This is Batman Beyond’s first issue since Rebirth, and it’s a bit of mixed bag. I don’t think the issue is bad, but there are definitely a number of aspects that don’t work in the book’s favor. Ironically, there isn’t anything particularly negative about the issue itself that causes me to think this. Instead, the issue just doesn’t measure up to some of what preceded it.
Jurgens and Chang created a great story involving Tim, and it unfortunately hit its stride when Rebirth was announced. Because that story was at such a strong place, I was curious to see how well it would transition. Surprisingly, Tim’s story took an interesting turn, and the creative team immediately re-introduced the Jokerz as Terry’s antagonist! Beyond that, Dana was brought back into the loop, as was the Joker himself (to a degree anyway). Everything started off way better than I expected, and that built my anticipation for this issue… So I found it strange to read this month’s chapter, and not find that same energy or momentum.
“Escaping the Grave” picks up where Batman Beyond Rebirth left off. Terry is back to operating as Batman again, and has his little brother, Matt, in his corner, along with Barbara Gordon. Tim is missing, but none of the characters are aware of this. And to make Terry’s return as Batman all the more agonizing, the Jokerz have returned stronger than ever.
The gang has banded together, slowly taking over the city to create “Jokertown.” Considering the Jokerz are typically just low-life thugs impersonating their hero, Terry doesn’t take as much caution has he should with them. Unfortunately, Dana has been kidnapped by Terminal, which brings him right into the heart of Jokertown. It’s at this point that Terry realizes that he’s not at the level of skill that he used to be at, and that the Jokerz are more rallied and energized than ever.
When it comes down to it, there isn’t much plot progression in this issue at all. I find this a little surprising because Batman Beyond Rebirth covered so much ground, that it makes this issue feel as though it stalled out. The only progression that really takes place, is with Max, but it’s minor and expected. There is a nice confrontation between Terry and the Jokers that is rather satisfying, but it starts off rather rocky since it picks up in the middle of his fight with “venom-roid Joker” from the previous issue. Once that fight wraps up – more on this later – Terry’s battle with the Jokerz actually becomes quite engaging.
I did have a little issue with how Terry is portrayed throughout the book. For some reason, it reads more like a younger Dick Grayson than Terry McGinnis. However, some of this is addressed in the issue to a degree, so I forgive it. The unfortunate aspect was that his characterization did take me out of story ever so slightly while reading. When it comes down to it, there really aren’t many negative things to say about “Escaping the Grave,” but there also aren’t many wonderful things to say either… Batman Beyond #1 is essentially one of those issues where you basically just read it, and move on with your day.
The Art: I have some interesting opinions about the art, so stick with me. I’m a huge fan of Chang. I’ve praised his work endlessly in previous reviews, and he truly deserved that praise… but I didn’t find myself as excited with his art here. Don’t get me wrong, the art is still fantastic, this is strictly just a matter of opinion. Where Chang excels best – colors and layouts – he continues to knock out of the park. The harsh red and black panels during intense moments still win my favor. Then he has layouts that are spectacular, and help tell the story in unique, interesting ways. So yes, the art is good, but… I just kept thinking that I preferred Sook’s art from Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1.
Sook’s art contains more realism and grit than Chang’s cleaner, slightly animated looking art. Again, neither style is “better” than the other, it was just a matter of preference. If you remember my previous review, I specifically noted that Sook’s art really worked on many levels because it felt like a “change.” Not only was there a change, but you could see, and it was almost as if you were looking at Neo Gotham through Terry’s eyes instead of Tim’s. All Tim saw was a war-torn world when he came to this time. Terry sees home. Sook’s colors kind of gave me that feeling, while Chang’s takes me back to that harsh perspective Tim had.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Building the Scooby Gang. I love seeing ensembles in stories, because I feel like it allows writers to tell better stories by incorporating a larger variety of characters. That’s why I got excited when I saw Matt taking Max down to the Batcave. She’s a cool, fun character, and she deserves a more important role in this world. So now that she knows the full truth, I’m curious to see the actions she takes since she is such a proactive character.
Outnumbered. The issue didn’t fully pick up for me until three-fourths of the way through, and it was at this moment. The Jokerz can easily be written off as a joke if it’s just one or two. They’re dangerous, but they’re not necessarily trained in any way, they’re just thugs. The moment Batman get’s involved, you know there isn’t much of a chance for the Jokerz to win… unless they have numbers. Well here, there were a ton of them. Terry became a little over confident, and found himself in a mob of Jokerz who were all looking to kill him. Chang captured the moment incredibly well, and it delivered a sense of helplessness.
Quickest costume change ever. Ok, so this is the quickest costume change ever, and this could never actually happen, however, the idea behind it is great. I like that Terry is going undercover
Venom Joker. You remember how there was a period in time that whenever Bane popped up, he was always stopped by having his venom tubes sliced, and it got really old. Well, it’s still old. I knew it was going to happen the moment I saw the venomed-out Joker in the previous issue, but I hoped the creative team might find another way to stop the conflict… but they didn’t.
- You’re excited to see Terry back in the bat suit.
- You want to know more about Terminal’s plan.
- It’s freaking Batman Beyond, man! Shway!
Overall: When it comes down to it, Batman Beyond doesn’t cover much ground, and the comparison of this story to the previous run, as well as Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 hinders it more than anything else. The story isn’t bad, but it definitely feels a little worse than it is while reading because what came before was so good. So go ahead and grab this issue, because the ending sets up a great scenario!