Batman: The Animated Series Vol 4 : 4 of 5

For the past few weeks I've been enjoying this final volume of the Batman animated series (yet another Christmas DVD set), although I prefer the first few seasons more than this one. This time around (from 1997-1998) Warner Bros. went with a completely new design of the show in more ways than one - all of the character looks were updated to be more angular and modern, and Batman operates much more as a "team leader", since Batgirl, Nightwing (the original Robin) and Robin (now Tim Drake) are all full-fledged crime fighters. This season doesn't have quite the same level of style (no more beautiful title cards, for example), but there are still several classic episodes that everyone loves. Over The Edge is a brilliant dream sequence that explores the end of Batman (and even includes the death of Batgirl), and Old Wounds does a great job of explaining the Dick Grayson split and transition into becoming Nightwing. Holiday Knights is a really fun set of vignettes, including the hilarious Harley & Ivy Christmas spree, and this multi-part style is also used in the fantastic Legends of the Dark Knight, which features a glimpse of the campy 60s Batman as well as the gritty Frank Miller Batman! Watching these episodes again was really fun, since I remember how shocking the visual redesign was to me in the beginning, which now seems totally normal. Most of the designs are successful (especially Scarecrow, who went from silly to terrifying), although reducing Mr. Freeze to a living head was a little much (and I also think the female characters like Batgirl and Poison Ivy were sexier before). It's nice that almost all of the rogues gallery is used in this season (most likely to show off their new looks), so overall there's an episode for everyone. The bonus features are wimpy as usual, with only three half-hearted audio commentaries (which I totally enjoyed anyway!), but this is still an essential DVD set if you're a Batman fan!

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