Episode title: Evil Under the Sea!
Original air date: December 5, 2008
Every great series has a lasting impact for years after its initial run is completed. Batman B ’n B has a few, not the least of which is the resurgence of Aquaman’s popularity amongst casual fans. That feat wasn’t accomplished in a single episode, but this is the episode that got the ball rolling.
The teaser drops us into a scenario with Felix Faust attempting to open Pandora’s box with Batman looking on. Batman engages Faust in a battle of “sorcery” which shows Bats to possess magical abilities greater than that of Faust. After Felix is defeated, and Pandora’s box is secure, it is revealed that the source of Batman’s “magic” is the diminutive hero the Atom.
The story proper opens with our titular protagonist investigating under water seismic activity in what I will refer to as the “Bat mini-submarine”. While searching for the cause of the disturbance, the caped crusader thwarts an assassination attempt against Aquaman. While the two heroes are having salutations, Aquaman’s brother Orm swims into the scene. Bats is distrustful of Orm due to his villainous past as the Oceanmaster, but Aquaman assures Batman that his brother has reformed, and they are working on mending their strained relationship. In the next scene it is revealed that Orm is working with Black Manta to eliminate Aquaman, which would simultaneously give Orm the throne of Atlantis while giving Black Manta free reign over the seas. Batman and Aquaman travel to the source of the tremors, during which we get to see Aquaman inundate the Bat with tedious recitations of the underwater heroes past adventures. When a group of whales attack our protagonists, Batman gets swallowed by one of them and we are treated to an entertaining action sequence in which Aquaman single handedly defeats two narwhals before rescuing Batman. Batman’s continued suspicions about Orm lead Aquaman to expel Bats from Atlantis, soon after which Orm reveals his true colors as the Ocean Master and imprisons Aquaman. No one is surprised when Black Manta betrays Orm and has him shackled next to his brother. After a brief heart to heart, Aquaman frees the two of them effortlessly, and the brothers lead an Army of underwater creatures to defeat Black Manta. In the epilogue we see that Aquaman has determined the appropriate punishment for his traitorous brother is to force him to listen to countless stories of the past heroics of the King of Atlantis.
Though our series is framed as a collection of tales about the adventures of Batman, Aquaman is the hero of this particular yarn. He is performed expertly by John Dimaggio (who I raved about in the last review) without even the slightest of hints that this is the same actor who portrayed Gorilla Grodd previously. This incarnation of Aquaman is an experienced and confident hero that is comfortable with his duties and quite gregarious in the performance of them. The sheer exuberance that he exudes while faced with impending doom is what I think made him such a hit with viewers, and make no mistake, he is our first guest hero to truly personify both aspect of the show’s title. As a comic book fan who has grown quite tired of cliched jokes at the expense of Arthur Curry, I am exhilarated by this depiction of Aquaman. This episode makes it clear that though the surface world has a cadre of heroes like Batman to protect it, Aquaman is the sole defender of the seas, a duty which he performs with infinite optimism paired with undeniable skill. His melding of larger than life personality with fantastic abilities demonstrated in this episode cements his rightful place in the upper echelon of the pantheon of heroes in the DCU.
Unlike previous episodes, in this episode the players have matured in their personalities to the point that we do not have any twenty-two minute bursts of emotional growth, but rather are treated to a stable of characters that we know will inevitably clash with one another many times in the future, and I like that aspect. We get a succinct and accurate description of Ocean Master for those unfamiliar with the character, and we also get exposed to Black Manta as a truly sinister and formidable foe, rather than just a guy in scuba gear as he often came across in Challenge of the Superfriends. Overall, this episode keeps up the trend of each being superior to the one before, and has me eager to see how long the creators can maintain this impressive trend. Most importantly this episode is a must watch because within it, if I may borrow a phrase from David O. Selznick, “A Star is Born”.
Featured Characters: Atom (Schwartz, Fox and G. Kane, 1961), Felix Faust (Fox and Sekowsky, 1962), Aquaman (Norris and Weisinger, 1941), Ocean Master (Haney and Cardy, 1966), Black Manta (Haney and Cardy, 1967)
To learn more about Aquaman listen to Heroes and Villains episode 105