LATE REVIEW EDITION
Attention Batgirl fans: Go buy this.
Batman Beyond Unlimited #18 is well worth purchasing for the Batgirl Beyond story alone. It’s fantastic. The Batman Beyond bit at the end is pretty forgettable, but this entire Undercloud arc has really been a disappointment and ended Adam Beechen’s run with a whimper instead of the bang that was “Joker Night.”
The bulk of the comic is Batgirl Beyond by Scott Peterson (90’s Batman editor and writer of Batman: Gotham Adventures) and Annie Wu (a relatively new artist whose work can most recently be found in the terrific Hawkeye series) and it’ s the best Batgirl story I’ve read since I’ve started reviewing comics (but I do have the review of Batgirl: Year One coming soon).
Batgirl Beyond was a premise that didn’t really excite me all too much when it was first announced but now I’m 100% on board and hope to see more of this character and more of Barbara Gordon when Batman Beyond Universe launches next month. This introduction shows us a done-in-one tale from Commissioner Barbara Gordon’s perspective (something we haven’t seen before) as she tries to figure out why one particular section of Gotham is erupting in constant chaos day after day. While she’s investigating the riots she has a run-in with a brand new Batgirl and from there we have the beginning of a Beyond team-up that doesn’t involve Bruce or Terry whatsoever.
Unlike Terry McGinnis, the Batgirl of the future is a low-tech superhero in a high-tech world and that’s an angle that’s interesting in itself. She doesn’t have access to Wayne tech or Bruce’s billions, she’s just a girl who has had enough and wants to fight for her city. Why she chose the bat symbolism isn’t touched upon, but that’s hardly a distraction. She shows plenty of personality and her fight scenes are plenty brutal so she comes across as a formidable and fully realized character. Best of all, she’s not drawn as some kind of Barbie doll. Her suit is very practical. No flowing hair that can be gripped by an assailant and no 5-inch heels to inhibit her running. Even better, when Annie Wu shows Batgirl just standing there having a conversation there’s no twisted posture that puts Batgirl’s butt front-and-center in the frame. Batgirl and Commissioner Barbara Gordon are two smart, tough female characters that are handled with respect. And as far as being compared with the current New 52 incarnation, there’s no doom and gloom, no self doubt, and no rambling cutesy inner monologue. Babs and Batgirl are capable heroes who can play it serious yet still have an adventure that remains totally fun! This is the kind of Batgirl story I want to read.
Other fascinating things that Peterson and Wu did right was approaching aspects of traditional Batman lore that haven’t really been mined all that much in Terry’s crusade. Here we get more time with the GCPD and how they operate and take a look at Gotham’s corruption. This isn’t a supervillain extravaganza, it’s a pretty grounded story that could have easily taken place in modern times.
I loved the writing, I loved Wu’s art, the only thing that got a little bumpy for me was how quickly the villain was defeated, but the plot about Crown Point (the area of constant disruption) and those responsible for the chaos wasn’t what made the issue interesting. What made it great was Barbara and Batgirl. This was a breath of fresh air and a must-read for fans of the Beyond universe and Barbara Gordon alike.
The Batman Beyond finale is what really brought the book down. If you haven’t been reading the Undercloud arc then these pages by Adam Beechen and Adam Archer (whose Terry and Bruce looked terrible in my opinion but everyone else looked A-okay) will be meaningless to you and if you have been reading this arc but don’t care anything about the Metal Men then you’re just going to be kind of bored. After how great the 10,000 Clowns story was it’s a shame to see Beechen’s tenure wrap up in such a forgettable story that focused too much on the Metal Men and not enough of on Terry and Max. Had this arc stayed focused on the hacker threat of Undercloud and not veered off into city-crushing-monster territory I think it could’ve been better.
The Batgirl Beyond story is brilliantly written and illustrated and has me very excited for what’s to come in Batman Beyond Universe but the Undercloud finale featuring Terry and the Metal Men was something I found quite dull.