Batman Beyond Universe #16: “Alternating Currents”
Written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Illustrated by Thony Silas
Colored by Guy Major
I’m going to miss Terry. This book has always been solid, but right when they open up a new world of possibilities and storytelling with the Justice Lords timeline and that world’s characters, the plug is pulled. Hopefully this is just a temporary hiatus and we can return to this world in the near future, but for right now this is the end of storytelling in the DCAU.
But enough of that. On with the review.
Right off the ba… err, right from the start, this issue is intense. Davis Dusk, alias Rewire, was last seen cavorting with Ghoul after snapping and reverting to his villainous ways. The setup for this was really effective, considering Davis actually wanted to change and live a normal life but was shunned by everybody due to his act of patricide. When so many villains get caught, escape, and go back to their usual habits ad infinitum, it was refreshing and ultimately heartbreaking to see a character who wanted to right a wrong but was denied the chance.
We open with Rewire attacking Dick Grayson in his loft, hoping to kidnap him and hold him hostage in exchange for access to the portal to Justice Lords timeline. To say much more than that would be traversing into spoiler territory, so I’ll discuss it in some tags later. I’ll just let it be said that this is ultimately a book about endings, and if the series never gets picked up again, at the very least it got a conclusion that it deserved.
The team of Higgins, Siegel and Silas work together remarkably well, with the dialogue complementing the visuals and vice versa. Thony Silas’ style is loose and cartoony, but it fits the animated style well without being overly derivative. There’s one quick scene, in the midst of a tense battle, where more is said with a slump of the shoulders and some crumpled pieces of paper than some comics tell in their entire 22 pages. It’s economic storytelling at its finest, with the dialogue and visuals allowing the story unfold rather than telling through clunky amounts of exposition.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the biggest conflict in the book, but I’m going to discuss it in spoiler tags because it’s pretty big.
[Spoiler]Once again, Dick Grayson is in peril and his fate is uncertain through most of the book. He holds his own against Rewire just fine, as you would expect him to, but for the second time this year he has a device strapped to his chest that will make his heart stop. I don’t know what it is with creators wanting to create the illusion that they’re going to kill Dick, but it’s a card that’s been played one too many times at this point.
Saying that, it’s incredibly tense how it’s set up: Rewire attaches the device to Dick’s chest that keeps sending voltage to his heart until it finally stops, which it will keep doing unless he’s given access to the dimensional portal so he can reunite with his “father” over there. Dick is willing to sacrifice himself to take down the villain and save Terry and Barbara, as you would expect, and having to wait a week to find out if he was dead was maddening. He does survive, which is nice considering he was just getting reestablished back into this universe, and he and Bruce even have a really nice moment at the end.[/spoiler]
That said, the issue does feel very lean. The stakes are fairly high and what story there is packs a punch, but it moves by almost too quickly. I read these installments weekly as part of the digital releases and it took me at most about three minutes to read each chapter. The fact that the issue wasn’t loaded with new developments or cliffhangers was quite nice, but it would have been nice if there was either a little more going on or if it was cut down a bit.
Of course, reading it as it was presented over the course of four weeks guaranteed that the tension was as high as could be. It’s incredibly effective storytelling, and regardless of how much material there actually is the series ended on a very satisfying note. The ending is relatively low-key in terms of action, but there’s plenty of room left after the conflict with Rewire to have some nice closure with the main characters.
Will Beyond return in some form in the future? Time will tell, but even if it doesn’t this is a solid final story for that universe.
- You love this universe.
- You want some great scenes with Dick Grayson in action.
- You have any sort of attachment to the DCAU as a whole, and I’m willing to bet you do.
Overall: An effective, emotional final chapter to one of the best Batbooks on the stands. There are great character moments, true acts of heroism, and enough promises of more story opportunities in the future to satisfy fans while also having enough closure to stand on its own.