The future of the Warner Bros./DC Comics live-action cinematic universe that will follow “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” might still be a mystery, but when it comes to animated features, DC Comics continues to deliver in the present.
With the recent releases “Justice League: War” and “Batman and Son,” DC has shown fans that they can expect faithful animated adaptations (each with some new plot twists) of some of DC’s most popular graphic novels — while also taking advantage of PG-13 ratings and delivering slightly more mature content than seen within the pages of DC Comics. That is especially evident than with this week’s release of “Batman: Assault on Arkham,” which is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally.
With the popularity of the Batman/Arkham video-game series, it was only a matter of time before an animated version of that particular Batman universe was made. This Bat-adventure is unique in that it’s not really a Batman story. Sure, there’s Arkham Asylum, the Joker and Harley Quinn, various other Bat-villains and a Gotham setting, but don’t let the title fool you. This is a Suicide Squad story.
The Riddler has gotten on Amanda Waller’s bad side (though I’m not so sure there is a good side), but Batman has issues with him as well, and after a confrontation, the Riddler is shipped to Arkham Asylum.
But Waller (the classic DC Comics version, not the New 52 version or the one you may be familiar with on “Arrow”) still has a score to settle with Edward Nigma. Waller puts together a Suicide Squad roster of DC baddies to break into Arkham and take down the Riddler (why exactly she wants this, we won’t reveal), and that’s where things really take off.
Although Batman does play a part, prepare for more emphasis being put on the Suicide Squad. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re familiar with the various DC versions of the Suicide Squad, this is an enjoyable anti-hero tale (more bad guy than good guy) about a crew of misfits who would rather kill each other than work together, but who are forced by the hand of Waller (who has persuasive means) to team-up.
“Batman: Assault on Arkham” is another step in the right direction as DC continues to adapt stories for animation. Here are Five Things That Comic Riffs took away from “Batman: AOA.”
1. The definitive voice of Batman is here.
We’ve established that this flick is more Squad than Bat. Given that, we’d understand if DC decided to not bring in the No. 1 Bat-voice, Kevin Conroy, when it comes to the Dark Knight’s animated adventures — especially considering that “Justice League: War,” and “Batman and Son” didn’t feature Conroy’s talents. But Conroy is the voice of Batman in the Arkham video games, so it only made sense to ask him to return for “Assault on Arkham.” You can debate the big-screen live-action Bat-voices of Michael Keaton, Christian Bale and (soon) Ben Affleck. But when Conroy is dropping an octave or two, it’s a treat.
2. The Squad
This version of the Suicide Squad includes Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang, King Shark and Black Spider. Deadshot, whether he likes it or not, is the leader of this band of renegades. Despite being a bad guy with a lot of ammunition, he’s given as much of a heart as you can give a guy named Deadshot when the film shows that the only thing he cares about is getting back to his young daughter. The rest of the crew? No soft spots for anyone.
Expect lots of bickering and attempts at betrayal — and there’s no guarantee that everyone on the team is making it out of the Arkham mission alive.
3. Harley Quinn and the Joker
You can’t have Harley Quinn on a roster of rogues, have her on a mission that involves Arkham, and not include the Joker. The two may go together like peanut butter and pickles, but you can never take your eyes off them when they’re together. In “Assault on Arkham,” the two are on the splits. The Joker is in custody at Arkham, and the rest of the Suicide Squad want to make sure that Harley isn’t going to wreck the mission because of possible old feelings. Harley makes it clear that she’s done with the Joker, going so far as to throw her affections at Deadshot (literally, and this is where the PG-13 rating really gets pushed to its limit). We all know the two will cross paths and sparks will fly, but those sparks will probably be the result of something blowing up.
Speaking of the Joker, his presence is what brings Batman into play. The Clown Prince of Crime has a dirty bomb that can blow up half of Gotham somewhere in the city, and only he knows where it is. Batman wants that info, and if he’ll go through the Suicide Squad to get it.
Troy Baker and Hynden Walch provide the voices of the Joker and Harley Quinn and give stellar performances. Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin (from Batman the Animated Series) are a tough duo to follow, but they do it well.
4. A Bat-gallery of baddies
The Suicide Squad might take center-stage, but there are still plenty of Bat-baddies, given that the story is set at Arkham. Expect brief but enjoyable appearances from Bane, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and the Penguin (who isn’t locked up, but rather guides the Suicide Squad to Gotham).
5. Not for kids
Don’t let the fact that this movie is animated fool you. This movie is not for children. The PG-13 rating should be taken seriously. It’s a hard PG-13, going a lot further than the past few PG-13 releases from WB/DC. There’s violence, bad language, sex and lots of bullets; you don’t want your kids anywhere near this. WB/DC is using these PG-13 ratings to kick up their comic-book adventures a notch. It provides for a great animated experience, but one that is more geared toward mature fans.