Batman Beyond Universe #14
Written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Illustrated by Phil Hester, Craig Rousseau, and Thony Silas
Inked by Eric Gapstur
Colored by Guy Major and Nick Filardi
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
This arc is all about secrets and, even more so, how they effect others. Whether kept for good or ill, for noble intentions or malicious purposes, a revealed secret can completely destroy a person’s life. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a comic book based on a children’s cartoon, but it’s handled remarkably well.
Last month, we had one of the biggest bombshells that you could think of dropped on us: Barbara was once pregnant with Bruce’s child, and she tragically lost it. I went on record as saying that relationship was the biggest misstep they took in telling these stories on screen, and I stand by it. However, Higgins and Siegel handled the subject matter well and, even if I didn’t like what the story was about, how they went about it was a success.
This month, they wisely forego any brooding and scowling and move the story forward. In fact, while it isn’t completely ignored, the Bruce/Barbara/Dick story takes a backseat to the reveal that means less to us but the world to Terry: Bruce knew who Jake Chill was and kept it from him.
There are two main set pieces that drive this story, and while they carry similar weight they are resolved in the most wildly differing ways. Terry’s confrontation with Jake is effectively the A-plot, and while I won’t spoil it I will say that it’s exciting yet ultimately, perhaps even inevitably, tragic. Terry is understandably angry, but it’s Jake who carries a lot of the emotional weight. He’s the tragic hero to a T: driven by guilt for a past grievance, he seeks to redeem himself by using the tools and skills he once used to kill to do good and help others.
Since he was introduced… I want to say two Beyond series ago, Jake has been incredibly intriguing, offering help Terry and Bruce don’t think they need, but never becoming a bumbling or slapstick character. He knows he needs to do something right by any means necessary, even if our protagonists are too stubborn to realize it. His story is fascinating, and his involvement allows for great character development for Terry.
The other conflict involves a simple conversation between Bruce and Andrea in the Batcave. There’s one line of dialogue that perfectly sums up the theme of this arc, and contextually may be one of the best lines in a comic this year: “we protect the ones we care about.” A simple enough statement on its own, it takes on new meaning for each character in this story. Some do it selfishly, some altruistically, and some whether they know how to or not, but everybody thinks they’re protecting someone by keeping things from them. Those secrets, as we see, harm more than help and sow seeds of distrust.
This second half of the story actually works better than the first half, even if it couldn’t stand on its own. The first part of the arc was about secrets being revealed, and in the moment it can be great storytelling, but if the consequences aren’t there it’s all for naught. This is the issue I’ll come back and read again: it’s tightly plotted and, most importantly, it pays off what came before it.
The one complaint I have is that the Phantasm’s involvement isn’t entirely necessary. It really could have been any character they wanted to use. Besides knowing from Epilogue that Waller went to her at one point, there’s no clear motivation behind using her in this context. In hindsight it’s somewhat understandable, as I wouldn’t put it past Waller to do something just to aggravate Bruce, but picking an elderly woman to carry out such a sensitive job doesn’t make sense. I mean, it makes more sense than Bruce being Terry’s biological kind of father, but not by much.
In all, though, this is one of the strongest arcs to come along in 2.0, and with the end of the run coming soon hopefully it won’t be the last.
- You like strong storytelling with action and consequences.
- You love the DCAU.
- Remember Epilogue? This fleshes it out a but more.
Overall: A strong end to what could have been a disastrous story, this arc deals with heavy issues in a mature manner and makes the rift between Terry and Bruce believable.