Batman Beyond #42 should be a slam-dunk for Dan Jurgens and Sean Chen. It brings the main cast back together, positions Terry’s return to being Batman, and puts Bruce Wayne face to face with Blight himself. Unfortunately, the script offers no surprises and leaves Chen without much to do other than go through the motions in the book’s inert climax. Jurgens attains normalcy for the first time in a while, but at too steep a cost.
By far the biggest misstep in the script is Blight’s dialogue. The opening page sets the stage well. Blight’s narration strikes an easy balance between exposition and genuine tension building animosity. This is the Blight I expected to be present throughout the issue. He’s an unstoppable force of nature with his sights set on Bruce and ready to explode at any minute. The last issue ended with his mere presence resulting in Constance’s death due to his radiation so I was genuinely curious how exactly the bat-family would take him on. The answer comes quick when Jurgens affords each character more time than expected in Blight’s presence without succumbing to radiation poisoning. It’s to be expected, but the real meat of this confrontation was poised to be between Bruce and Blight. It’s disappointing, and far less interesting, to have Blight and Bruce’s interaction only take up a couple pages and be nothing more than a few mild verbal barbs. Elainna and Terry carry the bulk of the action, but Blight’s dialogue takes a sharp nosedive in quality once he’s separated from Bruce. Blight is Batman Beyond’s core villain and to see him relegated to spouting generic threats of slow and agonizing deaths is a disservice to his character. He works most effectively as the embodiment of greed and industrial evil, a blight on society, not as a throwaway villain of the week, which he comes off as here.
Chen’s pencils surprisingly take a small dip in this issue as well, which may be partly caused by the sheer number of characters present in one setting. Figures don’t carry as much weight and come off as stiff, even in the midst of chaotic action. Compositions are also more flat than usual, but this is also due to Chen having to fit multiple characters in almost every action beat, no matter their scale. It does have the unfortunate consequence of certain large beats feeling too small on the page. For example, Blight’s initial attack using the Batmobile’s rockets doesn’t land quite as impactful with the subsequent explosion tucked down at the bottom of the page and not given room to breathe. Chen’s splash pages are fully intact though, and each one is rendered beautifully. The highlight of course is when Terry returns in his batsuit and punches Blight off of Elainna. The composition puts Terry first and it’s a great decision to have him fly toward the reader for his big moment. Additionally, it wasn’t apparent until seeing them both together, but Elainna’s mask doesn’t emote nearly as well as Terry’s since her mouth is covered. Whenever we see Elainna fight Blight by herself, there’s a great sense of disconnect as neither of them have true faces to display any sense of pain or excitement.
When Terry returns to action the focus shifts away from Bruce and Blight’s rivalry. Of course since this is ostensibly Terry’s book, it makes sense to treat his return with the revere it deserves, but the choreography of the fight leaves a lot to be desired. Blight’s overwhelming radiation is only paid lip service and never really seems to factor into the fight itself. Elainna and Terry take turns punching Blight to avoid prolonged contact, but this strategy seems like it would work with almost any villain. The most unique beat comes when Dick shoots Blight with “anti-radiation” goop with an old Firefly gadget, which temporarily freezes Blight in place. I do love when Bruce’s history crops up in Terry’s world and seeing Firefly mentioned is a great way to pay respect to the legacy of the universe, but also integrate it into the current plotline. It’s the best moment in the action, mainly because the family aspect of the series finally finds its footing after almost a year of them being splintered and at odds with each other.
Chris Sotomayor’s colors run a little muted here, which makes this climactic issue feel a little dull overall. The stakes don’t change up very often in the script, but a punch in the contrast with certain beats would have done well to lend variety to the mundane proceedings. Most distracting is that his skin tones run from pinkish to pallid even within the same scene and character. Overall though, any artistic shortcomings originate from the script itself. How Terry eventually defeats Blight isn’t all that inventive and feels far from a definitive ending for the villain. Even the emotional fallout isn’t given nearly enough time to develop. Seeing Matt jump into Terry’s arms is a great moment that deserves much more real estate than a top right corner panel, which gets lost in the sea of text that immediately follows. Normally, Jurgens has done a great job of pacing his character moments with the action, but here he dedicates too much time on an action sequence that brings nothing new to the table, and left his characters rushing through what should be an impactful reunion.
- You want to see Terry back in the batsuit.
- Seeing the entire batfamily together again is where you wanted the series to go.
- You don’t mind a lackluster ending for Blight.
Batman Beyond #42 is an adequate ending for what should’ve been a much better issue. Seeing Terry back in the cowl is great, but Jurgens doesn’t deliver an interesting enough action sequence for the big return. Last issue seemed to imply a much more targeted and personal showdown between Blight and Bruce, but Jurgens deflects that goldmine of drama for generic comic book action theatrics courtesy of Terry and Elainna’s team-up. Luckily, a return to status quo is welcome and Jurgens has all his pieces back in place for the book to return to its strengths.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.