In issue #18, Batman Beyond took a step in the right direction by finally bringing an end to the parade of one-dimensional villain encounters and by introducing lasting changes to the status quo. Issue #19 serves as both the finale of the arc and as an examination of the effects one of these adjustments has wrought.
The other change – the reveal that Payback is Dr Stanton, who has vowed revenge on Batman for the death of his son – has fallen by the wayside. Payback briefly mentions Kenny but in every other respect, he’s a plain, stereotypical villain; every phrase he rambles comes from the same old playbook (What’s even worse is when he has an exchange with Terry that doesn’t even make sense: he says that he can ‘survive what’s to come’ to which Terry says, ‘You want to die?’). It’s a shame because the hurt Stanton feels would be interesting to explore (especially as we have no idea when we’ll see him again) and would tie in nicely to the theme of legacy that’s prevalent elsewhere in the issue.
I refer, of course, to the birth of a new Robin, which is weighing heavily on everyone except the kid himself. I know the original Robin was referred to as the ‘laughing young daredevil’ in the 1940s but Matt takes enjoyment in his work to a whole new level. In fact, he’s pretty irritating; when Terry is giving Payback a serious lecture on how he’s responsible for his son’s suicide, Matt stands nearby and shouts ‘Schway!’ Fortunately, in between visits to the immature vigilante, Jurgens shows us Bruce dwelling on bringing another innocent in on his obsession, which adds a much-needed depth to the story. I don’t usually feel very much when reading Batman Beyond but seeing Bruce sitting dejectedly in a wheelchair in his dark cave, did make me feel sorry for him. He mentions his regrets twice in the issue and on both occasions, we’re shown the powerful image of the looming Batsuit in it’s display case, a shadow of the man he once was.
Despite feeling bad for Bruce, I can’t help but wonder whether sending Matt out to aid his brother is a bad idea. Dana (who takes Matt’s place as the person in the cave Bruce relays exposition to) mentions the Justice League; surely summoning them or anyone else would be better than forcing an undisciplined, little kid into the fray? If he continues to be Robin, I almost want Matt to die to teach Bruce a lesson he should have learnt with Jason.
A couple more things that annoyed me:
- Why is Ten there again? She doesn’t really do anything. I assume her presence in this arc only served the function of seeding her involvement in a future story.
- After all that grandstanding, Stanton is finally knocked out by a punch from Terry, who then instantly disappears with Matt. Can’t he wait till the cops arrive? What if Payback wakes up and escapes?
Phil Hester remains on pencils for this issue and you either like his angular, simplistic style or you don’t. Either way, this is your last chance to see it before Will Conrad and Marco Castiello take over for the next arc. Personally, I’m happy to take a break from all those blank backgrounds and featureless faces. Nonetheless, I was impressed with how deftly he transmits the anger in Dana’s face and I like that an establishing shot in Africa shows a soccer game rather than a static scene of people just standing around. In the same scene, Spicer’s washed-out colours suggest the poverty of the area and stand in stark contrast to the purples and blues of Neo-Gotham.
- You like it when Batman Beyond focuses on Bruce for a change.
- Being a crime fighter looks like harmless fun to you.
- Good dialogue isn’t really your thing.
Overall: Issue #19 is a flawed but occasionally satisfying end to a mostly forgettable arc. Pick it up if you can’t get enough of Bruce brooding in his own series or if you consider it a big deal that Terry might finally have a Robin.