Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)

A feature-length cartoon, spun off from Warners' cartoon Bat-franchise. As with too many of these efforts (excepting Mask of the Phantasm) it somehow works less well than most of the 20-minute episodes of the original Animated Series, though it's less structured around big guest characters or gimmicks than SubZero or the Batman/Superman effort. The lower-key bad guys are the Penguin (David Ogden Stiers), regular gangster Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) and hulking Bane (Hector Elizondo), with the Penguin reverting to his 1940s cartoon look but following recent comics by having a front as a restaurateur – the trio's chief villainy is the topical export of weapons of mass destruction to a corrupt regime.

The actual crux of the plot is the appearance of the Batwoman (Kyra Sedgwick), a slinky grey variant on the usual look, who isn't Batgirl grown up or Catwoman in disguise: we are introduced to three suspects, Halle Berry-look organised crime daughter Kathy Duquesne (the comics' Batwoman was Kathy Kane), daffy scientist Rocky Ballantine and dedicated cop Sonia Alcana. All three have motives to hate the baddies, and there's a nice, unusually untraumatic relationship worked up between Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) and Kathy, but the penny drops fairly swiftly that all three are Batwoman, bringing different skills to the project.

It's an attempt to play down the trauma and go with the fun elements of the character without descending to camp, and – as often in feature-length superhero cartoons – works hard on its big action scenes. Oddly, a DVD extra – a music-scored, dialogue-free Catwoman-Batman short called Chase Me, delivers a more effective and affecting Bat-punch. Though the Conroy Batman would continue to serve with the Justice League in their animated show, the character was reworked completely (again) in a new cartoon series The Batman.

First published in this form here.

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