There have been two mysterious figures operating in the shadows in Batman Beyond lately; a sneaky female vigilante and the puppeteer engineering his revenge against Terry. If you’ve been reading the series and haven’t already guessed their identities, you may wish to pick up issue #17 to find out who they are. However, in almost every other respect, it’s not really worth it.
According to the cover, the identity at stake is Terry’s. I complained in my review for issue #16 that Stalker made no use of his knowledge that Terry is Batman but this isn’t quite what I meant. What does Okoro gain by revealing Batman’s identity? He doesn’t have a personal vendetta against him, it wouldn’t satisfy him as a hunter because it doesn’t involve killing his quarry, and his employer has only asked for Batman’s capture. I’d much prefer it if Stalker were to kidnap Dana, for instance; at least that makes tactical sense and chimes with what we know about his character (Stalker seems to have lost his edge physically as well. In the final frame of last issue, he had a coil of cable around Terry’s neck but when we join them again in this issue, it’s been discarded).
Stalker isn’t the only character acting strangely. Both of the aforementioned enigmatic figures spend chunks of the story talking to themselves. I get that villains like a poetic soliloquy but why does the lithe vigilante verbally run through last issue’s action? Because she’s addressing us, really. She’s getting the reader up to speed and seeding her future involvement in the story. It’s clumsy writing.
The haphazard dumping of exposition in speech doesn’t stop there. Dana shows the faintest glimmer of an actual personality by pointedly referring to Bruce’s broken body and imploring him to help Terry. How do Bruce and Matt respond? By telling the readers the back story of the two new players on the board- information which Terry already knows (while foreshadowing Matt’s future role, as with previous issues, in the most eye-rolling, blatant ways possible).
Phil Hester continues to provide art for the series and though it perfectly replicates the style of the TV show, it’s pretty hit-and-miss as comic book art. I appreciated all the jagged frames of fire, smoke and rubble furnishing the action scenes with vividity but silhouettes are overused in place of actual depictions of the characters and locations and those that are drawn are frequently lacking in detail. I did like a close-up shot of Bruce’s old, sweaty face in which Hester adeptly conveyed the former dark knight’s exhaustion (Consequently, I didn’t like the editor’s decision to retain the totally redundant caption in which Bruce says ‘I’m just tired’). Terry’s face is a little inconsistent; at times he has a classic, chiselled superhero profile and at others, a pointy brow and emaciated cheeks which put me in mind of Deadman, particularly his appearance in the Justice League Unlimited series. The thing I dislike the most is the way every few pages the background disappears for no reason; it just looks lazy.
A couple more points I wanted to mention that bothered me:
-Stalker is incapacitated with electricity, the very same way he was defeated in the TV show. Hasn’t he fixed that weakness in his augmentations yet? It’s like how Bane is frequently defeated by damaging his venom supply; it’s predictable and removes the sense of danger.
-Kenny (Payback) decries Terry hiding behind a mask in his opening monologue, then dons one himself. What a hypocrite!
• You want to confirm your suspicions about the figures watching Batman from the shadows.
• You like books that look like cartoons.
• You consider anything with Terry in it to be ‘schway.’
Overall: It’s not as repetitive as previous issues – the story is finally moving, at last – but it still feels as though this arc has been written for small children. The characters are just plain, exposition-mouthpieces and none of the ‘reveals’ are surprising because the whole arc has been thoroughly predictable.