Batman: The Animated Series, “Prophecy of Doom”


The last episode, “Beware The Gray Ghost,” sought to capture some of the appeal of 30s radio serials and pulp heroes in its subject matter. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite succeed. But “Prophecy of Doom” works well as a call back to those 30s forms of entertainment. It may not be among the greatest Batman episodes, but it’s a solidly entertaining one.

The episode starts on a gambling boat, with big band music to underscore the opulence. Then a bomb goes off below decks, and we get a less tragic version of the Titanic to emphasize the scale of the damage. Some might think the scene goes on too long, but I think it’s actually a good amount of time; we get to see the lengths our villain will go to for what is, at heart, a very petty scheme. And to be honest, this story is too slight to go without any padding, so they might as well pad scenes that set the tone. Finally, there’s the fact that it makes a very effective teaser for why Batman will get involved.

In the next scene, we see Bruce Wayne talking to an older friend and his daughter. He tells Bruce about the supposed prophet Nostromos, and invites him to come to a party for said prophet. Of course, he’s a fraud, but rather than trying to mislead us about this, the episode is up front about it-nothing Nostromos says makes much concrete sense, and we’re clearly meant to agree with Bruce and Lisa’s skepticism about the man and his cult. He singles out Bruce as being marked for death, which is hilariously true. Of course, he’s referring to his partner trying to kill Bruce by sabotaging his elevator, but that’s nothing to Batman-he just zooms up the elevator shaft to start punching the attempted saboteur. Or attempts to, anyway, since the man is able to escape.

After fabricating one of the flimsiest excuses ever for how he escaped without being Batman (“Why, I just happened to get off before the elevator fell!”), Bruce uses the attempt as an excuse to not only join the group, but to get into the previously mentioned “secret brotherhood” of the group, where he learns that Nostromos has predicted an economic meltdown that will destroy society. This is probably where the 30s pulp feel is strongest, as the idea of a scared elite, grasping at a religious figure’s warning of a permanent breakdown, seems particularly apt. Of course, their solution doesn’t seem that intelligent; creating a huge amount of money isn’t that impressive, if the whole system that uses the money is going to fall apart. But creating a giant bomb shelter probably wouldn’t appeal that much to a spoiled money aristocracy.

Once he’s learned all this, Batman decides to confront the prophet the next day, commenting that the cult member in charge of the superfund will probably have a “crisis of faith” soon. And he’s right, though Nostromos uses the manager’s daughter as a hostage, memorably shown tied to a giant model of a planet. Batman intervenes before either hostage can be eliminated….and while Batman fights his henchman, Nostromos responds by running the planetarium models so fast, the planets start colliding and destroying each other. Batman wins, of course, but it’s a striking climax, and well done as much for being obviously improvised on the villain’s part as anything else.

The animation quality here is decent all around. Nothing really leaps out, and there are a few odd facial expressions, but there aren’t any truly bad moments. Of course, that means there isn’t much to say about it, but that’s certainly better than it could be.

Overall, like “See No Evil,” this is a solid Batman episode, with another well done one-off villain. And after some of the early saturation of the season, it’s nice to step away from the better known antagonists. Even better, it’s proof that the issue with original villains on the show is more execution than concept. Of course, Harley Quinn is probably the greatest proof of that…but that discussion can wait for her first appearance.


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