I was on the road this week and was super-pumped when I received notice from Amazon.com that they had shipped my latest order: the entire first season* of Batman Beyond, the neo-futuristic rebirth of the Batman: The Animated Series (BtAS) television show. I had already seen most of the series' episodes, but this would be a great addition to my collection, or so I thought. As soon as I got home - actually the next day, because it is hard to watch anything after a 5 1/2 hour drive back from Evansville, IN - I opened the delivery box, only to be temporarily disappointed. The DVD was not packaged as the BtAS DVDs were, in a cool slide-out case that unfolded to show lists of all of the episodes in a really novel fashion. Yes, the case did slide out, with extensive effort, and also had a list of all of the episodes included, but failed to impress me. The only thing so far that impressed me was that they saved money and space by overlaying the two discs in a MasterCard logo-esque fashion (and I had never seen this before). That, and I was impressed that they managed to distribute this set of 13 episodes, complete with the 5 episodes contained on the much earlier DVD release of Batman Beyond: The Movie, which started everything.
To sum up so far, they provided me with a mediocre packaging of only 8 net new episodes, plus a couple of "bonus" special features, which now are considered the norm on any decent DVD, and especially on any DVD set.
Now, I was hoping that things would change when I popped in the discs and watched the episodes; as you can imagine, I was let down a second time. Perhaps time makes fools of us all, but I could have sworn that the episodes were more compelling. Comparing them side-by-side with BtAS, however, they don't hold a candle. There is definitely a lot of cool action, but the villains are not as multi-dimensional as BtAS and the stories are not as engrossing. With the exception of the first two episodes (the pilot "movie") and Dead Man's Hand**, the Batman Beyond episodes are trite and about as absorbing as a soggy mop. The BtAS episodes, at least the earlier ones, on the other hand, watch like short movies, replete with touching storylines and convincing characters. In BtAS, you can actually empathize with many of the villains and the plots, though often plot-driven, have enough character development to make up for it.
In closing, this set is a decent addition to any animator's collection, but if you already own Batman Beyond: The Movie, you may want to hold off for the next season, or possibly a larger, merged collection (like they did with BtAS).
* 13 episodes, Bill ;-)** This episode mirrors Bruce Wayne's awkward love triangle with Selena Kyle, in which Catwoman loved Batman, Selena Kyle had no fondness for Bruce Wayne, and Batman/Bruce Wayne had an impossible lust for Catwoman. Only this time, it's Terry McGinnis/Batman and Ten/Melanie Walker. The best line is at the end of the episode, as Wayne consoles McGuinness with, "Let me tell you about Selena Kyle."