The Bruce Timm universe continues in “Batman Beyond Unlimited”, the print debut of DC’s digital comics “Batman Beyond” and “Justice League Beyond” unified under one futuristic title. See, what they’re doing is releasing these books digitally over the course of a month so enthusiastic fans can watch the adventure unfold early. Then, at the end of the month, we get a $3.99 book with both stories. Naturally, this makes for a tougher review because sometimes one half will be better than the other. So what I’m going to do is what I did with “Leviathan Strikes!”, I’m going to give this book one score for each story. Let’s start with…
Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns
Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Norm Breyfogle
Colors by Andrew Elder
First of all, there aren’t 10,000 clowns here. I counted. There are eleven. Not 11,000, but just 11. There may be 10,000 clowns in the future, but if you’re buying this book in the hopes of seeing what one more than 9,999 clowns looks like–you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Seriously though, “Batman Beyond” picks up right where the 2011 series left off. Don’t worry, if you’re unfamiliar with that 8 part series cut short by the New 52 initiative this book does a fine job of bringing you up to speed through lots and lots of exposition. Batman has agreed to be part of the Justice League, Max is infiltrating the criminal hacker collective known as Undercloud but she’s undoubtedly getting in over her head, and Dana has a creepy brother named Doug who was a former Jokerz that just got out of jail.
The whole story centers around a mass migration of Jokerz gang members from other cities to Gotham over the past month or so. Bruce thinks they are mobilizing for war. To make matters worse, there’s a mysterious Jokerz leader toying with Batman, studying him from the shadows and leading him into traps. By the end of the book this leader is revealed in a “surprise” twist that isn’t so surprising. If the story is keeping him in shadow obviously he’s someone we know, right? Well when you consider that there are only six characters in this book with names: Max, Dana, Terry, Barbara Gordon, Bruce, and creepy ex-Jokerz Doug…you don’t have to be the world’s greatest detective to see where this is going.
There really isn’t much depth at all to the Batman half of this issue and it feels much more like a comic geared toward children and that’s fine, but I was hoping for something…more. I have to confess though that I didn’t care for the 8-part series that came before this one either and it was written by Adam Beechen as well. I found that series to be pretty uninspired and forgettable and Blight, one of the best villains of Batman Beyond, was totally mishandled. BUT if you did like the previous 8 part series by Beechen– ignore everything I said because you’ll probably like this story. As far as artwork goes, the book looks kind of bland. Somewhat dated looking by today’s standards and some of Batman’s facial expressions just look wrong.
But for the most part the art was okay until I got to the “Justice League Beyond” story that followed. By comparison the Batman tale is lifeless and dully colored. Completely lacking in any sort of passion. There isn’t a single image in the Batman Beyond story that stands out whereas “Justice League Beyond” is loaded with iconic shots, expressive characters, energetic scenes, and colors that make the world look alive and incredibly unique. Everything about “10,000 Clowns” however, from the writing to the art, I found rather plain and disposable.
Justice League Beyond: Konstriction
Chapter 1: Snake in the Grass
Written by Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen
Pencils by Dustin Nguyen
Inks by Derek Fridolfs
Colors by Randy Mayor
Whereas Beechen’s “Batman Beyond” recaptured the moments that brought the animated series down (ex: Dana has given Terry yet another chance, but he’s still not giving her enough attention so she’ll hate him forever…or until he shows up at a party or something unexpectedly and kisses her. They’ll start over again and everything will be okay for about 2 days. Repeat. Fun fact by the way, the voice of Dana on the animated series was Lauren Tom who also voices Amy on another futuristic cartoon you may have heard of called “Futurama”) and was kind of boring, “Justice League Beyond” does the exact opposite. As soon as you finish this chapter you’ll rush to your DVD collection, wondering why you put off a “Batman Beyond” marathon for so long. Terry handles situations on his own without Bruce holding his hand (via headset so to speak), the one-liners he says are actually funny (and not too frequent like in Beechen’s “Batman Beyond” where Terry sounded too much like Peter Parker), and Nguyen’s excellent artwork will remind you of all your favorite episodes of the animated series page after page after page!
Remember the twin grand daughters of Harley Quinn from “Return of the Joker”? What about the GoLeM? Splicers? The Scarecrow-looking clown who sounded kind of like Christopher Walken? What about Blitzball at Hamilton Hill High School? IT’S ALL HERE! And it’s not just fanservice. It’s there to remind you of how much fun this world is and above all else, to get you comfortable. To get you as a fan of the original 52 episode series ready to accept a bold new direction. It works. Those first dozen pages assured me that Nguyen and Fridolfs are fans themselves who love the animated series (and not just Beyond, there’s a cool reference to my favorite Superman story “Legacy” as well), that this book is in good hands, and I can trust them to treat this world properly.
“Justice League Beyond” looks like it’s going to be an amazing series, I just wish it had not been cut short. If there had only been more of it I would’ve probably given this a 10/10. It’s really excellent because it not only brings back a lot of great memories and sparks discussion about our favorite episodes from the cartoon, but it also made me excited about the future of this world. “Justice League Beyond” #1 feels like the an episode of “Batman Beyond”, a terrific episode that I’ve been waiting to see for years.
Since this is a series that comes out digitally weeks in advance of its printing and the Justice League portion is the only one I found worth reading, I’d recommend saving a little cash and reading “Justice League Beyond” exclusively online and skipping the “Batman Beyond” stuff for the time being. “Batman Beyond” made me question if the animated series was even that good in the first place, but then “Justice League Beyond” reassured me that it definitely was.
OVERALL SCORE: 6.5/10
Also, am I the only one who hates how the Beyond universe calls Gotham “Neo-Gotham”? At what city council meeting did someone suggest that the city add “Neo” to the front of its name “ya know, because we’re in the future and stuff!” and there was resounding approval by everyone involved?