All you need to do is look at the credits page for this issue of Batman Beyond, and that alone should convince you that this chapter will be well worth $2.99! I mean, come on! Who could turn this down?
Batman (Bruce Wayne) is chained to the front of a freaking snow plow! That’s epic!
I enjoy Batman Beyond, the animated series, for two primary reasons: the stories and characters are good and interesting on their own, and the narrative found ways to tie back to the source material and mythology. While Jurgens and Chang have delivered solid stories since they launched Batman Beyond with Tim Drake, the arcs have been void of any callbacks to the core mythology until this issue. I hadn’t really thought much of this until I picked up this chapter and was reminded of the impact this element adds to the narrative. There’s just something about connecting stories and characters to bridge a period of time that, when done well, brings me sheer joy!
“Escaping the Grave: Under Cover” does exactly that. Just two issues in, there’s already a lot going on! Terry has returned to reclaim the mantle as Batman. The world isn’t necessarily the Neo Gotham we’re familiar with thanks to Brother Eye. Bruce is missing or dead. Terry is building/ rebuilding new, uncharted relationships with his brother, Matt, and best friend, Max. The Jokerz have returned stronger than ever. And an old high school classmate has kidnapped Dana, and is working to bring the Joker back to life. It’s a lot to take in, and with so many new and different elements to consider, the past is the perfect remedy to create a foundation for this book.
The Joker’s presence, even if it’s just his corpse, does wonders for the plot as it is, but it’s a mystery in and of itself as well. But nothing captures the traditional idea of Batman more so than a confrontation between Batman and Joker. That’s where the flashback comes in. We get to see a potential event from the past as Batman and Joker come to blows – perhaps for their last time. The story reveals some significance for the present day story, and could most likely play an even larger role as the arc progresses. For the moment though, it mainly solidifies Terminal’s mission and belief – an attribute that explains the sudden surge of Jokerz.
Back in the present day, Terry is going undercover as a Joker after realizing he was in over his head. If you remember, I was a little let down by Terry’s characterization last month, and it didn’t settle with me until his over-confidence backfired. You’d think that Terry would steal the issue considering his current situation, but the real MVP here is Matt and Max. They easily have the best moment(s) of the entire issue. Terry does get to provide another nice nod to Batman’s history though, so fans will enjoy that reveal.
All in all, this is a fun issue that improves on last month’s release. There’s plenty of action, a decent amount of plot progression, and some really nice tie-ins to current Rebirth events. “Escaping the Grave: Under Cover” isn’t a perfect issue though. Some outcomes unfold way too easily (a problem that appears to be rampant in comics these days), and those moments didn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t destroy the issue, but I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to thinking, “Come on Jurgens, you’re better than this.” Oh, and just when you thought you were done with venom-roid Joker, he appears again… So you have that to look forward to. But honestly, this is a fun, solid chapter that should satisfy most readers!
The Art: I’m not going to lie, the transition of artists from Chang, to Sook, and back to Chang was a little difficult for me to adjust to. I like both artists respectfully, and I think the timing of when the fill-in art occurred set a tone for “this is what the new direction will be like,” before abruptly reverting back. I wasn’t disappointed, but it made Batman Beyond feel a little rocky and unfocused coming out of the gates. Moving past that, Chang’s art still doesn’t seem as polished, crisp, or creative as what I grew to love during the previous run. I wouldn’t consider the art bad, but this definitely isn’t his best work.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Batman and Joker. I loved everything about this flashback except for one aspect, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Aside from that one moment though, ever panel in this scene reminded me of a classic Batman and Joker encounter, which makes this an undeniable highlight of this issue.
Matt and Max. Batman (Bruce Wayne) is awesome. We all know that. He doesn’t need help to kick ass, to be relevant, or to even win fan favor… but part of what makes Batman even greater, are the people that are in his life, especially his allies. They help shape him in so many ways, and that same attribute rings true with Terry. Matt and Max are the first line of that layer, and they’re fitting nicely. I love Matt’s ambition and lack of fear – something that undoubtedly stems from his age, as well as Max’s loyalty. I expect Terry to do great things in Batman Beyond, but Matt and Max will be the characters to watch.
Batman down. This was a rather lofty plan that came together rather quickly and without much preparation – as Max is quick to point out on more than one occasion – but it was entertaining and fun to read. Was it a bit of a stretch? Yes. I won’t hold that against the creative team though.
Trey Malone. Ah… Yeah, you have to experience a wee bit of joy when you read this! Matches Malone is already a beloved personality, so it’s even better that Terry has inherited that persona from Bruce to act as Matches’ son.
Left for dead. The one thing that I was completely against in the Batman/ Joker scene, was the fact that Batman left Joker for dead. That’s just not something Batman would do. But what makes this moment even worse, is when you realize that Batman actually knocked Joker out of the cab of the snow plow, caught him, and pulled him back into the cab before bailing to save himself… That’s not my Batman.
Welcome to the team. So you’re leading an uprising of criminals and followers, and your biggest threat gets taken down easily by someone you’ve never seen or met. Despite better judgement, you decide to openly trust this person and accept them into your inner circle even though you question what you just witnessed… Nope. I don’t buy it. It feels unbelievable, and it is exactly what Terminal does with Terry. I was hoping to see Terry work his way into Jokerztown and make his way through the ranks, but instead we got the, “I’m cool and bad, you need me.” fast pass.
- You enjoy the Batman Beyond animated series.
- You want to see what comes from Terry’s undercover mission.
- You’ll read anything that has an altercation between Batman and Joker.
Overall: An improvement over last month’s chapter, Batman Beyond manages to create some really nice moments that fans will love. In the same respect, there will be a number of moments that don’t sit well with them either. But when you reach the last page, the fun entertaining aspect wins over and will leave you looking forward to what’s next.