April 07, 2024

Article at Batman News

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Batman Beyond Retro Review – Episode 2×26 – Dog Days

Just a Lil Guy
Just a Lil Guy

One of the most under-developed characters in Batman Beyond is… a dog? Yeah, Bruce’s canine companion, Ace, has been with us since the series premiere. But in this episode, he gets a chance to shine as we learn about his history and how he ended up with Bruce.

Batman Beyond: Ace in the Hole

So often, when we see cruelty and hate from the villains in Batman cartoons, we’re either a step removed from it, or the hate becomes so laser-focused on Batman or some other particular person, that it’s easy to sit back and enjoy it. Villains like Blight, Shriek, and Payback come from very personal places and are as much monsters on the outside as they are on the inside.

But not Ronny Boxer. He’s rotten from the inside, but he can disappear into a crowd with ease. Ronny is a dog-fighting trainer and promoter. When Ace chases after someone Terry doesn’t recognize, he and Bruce put the pieces together and figure out just who it is that Ace took off after.

The episode gets a little silly toward the end when Batman ends up fighting an RV-sized dog that’s been beefed up with a huge overdose of growth hormone, but that doesn’t keep this episode from hitting hard.

While Terry is trying to track down Boxer with his delinquent act, we flash back to Ace’s origins as a puppy, sold illegally to Boxer for his “big mitts.” Boxer raises Ace in harsh conditions, depriving him of food and care to make him meaner. Ace escapes and lives as a stray until Bruce finds him in Crime Alley. The two fight off a member of the Jokerz gang, and become fast friends.

Back in the present, Terry’s fighting a losing battle against the monster dog until Ace intervenes and helps turn things around.

This episode works because Ronny Boxer, while not connected to any specific real-life people, is a very real villain in a way that most of the others aren’t. People aren’t getting dunked in scarring acid or being turned into living cryogenic experiments, but dogs are being forced to fight each other by heartless, cruel people, for the entertainment of other heartless, cruel people. Despite the giant dog–which looks more like a Ghostbusters ghost than an actual dog–this helps ground the episode in a way that these episodes often aren’t.

Most importantly, we also get to know Ace and get into his head. Thus far, he’s primarily been little more than an extra. Something added to give the show some more visual personality for kids watching the show. This episode turns him into a character with a backstory and origin just as tragic as that of either of the Batmen he spends his days with. We also understand why he’s so dangerous to villains and so loyal to Bruce. Bruce earned his respect through kindness and fierce protection, and Ace returns the favor every day by making sure that no one could get the drop in his master. And, of course, we’ve seen how people back away from Bruce throughout the series–especially Barbara Gordon. Ace is the only friend who has stood by Bruce, for better or worse, in his life.

This is absolutely one of the “canon” episodes of Batman Beyond that can’t be skipped if you’re doing a re-watch.