When it comes to comic book adaptations, the big-budget Hollywood movies can’t hold a candle to their animated series counterparts. I’m not talking about the old SuperFriends, but rather the breed of animated television series that have been around since the early 1990s. No theatrical incarnation has given the same depth of character and intellectual honesty to the source material as the television shows have.

Why is that? I have no idea. Even the Spider-Man films which (at least for the first two movies) were considered some of the most truthful adaptations, along with Batman Begins, still couldn’t emerge unscathed from their directors’ egos. Maybe things work better in these smaller formats because the people working on them have their egos in check.

I’ve been a fan of the Batman for years, from growing up with the comic books to watching the big-budget theatrical films, good and bad. I even liked the campy 1960s television series to a point. However, it is the animated series The Batman that really rocks my world as a comic book fan.

Season four is now available on DVD, and it follows in the footsteps of the comic book by opening up Batman’s universe – and heart – a little bit. It’s a season of sidekicks, starting off with the introduction of Robin. While Batgirl was introduced earlier, it’s the special bond that Batman shares with Robin that adds depth to the stories in Season Four.

But it’s not just Batman who gets his sidekicks. The Joker warms up to Harley Quinn, and even the Penguin takes a shot at an entourage. As the season rolls towards the end, fans also get a taste of Batman joining up with some other notable figures.

What makes a show like The Batman work so well, especially in this season, is the Rogue’s Gallery of villains. Only in the long-form world of a television series can these characters be fully explored. Even though there’s plenty of villains to go around (including comic book stand-bys like Killer Croc and Clayface, who never have been brought to the silver screen), things aren’t cluttered. That’s because in a 13-episode season, they don’t have to cram too many characters into one story, like we see so often in the movies (e.g., Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins and this summer’s Spider-Man 3).

The Batman: The Complete Fourth Season is enough to hook any rabid Batman fan. It’s a true vision of what the comic books could be in the format of moving pictures.

The DVD comes with only a single behind-the-scenes look at the fourth season, as well as some trailers. What would have made this perfect would have been some more insight into bringing the comic books to life in the truest sense.

Movie Grade: A

DVD Grade: C

The Upside: One of the best Batman adaptations.

The Downside: They’ll never make a theatrical movie this good.

On the Side: Mark Hammil is no longer doing the Joker, as he did in the 90s.

Release Date: November 20, 2007
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 292 minutes
Number of Discs: 1
Directors: Sam Liu, Seung Kim (II), Anthony Chun, Christopher Berkeley, Ginny McSwain
Studio: Warner Home Video

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