The recent DC solicitations for December announced that Dan Jurgens’ Batman Beyond will end with issue #50. With that knowledge in hand, Batman Beyond #47 feels a little out of the series’ normal wheelhouse. Our heroes are far away from Neo-Gotham and find themselves in space trying to take out a dangerous space station run by Zeh-ro, the new leader of the League of Assassins. While this issue delivers the goods in an action packed climax for the arc, the direction it sets the series in makes me wonder how all of this will wrap up by December.
Jurgens picks up right where we left off last month. Terry, Goliath, Elainna, and Damian find themselves shot out of the station’s airlock and hurtling towards the empty void of outer space. The star of the show here is Sean Chen’s pencils. I’ve always thought Chen was great at putting together action sequences and this issue is no different. The first page is chaotic, but Chen’s thoughtful panel layouts make it easy to decipher the action. However, the actual compositions are a little busy, especially for the first page of a book. We open with a mass of bodies with Terry and the others flying straight at the reader which is initially overwhelming. It’s a bold choice that only works since the next panel pulls away from the action and lets the reader see Terry fly out into space alone, giving a better sense of the environment. This thoughtful paneling carries into the next two pages that make up this action sequence. With motion lines indicating the force of the airlock and complex character designs in the form of Goliath and Damian, it would be easy to get lost visually. Chen pulls off a minor miracle in keeping the sequence engaging. The end of the sequence with Terry flying against the force of the airlock only to be pulled in by Goliath and flung toward the foreground of the last panel is marvelous work.
I’ve said before that Chen’s pencils sometime dip in quality in the quieter scenes, but this arc has demonstrated that he’s more than able to wring drama out of the dialogue driven sequences. When Barbara emerges out of the Batmobile to rescue Bruce and Matt the composition has her tower over the others in a powerful pose. When they enter the Batmobile, Barbara dominates the panel in the foreground with Bruce and Matt in the background. These are thoughtful compositions which create drama even without laser blasts and fisticuffs. Near the end of the book, Chen does revert to his tendency to go a little too wide to capture the entire ensemble cast, but the close ups he does use are expertly drawn. There’s a page near the end where the bottom has four panels that each feature a close up on each main character and they all are gorgeously drawn. This is also where Sean Parsons gets to shine with thicker inks and heavy shadows that breathe a lot of dimension into the talking heads. If there’s any flaw to the art it’s that Chen repeats a composition from last issue for a big action scene. It’s a two page spread where the top panel features a wide shot of the incoming villains and the bottom has smaller panels that display some of the action beats. It’s a great composition, but it being reused stood out to me as repetitive.
Jurgens’ script is economical, but doesn’t feature as much character development as previous issues. This is largely forgivable since it’s the final issue of the arc and the focus should be on the action. However, there are moments where the sheer amount of “action dialogue” is noticeable with characters mostly explaining what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Jurgens does sprinkle in a few character moments though, including a funny moment where Damian tells Zeh-ro he’ll let his fate be determined by a “lesser being” who happens to be Terry. Damian can verge on being one note as he spends most of his time insulting everyone around him, besides Goliath, but a few moments at the end do soften his edges just a little bit. Nonetheless, Jurgens puts together some good action scenes for Chen to go wild in, including a somewhat brief but satisfying final showdown between Zeh-ro and Terry. I don’t think the way our heroes ultimately prevail was incredibly clever, but Jurgens keeps the pace relentless and gives almost every character a distinct way to help save the day. The subplot with Bruce, Matt, and Barbara back in Neo-Gotham doesn’t go anywhere really, but Jurgens does fine enough job of making the entire ensemble feel relevant.
The wrap up does introduce a few intriguing paths for the series to go in, but it is tough to shake the feeling of sorrow that there’s only a few more issues to go. This series has so much potential for further growth and has been one of the more consistent books DC has on the stands. Even if some of the plot points never reach their full potential, if this book were to ever get a new #1 issue, the next writer would be wise to use the foundation Jurgens set.
- You want to see Sean Chen improve more and more as an artist.
- Damian Wayne is a favorite character of yours and you want a new angle for his place in the Beyond universe.
- You’ve stuck with the series this long and want to see it through to the end.
Batman Beyond #47 is a solid ending to one of the better arcs of the series. Even outside of its usual Neo-Gotham setting, Jurgens’ ensemble cast keeps the book grounded in its strength of strong characterization and fun banter. While the action does dominate this issue, Sean Chen’s fantastic art makes up for this larger emphasis on spectacle. With only four more issues to go, Jurgens’ Batman Beyond is primed to end strong and I have high hopes this series will be looked on as one of the better DC series in recent memory.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.