ALERT: This comes with Superman Beyond too! While there was originally a Justice League Beyond, Vol. 1 and a Superman Beyond, Vol. 1 sold separately, their second volumes have been lumped together in this collection that only bears the Justice League Beyond name!
Justice League Beyond: In Gods We Trust features all chapters of Justice League Beyond and Superman Beyond from the series Batman Beyond Unlimited #11-17, the last issues before the title was canceled and relaunched as Batman Beyond Universe.
Fans of Image Comics’ Saga rejoice! Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen’s Micron origin is illustrated by Saga‘s Fiona Staples and it’s a real joy seeing her illustrate Gotham as well as a few characters who sneak in a surprising cameo (we’re talking characters from the original Animated Series as well as Batman Beyond). You’ll learn how the Beyond universe’s Atom-equivalent came to be and how closely his beginnings are tied to Bruce Wayne. It’s an enjoyable short and a pleasant way to start the trade paperback.
Writer Derek Fridolfs and artist Jorge Corona take us back to “Devil’s Hour,” the night of Joker’s death 40 years ago that was featured in the film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, for an epilogue that reveals what Batman, Batgirl, and Jim Gordon did in the hours following the demise of The Clown Prince of Crime. It’s an aspect of the modern classic that many have not given much thought to and I think it’ll definitely have readers moving to the edge of their seat. It answers the question of “What became of Joker’s body and how did the dynamic between these three characters change after something so tragic?” in a satisfying way that’s essential reading for Batman Beyond fans.
However, while this look back on untold tales from Batman: The Animated Series is captivating, Derek Fridolfs fails to connect it in a meaningful way to the larger story at hand, which is “Flashdrive.” We’re given a reason to be emotionally invested in Terry, Bruce, and Barbara’s discussion in the bowels of the Batcave and then we desert them for the Justice League’s trip to Central City where The Flash Museum is having its grand opening. It… it feels like a waste, really, and it’s a problem that Justice League Beyond has suffered with since its first issue: overcrowding. Every creator wants to use the title to re-introduce another classic DC Character to the Beyond universe and as a result story ends up coming second as the Justice Leaguers are put on the sideline so a new character can have their glorious debut. In the case of “Flashdrive” that character is The Flash, who is likeable and designed well, but it’s a lighthearted diversion that doesn’t jive with the heaviness of the Return of the Joker epilogue. Plus the artwork grew exaggerated and unappealing as the narrative became more over-the-top with a new villain who made use of the museum’s artifacts. “Flashdrive” felt like two completely different ideas crammed into too few pages.
Origins: The Flash
In addition to “Flashdrive” we also have a short story about how The Flash got her powers in the first place. It’s a quiet, character-driven story by Fridolfs with beautifully detailed artwork by Marcus To that’s arguably the best in the book. Flash fans should definitely read this one as it’s a great way to learn not only about this new character, but to get a hint at what became of previous heroes who tapped into the Speed Force.
In Gods We Trust
I found the titular tale to be a mess and the low-point of the collection. Do you remember the Batman Beyond episode “Brain Trust”? In Gods We Trust rehashes much of that episode in what starts off as a Kai-Ro (Green Lantern) adventure that ultimately gives way to a Captain Marvel Beyond origin story (I told you this happens often). The Justice League comes off looking rather inept against the Brain Trust, especially when you consider how small of a threat this gang represents compared to the previous arc’s universe-destroying snake. Keeping the cast small would’ve been the way to go and it would’ve allowed Kai-Ro to grow as a character, but instead the majority of the team are present and it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on with so many people crammed into every panel of such a briskly paced story. Also, the artwork by Ben Caldwell does not fit the tone and his unique style makes the heroes look more like caricatures of themselves. It’s clear that Caldwell is a great artist but he’s just not the right fit for Justice League Beyond. It’s hard to take a story about abducted children seriously when everyone has such a large head and tiny body.
Origins: Green Lantern
Kai-Ro may have been swept to the side for Captain Marvel and the other Marvel kids in In Gods We Trust, but here he’s given full attention as we go all the way back to Tibet to witness his childhood and how the ring first came into his possession. It’s fantastic. Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen collaborated on the story, which is rich in detail and successfully adds more depth to Kai-Ro and a villain that Batman Beyond fans will quickly recognize! The artwork is handled by Dustin Nguyen himself and as you can imagine, it’s quite beautiful. There’s one panel I absolutely adore that shows Kai-Ro being embraced by a few of the more fantastical members of the alien Green Lantern Corps.
Oddly enough, this one didn’t get a title other than “Superman Beyond.” That’s an odd choice considering how half of the book is devoted to this untitled storyline and it’s a bit insulting too because, in my opinion, J.T. Krul & Howard Porter’s Superman Beyond was the best Superman comic around until Greg Pak & Aaron Kuder finally took over Action Comics in late 2013. I think Superman Beyond‘s contribution to this TPB deserved more attention. Krul and Porter really got to the core of the character and delivered epic stories during their run and the tale collected in In Gods We Trust was especially complex where the line between right and wrong is blurred and Superman is thrown into a situation that takes more than super strength to set things right. However, like the Justice League stories, this one had a similar problem of over-crowding. Superman and his dilemma are captivating, but in the latter half of the saga comes the arrival of Green Lantern, Starfire, and others who make a resolution too simple and tie these complicated issues up far too neatly. It really felt like a time constraint problem, as if Krul and Porter had a bigger story to tell but Batman Beyond Unlimited wasn’t “Unlimited” after all and so things needed to conclude and conclude quickly. If you’re a fan of Kal-El’s intergalactic adventures in the slightest then this is a must-read for you. Although I was slightly disappointed in its ending, it still holds up well as a Superman adventure worth revisiting.
Full reviews of every Batman Beyond Unlimited chapter from this trade paperback can be found at the following links:
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #11
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #12
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #13
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #14
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #15
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #16
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #17
There is a 7-page cover gallery and a 5-page sketch gallery by various artists. This includes original character designs and cover sketches.
Value: Sale Price
There’s a lot of content here and it’s pretty diverse, but precious little of it has any re-read value besides the short stories and the Superman Beyond half. Frankly, I had forgotten about most of the stories collected in this book and it was barely a year ago that I read them all. It’s not a bad book, but it’s disposable entertainment and I think it’s only worth it if you find the volume at a discounted price. $17.99 just sounds awfully steep.
The name might be “Justice League Beyond” but it’s Superman Beyond that really shines. Clark’s intergalactic adventure takes up half the book and is a story I wouldn’t mind revisiting again in the future, but besides the short origin stories and the brief Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker epilogue, Justice League Beyond‘s contributions are pretty underwhelming.