If it weren’t so similar to previous issues, Batman Beyond #40 would more successfully set a course for the series to proceed. Ever since Batwoman’s introduction, Jurgens’ scripts follow a very similar template. Batwoman saves the day in some inconsequential set piece, Bruce and Matt stand around clueless to her identity, and Blight makes a move of some sort. Jurgens also makes sure to never forget that whoever is around to see Batwoman save the day is surprised at her prowess due to her being a woman. The artists have rendered it all nicely enough, this time around we’re back to Sean Chen, but this arc feels like it’s been on repeat. Luckily, Batman Beyond #40 appears to finally move the arc toward more substantial stakes and rid itself of the mystery of Batwoman’s identity.
Despite a sense of déjà vu for about half the issue, it’s great to see Terry integrated into the main storyline. Constance brings an oblivious Terry to Blight himself, the man who murdered his father, under the guise of employment. Of course, Constance plans to help Blight possess Terry’s body as Blight’s is slowly breaking down to his radiation. I thought Constance would find herself torn between her allegiance to Blight and her newfound friendship with Terry, but it seems like she’s fully turned villain, evil smile and all. Chen’s pencils do very well in action scenes, but struggle at times in the quieter, dialogue driven pages. However, Chen brings more depth than usual to Terry’s meeting with Blight. The opening page establishes a foreboding tone well enough as Blight sits atop a throne with a relaxed yet powerful pose.
In general, the art team does a great job with Blight. Chris Sotomayor’s colors capture Blight’s radioactive glow without it dominating every page and with Sean Parsons’ inks, do a great job with Blight’s skull within his glass helmet. Close ups on Blight’s face get to show off the team’s work with texture and color, as we can see the cracks in his deteriorating skull, along with a bevy of intense greens that display his unstable radioactivity. Wes Abbott’s unique lettering for Blight’s dialogue also bring a sense of unease and pain to his words, while still keeping it easy to read. Beyond that, Chen changes up the angles with each panel and makes a simple scene more dynamic. If anything is amiss, it’s Jurgens’ script, which has Terry agree to be a henchman with no hesitation. He has amnesia, but his morals haven’t been shown to be forgotten, so his lack of reluctance in joining an obviously evil villain doesn’t ring true.
We then get a short action sequence where Batwoman saves a Wayne employee as a building falls apart around them. It features yet another case of Batwoman correcting people on her gender while she saves the day, but there is a good moment where the woman she rescues says “I like the idea of a Batwoman better anyway”. It’s a small line that more than likely won’t ever get brought up again, but the societal impact of a gender-switched protector of a city caught my attention, if only for a moment. Despite this, the sequence feels redundant, its slight significance only clear after it’s over, and its execution routine. There is a great looking moment where the potential victim leaps into Batwoman’s arms, accompanied by a great splash of color in the background. The figure work here is great, their weight against each other feels right with the tangle of their bodies just a little sloppy, which shows Batwoman’s inexperience, but aptitude in just the right amounts. Less stellar is Chen’s environment designs. The building is strangely empty and its architecture unclear with most of it hidden behind blinding flashes of red light from the bomb inside. It’s also a mistake to have the bolts of electric energy be red since it doesn’t clash well with the red in Batwoman’s suit. As always though, I appreciate Chen’s panel layouts due to their simplicity, which makes following the action easy. Additionally, Batwoman narrates a great deal of the issue and it’s been great to get a look into her mind and personality. Jurgens’ narration is solid here, and gives Batwoman a somewhat curt, no nonsense attitude that gives the book a welcome edge.
What I have less patience for at this point is the lack of movement we’ve had with Bruce, Matt, Barbara, and Melanie. Jurgens already spent an issue where Melanie and Barbara were established as not being the new Batwoman, yet Matt accuses both of them here once again. Unlike the earlier scene with Terry and Blight, Chen’s compositions here are incredibly flat. Chen keeps the reader at a distance from the exchange, keeps the angles mostly the same, and doesn’t do enough with his figure work to express emotion from afar. If we don’t get any closeups in the dialogue, there should at least be dynamic poses that give a hint at what the characters are feeling. What we’re left with is a page that feels made up of establishing shots. However, a subsequent page does a much better job of getting in closer with our characters. Chen’s line work is detailed when he allows himself to be (it may be a matter of time restraints), and the closeups we do get are quite expressive. Nonetheless, Jurgens’ script disappoints with its utilization of Matt and Bruce. They’ve spent almost the entire arc at a computer screen, watching as the plot unfolds before them, and that continues here.
Uneven as the issue may be, it ends strong with its final action sequence. Chen flexes his artistic muscles here with a very solid sequence that plays to all his strengths. There’s a good sense of eye popping dimension as rockets fly through the air and spill over panel gutters, mixed with good figure work as Batwoman dodges them. Sotomayor’s colors shine here too as he switches up his palettes with each action beat. The art team delivers here, giving the relatively small-scale fight a great sense of variety. Whatever misgivings I have about Batman Beyond #40 are almost rectified in its strong ending and reveal of Batwoman’s identity. For more thoughts on the book’s final moments hit the spoiler tag below.
- You need to know Batwoman’s identity.
- Seeing more members of the bat family piques your interest.
- Terry being written inconsistently doesn’t bother you.
Batman Beyond #40 falls into the same bag of tricks that Jurgens used in previous issues. Despite its repetitive structure, there is a lot of forward progression in the plot that gives the series a sense of momentum and its reveal of Batwoman’s identity is satisfying, if somewhat unremarkable. Jurgens spins a lot of plates here, but it seems like our ensemble cast will reunite sooner rather than later. Terry’s passivity in the plot is disappointing, but Batwoman has slowly become a more than capable lead character. The status quo has been effectively blown up for nearly two arcs now and it’s time for Jurgens to reassemble his characters into the effective and endearing unit they once were.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with this comic for the purpose of this review.