DCAU #308: Splicers

IN THIS ONE... A new genetic fad hits the streets, as does a gang of animalistic crooks.

CREDITS:
Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer; directed by Curt Geda.

REVIEW: Batman Beyond's return with a second season is mildly disappointing. The action feels clunky, except in the climax (the quick snake attack, villains jumping toward camera, Akira-type transformations), and it really does feel like they remade The Winning Edge, what with its dangerous teen fad (splicing instead of slappers) and the way that fad is used to make the villain overdose and "blow up" at the end. It's too similar, though in this case, it's not really a PSA about the dangers of getting tattoos (the equivalent?), since Terry's mom has one and it's socially acceptable. Well, they do call it a relic of her youth and people really don't seem to have tats in this future. That's one way they got the future wrong ;-).

I do think they could do more with transhuman issues - it feels futuristic - but school chum Chelsey likely goes back to her normal-looking eyes in the next episode, especially after the procedure is found to increase aggressive behavior. And it's so easy to undo anyway. One shot to turn you into a mutant animal hybrid, another to change you back. Cue annoying sight of Batman (any Batman) with a gun. A real animal they bring into it is Ace the Bat-Hound, but for some reason, he and Terry never liked each other?! Where is this from? Feels like unnecessary manufactured conflict just so they can become friends after they each save the other's life. I like a good heroic dog story as much as the next guy, but Ace vs. a giant super-strong monster doesn't really make sense either.

And who else was annoyed by the way they pronounced "Chimera" in this? It's Kay-ME-rah, not Shimmera! Come on now!

So what DO I like? Well, Terry's a pretty cool-looking Man-Bat Beyond, shame it's not used more. Throwing down the bull-man by the nose ring is a slick move. I like the way the fad's popularity is manifested by kid brother Matt, who dresses up as an animal man, asking to be spliced. Always glad to see Barbara Gordon in an episode. Cute joke about body modification as celebration of individuality as well, the kid on TV wanting to be individualistic like all his friends. It's just not enough to balance out the bad.

IN THE COMICS: Chimera is an original creation, but several DC characters have used that name, including a one-off Batman villain in the early 80s, Nightshade undercover with the Jihad, one of the forgettable New Bloods, and an agent of Checkmate. Some of his gang of splicers have names pulled from elsewhere in the DCU, including King Cobra (in the comics, a Robin foe) and Tigress (various supervillains), though Ramrod's is not. Terry's sly reference to Wonder Dog when talking to Ace is apparently a tribute to Ace the Wonder Dog, a 30s-40s canine movie star, but DC has its own Wonder Dogs, including Rex, who had his own series in the 50s, and the Super Friends mascot who was a package deal with Wendy and Marvin. The latter must be the real reference here because Frank Welker voiced that dog AND Ace.

SOUNDS LIKE:
Dr. Cuvier is played by Ian Buchanan, who is mostly known for soaps, but will turn up in the DCAU as another animalistic villain, the Ultra-Humanite. Famous rap star Ice-T plays Ramrod. Cree Summer (A Different World, the animated Inspector Gadget) plays two roles here, those of Tigress and Maxine "Max" Gibson (who is about to become a recurring character). Mark Jonathan Davis, the virtual news anchor is, I've just learned, filthy lounge act Richard Cheese (a personal favorite!).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low
- Splicers has some redeeming qualities, but too few to elevate this disappointing season opener.

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