JUMPING-ON POINT ALERT
Batman Beyond and Justice League Beyond are starting brand new arcs with this issue. Superman Beyond, however is nearing the end of its epic outer space adventure. First I’ll talk about the Superman story by Krul and Proter, which is by far the meatiest of the tales included here.
Long ago, on a distant planet, Superman freed the cat-like Mangals from the oppressive Trillians and returned them to their forest home. Sounds nice, right? Well, this is a story that tries to show us that with big conflicts like this there truly is no good guy or bad guy and there’s definitely no such thing as riding off into the sunset. It’s a complicated situation where Superman must deal with the consequences of his actions. On one side he’s viewed as a war criminal responsible for the mass genocide that’s resulted in the years since the Mangal rebellion and the other side he’s worshiped as a messiah.
The mangals, still angry about being enslaved, want to topple the Trillian empire and they want their messiah, who they recently freed from the same bondage of the Trillians, to lead them into battle. So you can imagine their surprise when Supes says no. It’s presented as being really complex, but the evidence still feels very biased toward the Mangals. After seeing all the horrible stuff this civilization suffered under the Trillians, saying both sides can be seen as equally guilty is tough to swallow in my opinion. I felt like our hero should definitely be helping the Mangals bring down the Trillian forces then try to arrange a peace… but that’s me. That’s why I’m a Batman fan. I like vengeance more than forgiveness and hope. So what we get is Superman jumping into the line of fire in an attempt to keep anyone on either side from dying. It’s noble, it’s epic, it’s Superman.
The next story in this book is from Justice League Beyond, written by Derek Fridolfs and illustrated by Ben Caldwell, and I didn’t care for it at all. The biggest problem I had was easily to do with the artwork. The heads of these characters are too big and their bodies too small, giving them the look of caricatures. It’s hard to take a story about abducted children seriously when the cartoonish characters are so exaggerated. So it’s not so much a matter of the art being bad, it’s actually quite good. The problem is that the illustrations do not jive with the tone of the story. It’s fast-paced, silly, and quite forgettable, especially after the heavy Superman Beyond tale that came before it.
Batman Beyond achieves a nice balance between the ultra-serious Superman Beyond and goofy Justice League Beyond episodes that came before it. We’re finally moving ahead with the Undercloud plot (which has been slowly unfolding for YEARS) and it turns out that the evil plot of this organization of hackers is a lot more over-the-top than we were led to believe. They aren’t just going to hack computers and attack the Gotham infrastructure. Nope. They’re activating a giant robot. It’s an odd direction to take things, that’s for sure and I can’t say that I’m feeling it. Breyfogle’s art looks nice for the most part though. His Max looks like she was lifted directly from the animated series, as does a surprise villain. Bruce doesn’t look quite right though and Terry is wearing a very Sinestro-esque t-shirt that I found distracting. Speaking of Terry, the real adventure here that you’ll care about is a bomb threat at a concert where the famed band uses unique frequencies to touch the pleasure center of their audience’s brain. If you can’t guess who the surprise villain is from a mile away then you must not know Batman Beyond as well as you think!
So, it’s 2/3 of a new-reader friendly comic but only one of those two stories was good enough to bring me back next month. Superman, as always, is phenomenal but Justice League Beyond brought this book way down in my opinion. If you’ve been reading the adventures of future Kal-El, you have reason to be excited for this $3.99 book. If you’re new to the Beyond books, however, it might leave you a little underwhelmed. Hopefully the final page of Batman Beyond will make you curious enough about the return of a great villain from the animated series that you’ll come back again for issue #16.