DCAU #54: Fire From Olympus

IN THIS ONE... Batman crosses lightning bolts with the delusional Maxie Zeus.

CREDITS: Written by Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: I thought for sure this would have been a bog standard episode - after all, Maxie Zeus has never been a major Batman villain, and he's practically a caricature here (why am I reminded of Brave and the Bold's Aquaman?) - but the quality of the animation and the sweeping sword&sandals musical score really take thing up a notch. And it's not just that. The script has a lot of nice touches as well, where even the usual "Batman must get out of various thematic traps/challenges" trope still manages to be fun and interesting. It's kind of a shame that Maxie Zeus' were animated with gusto (the boar fight, the harpy strafing run, etc.), while the Riddler's similarly Grecian maze stuff was so much more tedious. Ah well.

While the Maxie Zeus from the comics is clearly Arkham Asylum material, there's something more sympathetic about this version. He's completely loony-tunes, for one this, imagining his penthouse as Olympus and transforming Batman into Hades just from the dramatic entrance from below. If he didn't also strap his girlfriend on the tip of a giant lightning cannon, I'd even call his delusion mostly harmless. Thinking himself a god, he freely incriminates himself. And so he must be relegated to Arkham, where he imagines each of the other inmates as Greco-Roman gods, making for some fun cameos - Ivy as Demeter, Two-Face as Janus (perfect, so we'll allow the Romanism), and Joker as Hermes' trickster aspect. Nice.

But while the villain's plight is well thought-out, it really IS the way it looks and sounds that makes this episode. Beautiful lighting cues (if there's a place where your delusions could turn you into a thunder god, it's stormy Gotham), like Maxie's first appearance in silhouette. Powerful explosions (the return of the police blimp would be short-lived). Fluid body movement (Batman falling down a vent is very well done). And detailed character moments too, like the Joker sticking his face on the window pane. Never a dull moment even if the villain is a B-lister.

IN THE COMICS: Created by Denny O'Neil and Don Newton, Maxie Zeus first appeared in Detective Comics #483 (1979). The main difference between him and his cartoon persona is that he was never that buff. That Maxie Zeus taught Antiquities and went mad when his wife was killed. He was a crime lord, rather than simply having ties to the underworld. Though he sometimes used electrical power, it was never played up as much as it is in the episode.

SOUNDS LIKE: Maxie Zeus is voiced by Steve Susskind, whose best gig was probably J.J. Eureka Vatos' voice on The Tick. Kojak's son Nicholas Savalas plays Yanno Stavros and the henchman Alex. And Clio is Bess Armstrong, who would soon be Patty Chase in My So-Called Life.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Great music and visuals help make Maxie Zeus' lone episode a little bit more special than it ought to be.


American Hawkman said...

Honestly, this was my introduction to Maxie Zeus, and I can't help but like the character after this... pity he's almost never been this awesome in the comics.


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