Episode Title: “Journey to the Center of the Bat!”
Original Air Date: January 30, 2009
Sometimes in life you are given everything you want, like a pillow case full of candy on Halloween, and though this episode was released in Winter, it felt like fall with all the sweet, sugary goodness of characters it contained. The two breakout guest heroes so far have been Plastic Man and Aquaman, and this episode raises our glucose levels dangerously high by including both.
The teaser begins with Plastic man and his early silver age doppelganger, Elongated Man, assisting Batman in a take down of an organized crime boss. The criminal is known as babyface and feels like he has been swiped directly from the panels of Dick Tracy. The stretchy pair debate over which of them is Batman’s preferred partner (while Elongated Man laments over his lack of “brand Identity” due to being over shadowed by the morally ambiguous Plas), leaving Batman to save the day.
The story proper opens with Aquaman placing a call on behalf Batman, whose body is covered with many disgusting tumors due to exposure to the oversized, toxic super villain Chemo. The call is being made to the Ryan Choi incarnation of the Atom, seeking help curing the synthetic micro organism responsible for Batman’s condition. The scientific and rationally minded Choi decides to use his shrinking power to enter Batman’s blood stream and fight off the infection. Hesitantly, and at Batman’s insistence, Choi takes the brash Aquaman with him for assistance, leaving Batman with strict instructions to rest. No sooner than the intravascular interlopers are on their mission, the Dark Knight disregards Atom’s orders and engages Chemo. While inside the body of the Bat, our diminutive heroes befriend a lymphocyte (erronously dubbed “Platelet” by Aquaman) and begin battling the infectious invaders. Meanwhile, the physically compromised Batman is largely ineffective at combating Chemo, and discovers that disembodied villain Brain is the brains of chemo’s escapades (pun intended). In an effort to thwart the team of villains, Batman gives us a lesson in perspective by entering the giant sized Chemos body, while simultaneously having two heroes in his own guts and gears. Batman Succeeds in fracturing Chemo’s containment suit while Atom and Aquaman struggle for success in fighting off Batman’s infection. As Batman confronts Brain, his condition worsens rendering him immobile, while the brain is in a similar state due to his cylindrical body (not unlike that of a Dalek) being knocked over on it’s side. The Atom and Aquaman finally find success in curing Bats, and in his healthy condition he easily defeats Brain. In a humorous closing scene, Atom and Aquaman decide to exit Batman via a tear duct, leading Aquaman to opine “but Batman never cries!”
This episode is clearly an homage to the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, or perhaps better known to some via Martin Short’s 1987 remake Innerspace. A classic sci-fi tale that has been retold in the context of various franchises innumerable times, and, to me at least, never gets stale. It is a wonderful premise to showcase the value of Atom’s shrinking ability, and was revised with the Ray Palmer version of the character in an episode of Young Justice. With the Ray Palmer character drawing increased attention due to his presence on CW’s Arrow, it is nice to see a more comic book accurate version of the character spotlighted. I also found the choice of the Choi incarnation of Atom interesting, as there are far to few Asian american heroes in children’s programming that don’t involve martial arts. We get a nice juxtaposition of the rational physicist against the Gregarious Aquaman solving a problem that couldn’t be resolved without the combination of their traits, and as will happen frequently in this series Aquaman stole the show. Overall, this was a simple, straight forward adventure relying heavily on established sci-fi themes. It did have a lot of fun in it, and involved some of the more enjoyable characters from the series. Additionally its target audience is likely to be unfamiliar with the 1966 film inspiration, and thus introduced to a story telling concept that has stood the test of time, definitely one of the better entries so far in the series.
Featured Characters: Elongated Man (Broome and Infantino, 1960), Plastic Man (Jack Cole, 1941), Chemo (Kanigher, Andru & Esposito, 1962), Brain (Drake and Premiani, 1964), Aquaman (Norris and Weisinger, 1941) and Atom/ Ryan Choi (Simone and Morrison 2006)