The latest issue of Batman Beyond Universe features stories from two different Digital First series midway through their respective storylines. Batman Beyond 2.0 offers a deeply personal story that expands on what we know about a classic rogue while Justice League Beyond 2.0 goes for a more bombastic approach loaded with cameos from across the DC universe and some of the biggest action you’ve likely ever seen (The entire planet has become Brainiac for cryin’ out loud. That’s huge! Scroll down and look at the picture if you don’t believe me).

Beyond Man-Bat

The Bat Men: Zero Hour

Written by Kyle Higgins

Art by Thony Silas & Emilio Lopez

This was a very strong chapter and I think it’s safe to say that “The Bat Men” is shaping up to be an even better story than the “Rewired” arc. A big part of that is the villain. Ever since the bearded Man-Bat showed up in part 1 I’ve been wondering why Kirk Langstrom would’ve turned back to the infamous serum again, how exactly he would be able to speak when he was nothing but a mindless monster in each episode of Batman: The Animated Series, and why is he so evil with such big plans for the ruination of Gotham? Well, this issue explains all of that and makes Kirk Langstrom a far more interesting character in the process. We’ve seen a lot of from this mad scientist lately. He’s been in Detective Comics for the past year, Batman Inc. for a little bit, Arkham War, and he has a 2-part story coming up in Batman: The Dark Knight, but Higgins’ take on the villain is the first one I’ve really cared about. Langstrom’s expanded “Beyond” history has a level of “Heart of Ice” tragedy to it that I think fans are really going to enjoy. Man-Bat stories have a knack for being so terribly repetitive, but this take breathes whole new life into him and opens up a great deal more possibilities. However, even with that said I still wouldn’t be surprised if the whole story ends with Langstrom finding redemption and sacrificing himself for the city or something– we’ll see.

Although much of this installment of Batman Beyond 2.0 is devoted to the terrific flashback sequence told by none other than Bruce Wayne, the present day narrative only pauses to let Bruce give us the necessary exposition and then it’s right back into the action starting with a great payoff for the sound apparatus Dick gave Terry in chapter one! As Bruce and Terry make their escape, things escalate outside between The Bureau and the Man-Bat horde and it all makes for a great deal of fun. But while the action is most definitely great, it’s the dramatic, character driven moments that I think readers will be left thinking about the most.

My only criticisms about this issue would be that artist Thony Silas didn’t draw Francine and Kirk Langstrom differently throughout the different phases of their life during the flashback sequence. It seemed odd for them to still look 30 years old in every clip and Francine is even wearing the same dress throughout her life (although it was colored differently in the last few panels). Then there was the way that Bruce and Man-Bat spoke to one another. I may be missing something, but I’m unsure if Man-Bat knows Bruce was Batman, they certainly seem to speak to one another as if the secret is out, but nothing in the extensive flashback alluded to that.

Brainiac

System Override: Upgrade

Written by Christos Gage

Art by Iban Coello, Rob Lean, & Ulises Arreola

As a monthly read, Justice League Beyond 2.0 is overwhelming. Good, but overwhelming. The first couple of pages are loaded with exposition as The Flash reminds us what happened in the last issue and then brings us up to date as to what’s occurred in the story in the 2 days since Brainiac conquered the planet. What’s happened? Everything terrible that could possibly happen. Every DC hero is involved in the resistance and Atlantis, The Fortress of Solitude, and Paradise Island are basically the only safe places left. The heroes have only managed to move their friends and family out of harms way and I go back and forth as to whether or not this was a good thing or not. On one side the heroes should be more upstanding and see every life as being valued the same and thus try and move whoever they can into The Fortress of Solitude, but then again Brainiac is specifically targeting anyone affiliated with the Justice League and keeping all other casualties to a minimum so in the end it makes sense.

As I said in the introduction to this article, the action is big and if you’re looking for larger-than-life battles involving your favorite superheroes then I don’t see how you could possibly be disappointed with what Christos Gage and Iban Coello are bringing to the table. I do wish that the first couple of chapters had eased us into this storyline better, but now that we’re fully into the distopian world Brainiac has forged I’m really starting to enjoy things. You want big robots? We got one that’s as big as the planet and others that are about Godzilla-height. You want tiny robots? We’ve got nano-bots that act like a virus that takes over the minds of some of your favorite heroes. Squabbling among the heroes? Check. Romantic subplot? check. Monsters? Check. Magic? Check!

The only thing that’s really missing from this epic battle for Earth is a decent endgame. The Justice League’s brilliant plan to save the day is ripped straight from the film Independence Day, which seems like to obvious of a way out. The artwork is great (Superman’s shield was teal in one panel though), the action is fantastic and imaginative, I’m loving the character interactions, Flash is getting more to do and so is Micron, and it’s fascinating to see how much of the DC Universe Gage is willing to employ. But, man, do I hope that upcoming chapters utilize a different strategy of stopping Brainiac because this isn’t enjoy to satisfy me.

Recommended If…

  • The Man-Bat episodes of Batman: The Animated Series were among your favorite
  • You would like to see an entirely new (and I think very successful) approach to the Man-Bat character
  • You’re looking for action that is absolutely gargantuan in every sense of the word
  • You’d love to see the Justice League fight a Brainiac who is 100% at the top of his game

Overall

It’s not a new-reader friendly issue by any means, but if you’ve been keeping up with these two stories from the beginning then I think you’re going to be heavily rewarded.

SCORE: 8.5/10