10,000 Clowns has been released in 3 different stages: a few pages every week online, printed in the Beyond Unlimited anthology series for a few pages more once per month, and all together in this printed trade paperback. If you were patient enough to wait for the trade paperback (15 months), then you made the smart decision! To finally get to sit down, hold this story in my hands and read it from start to finish is very gratifying and it honestly made it feel like a completely different book!
I couldn’t put Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns down and I’ve read the thing before. That says a lot. So why didn’t it get a higher score than 7/10? (7/10 is still very good, by the way. That’s almost 3/4 stars when you think about it and as we all know, stars are fantastic) Because it failed to include the epilogue! Once 10,000 Clowns was over, a story focused on Terry’s girlfriend, Dana, was published. That issue, while rather horribly drawn by a fill-in artist, resolved everything from 10,000 Clowns. It covered Terry and Dana’s relationship, the fate of our main villain, wrapped up Bruce Wayne’s subplot, and set up a new status quo for the entire series. Not including that chapter in this trade paperback was a huge mistake and it makes the book end really abruptly and not in a good way, like Road House.
10,000 Clowns is by Adam Beechen and Norm Breyfogle. I have a soft spot for Breyfogle because he drew the Batman I grew up with. If you’ve read Knightfall, as I imagine every Batman fan has even if they don’t venture to far back in the mythology, you know Breyfogle’s work. In Batman Beyond, however his style goes under a bit of a transformation as he tries to capture the Bruce Timm designs of the animated series. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. His page layouts are also quite restricted because the series was created as a digital first comic, which means that it’s released 10 pages or so a month and those 10 pages are cut in half to accommodate a computer screen. Truthfully, if you want good digital comics you need to look to sites like Thrillbent, where they’ve figured out that the form should follow the function, not the other way around. These digital firsts that go to print are trying to please both markets by just splitting the page in half and I think both digital and print mediums suffer for it. The one big problem I think everyone will have with Breyfogle’s art on this book is his design for the main villain, the Joker King. In my opinion’s it’s just an awful, non-threatening look and takes a lot of the punch out of what’s otherwise a really disturbing story. Also, there are some pages in which the faces of Bruce or Terry seem kind of off as if we’ve reached this Uncanny Valley between Timm designs and Breyfogle style that’s kind of unsettling. Terry looked a bit like the Big Boy restaurant mascot in some panels. But for the most part the book looks nice. A two-page spread in particular in which the batmobile is flying over the lower streets of Gotham is so stunning that it still sticks with me. There were also some coloring mistakes on the character Vigilante in which he gains red accents on his armor during the middle of a battle.
Adam Beechen has written the adventures of Terry McGinnis before in the mini-series Hush Beyond and Industrial Revolution, which was comprised of the first 8 issues of the short-lived ongoing Batman Beyond title that was pushed aside when the New 52 began. I honestly didn’t care much for either of these stories, but I highly recommend you check out what he’s done here with 10,000 Clowns. It’s thrilling. However, even though I didn’t much care for Hush Beyond or Industrial Revolution, if you can find those cheaply then I suggest you pick those up and read them beforehand. The building blocks for much of what happens in 10,000 Clowns is laid out there. In a very short period of time, Adam Beechen made a pretty major impression on the Beyond universe.
Some of these changes you’ll love and some you’ll hate, but either way you have to salute the fact that he had the balls to push the series forward instead of trying to repeat old episodes. While I like to see what became of Dick Grayson, I also feel uncomfortable about Beechen retroactively changing the origin of Terry McGinnis. I didn’t like it when Justice League Unlimited did it either. That’s twice that Terry’s origin has been doctored and he’s a character that’s not even been around for 15 years. But while Beechen does put his own stamp on things he still handles the material with a great deal of respect and manages to capture the look and feel of Gotham (I refuse to call it “Neo Gotham”) and all the characters within. I think he does an especially good job with old Bruce.
The story here centers, as you can imagine, around the Jokerz. Beechen realized that Joker is such a larger than life character that if his infamy were to cause the youth of Gotham to form gangs, it would surely spawn even more gangs around the world. In 10,000 Clowns, there is a mass exodus of Jokerz to Gotham and it’s up to Terry to figure out why before something really terrible happens. It plays out like a much darker episode of the classic animated series. However, some things are way too obvious early on (the identity of the Joker King), slightly annoying (the revised origin of Terry)
While the story centers on the Joker’z we do take some time to visit other Batman Beyond characters as well. Dana is greatly strengthened as a vital part of the Batman Beyond story, Maxine has her own subplot and Henry Rollins’ character Mad Stan takes up about a quarter of the book before things turn into absolute chaos. Maxine’s plot will make little to no sense to those who haven’t read Industrial Revolution and it serves mostly as an annoying distraction here. I mean, it’s a plot that was started in 2011! I could’ve done without Maxine in the story completely. As for Mad Stan, he’s great! Remember how I said this was like reading a completely different book? When I first reviewed the short snippets that were released in Beyond Unlimited, I was bored to tears by the Mad Stan chapters which took months to finish and held no real weight at all. Collected in the TPB one-after-the-other, however, Mad Stan’s story is a necessary step toward the Jokerz finale and some nice lighthearted fun before we get into the heavier stuff that comes in the final act. It was terrible as a single month’s episode, but wonderful as the opening chapters of a larger work. And that seems to be the story of 10,000 Clowns. I saw it as being rather mediocre for the first 7 or 8 months of publication in the Beyond Unlimited series but now that I can take it all in at once, it’s an awesome ride.
Preview images courtesy of DC Comics
3 pages of Joker King character designs, none of which are very good. I had hoped that there would be one in there that I could say “Awww, they should’ve stuck with this!” but none of the sketches deviate far enough from the finished product, which was a pretty terrible look for our main villain in my opinion. You’ll also get the covers for each of these issues in full, which is fantastic. Many of these illustrations have never been seen by the print crowd or they have but they were cluttered with cover copy. All in all though this it doesn’t add up to much in the bonus department. For real bonus material, and I mean better bonus material than you can possibly get from just about any graphic novel in the store, go to writer Adam Beechen’s Youtube channel for 8-10 minute videos offering creator commentary on all chapters.
Value: Full Price!
If you loved the Batman Beyond animated series then I think you’ll really get a kick out of this. It captures the look and feel of the series and it gets really intense in the second half. It might lack in the bonus material department, but it has a high re-read value. Amazon is currently offering it for $13.06. I say go out and get it. Yes, it’s disappointing that you won’t get to see the aftermath in the Dana epilogue, but you should still enjoy the ride.
This is the best Batman Beyond story that Adam Beechen has written and now that it’s in a TPB and not spread out over 15 months of digital firsts and printed anthologies it should finally get the attention it deserves. However, I can’t help but shake my head at the folks who put this book together because they neglected to include the INCREDIBLY important epilogue that ties up ALL of the narrative threads from this arc. You’ll still have a great time reading it, but the ending is abrupt and you won’t get all the answers you need to feel 100% satisfied. It’s a hell of a shame that that chapter wasn’t added.