The current run of Batman Beyond comes to a close with “Wired for Death: Epilogue.” Up to this point, Jurgens and Chang have delivered an incredibly satisfying story, and I’m honestly a little sad to see this book transition because I’ve been enjoying it so much. Tim Drake is currently operating as Batman following the events of Futures End, and if the weight of wearing the cowl were ‘t enough, he’s also trying to adapt to a new, future, foreign world. With Brother Eye defeated, Jurgens turned his focus to develop Tim as a character, as well as build relationships with those around him. We were able to witness Tim – who had previously faked his death to escape the life of Red Robin – slowly come to embrace his role as Batman. A mission that he took on willingly. He didn’t need to be Batman after Brother Eye was defeated, but he chose to. It’s the Tim Drake I’d waited to see since the launch of the New 52, and I was excited to see a slightly older version of him return to the world where he belongs.
“Wired for Death” has been especially entertaining because it’s the first arc of Batman Beyond that stands on its own two feet. There aren’t really any ties to Brother Eye lingering around, nor any other remnants of Futures End. Instead, Tim has been front-and-center, with Commissioner Barbara Gordon at his side, as well as Matt McGinnis. Relationships and dynamics are created between these three that really help lift the story to a great standard. Throw in the threat of Rewire, then reveal that it’s actually a brainwashed Terry McGinnis who is being controlled by Spellbinder, and you have a winning formula!
Now we have the final chapter, and there’s a lot at stake. Spellbinder has control of Terry McGinnis and Barbara Gordon, while Matt is brashly making his way to try and help Tim. If you frequent the site, then you know I’ve been super excited for this issue! There are too many questions that need to be answered, and the stakes are high. How will Tim stop Spellbinder? Will Matt’s ambition help or hurt Tim? And beyond that, will Tim even survive? But with so many questions driving the momentum of this story, does the final chapter live up to the expectation? Not really…
One of the biggest let downs of this issue, is how quickly the creative team wraps up the conflict with Spellbinder. I thought that nearly the entire issue would focus on this, but instead the story splits itself between stopping Spellbinder, and Terry regaining the mantle of Batman. Neither portion is necessarily bad, but the issue feels like a means to an end. With so much development involving Tim going into this, I thought there would be some weight to the closure, but there isn’t. Instead, it just ends, and quickly transitions to the Bat cave to set up Terry reclaiming the mantle of Batman.
If you were expecting this issue to match the quality of the previous issues, then I hate to say that you will most likely be disappointed. While reading the book, it literally felt like the team just said, “Ok, well… We have to wrap this up and start Rebirth. Let’s take care of Spellbinder quickly and re-establish Terry as Batman.” Unfortunately, that’s essentially the tone of this issue as well. Whatever magic the creative team had leading into this issue, it disappeared when it mattered most.
Don’t mistake my disappoint for poor quality though. This chapter is entertaining enough, and worth your time and money if you’ve been following Batman Beyond or this arc, but it definitely didn’t meet my expectations. Narratively, it just feels average, which is definitely a step down compared to trend. There are some nice moments feathered throughout (especially some involving Matt and Alfred). There’s also an extremely interesting moment involving Tim Drake… Does he die? You’ll have to check out the spoiler tag for that!
The Art: Stephen Thompson steps in as a guest artist for this issue. His work is solid, but he doesn’t have the style and flare I’ve grown to love from Chang. Thompson shoots for a more realistic look, while Chang’s art is more stylized. If you end up reading this arc as a trade, this final issue will undoubtedly feel like a rough transition considering the contrasting styles.
Overall, I’d rate Thompson’s art as good. The biggest issue I have with his art is consistency. There are some panels that look amazing, and others that don’t quite stick their landing. Other than that, there are moments where it feels as if the action panels are “stagnant” or “low energy.” I know that seems odd since it’s a still picture, but it’s the only way I can think of explaining it. Aside from this, his faces were a little odd at times, and his Barbara Gordon was way too young. That being said, I wouldn’t be upset to see Thompson covering art for future issues, especially if his work is accompanied by Lisa Jackson’s rich art!
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Matt and Alfred. Although it’s brief, Matt interacting with AI Alfred is rather enjoyable. There’s not necessarily anything particularly special with the scene itself, but I can see a lot of potential for future interactions between these two.
Bye Mr. Drake. Does Tim Drake die? I honestly don’t know. Right as this issue looks like it’s going to be completely average, Tim suddenly disappears. He literally disappears in a flash of light while driving down a highway. I’m not sure whether this will tie into Batman Beyond specifically, or circle back to the larger Rebirth story concerning Dr. Manhattan… Or maybe this was Dr. Manhattan killing Tim because he’s in the wrong timeline… Whatever actually happened, I hope there’s more of an explanation or exploration into this. Depending on what happens in Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1, this might actually be more interesting than Terry’s reclaimed role as Batman.
The Bad: Spellbinder. There were so many great opportunities for a great ending to the Spellbinder narrative, but instead, it basically ended with Tim punching him, and knocking him out. I don’t know why Jurgens didn’t wait for Tim to pass the mantle of Batman back to Terry until Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1. It would have allowed a more satisfying ending for this arc, and most likely would have made this issue carry more weight rather than feel transitional.
Tim walks away too easily. Speaking of Tim passing the mantle of Batman back to Terry, the entire thing felt out of character. I understand this is the Tim Drake that never really was “Robin,” and that never fully was a member of the Bat family – which is something I’ve HATED from day one – but I just don’t believe he’d give up this mission so easily. During Futures End you could say it was a matter of life and death, and that was the only reason Tim became a hero again. You could also say that was the only reason he became Batman to fight Brother Eye in this title… But once Brother Eye was defeated, Tim chose to continue operating as Batman. It wasn’t a matter of saving the world anymore. He chose to continue this lifestyle. So I just don’t buy that he’d choose to stop this lifestyle within the same arc. Tim could’ve been injured or killed. He could’ve decided to take up a more lawful approach to justice and joined Barbara on the GCPD. He could’ve even become a new hero/identity… But instead, he basically says, “I never felt like I fit in. Here you go.” And hands Terry the costume before driving off. It was a little lazy. I don’t think Jurgens is to blame, but it was a weak conclusion to Tim’s story regardless.
- You’ve been following Batman Beyond
- You’re curious to see how Tim handles Spellbinder, Terry, and Barbara.
- You want to find out what happens to Tim Drake.
Overall: Unless the only thing you’re looking forward to in Batman Beyond is Terry McGinnis regaining the mantle of Batman, expect to be a little let down by this issue. The conclusion of this arc, and the set-up for Rebirth are so quick that it leaves readers wanting more substance from both aspects. I refuse to say the issue is bad, but it pales in comparison to the preceding work.