Batman Beyond #41 is the best issue of Dan Jurgens’ amnesiac Terry plotline that began back with the False Face arc. Sean Chen’s pencils, with inks by Sean Parsons, up their game as the arc nears its conclusion, with Jurgens’ script ramping up the stakes to their breaking point. With the entire cast slowly making their way back together, Batman Beyond is closer than ever to returning to its strengths as an ensemble driven book within a high concept universe. There are no more plot machinations to keep characters from acting as their true selves and the stage is set for a truly satisfying finale.
It’s hard not to think of Jurgens’ current work in Nightwing when reading this issue as a lot of the same plot points rear their heads in both books. Unlike Dick in Nightwing, Terry is completely oblivious to his abilities which raises the stakes as he’s defenseless when he comes into conflict with both Constance and Blight. Additionally, Jurgens works in themes that work best in Batman Beyond with formerly unfettered titan of industry, Blight, taking advantage of Terry’s lack of a job to capture him without struggle. Admittedly, it’s a stretch for even a mind-wiped Terry to be so oblivious and take a job with a clearly villainous Blight who works in a highly secure facility plucked straight out of a James Bond movie. Nonetheless, the comic book villainy of Blight’s desire to take over Terry’s body works perfectly in combination with Constance’s desire to rejoin Blight’s side. The stakes are high, simple, and not reliant on a bevy of contrivances to get things into place. As a general rule of thumb, most plots can get away with one major contrivance, and here it’s Terry meeting Constance in the first place.
The opening scene with Constance turning on Terry works well for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is that Chen’s layouts are more dynamic than usual. He changes up his compositions with nearly every panel, establishes a great sense of scale and positioning, and his facial acting delivers especially with Parsons’ delicate inks. Chris Sotomayor’s colors also give each character a realistic, pinkish hue to skin tones which breathe life into each figure. His palette for Blight’s secret lair keeps its industrial look intact, but also inserts a flash of color into its computer screens, lights, and so on to keep things from getting too stale and gray. Every scene with Terry, Blight, and Constance features strong art and scripting that ramps up tension despite Terry spending each page motionless and trapped in a device I can only describe as a “body swap capsule”. Terry bangs his fists on the enclosure and each panel is disjointed from each other which creates a sense of claustrophobia and helplessness, as if he’s struggling to get out of the panels themselves. The reveal of Terry’s situation then lies at the bottom of the page with both the reader and Terry terrified by the predicament. This level of care hasn’t always been present in the series, but it works in spades here.
The scenes back with the rest of the cast also fare well despite their rather talky nature even in our penultimate issue. This is largely due to the fact that our cast is no longer at each other’s throats and all realize that Dick’s daughter, Elainna, is the new Batwoman. There’s a running gag that everyone thought it was Barbara coming out of retirement which mostly works, but its repetition only reminds me how dragged out this “mystery” was. The real strength of this scene is in the dialogue between Dick and Barbara. Dick remains stubborn and confused as to how and why his daughter would want to become a vigilante despite entering the service. Barbara’s explanation that the “romanticism” of her father being a crime fighter and the inherent excitement therein would captivate any child perfectly captures the allure of being a hero. It’s refreshing to see a book frame crime fighting as romantic instead of being an inescapable burden forced upon someone. The tension between Dick and Barbara is expertly dealt with as she explains how young women have a way of keeping things hidden from their fathers. The history of these two characters imbues the scene with layers of emotion that lie outside the confines of the book itself and displays the advantage of working with legacy characters. Chen keeps up the good work by keeping things up close and intimate with Barbara and Dick which enhances the nuances of the dialogue. Without Chen’s effective layouts and pencils, the scene wouldn’t carry the same dramatic weight. The only panels that don’t work are his establishing panels where his stiff figure work stands out more since he can’t focus on his detailed facial work.
The climax of the issue allows Chen to pivot to his other strength which is dynamic action sequences. Jurgens’ action plotting is simple which allows Chen to stage the action beats clearly and with great impact. It’s a multi-layered sequence as Constance attempts to finish off a defenseless Terry while Batwoman fights off Blight. Chen’s layouts make the action easy to follow. He always does a great job displaying Batwoman’s speed with impressive figure work and motion lines, and the power of her attacks is always rendered effectively. While the sequence pulls a punch in that it saves the actual final showdown for next issue, the excitement is palpable when we see Terry slowly realize who and what he is.
- You want to see the end of Terry’s amnesia.
- Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon having a great scene together is enough to grab you.
- You look forward to the series’ ensemble cast reconnecting.
Batman Beyond #41 is a great penultimate issue and sets the stage well for what aims to be an explosive climax. Batwoman has become a good character over the past few issues, but I can’t deny that I’m more excited to see our longstanding ensemble cast finally reunite after a couple arcs of them being splintered. Terry is now ready to take a more hands on approach to the plot, but Jurgens and Chen have made a strong case for Batwoman to take the lead one more time. With some of Chen’s strongest art on the book to date, Batman Beyond #41 course corrects the series with promises of even better things to come.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.