The Royal Flush Gang has Terry cornered, and they aren’t his only problem. Lurking in the shadows is not one, but two mysterious people with plans for Terry. Can he get to the bottom of the mysteries and still escape the Royal Flush Gang? Find out in Batman Beyond #15.
The last issue left us with a cliffhanger of Terry getting his back shattered over the knee of Ace (from the Royal Flush Gang), in the style of Bane’s famous back-breaking from Knightfall. Considering this is right where our issue picks up, it will be challenging to discuss much from this story without spoiling the results of that scene. But before we dive into spoilers, I want to give you some high-level thoughts on the issue. Since Terry’s return to Batman Beyond, it’s felt like I am watching episodes of the show that are just “okay.” They aren’t bad episodes, but I don’t think I would ever watch them again. When Tim Drake was in the seat of Batman, it felt like there was growth in the character. He was learning to embrace the future and figure out his place in it, yet with Terry, writer Dan Jurgens can’t seem to capture that same magic. He is using interesting villains and characters I should be excited about, but I rarely find myself putting this book on the top of my pile. In the case of this arc, particularly this issue, there is a lot of build-up and mysteries but no payoff. We see the purple-gloved character that is pulling strings behind the scenes, as well as a mysterious thief that enters Wayne Manor, and I am curious to know more about them, but I am not sure if I am interested enough to take this long journey to get these reveals.
The art in the issue by Phil Hester and team is the highlight of the book for me. I think Hester does an all-around good job with the characters and his inker Ande Parks is excellent with capturing shadows at the right spot. My only nitpick is that occasionally the lines on characters faces can make them look a bit older than intended. I think this is Hester’s style, (which is similar to Dustin Nguyen when he was drawing Detective Comics back in 2008) but it can be distracting at times. Overall though, the team is doing an excellent job at capturing that Animated Series style without feeling like a cheap knock-off.
At this point, I want to discuss some of the specifics of the issue, regarding the back-breaking so, if you’d like to remain 100% spoiler free, you’ll want to skip down to the bottom.
The Knightfall connection I mentioned at the start is intentional as the first image of the book is Bane breaking Bruce over his knee. With this picture, there is a conversation between Bruce and Barbara happening in caption boxes. Barbara wishes that Bruce had steered Terry away from the life of Batman because as he knows, the cost is high. The second panel features Robin’s uniform in the case AKA the international Bat-symbol for regret and Bruce’s reply to Barbara that he knows the costs more than anyone and prays history isn’t repeating itself. The third panel features the reflection of Ace breaking Terry over his knee inside Bruce’s eye. I am diving into this first page because it is a powerful way to start the issue and while I am not a fan of the back-breaking cliché that seems to exist in Batman comics, this intro made me feel the emotional tension.
And then it was gone.
Yep, I turn to page two and Terry is laughing off Ace’s attempt to break his back telling him that a suit made to withstand bullets isn’t going to break over a knee. After that, the issue flies through some action scenes with Terry taking out the Royal Flush Gang with little-to-no effort. And to be honest, I felt a little betrayed by this sudden turn of events. When I picked up the issue, that first page got me thinking, maybe Jurgens had something to say about the cost of being Batman, and perhaps there was a bigger, more emotional story to tell here. But instead, it was wrapped up in a blink and with little regard for my emotional investment. Frankly, if this is how the wrap up of that cliffhanger was going to be, I would rather that Jurgens didn’t bother with it at all. It makes it feel like a cheap trick to get me to pick up the next issue.
After the Royal Flush battle, things don’t slow down. This story flies by with action on almost every page. We get a peek at the mystery man/woman from the previous issue who hired the Royal Flush Gang to defeat Batman and with the Gang’s failure he/she is trying someone else, Stalker. For those who don’t remember, Stalker is a villain from the original TV show that premiered in the episode, Bloodsport. Stalker was a big game hunter who poached animals until an attack by a Panther left him paralyzed. He was able to fix his spine with controversial surgery that also ended up enhancing his other reflexes. With his increased skills, he found regular hunting to be a bore and decided to hunt the most dangerous game- Batman. Back in the issue, Bruce seems surprised Stalker is coming after Terry as they had come to an “understanding” some time ago- I believe referring to the episode Plague where the two worked together to stop another villain from releasing a plague on the world.
Stalker wastes no time tracking Batman and finds him hanging with his girlfriend, Dana. He attacks, and we have another cliffhanger for next issue. It’s here where I feel the most frustration with the writing. We started this story with a cliffhanger of Terry in mortal danger, and then a bunch of action happens, and we’re ending with Terry in mortal danger. Terry’s story progresses in no way whatsoever. There are other ways to get me to come back and read another issue without putting Terry in danger that I know he’s going to escape.
On top of that, we’re 15 issues into the title, and it still feels like Terry is an afterthought to the story. In fact, you could argue, that Matt (Terry’s younger brother) is the one getting the growth and attention in this book. In this issue, he has started watching Damian’s old training videos and is apparently on a path to Robin Beyond. Matt also interacted with our second mystery player, a thief who came to Wayne Manor to rob it but was shocked to find a picture of Terry there. While Matt wasn’t able to catch the thief (who stole the photo), he was able to determine that the intruder was a she. While I have no insider information, I bet this woman is the original Ten from the Royal Flush Gang, Melanie. She’ll arrive as Terry and Dana are getting serious to cause some relationship strife. Just a guess.
- You want to learn Terry’s fate following last issue’s cliffhanger
- You’re a fan of the villain, Stalker from the original series
- You like mysteries and set-up.
Overall: So much happens in Batman Beyond #15, and yet nothing changes at all. Terry seems to be stuck in place waiting for the reveal of our big bad guy, and we have to endure a series of battles that feel like a placeholder with gimmick cliffhangers. Sure, there are some funny lines, and the art is well-done, but these elements aren’t enough to keep me interested in this story. There are three more parts to this storyline, and hopefully, we’ll start to see some real movement to the story in the next issue.