With the arrival of a new Batman Beyond series, I decided to spend a good chunk my time researching. I went through almost every episode of the original 1999-2001 cartoon, as well as any comic I could scrounge up: Batman Beyond, Batman Beyond 2.0, Return of the Joker, Justice League Beyond, Justice League Beyond 2.0, and Future’s End. Whatever this book had in store, I was going to be prepared for it. There were literally two things I was ready for.
First was that Tim Drake is the new Batman of Neo-Gotham. That much was a given in Dan Jurgens’ opening chapter as this series being is a continuation of Future’s End. For anyone who hasn’t read DC’s post-apocalyptic/time-travel weekly, all you really need are the last four or five issues. The other was that this is a completely new timeline from the pre-Future’s End New 52. In fact, this isn’t even the world that was originally intended when Future’s End first started. Terry’s actions in the past have altered time such that Gotham is rebuilt and is the only city capable of shielding itself from Brother Eye’s detection. The city’s safety is threatened when some Jokerz show up and steal the device that protects Gotham, before Tim intervenes.
After stopping the Jokerz, Tim visits with Matt McGinnis, who is hiding out with a woman named Nora. She tells Tim about a prison compound known as The Lodge, where valuable humans who Brother Eye can still use are kept. One of the best inclusions since the start of Future’s End had been Terry’s onboard computer “A.L.F.R.E.D.” I was glad to see that the world is built and explained through Tim’s conversations with his artificial companion. Also, Matt McGinnis has a weird line thrown in at the end of the meeting. Watching Tim rocket away, he says, “It should have been mine. The suit. If I had been there – Terry would’ve given the suit to me.”
The rest of the issue is dedicated to Tim’s infiltration of The Lodge, which is located in a decimated New York City. There, Tim battles a cyborg Superman, who is still a formidable opponent but has been considerably weakened by the turning process. The fight is fast and ends pretty quickly, but it does a good job of demonstrating just how de-powered these converted heroes are. It feels as if Tim really has a chance against them in a one-on-one fight, which is a good precedent to set early on. The battle with Superman costs Tim his power supply, which causes the suit to short out. Without his weapons or strongest asset, he enters The Lodge to see who has survived Brother Eye’s reign. (See Spoilers)
Overall, Bernard Chang does a decent job at the artwork. The transition sequences whenever the suit disappeared or reassembled like pixels was a nice touch, and the facial expressions are spot on. This raises a minor annoyance I’ve had with recent Batman Beyond artists, and that would be how Terry’s/Tim’s mouth works. I can see how it’d be important for the reader to see their mouth moving to add to the overall imagery, because staring at an unmoving cowl isn’t exactly fun or helpful. The suit completely covers Tim’s face, but he still has his teeth showing. I don’t know if that’s specifically a Batman Beyond trend, but it rubs me the wrong way at times. On coloring duty is Marcelo Maiolo, who does an excellent job with the choice of colors to bring to life a struggling Neo-Gotham and a destroyed New York.
One of the thing that continues to surface somewhere in the back of my head when I read and reread this issue (to the grand total of five times in one sitting) is that this can’t be the “definitive” future for the DC Universe. It simply cannot. Why? Because the story of Earth’s heroes can’t end with “and then they got turned into cyborgs to serve a giant computer.” There is not one part of me that imagines in a few years this will still be canonical. That would be awful for every other book. I’ve mentioned before how things like Zero Year annoy some nit-picky part of me because, deep down inside, I know that nothing will happen that can really shake things up. No, Batman is trapped. Maybe this is the end for him? Oh wait, this happened five years ago, so I think he’ll be fine. Sure, the part of me that thinks that is a wizened 97 years old and yells at kids for walking on my lawn with their music too loud, but I can’t help it. With DC’s grip on continuity weakened by Convergence’s reinstitution of every timeline ever, I’m going to read this as an Elseworld’s tale.
By the time I had reached the end, I was still divided on how to feel about this issue and the direction this series is going in. This is, without a doubt, some version of the Neo-Gotham that I had grown up watching in the Batman Beyond cartoon. There are many of the same characters, most of the familial relationships are intact, and the general feel of Neo-Gotham remains from the original source. What Future’s End did, however, is create a new world all its own. There is an entire universe that is set for exploring. While I dislike the idea that this is the “definitive” future for the DCU, something must be said for how different this will be compared to many other books out there. And to fans expecting something remotely close to what Batman Beyond has been for the past fifteen years, there’s always past runs to hold you over.
- In the prison camp, Tim does find Maxine Gibson, though she is not the leader of those interned under Brother Eye. That distinction goes to a still-red-haired Barbara Gordon.
Favorite Quote: “He fears what he doesn’t know.” – Tim Drake, talking about Brother Eye.
- You’re a fan of Future’s End.
- You’re into post-apocalyptic stories.
- You’ve been waiting for Tim Drake to get his own story.
Not Recommended If…
- You’re a casual Batman Beyond
- You’re a fan of/expecting Terry McGinnis.
- You couldn’t stand Future’s End.
Overall: Though not what I was expecting, this run of Batman Beyond sets the stage for the greater conflict between Earth’s survivors and Brother Eye. With artwork that good more often times than not, and a story that has potential, I’d say give this series a chance. How long it takes before this becomes just another stand-alone story and fall victim to the steady loosening of continuity? I’ll hold out on guessing for a few more months.