Dan Jurgens’ Batman Beyond is in a transitional state after the previous arc has left Terry with amnesia and has introduced a mystery newcomer who’s taking over the Batman mantle. Although the series is nearing forty issues, most of the run has succeeded primarily due to the likable and well defined ensemble cast Jurgens established. However, with Batman Beyond #37, Jurgens heads down a new path with only Bruce Wayne and Matt McGinnis remaining in the Batcave from a once large core cast of characters. Any series this far into a run will have to shake things up eventually, but despite an effective introduction of our new Batman, Jurgens finds himself on autopilot with a barebones plot and severe lack of intrigue.
Before we get too far into the review, it’s safe to say anyone reading this issue knows our new caped crusader is actually a new Batwoman. The great cover by Lee Weeks flat out shows readers the gender of our potential new lead hero. Despite this, the entire issue plays out as if this is a mystery leaving much of the issue’s “intrigue” falling flat on its face. Leaving the spoiler laden cover out of the equation, the introduction of the new Batwoman is well done and features some of the better art the series has seen in a while. In fact, the pencils by Sean Chen keep the book afloat as Jurgen’s dialogue mostly comes off as pedestrian, featuring numerous blunt exchanges of exposition. For instance, the opening page in the Batcave with Matt and the Alfred A.I. rides the line between being an effective recap and being painfully on the nose. Matt plainly states his concern about Terry being missing without any layer of nuance or true characterization. There’s no attempt at any degree of visual storytelling to show Matt’s worry, nor any clever way to integrate the exposition more subtly. In fact, every scene in the Batcave falls flat due to the dialogue merely going through the motions of creating a non-mystery that the reader already knows the answer to. Bruce and Matt go back and forth repeatedly about whether or not Terry is back as Batman, but it’s hard to sustain any degree of suspense when the reader already knows Terry is out on the streets as a low level vagrant. Worst of all, Bruce and Matt don’t feel like actual characters here since little of their personality shines through the expository dialogue and they serve mostly as talking heads.
Jurgens also spends a few pages on Jack Ryder doing a report about several Bat-related sightings and his attempts to track them down. These Ryder scenes feel a tad redundant since the mystery is already being talked out by Bruce and Max in the Batcave. However, Ryder’s mission carries more energy due to his pro-activeness in tracking the new Batman down and the promise of a final confrontation. Chen and colorist Chris Sotomayor also inject the world of Neo-Gotham with more life than ever and make the city feel busy and populated. This also helps a lot in the book’s action sequences as the various threatened Neo-Gotham citizens feel truly in danger, thus raising the stakes.
Despite an inert mystery at the core of the book, the actual scenes depicting our new Batwoman are extremely entertaining despite not having much substance. Chen and Sotomayor do a fantastic job of making Batwoman a ferocious fighter while keeping her out of sight for the majority of the issue. The inky black backgrounds in an early sequence keep Batwoman in the shadows, with only a few glimpses of her arm or eyes emerging from the darkness. Travis Lanham’s lettered sound effects do a great job of lending movement to the action as well when most of Batwoman is not visible. The way Batwoman flies away from each fight with stunning speed is effective as well, allowing Jurgens and Chen to imbue her presence with great power while keeping her at arm’s distance.
The way it all comes together when Batwoman is finally revealed to the public is very well done too. This action sequence is the highlight of the book as we have both dynamic art and paneling as Batwoman takes out her foe. Chen places the smaller action beats such as the click of a grenade pin being pulled in smaller panels and leaves the rest of the page for the aftermath. He uses this technique throughout the book which results in well paced action that knows where to draw the reader’s focus. Chen once again finds clever ways to hide Batwoman and makes sure to never use the same trick twice when keeping her out of the spotlight. Instead of hiding Batwoman in darkness again, Chen obscures her by having her punch send her foe through the air and “toward” the reader through great use of perspective. And after an explosion results from the chaos, it bathes Batwoman in smoke and debris. It’s the one true moment of excitement in the book and shows what Chen and Jurgens are capable of when firing on all cylinders, culminating in a great splash page showing Batwoman in all her glory.
Unfortunately, the focus on the new Batwoman leaves Terry sidelined once again as his street vagrant adventures continue without anything fresh being brought to the table. Terry and his new partner, Constance Gustinov, steal some food and fight off some nearby cops which is par for the course with what we’ve seen so far in this subplot. The brief sequence is fun and Chen’s art shines once again and gives a good idea of what street level living looks like in Neo-Gotham with his detailed backgrounds. However, Jurgens needs to spend more time with Terry and give him more pages to really develop his new status quo. All we’ve seen so far is Terry stumble around the streets and eventually realize he has innate fighting abilities he doesn’t understand yet. Thankfully, Constance has a connection to Terry’s past that should bring them both into the main story sooner rather than later.
- The latest iteration of Batwoman catches your eye.
- Jurgens’ run hasn’t worked for you and a new shift in focus is welcome.
- Terry McGinnis pulling a Ric and being amnesiac isn’t a deal breaker.
Batman Beyond #37 has a lot on its plate but doesn’t do much with the bevy of plotlines it has to follow. Jurgens’ plot structure feels like the equivalent of spinning plates as he bounces around from subplot to subplot without advancing any of them very far. With a shift in focus on the shiny new character of Batwoman, the result is our core cast of characters being relegated to talking heads or making no appearance whatsoever. Jurgens’ Batman Beyond was once very similar to its televised brethren, keeping plots contained within arcs and ensuring the core cast of characters was present and engaged in each storyline. It makes sense to try something new at this point in the run, but it’s a shame it has come at the cost of having yet another amnesiac lead character as a result.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.