“Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond” has the sound of an original graphic novel about an entirely new element of the Beyond Universe– and perhaps that’s what was intended– but it’s actually the 2nd volume of Batman Beyond Unlimited and the Batgirl Beyond portion is but a single chapter. And while it does seem kind of deceiving to put that aspect of the collection front and center, it can also be taken as a testament to the quality of that small, but significant contribution. Batgirl Beyond will be one of the most memorable stories you’ll find here, but it’s in no way all there is.

Contents

This softcover includes all Batman Beyond digital chapters #19-29 (printed in issues of Batman Beyond Unlimited #14-17) and 1999’s Batman Beyond issues 1 & 2.

Review

Legends of The Dark Knight: Dana

Beyond Dana

Adam Beechen and Peter Nguyen’s somber yet earth-shattering epilogue to Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns would have worked better in the end of that particular graphic novel, but nevertheless, it’s one of, if not Beechen’s strongest work on the series. Rarely do we ever get such a low-key issue that deals with the aftermath of a major storyline in such an intimate way. Not only does Beechen wrap up all the loose ends of 10,000 Clowns, but he pushes the Beyond universe ahead in a bold and exciting way with some shocking revelations. On the downside, Peter Nguyen’s artwork was subpar. There are a number of panels featuring bizarre faces, poor anatomy, and other distracting missteps. However, while the visuals are less than stellar, I have nothing but fond memories for this chapter and I think 10,000 Clowns is a saga Batman Beyond fans will revisit often.

Undercloud Parts 1-3 & 4-6

Beyond Undercloud

This saga is divided into two parts because half of it was illustrated by Norm Breyfogle and the other is by Adam Archer. (I must say that I like how the graphic novel was put together with chapter breaks that give credit where credit is due) The two artists have a relatively similar style except Archer’s heads are more rounded and the facial expressions are more exaggerated. Overall, it’s a relatively seamless transition between the two halves, but I wish both had devoted more time and energy into supplying the visuals with some much-needed backgrounds.

“Undercloud” is a story that writer Adam Beechen had been cooking up for a few years, well before Batman Beyond Unlimited was a thing, heck, even before the New 52 had debuted. The build-up was all about Terry’s friend Max being recruited by a network of hackers and while it seemed that their plan was to cripple the Gotham infrastructure through their off-the-charts computer skills, it turned out from page #1 that the master scheme was much more over the top. What was initially a smart and complicated conspiracy involving hundreds of hackers distilled down to one masked maniac who wanted nothing more than to find an individual tech-savvy enough to help them activate a giant robot. It definitely wasn’t what I expected it to be and it wasn’t a very fulfilling Batman story either. If anything, it’s more of a showcase for Max and a gang of Silver Age DC characters who got their own surprise Beyond-universe introduction. This storyline did feature a subplot with Shriek (one of my favorite Beyond villains) that was fairly entertaining, but it wasn’t enough to save it from mediocrity. Undercloud is a tale that I won’t be revisiting again anytime soon. Very underwhelming.

Batgirl Beyond

Beyond Batgirl

Scott Peterson and Annie Wu’s Batgirl Beyond is a must read for fans of Batgirl. Whether you love Barbara Gordon or the concept of “Batgirl” in general, this one-shot will definitely satisfy.

Batgirl Beyond is told 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 gadgets 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 symbol isn’t touched upon, but that’s hardly a distraction. She shows plenty of personality and her fight scenes are quite brutal so she comes across as a formidable and fully realized character. Best of all, she’s not drawn as some kind of cheesecake Barbie doll figure. 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 and am not finding in the New 52 title.

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 disarray) 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.

Grounded

Beyond Grounded

“Grounded” and “Erased by Inque” are from 1999’s cartoon tie-in series– that’s 14 years ago if you want to make yourself feel old. “Grounded” is a complete story told in one full issue that begins with both Bruce and Terry in full Batman uniform fighting atop a Gotham rooftop and escalates into a winding mystery involving subliminal messages that lead back to a super villain you might not expect. It’s a surprising way to begin a Beyond story that confuses the reader in a good way before writer Hilary J. Bader rewinds to the tale’s beginning and explains how the two Batmen came into conflict. The non-linear narrative was an interesting choice for this children’s comic, but it was effective for the most part. However, events unfold so quickly in this highly condensed done-in-one comic that many of the transitions can be a bit jarring. Craig Rousseu’s artwork perfectly mimics the look and feel of the animated series, but falters during action scenes, which can be hard to decipher and frequently take broad leaps from panel to panel.

Erased by Inque!

Beyond Erased

Even though the fact that Inque’s part in the story is given away by our title, I still got a kick out of watching this mystery unfold. Seeing how everything pieced together was the most fun, but the later half of the comic felt like a watered down mixture of episodes “Disappearing Inque” and “Inqueling.” Once again, Hilary J. Bader and Craig Rousseu team up and they delivered what was overall an enjoyable issue with a lackluster climax. As you’ll recall from the cartoon, Inque wasn’t doing so well in the last few seasons. Like Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series, Inque was having trouble maintaining her form and was actively seeking a cure for her super-power. In “Erased by Inque” she can’t even pull heists without coating a host body with her liquid form. Watching Bruce and Terry’s detective work along with Inque’s struggle to survive was all interesting, but when it came time for Terry to bring down Inque and her scientist friend the comic felt all too derivative of old episodes and ultimately ended in a way that put us right back where we started.

For full, detailed reviews of each individual Batman Beyond Unlimited chapter, click the following links:

Bonus Material

None. Unless you consider the 1999 issues bonus material.

Value: Sale Price

Batgirl Beyond, the 10,000 Clowns epilogue, and the look back at the original cartoon’s tie-in comic are all enjoyable, but the bulk of the book is comprised of “Undercloud” and I didn’t find it to be a fun read. I wouldn’t give the full $14.99 for this, but if you can find it for a discount then I say go ahead. Batgirl Beyond and the epilogue have a high re-read value.

Overall

A terrific epilogue, a brilliant one-shot, and a nostalgic look back at the 1999 cartoon combine to make this a fun read for fans of Beyond, but the lackluster “Undercloud” storyline drags down the overall quality of the 2012-2013 Batman Beyond‘s diverse 2nd volume.

SCORE: 6.5/10