It’s safe to say Dan Jurgens’ Batman Beyond is back on track. Any hint of Terry’s amnesia is long gone, Elainna is fully situated as Batwoman, and the book has regained an ensemble cast which Jurgens thrives with in the Beyond universe. Batman Beyond #46 keeps that momentum going with excellent character dynamics, fantastic art, and a plot that keeps the twists and turns coming at a relentless pace.

Normally I don’t care much for end of the world plots with the exception of major event books. In my opinion, ongoing monthly comics draw their strength from both the routine and familiarity of checking in and getting to know characters in lower stake stories because the end of the world doesn’t allow for much downtime. However, Jurgens keeps his focus on the fun back and forth between Damian, Dick, Terry, and Elainna despite the fact that they’re headed to outer space to prevent a new ice age from destroying the planet. The first two pages are a great example of how to balance high stakes with humorous and engaging characterization. The opening page consists only of the team’s Batplane as it flies through a blizzard to end all blizzards. Sean Chen’s art does its job well as it sells the Batplane’s maneuvers with appropriate speed and intensity. However, the real magic is the juxtaposition with the art and the dialogue bubbles coming from the Batplane as the team inside bickers among themselves. Even without the name dropping, it’s clear who’s talking since Jurgens has a strong handle on the characters. Damian’s back and forth with Dick is funny, charming, and most importantly keeps the book focused on its strong ensemble and not on exposition dumps. It clicks together even better on the second page when we see the entire team cramped together in the cockpit like distant family members at an awkward Thanksgiving dinner. 

Credit: Sean Chen, Chris Sotomayor, Travis Lanham

Chen’s art in these dialogue heavy sequences is a major upgrade from his already usually solid work. He gets in close to the characters, using more closeups than the norm which pays off in spades. In the past, Chen (and others) rely a little too much on wider compositions to fit all the characters in a scene. While it gives a good sense of place, the nuances of the art’s “facial acting” gets lost. However, this time even Goliath gets a close up for a simple “snorf” when he hears Damian assert himself as being the best Robin. It makes routine exposition engaging to read through and Chen manages to give even Batwoman’s mostly featureless cowl a degree of expression. A head tilt here and a narrowing of eyes there does wonders. If I have any complaint about Batwoman’s design it’s that her cowl, unlike Terry’s, lacks an actual mouth, which limits her range of expressions even if it does look cool. Other members of the art team fire on all cylinders as well. Chris Sotomayor’s colors are bold and nuanced, especially in the Batwing cockpit which has a lot of different light sources casting their glow on people’s faces.

Back to the story at hand, Terry and everyone besides Bruce, Barbara, and Matt head to outer space to bring the fight to the League of Assassins and take out their shields which block sunlight from reaching Earth. It’s over the top and definitely a little jarring to see these characters fly around in space outside of a ship and take out laser cannons, but it works because Jurgens’ tone has kept the book from taking itself too seriously. The world may be ending, but Jurgens keeps the focus on our heroes tackling the problem and less so on the destruction that is sure to be going on down below. The more traditional hand to hand fisticuffs come off extremely well too. Chen creates a gorgeous two page spread where the team takes on almost a hundred assassins. The main image is stunning as the two groups prepare to battle in a richly detailed snapshot right before chaos ensues. Every crease and fold on the assassin’s uniforms is rendered and gives the panel a large amount of depth and texture. There’s even a fun gag of one of the assassin’s looking backward toward the reader in the bottom right corner. The action proper starts in smaller panels that run along the bottom of the spread. Chen smartly keeps these compositions simpler and keeps the assassin’s mostly in silhouette to create more contrast and keep the focus on Terry and the others. 

Credit: Sean Chen, Chris Sotomayor, Travis Lanham

The book’s subplot takes place back at the Batsuite where Bruce, Barbara, and Matt keep tabs on the situation in Gotham. They don’t have as much to do besides relate the increasingly dire situation, but there’s a genuine tension as the temperature drops and their generator freezes over. The fun banter from Terry and his group doesn’t fully carry over here, but Barbara does get a funny line where she questions Bruce’s decision to have a base of operations without actual windows. Bruce and Matt have mostly been stuck in the Batsuite/Batcave in recent issues so hopefully Jurgens gives them more to do soon. Another minor slip up in this issue is its abrupt ending. The actual events that unfold are solid, with a great cliffhanger that puts the entire cast in a life and death situation. However, the pacing is a little fast and the art takes a minor dip with a final page that doesn’t quite sell the dire situation.

Credit: Sean Chen, Chris Sotomayor, Travis Lanham

Spoiler
Seeing Barbara, Matt, and Bruce near death as snow builds in the Batsuite should be horrifying. However, Chen draws the trio already on the floor and seemingly passed out presumably from the cold. If so, then their faces should show some more wear and have frostbite of some kind because as it is they look like they’re having a quick nap. Even better would’ve been for Jurgens to write a more dynamic ending scene as seeing the trio on the floor doesn’t sell their dire situation quite as dramatically.

Recommended if…

  • You love a great ensemble cast that bounces off each other well.
  • Damian and Dick’s relationship is a highlight for you.
  • You don’t mind a lighter tone despite end of world stakes.

Overall

Batman Beyond #46 is a prime example of how to balance a high stakes plot with a focus on character interactions within an ensemble. Any hints of the series’ shortcomings in recent arcs have fully evaporated and I feel confident saying this is one of DC’s better books currently on the stands. Sean Chen’s art is a true standout and some of his strongest work on the series yet. Dan Jurgens’ script is quick paced, funny, and ends on an ominous cliffhanger that demands readers to return next month.

Score: 8/10


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