Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, et al., show up all that often. On the other hand, Flash’s Rogues Gallery (capitalized) definitely needs more screen time. What I wouldn’t give for a Captain Cold ep.

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 6, 2009 at 1:59 pm

“Death Popcorn”?

Master of Run Fu

June 7, 2009 at 2:26 pm

“Nothing brings the sadness like machines trying to become people, I guess.”

It’s really only sad when they are unsuccessful.

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