Episode title: Heroes
Original air date: February 21, 1999
What is it with the writers of this show including so many homages to the Marvel Universe? What with “Golem” featuring those Mardok inspired dolls let alone Terry frequently comes across like Peter Parker in a different suit. Did the writers forget that Batman is part of the DC universe or something? Well don’t expect anything to change with this episode as this time the writing team decide to essentially rip off “The Fantastic Four”. Okay perhaps I’m being a little harsh as the first lesson you learn in writing class is that there are no original ideas. Yes it’s kind of a downer of a thing to hear on day one, but even with this in mind it is perhaps a little on the nose with its source of inspiration to say the least.
This episode sees three scientists being exposed to radioactive waves when their particle fusion experiment goes wrong. Of course being a superhero show means that the scientists soon find that the accident has given them superpower, which leads to the birth of a new superhero team as the scientists become “The Heroic Trio”. While the trio are soon quickly embraced by the citizens of Neo-Gotham and Terry believing that he may be soon out of a job, Bruce remains sceptical about the group.
The Heroic Trio are one of the more questionable one shot villains though their similarity to “The Fantastic Four” makes it harder to like them more, even though the writers do try to make subtle differences to try and distance them. As a result we have Magma who is a combination of “The Thing” and “The Human Torch”, Freon is essentially “The Invisible Girl” with her vapour form only with added ice powers. The Most shameless though is the 2-D man who apart from being flat is exactly the same as Mr Fantastic bar the fact that he is reduced down to the supporting team member with Magma playing the team leader.
While the focus is largely on the Heroic trio it’s fun to see how the citizens of Neo-Gotham embrace this new team of costume vigilantes while Batman is still forced to work in the shadows. At the same time the episode focuses on the strain the trio find themselves under as they attempt to deal with their individual transformations as highlighted by a young girl being terrified by Magma even though he rescued her only a few minutes earlier. Further strains between the team members are highlighted as Magma bemoans not being able to hold his fiancé Freon, let alone the fact the world now views them as being freaks rather than the respected scientists they were before the accident.
As episode progresses Terry soon discovers that the group might not be the good guys they seem, more so when Bruce discovers that their mutations also come with the unhealthy side effect of hidden psychosis which soon shows itself when the group discover their accident might not have been as accidental as it seems. Once again it’s an interesting balance the episode takes as it divides itself between Terry and the trio. At the same time it also highlights the fact that what Terry has achieved so far as the Batman hasn’t gone unnoticed, as seen during a great scene in which he takes his younger brother to the mall only to see various merchandise for the trio being set out, only for his brother to remark that Batman is much cooler.
The action scenes are mainly kept to the final quarter of the film as Terry finds himself forced to stop the trio whose sudden switch to their psychotic side is almost comical in how suddenly it happens especially with 2D man who is laughable as a villain. Still the final showdown is pretty spectacular with the lab at the trio tower being almost completely destroyed, while Terry tries to find ways to work the groups’ powers against them, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to best them in a straightforward confrontation.
It goes without saying that the undeniable comparisons to “The Fantastic Four” stopped me from enjoying this episode more than I would have had the groups’ powers not been so similar to their Marvel counterparts. At the same time the exploration of how their powers have affected them stop this from being a total loss. Unsurprisingly the trio would only make this single appearance in the series though seeing how by the end of the episode there is nothing left really for the trio to do, making it only all better that they didn’t get any additional appearances in the series.
Next episode: Shriek