The new Batwoman takes center stage in Batman Beyond #38 as she tears across Gotham leaving Bruce and Matt McGinnis playing catch up. While the issue finally brings together some plot threads, writer Dan Jurgens finds himself wrapped up in a repetitive plot structure with readers being one step ahead of our lead characters once again. For better or worse, Batwoman is the new lead of the book as she drives the plot forward with everyone else following close behind. Unfortunately, Jurgens hasn’t allowed her to do much besides take down low-level thugs as the plot inches along in search of something more substantial.

The book is divided into three different subplots. The first and most exciting deals with Batwoman as she patrols across Gotham and takes down any criminals she encounters. We’ve seen this before in the previous chapter, but Sean Chen’s detailed pencils and effective;y simplistic paneling make each sequence fun to read. There’s the slightest bit of edge to her fights that didn’t exist previously with Terry as Batman. Between the gendered insults her combatants throw at her and the brutal strikes Batwoman gives in return, Chen’s action beats pack an icy punch. Letterer Travis Lanham’s sound effects help sell the violent edge too, with Batwoman’s slashes accompanied by a more squiggly font than the more sharply lettered jabs she gives out. If anything is at fault, it’s that Jurgen’s dialogue during Batwoman’s fights grow repetitive with each of her combatants mocking her gender before they are taken down, followed up by her confidently claiming she is indeed “Batwoman”. The fact that the person under the cowl is a woman is no longer a mystery, but Jurgens writes each sequence as if it is.

Credit: Sean Chen, Sean Parsons, Chris Sotomayor, Travis Lanham

Speaking of inert mysteries, Bruce and Matt spend most of their time interrogating whom they deem suspects of being the new Batwoman. While they confirm that neither Melanie Walker or Barbara Gordon is the woman under the cowl, it’s been clear to the reader that they were never true suspects which leaves these scenes dead in the water. Bruce visits Barbara atop the roof of the GCPD building and scolds her for taking the suit when she just could have asked. Chen does nothing of note to make the scene visually interesting, which features flat compositions and stiff facial “acting” between Bruce and Barbara. Chen is a competent draftsman and while his pencils are detailed, he lacks a sense of strong cartooning that would imbue his characters with more life. The emotions are clear on his character’s faces, but they aren’t vibrant enough to enrich Jurgens’ dialogue. Despite this, Chen’s pencils with Chris Sotomayor’s colors make the backdrop of Neo-Gotham vibrant as ever and lends any outdoor scene a welcome boost of color and energy.

Credit: Sean Chen, Sean Parsons, Chris Sotomayor, Travis Lanham

However, Matt’s confrontation with Melanie is more effective across the board in art and dialogue. The compositions are more varied as the panels effectively change angles on the scene and emphasize how small Matt is compared to Melanie, thus heightening his sense of powerlessness. There’s a great character moment when Matt admits that he wishes that Melanie was the new Batwoman because he thought she was doing it to find Terry who is still missing with amnesia. Chen’s work with Matt’s emotions is more effective here as he varies it up from his initial anger when he accuses Melanie of being Batwoman to his worry and exhaustion when he concedes that neither he nor Bruce know where Terry is.

Lastly, we join Terry in his ongoing adventure as a street vagrant which thankfully features a dose of forward progression. Unfortunately, the most interesting wrinkle to this storyline comes from his newfound partner, Constance, who once worked for Derek Powers. Terry remains sidelined for the most part and serves as a reactionary character instead of a proactive one. He spends each scene running away from any character that would send him on a path of remembering who he is which only prolongs how long he remains ancillary to the main plot. Despite any frustration that accompanies Terry’s prolonged absence from being pivotal to the plot, Constance grows more interesting as her character inches closer to being a villain. Terry learns that not only did Constance once work for Derek Powers, but was also once in love with him which will blur her allegiances in future chapters. Since Blight is the main villain for this arc, Terry will most likely find himself torn between his old life and his newfound relationship with Constance. Hopefully, this development pays off sooner rather than later.

Credit: Sean Chen, Sean Parsons, Chris Sotomayor, Travis Lanham

As the book heads towards its final pages, it becomes clear that the arc lacked a true antagonist to give a clearer sense of plot. Batwoman has made her presence known the previous issue while Matt and Bruce have exhausted all avenues of figuring out who among them could be behind the cowl. Once Blight appears in the final pages, Jurgens starts to bring these pieces together so that our cast of characters can finally interact with each other. As Batwoman, Bruce, and Matt head toward a confrontation with Blight, only Matt and Constance remain sidelined from the rest of the characters. Jurgens has done more than enough to set up the new status quo at this point and must bring pieces together next issue for this arc to not be dead on arrival.

Spoiler
The sequence where Batwoman takes on Blight at the end of the book is definitely one of the stronger scenes. Up until now, Batwoman has been unstoppable, existing more as an enigma than a true character. While an earlier scene had her chat more than usual and give her more personality, she remained untouchable. Seeing Blight take her down a peg and successfully beat her in the brief action scene makes Batwoman more of a character than a symbol. Hopefully her identity is revealed next issue so that Jurgens can dive more into her character, instead of keeping her at arm’s length.
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Recommended if…

  • Seeing more of Batwoman’s personality interests you.
  • Terry still being an amnesiac isn’t a deal breaker.
  • You think Derek Powers returning as Blight recaptures some of the old cartoon magic.

Overall

Batman Beyond #38 slowly moves the pieces together and creates a semblance of an overarching plot. While the new Batwoman exists more as a symbol than a fully fledged character right now, Jurgens has fully set up Matt and Bruce to finally meet her. Sean Chen’s art gets the job done in the action sequences, but sometimes struggles in the more intimate scenes which could use more exaggerated facial work. With one of Batman Beyond’s best villains afoot in Blight, Jurgens needs to get his characters aligned with each other to take him on sooner rather than later. If the book treads any more water, Batman Beyond #38 will find itself existing as just another cog in the slow set up of the new Batwoman.

Score: 5.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.