DCAU #16: See No Evil

IN THIS ONE... Batman fights an invisible man.

CREDITS: Written by Martin Pasko (the first established comic book writer to pen an episode, whose credits includes lots of Bronze Age Superman, Blackhawk's 1989 series, and several Dr. Fate and Plastic Man stories); directed by Dan Riba (the DCAU's longest-serving director, his other work includes Ben 10 and Mario Bros.).

REVIEW: BTAS does H.G. Wells' Invisible Man (including a reference to the invisibility serum's - here suit's - deleterious effects, which really should have figured more), and manages to play up both the humor and the sheer oddness of the concept. In the first act, people look at Batman funny when he threatens the empty air, and there's a fun joke about a security guard who really, really needs to pee but can't because an invisible man, or Batman, have locked the door. In the last act, things go from comical to surreal, with Batman fighting a floating head, being run down by an invisible car, and hanging on to half a visible vehicle. A lot of neat visuals are gleaned from the concept, up to and including the invisible Ventrix turning a doll into his estranged daughter's imaginary friend (props to the script for allowing the mom to realize what's going on once she's told about the invisibility suit).

Ventrix is, like the best of Batman's villains to date, sympathetic in his cause. He's going about it the wrong way, but all he wants to do is see his daughter. At the same time, we can't fault his ex-wife, who still lives in a slum (ghettos encroach on picket fence residential areas in Gotham like wild nature does other places) and was evidently burned very badly by a relationship with a convicted criminal. So again we have a character who, like Batman, has lost his family, but took the wrong road. Batman also uses stealth, although I must say Ventrix isn't all that stealthy, traipsing into wet cement, and knocking people down instead of truly disappearing. Batman should probably be a lot better at blind-fighting too, with the amount of work he does in the shadows.

But that's just it. Despite See No Evil being a perfectly watchable one-off, with several interesting details, many of its elements are too lazy for a higher recommendation. Ventrix isn't a smart opponent and Batman's whole strategy at times seems to be to let himself be punched repeatedly. The abandoned drive-in could have been a very cool location to explore, but is hardly more than a painted backdrop. And the invisibility plastic's toxicity doesn't really have an impact. Good, just not great.

IN THE COMICS: First appearance of Lucius Fox who has served as Wayne Enterprises' C.E.O. since Batman #307 (1979). The comics version looks a bit more youthful and in shape, but they are essentially the same character. Ventrix does not appear in comics continuity.

SOUNDS LIKE: Lucius Fox is played by Brock Peters, who played Grampa Sisko on Deep Space Nine. Michael Gross from Family Ties plays Ventrix. Mrs. Ventrix is played by Jean Smart (Designing Women). And get this, little Kimmy Ventrix is played by Elisabeth Moss, of The West Wing and Mad Men fame!

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A good episode with good gags, but the action is kind of repetitive and lackluster at times.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't watched this in forever, but it occurs to me that an invisible car is an INCREDIBlY deadly idea for all parties -- driver, passengers, and other drivers.

Siskoid said...

The interior was visible to the driver (I guess not covered in the magic plastic), but it does play as very dangerous. This isn't one of those stories where Gotham's streets are deserted.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

"(props to the script for allowing the mom to realize what's going on once she's told about the invisibility suit)."
Agreed; that was a pleasant surprise.

This was an odd one- strangely forgettable *because* it was so out of place and unique compared to the rest (not sure how that works...)- well-done but strange. And the 'he can fly!' gag is possibly the funniest thing in this entire series.

LiamKav said...

Lucius Fox is true to his at-the-time comic counterpart... The "practical face" of Wayne Enterprises that explains the companies success despite the owner being a billionaire playboy who apparently doesn't care. Batman Begins (I believe) added the "genius inventor" part to his character, which has also influenced his appearence in the recent Arkham video games, where he clearly knowns Batman's identity. I can't remember what the New 52 has done with him, although I believe they've added a bit of the Batman Begins characterisation to him.

The animation on this episode is gorgeous. Batman's shadow constantly being the Bat symbol... Car lights reflecting off of people... The speed of the car chase. Excellent stuff all around.

Siskoid said...

The only thing I remember about Lucius Fox in the New52 is that his son became Batwing.

 

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