Batman Beyond #44 is the biggest burst of energy the series has had in a while. Dan Jurgens’ script sheds itself of any mystery and places all of the cards on the table. For too long the series struggled to maintain any sense of momentum due to characters infighting, having amnesia, or keeping their identity a secret. Now that Elainna’s desire to be Batwoman is moving forward and Terry is back in the cowl, artist Sean Chen is finally free to indulge in his action chops as Jurgens pumps up the intensity and stakes with hardly a moment of respite.

This chapter picks up right where we left off with Terry finding a severely wounded Damian in the arms of his pet dragon, Goliath. It doesn’t take much longer than a single page for the League of Assassins to show up and attempt to finish Damian off once and for all under the new leadership of Zeh-ro. I was more critical than normal on Chen’s pencils last issue, but thankfully his work in these action sequences live up to his previously established talents. His layouts are clean and it’s easy to follow the action. Chen never really gets truly sequential in his fight choreography, but his figure poses are extremely evocative and sell the action beats with the appropriate gusto. Terry’s fight style fits Chen’s pencils and Sean Parsons’ crisp inks, with angular poses and a sleek Batsuit to help the jabs feel sharp and devastating. Travis Lanham’s letters also show how artful sound effects can make an action scene even more dynamic. Laser blasts from assassin rifles zip by with a light blue sound effect while Terry falls to the ground with a jagged, red font that makes the impact look all the more brutal. Chris Sotomayor’s colors also perfectly capture the neon drenched aesthetic that gives the Beyond universe its uniqueness. The entire art team operates at their highest level in these opening moments and made me remember what made the series so fun in earlier arcs. Jurgens’ script gets out of its own way here too, keeping the dialogue short and snappy and smartly keeps Bruce as a voice in Terry’s head keeping the attention on the action and not cutting back to Bruce and Matt back at the new “Batsuite”. 

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

The main break from the action is in the scenes with Barbara, Dick, and Elainna as they discuss her potential future as the new Batwoman. There’s one interesting part of the script where Dick expresses hesitancy in being in Bruce’s mansion without Bruce being there and how it doesn’t feel like his home despite being raised there. Dick and Bruce’s relationship in this universe hasn’t been fully tackled yet, but there’s a lot to be unpacked there. However, despite that one interesting character moment, the dialogue here isn’t all that different from last month’s chapter. Barbara supports Elainna’s desire to be Batwoman while Dick expresses hesitancy in letting his daughter become a crimefighter. I do feel like Dick’s side of the argument is purposefully anemic so that Elainna can become Batwoman sooner rather than later and that’s fine for pacing purposes. However, the sheer danger one takes on when becoming a Gotham crimefighter is worth discussing, but Barbara never truly engages with that aspect. Both Barbara and Dick are at Elainna’s service and since she’s all set to return to being Batwoman full time, I hope we get to learn more about her personality beyond wanting to be a crimefighter. 

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

If there’s any major fault with this issue’s script, it is that there isn’t much variety in the stakes or set ups. A large amount of the book is dedicated to the aerial battle between Terry, Goliath and the assassins. When we return to that battle after the scene with Elainna, it does feel a little repetitive and overwhelming. However, the sheer amount of detail in Chen’s pencils makes it worth the time spent in one action scene. Between his impressive rendition of Goliath, with a good amount of detail spent on his fur, and the intricate designs on the assassin’s armor, Chen’s work here is immense and makes the most of the somewhat simple sequence. There’s one panel in particular, with Terry above Goliath, Damian tucked away in his furry arms, that captures the potential of the Beyond universe and the sheer amount of fun it can have. There’s laser blasts, a giant red dragon, and scores of hi tech assassins flying through the air and it’s a joy to pour over. The way it ends still makes me narrow my eyes as I still don’t really get how a projection forcefield really keeps the Batsuite’s location a secret. (Bruce says that Terry will appear to “dematerialize as they ‘hit’ a concrete wall” but wouldn’t people notice them disappearing in the same spot every time? If I’m missing something let me know.) 

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

Nonetheless, with a great, but perhaps slightly too long action sequence, the final moments of the book set the stage for what comes next quite well. There’s an obligatory fight scene between Damian and Terry, but thankfully things calm down quickly. Chen’s version of Damian is striking and just a little too traditionally handsome, but he aptly captures the vulnerability within his fiery exterior. The final page makes me just a little worried that there won’t be enough time to dig into the relationship between Damian and Terry, which was a highlight the last time they met face to face.

Spoiler
The stakes rise exponentially in the final page to almost a comedic degree. Not only has Zeh-ro or “Mr. Zero” ousted Damian, but he also plans to purify the entire planet from the safety of outer space. It does feel like a big jump, but it’s also the type of lunacy I like to see in the Beyond universe so I’ll reserve judgement until next issue.

Recommended if…

  • Damian Wayne’s return to the series is enough to pick it up.
  • Elainna getting closer to returning as Batwoman piques your interest.
  • You want a refreshingly simple, action packed issue with great art.

Overall

Batman Beyond #44 is a step up from an already solid previous issue and cements this arc as the most promising in recent memory. The stakes are clear, the characters are not keeping secrets from each other, and the action never lets up. There’s a lack of true character development here, but the great art and fast pace makes up for the issue’s simplicity. Damian’s presence introduces a welcome wild card element to the ensemble and hopefully the next issue takes advantage of his and Terry’s complicated relationship. 

Score: 7/10


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