Much to its benefit, Dan Jurgens’ Batman Beyond usually features a consistent art team on each arc. While not every artist featured in the series has been equal in talent, the consistency gives a steady identity to the series, at least in five to six issue chunks. However, in Batman Beyond #39, Inaki Miranda takes over mid arc from previous artist Sean Chen. Normally a shift in artists like this destabilizes a book, but Miranda manages to forge his own style without completely changing the atmosphere of the arc. Jurgens pulls his weight as well and writes a tight script packed full of action and characterization that has been lacking recently.
Until this issue, our lead characters merely react to whatever Batwoman does. Jurgens’ biggest accomplishment here is fully embracing Batwoman as the new lead and allows her to have substantial amounts of dialogue. Our new Batwoman is no longer a mysterious sketch, but rapidly approaching being a fully-fledged character, and her added personality helps the book feel complete. There’s a bit more edge to her, although her quips don’t fully land, and her dialogue presents her as a moral crusader who has no empathy for those she deems evil. Batwoman calls Blight, also known as Derek Powers, a “reprehensible murderer” and that the world would be better off with him dead. Not exactly the type of dialogue we expect from a heroic lead, but a healthy dose of anger and angst at those who represent the establishment is always a welcome theme in Batman Beyond.
Blight’s presence as the villain allows Jurgens to tap into the anti-establishment and cyberpunk themes that the series thrives on. His influence also rears its head in Terry’s subplot with former Derek Powers ally, Constance, which finally edges towards integrating with the main storyline. Constance’s relationship with Terry focuses on developing Constance more so than Terry. While Terry’s lack of progression is frustrating, Constance’s evil side makes her an interesting villain as Terry has come to depend on her friendship. Jurgens’ writing in their scene together develops Constance expertly. He allows her evil nature to come through without making her a caricature. Constance’s anger and entitlement to being a star is genuine, although misguided, as she reveals she helped create the deadly toxin that Terry’s dad, Warren, blew the whistle on. Constance, just like Derek Powers, resents the world for holding her accountable for her actions and fondly reminiscences on Warren’s death. Despite her villainous nature, Constance still holds onto Terry for friendship, which makes her character more than a standard evil capitalist. Jurgens’ writing here has set him up well for an impactful confrontation between the two friends destined to be enemies.
Matt and Bruce stick to the sidelines again but there are a few great character moments that make up for their lack of proactiveness. When Matt learns that Blight murdered his father, he turns to Bruce who consoles him, being someone who had suffered the same trauma. Miranda nails the emotion of the scene with both his pencils and compositions. Miranda uses some closes ups and the contrast between Matt’s young, but stern face and the rougher features on Bruce capture the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even in Neo-Gotham, the same tragedies of old Gotham repeat themselves and create a cycle of heroes and villains. When Bruce hugs Matt, Miranda pulls the composition back to show off the enormity of the batcave, which also serves as a reveal of what happens when good people have what they love taken away from them. Miranda also smartly places Blight’s maniacal laugh prominently on the monitors in front of Matt and Bruce. It’s a great page of visual storytelling that focuses on the characters emotions, but also the larger themes at play.
Miranda’s line work and Chris Sotomayor’s colors are very strong throughout the book. Miranda’s Bruce has more of a rugged look, with more lines scratched across his face, which accentuates not only his age, but also his history of crime fighting. Miranda’s pencils and Sotomayor’s colors are more delicate on Matt and capture his youth with a soft color gradient on his face against his jet-black hair. The action scenes are also effective, but lack a sense of visceral impact at times. Each landed strike doesn’t carry enough weight due to a lack of lettered sound effects and visual ques. Most punches and kicks only result in a small spark of white that make the strikes feel more like skims rather than fully landed blows. Fortunately, Miranda’s sense of movement is spot on and aided greatly by his clear panel layouts, even when he uses oblique panels, which sometimes serve as a distraction from mediocre pencils. Here, the oblique panels add to the sense of movement since Miranda’s figure work, particularly with Blight, feature dynamic poses that allow the reader to track their actions. A highlight exists in a small panel where Blight grabs Batwoman’s leg and then slams her to the ground in the next, bigger panel. A faint line of motion begins in the smaller panel and grows thicker as Blight swings Batwoman down, which allows the reader to easily track the action. There’s also a lettered sound effect present when Batwoman hits the ground, which helps sell its impact.
As the issue comes to a close, we get just a bit closer to seeing who Batwoman is, with a tease that her identity will be revealed soon. Jurgens and Miranda turned out the strongest issue of the arc so far because the issue was allowed to truly feature Batwoman as a lead. While it’s been a fun enough mystery keeping her identity a secret, now seems to be the perfect time to reveal her identity and focus on bringing her into the fold with the rest of the characters.
- You want to see Batwoman fully featured as a lead.
- Some momentum in the main storyline pulls you back in.
- You don’t mind Terry being relegated to the background.
Batman Beyond #39 is by far the best issue of the arc so far. With a heavy dose of action and character development, Jurgens proves that he is more than capable of scripting a well-balanced issue. Matt and Bruce get a great yet quiet moment together over their shared trauma that makes up for their lack of involvement in the plot. While Terry has fully become a pawn in his own book, Jurgens has set the stage well for him to have a rude awakening back to his former self. And while it lacks some visceral impact, Inaki Miranda’s art features great character work and solid action staging even as he faces the challenge of being a fill in artist. Jurgens finally has momentum on his side and next month is primed to up the stakes even further.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.