Home > B-plus, Batman Beyond, Episode Reviews > Batman Beyond – Episodes 50, 51: “The Call”

Batman Beyond – Episodes 50, 51: “The Call”

The Call

Story: Paul Dini, Alan Burnett
Teleplay: Rich Fogel, Hilary J. Bader
Directed by: Butch Lukic
Originally Aired November 11th / 18th, 2000
DVD: Batman Beyond, Season 3

Summary: When Superman suspects that a traitor exists within the Justice League Unlimited, he is forced to turn to the new Batman for assistance. However, Batman’s mentor, Bruce Wayne, hasn’t survived for this long by trusting anyone without question… even Superman. Any seafood cravings you may have after this episode? Perfectly understandable.

Spotlight Characters: Batman II / Terry McGinnis, Superman

Debuting characters: Warhawk, Aquagirl, Barda, Micron, Green Lantern Kai-Ro

These guys you should know: Bruce Wayne, Starro

Background: After finding success with their animated adaptations of Batman and Superman, the DCAU team were called in front of Warner Brothers executive Jamie Kellner, who requested that they begin working on a new series starring a teenaged Batman.

And immediately all of us went [disgustedly] “Aww, man, that’s the last thing we want to do.|”” – Bruce Timm, Modern Masters, p. 63

Suffice it to say, the team changed their minds the more they thought about the project, and the resulting show, Batman Beyond,  made it to the screen as the newest DCAU show. Telling the tale of a Gotham City nearly fifty years after the events of the earlier shows, Beyond follows former teen criminal Terry McGinnis, who assumes the role of Batman in order to avenge his father’s death. Terry is assisted by former Batman Bruce Wayne, whose broken body may not be up to the task of being Batman anymore, but whose mind is, if anyting, even more adept than it was when he was hopping across rooftops. Tossed into a city where gangs idolise the Joker and gene splicing has produced a new breed of criminals, Terry learns on the job while clad in a new, high-tech Batsuit, aiding and annoying Commissioner Barbara Gordon, and all the while trying to make sure he survives both the daily grind of high school and the ire of his long-suffering girlfriend Dana.

Oh, and Bruce Wayne has a dog named Ace. If you’ve collapsed into laughter while reading that, you probably know enough that you don’t need to read any more of these background pieces.

Thoughts on the Episode:

“The Call” answers a trivia question – namely, what was the first usage of a Justice League in the DCAU. In this case, of course, it’s the Justice League Unlimited.

As Justice League hadn’t been confirmed as being in production at the time this show aired, for a lot of viewers this represented their introduction to the Justice League concept in animated form. And as an introduction, it’s a stronger episode than “Secret Origins” was. While it’s still structured around Batman (… both of them…) and Superman, by putting Terry in a position where he doesn’t trust the remaining league members it allows for a conflict beyond the saving-the-world action sequences. Additionally, Terry serves as the viewer’s point of view: he knows of the existence of these heroes, but his evaluations and reactions to them gives viewers more information than what “Secret Origins” provided for the contemporary team. While the point of view character is occasionally derided when it’s an insertion into an already established mythos (Hellboy being the example that springs to mind), by making it a character that the viewer had already been following for 49 episodes, it made the introductions smoother.

Coming as Batman Beyond did after Superman:TAS had just left the air following a season that frequently teamed Batman and Superman, when Bruce Wayne was shown to have survived well into the future, the obvious question of whether Superman had done the same was frequently asked. Their meeting in this episode is nicely understated; they’ve obviously kept in contact through the years, even though Terry may not necessarily be privy to those discussions. Bruce ultimately is out of the way for the entire second half of the episode, but the brief scene with Clark is probably more than enough to define what their relationship is like, given what we already know about both men. Bruce is slightly resentful of Clark’s relatively youthful experience, while Clark is his usual open and honest self (with no hints that his honesty may be a cover for something else). Superman is nicely underplayed in this episode – maybe age has slowed him somewhat, but for a character that would seemingly outgun even the upgraded Batman, there’s never a sense that he’s overwhelmingly powerful. Sure, Terry knows he needs drastic measures to deal with him, but he’s certainly not outclassed.

The other JLU heroes are clever designs balancing their classical origins and the futuristic setting. The nature of the Green Lanterns makes it easy allow a new GL to be both distinct from what the viewer knows yet need no exposition to establish his role – in this case, Kai-Ro is a contrast to Kyle and John, taking a very Zen approach to superheroing (and also using the ring more creatively than John). Considering the general “Asia has culturally overrun Gotham City” aesthetic of Batman Beyond, it’s an interesting approach to take for the JLU’s Lantern.

Aquagirl at first seems like the typical pretty girl for Terry to flirt with, but the way the episode closes calls her into importance. Unfortunately, she also seems to fit something we’ll call the Aquaman Problem: having a league member effective in only one environment calls into question the wisdom of having that member around permanently. Luckilly, this episode has three sequences involving water, but I think it’s a good thing that she wasn’t used on a regular basis.

Micron is an example of a popular bit of viewer tweaking – namely, a black hero who isn’t obviously so until something external reveals him. I’ll leave it to the more scholarly inclined to determine whether this is a good or bad thing, but personally I always like the effect, as it calls to mind the famous EC Comics story “Judgment Day.”

Warhawk is also a good design – a metallic Hawkman would be hard to screw up – but the character doesn’t get much play beyond “hyper-agressive flying hero.” Of course, a lot of his character traits make sense in retrospect, but that’s more of an example of a weird effect of writing one of the “last” stories before a lot of the intervening material is filled in.

Although Batman Beyond was a relatively new-viewer-friendly series (there’s only about five episodes that touch on the original Batman series and mythology beyond the occasional one-liner), “The Call” is steeped in the larger DCAU story. While this produces a couple of minor problems – Aquaman looks like he did during his Superman appearance when he’s shown on-screen, a look that was drastically changed – this is a neat little exercise in brain-bending. We know that the Justice League will eventually have a headquarters called the Watchtower in Metropolis… but when we first see the League in “Secret Origins”, the Watchtower’s in orbit. We know that Superman survives into the Beyond era… but where did these other characters come from? In a very real sense, for many years these episodes represented the far end of the DCAU timeline, and in a Rowling-like plot structure, they gave the creators a target to shoot for when constructing the shows.

The “villain” of this episode is somewhat toned down from its comics origins – after all, if you’re affixing the title “The Conqureror” to the end of your name, people aren’t really going to treat you with affection. However in this case, the starfish aliens – Starros, to those who are familiar with them – are portrayed as more of a biologically driven instinctual creature just trying to get home, rather than a parasitic race whose goal is to breed across and eventually overwhelm the galaxy. While it’s somewhat soft to simply dump the aliens back home at the end of the episode – they did try to commit several murders – it does wrap up the plot point neatly.

And that’s the overall feel of the episode: it’s a good story, with much larger action scenes than were common in Batman Beyond to that point, but a bit too neat in getting to the conclusion, what with the JLU not really changed for the expierence and Terry turning down the offer to join up.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the last appearance of the JLU, and the lack of apparent long-term effects of such a significant story would be addressed in a major fashion. But it’s going to be a while before we get to that story.

Overall Grade: B+

Random Thoughts:

  • That train crash in the “cold opening” looked AWFULLY familiar, didn’t it? It’s almost an exact match for the Batman Begins e-train crash that closes the movie.
  • Terry’s studies allow viewers to catch up on the new characters pretty quickly, , but also have a couple of handy character bits: Aquagirl is Aquaman’s daughter (presumably his second child), but her father is missing in action; Warhawk’s wings are artificial (which is a point that we’ll find out more about shortly); and Barda apparently ages very slowly, as she’s pictured with her husband Mister Miracle.
  • Warhawk’s mask crashing into the Batmobile is one of the freakier images in DCAU history:HEADSHOT!
  • Superman tellingly looked at the costume memorial when he entered the Batcave. Suspected where the Kryptonite chamber was hidden, perhaps?
  • Similarly: “More than you know” has a double-meaning when you consider that Clark can see people’s DNA.

Terry Line of the Episode – While talking to Bruce: “The guys’s the greatest hero who ever lived! Um… one of the greatest.”

Batman line of future continuity portent: “I never did like those Boom Tubes.” We’ll see why later.

Next time: Another side story, this time examining the Green Lantern mythology’s introduction to the DCAU, via “In Brightest Day”

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  1. March 31, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t even mention that the plot of this episode makes absolutely no sense. Superman asks Terry to find a traitor in the JLU who turns out to be… Superman?! Superman had himself investigated when no one was even suspicious of a traitor? How did that happen?

    Also, Terry walks away from the league at the north pole at the end, apparently forgetting that the Batmobile was already trashed. This ep is cool for all the fanboy stuff we get, but the writing is unfortunately pretty lazy.

    • April 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

      The first bit I’ve always written off as Superman fighting against Starro’s influence a bit, or knowing that something was wrong ut not consciously knowing that he was the one behind everything.

      But the second… yeah, Terry had a long walk back. Just pretend that Bruce sent a jet down to pick him up or something (and, well, we know that Terry wasn’t ENTIRELY out of the loop regarding the JLU, but of course that’s a bit of a continuity cheat).

    • KingofMadcows
      December 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm

      Starro had plans for things that would definitely raise the
      suspicion of the rest of the League so I think it brought Terry in
      to investigate because it wanted to frame someone else for all the
      things it did.

  1. November 2, 2009 at 11:12 am
  2. May 19, 2010 at 10:36 pm

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