There’s a new Scarecrow in town, who has the people of New Gotham gunning for the Batman. Last issue we saw Terry set upon by a mob of civilians, police and Jokerz. We do get much closer to the latest incarnation of the Master of Fear across this month’s 20 pages but not much changes for our hero.
Terry’s relationships have been in the foreground lately but they don’t feature in issue #22 and the story itself doesn’t progress because Batman spends the whole issue fighting the mob. The combat is excellently envisioned (more on that later) but it’s frustrating because it seems unnecessary. He’s Batman! He should be able to fight or restrain opponents without crippling them! He should be able to fly away when he needs to! As a reader, we don’t want to spend too much time around mind-controlled characters because it’s an overworn trope, puts the villain at arms’ length and makes the hero pull their punches (I saw Incredibles 2 this week and felt that the mind control aspect of the plot was the film’s weakest link).
Maybe the reason Batman is unable to extract himself from this situation is that Jurgens is looking for an excuse to let Robin fly. However, if Matt has to rush to Terry’s aid (as he did at the end of ‘The Long Payback’), isn’t that setting a bad precedent? Readers criticized Tynion’s run on Detective Comics because Bruce was occasionally made to look like a punk purely to elevate his charges; by the same token, Terry isn’t shining as Batman if his kid brother has to bail him out.
Speaking of Matt, he’s still behaving like a kid (whooping and saying ‘schway’ all the time) but he can drive a car now (I guess it’s easier in the future) and since Conrad and Castiello took over from Hester, he’s grown a foot and gained abs (my wife – who has no idea who Matt is – glanced at the book and asked ‘Does he have a girlfriend?’)! Although I still think Bruce is dragging another unprepared innocent into his war, it does occur to me that Matt may have rebelled and ended up fighting to save Terry anyway; at least with Bruce’s guidance and resources he stands more of a chance of surviving.
One thing I noticed about Bruce in this issue is the appropriately punchy cadence of his speech (e.g. he says to Matt, ‘Help for Terry. If you’re willing.’). It suits his gruff nature and helps the reader imagine Kevin Conroy’s voice in their head. I also enjoyed the new Scarecrow’s speech, which is creepy and manipulative and not quite as generic as Payback’s soliloquys in the last arc.
- Adalyn Stern (Jack Ryder’s co-anchor at News 52) is the Scarecrow! I probably should have guessed this by following the Scooby Doo rule that the new character introduced at the beginning of the story is always the villain. Instead, I thought Adalyn was just going to be one of the Scarecrow’s victims! I hope that in a future issue we’ll see a flashback explaining Adalyn’s connection to the original Scarecrow.
- We learn this month that Adalyn is motivated by revenge against the Batman, which is a little disappointing; I’m struggling to remember the last time Batman Beyond featured a villain who wasn’t driven by a personal vendetta against Batman.#
- At the end of the issue, the Scarecrow reveals herself to Batman and the mob. Conrad makes her look scarier by giving the reader a really low eyeline. It’s disappointing that Terry is exactly where we left him at the end of the last issue (albeit with Robin by his side now) but at least Jurgens has broken his habit of ending issues with Terry telling us he’s about to die.
- This issue features Batman, Robin, Scarecrow, Creeper and Commissioner Gordon. The use of archetypes from old Gotham probably says more about us as an audience than it does about Jurgens. Familiarity sells.
- Jack Ryder and Bruce Wayne watch one of the original Batman’s missions on the Batcomputer and we see what they see. Bruce tells us the recording was made on a belt-camera but how did it get so many shots of him from different angles!?
- I can’t help but wonder where Jack Ryder’s story is headed. He doesn’t have history with the Scarecrow but (as long as this series counts as part of the DCAU and not the main DC continuity, which it mostly seems to) he does have history with the Joker. The Joker returned in Batman Beyond #5 so maybe he’ll be having a showdown with the Creeper in a future story?
This issue features a flashback to the days of the original Batman, which I won’t spoil by going into further detail. What I will say is that it’s cool to see Conrad’s take on the original dark knight, complete with classic costume trunks and blue caption boxes to match. Conrad shows great attention to detail throughout this action-heavy issue, giving us flowing fight choreography (and one particularly brutal fight scene) and an impressive double page spread that features around 50 fully-realised figures (which includes members of the mob who can be tracked from one frame to the next throughout those scenes. This sounds basic but plenty of artists and colourists aren’t as consistent). Though I’m a bit concerned about whatever happened to the caped crusader’s legs on Kalvachev’s cover, he does draw a creepy Scarecrow and the puppet strings look like Matrix code rain which is both appropriate to the futuristic world of Batman Beyond and reminds me of one of my favourite films of all time!
- The promise of Batman and Robin fighting side by side in Neo Gotham excites you.
- You’re ready to dig into the new Scarecrow’s history.
- You like the idea of Batman taking his time over a problem rather than promptly fighting his way out.
Overall: Fans who are here purely for Terry may wish to skip issue #22 as it belongs to the Scarecrow, Matt and Bruce. The story moves forward by inches but it’s still a fun issue mostly thanks to a delightful flashback interlude starring the original dark knight.