Issue #18 of Batman Beyond Unlimited will feature a short story about a new Batgirl hitting the streets of “Neo-Gotham” but until we reach that point this is no longer something that new readers should dare go near. We’ve passed the event horizon on this thing. The stories being featured are all in their climax before there’s a giant creative team shift and the series gets re-titled “”Batman Beyond Universe” come August. Here in issue #16 we have Batman’s battle with Shriek and Undercloud, which is the easiest for the uninitiated to grasp, while Justice League and Superman Beyond enter their 11th hour.
The Batman Beyond portion takes up the bulk of this book and besides a brief battle with Shriek, it’s mostly about the Undercloud conspiracy that’s been building for years– literally, it’s a plot that’s struggled to find its footing since before the New 52 began! The opening fight scene with Shriek was pretty well done and brought back some good memories of the animated series while still pushing things forward with our main plot. Writer Adam Beechen even gave Shriek a few upgrades.
Artist Adam Archer has taken over for Norm Breyfogle and although I like how he draws all of the supporting characters in this book and Shriek especially, his drawing of the Batsuit felt slightly off. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the Batsuit’s head is structured differently than I’m used to seeing. The bigger problem, however, is that there aren’t any backgrounds to speak of and colorist Adam Elder could only add fading shades of green, blue, and purple from panel to panel to liven the imagery up a bit. Without any sense of the space these characters inhabit, it all comes off as being rather dull visually.
Undercloud’s plan is fully laid out here and I found it pretty disappointing
The Superman Beyond and Justice League Beyond stories were cut pretty short since Batman got top billing this time around and I think that the overall quality of the book would’ve been better had we focused on either of the other titles instead. What’s going on in Justice League is getting pretty complicated and is jam-packed with too many different characters for a reader to keep up with the story month to month so dwelling on this tale more heavily would do wonders for it. As for Superman Beyond, its chapter is all large-scale action. Had issue #16 devoted more time to it I think we could’ve had a much more satisfying read because we would’ve had the big battle and a resolution. As it stands, it feels like you’re getting dropped right in the middle of the action and then you’re ripped right out of it again you can really get your bearings. Look for each of these titles to wrap things up next month.
It’s only going to be entertaining to those who have read these three stories from the start, but even those folks will likely feel off balance by all that’s going on. Too much attention is given to Batman Beyond’s story when those pages would be better served on the fast-paced, cartoony chaos of Justice League or the war epic happening in Superman Beyond. The artwork of Batman Beyond is also falling short of the other two titles included in this book, but the Batman narrative is by far the easiest to follow. I think the big flaw in all of this is that these stories aren’t being assembled properly when they go to print. Readers might be better off following whichever title they like best digitally week-to-week instead.