CREDITS: Written by Mark Saraceni (writer on Taz-Mania, and co-developer of 2 Stupid Dogs) and Steve Perry; directed by Boyd Kirkland.
REVIEW: The third manimal story in four episodes (as the production flies), and the best by far. The return of Man-Bat is really the introduction of "She-Bat", the creature Francine Langstrom becomes, and the mystery of her identity is fairly well played. Non-comics readers have no reason to think Man-Bat is anyone but Kirk, and Batman certainly sells it with his righteous anger. Her absence in any given scene is always logical anyway and the fact she doesn't remember her spells as a bat means she's just as eager to find out the truth. Though the situation is destroying their marriage, this is still a love story, and they will save each other where Batman fails to back and forth in the story. And it's about family too, with Dr. March sullenly destroying his research when he realizes he turned his daughter into a monster.
And it all looks freaking gorgeous! Beautiful body language and attention to detail, lots of wind blowing and interacting with the characters, and a snowy landscape that really outdoes everything we've seen to date on winter episodes. The level of action is high, and the Batcycle chase is of particular note (and the helmet is pretty cool), though Batman's rescue of the plane is a confused let down. Aside from the one rushed sequence, the animation really does elevate the material.
As for the refinements made to the Man-Bat formula, I do like the echolocation POV. Put me in mind of Doctor Who more than anything, but there are examples of "stalking POV" shots in other films and TV shows as well. Just showing my particular bias. It's kind of shame neither Man-Bat returns to the series aside from the odd cameo, though I have to admit, their story is pretty much played out. But Terror in the Sky shows how exciting they can be.
IN THE COMICS: This episode is loosely based on Detective Comics #429 (1972), "Man-Bat over Vegas" by Frank Robbins, where Francine indeed did become a new Man-Bat, but she'd been a werebat before. In an earlier appearance, Kirk had made his wife take the serum and Batman cured the both of them. On a trip to Nevada, he pricked her finger on a vampire bat fang and it reactivated the serum in her, this time turning her into a "vampire Man-Bat", which she only became on a full moon.
SOUNDS LIKE: Rene Auberjonois, Meredith MacRae and Marc Singer all return as the Langstrom-March family.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Not perfect, but it looks great and has a strong romantic core that I feel I need to reward.