Back in 2003, the DC Animated Universe (or DCAU for short) was arguably at its peak. Batman: The Animated Series had long since concluded, being replaced by follow ups The New Batman Adventures, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and then The Zeta Project, which were in turn retired to make way for Justice League, Warner Bros. Animation's most ambitious superhero series yet.
Factor in a menagerie of tie-in animated films, comics and video games, and it might even be fair to say that the DCAU was the definitive incarnation of the DC Universe in and around the beginning of the new millennium. I would argue that definition extends to the present day, as a self-ashamed child of the early noughties, whose daily watches of BTAS were punctuated by irregular trips to the Warner Bros. store from the age of three onwards. But in terms of DC's multimedia presence alone, 20 years ago, it was clear that Warner Animation was leading the charge.
One such route the studio took when branching out the animated franchise was those aforementioned animated movies. Despite bombing at the box office when it released in 1993, Mask of the Phantasm is highly regarded as one of the finest comic book films ever made. Thankfully, Phantasm's poor commercial success wasn't enough to dissuade WB from pursuing further animated films, following up the release with SubZero (a Mister Freeze story), and then Return of the Joker, another revered offering sandwiched in between Seasons 2 and 3 of the Batman Beyond animated series. Both films released direct-to-video.
Which brings us - quite fittingly, I hope - to Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, which ended up being the final DCAU movie until Batman & Harley Quinn released in 2017. Even so, despite almost heralding the end of an era for the DCAU in terms of its direct-to-video output, the 2003 feature has gone somewhat unnoticed by fans. You won't have to search far on the internet to find people singing the praises of Mask of the Phantasm and Return of the Joker, or even just acknowledging the existence of SubZero. But Mystery of the Batwoman? It almost seems forgotten about, despite being ahead of its time in more than a couple of ways.
Of course, there are multiple reasons for the film's somewhat neglected position within the DCAU canon (its excellent mystery is off-set by some forgettable adversaries, for one), but it's still a fine film, and one worth watching even if you're not a DC completionist.
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