The previous issue (and a half) of Batman Beyond: Neo-Year spent a lot of time setting up the stakes of Terry’s new situation with Bruce dead and the city out to get him. It was a new direction to take the character, which made me curious to see how everything else would play out. Unfortunately this issue doesn’t do much to capitalize on that set up, and instead devotes too much time to what seems like side distractions.
The story can’t seem to move past the city-as-an-enemy premise fast enough. It raises a really good point in that Terry’s future batsuit is laced from head to toe in technology that can be tracked, and even his civilian face is not safe. Learning how to operate under those conditions without anyone to turn to is a great idea for a story in and of itself. It would be a fresh new take on the Batman: Year One idea, only set in Cyberpunk Gotham. Paul Pope did something similar with Batman: Year 100, which was great.
However this issue rushes through all of that in five pages of exposition narration quickly summarizing the fact that Terry found a way to hide himself and track down a lead. All of the panels are laid out in single rows, sequentially telling each thing that happened like a bulleted list. It’s a very boring form of visual storytelling that prioritizes efficient delivery of information. What could have been a gritty tech-noir story of Terry investigating the sources of power for the Gotham AI is just a few panels of him beating up some thugs and then asking around.
When the story isn’t expositing, it’s mostly concerned with Terry’s fight/chase with the new villain “Gestalt,” a shared consciousness of three people controlling a bunch of tentacles made from cables. It’s a neat character idea, but they attack Terry as soon as he arrives and then immediately run away which doesn’t give enough context or build up to make the chase have any weight. The sequence takes up the bulk of the remainder of the story but ends up not having much impact on the overall narrative. It feels almost obligatory, like there needed to be an action set piece for the issue so a tentacle monster was created and thrown in.
However nothing is more superfluous than the fight with the Jokerz gang that happens in the middle of that chase sequence. It’s so tacked on that it’s almost insulting; you could completely cut out the three pages where it happens and not miss a single beat. Terry is being chased through Gotham by Gestalt, falls into a Jokerz lair, beats them up, and then the chase resumes. I have to assume that it was included either to pad out the page count, or because they needed an excuse to be able to put something Joker related on the cover to sell more copies.
What’s a shame is that visually, the Jokerz fight is the most interesting and dynamic part of the issue but you have no narrative reason to care about it. Max Dunbar does a great job here creating a sense of motion as the layout and kinetic action draws the eyes from left to right across the page in one fluid movement. It almost reads like chronophotography. The bright circus lighting also gives Sebastian Cheng a chance to do wonders with the colors that makes the page feel alive. It might have had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it was the best part to look at compared to the workmanlike art elsewhere in the issue.
Gestalt feels wasted as a science fiction concept. They have a great design that reminds me a lot of the precogs from Minority Report, and a shared consciousness between three former individuals has a lot of potential for character exploration. However with how little time they have to explain who they are and what their motivations are (pretty much just a double-page spread), it feels very underdeveloped.
Their reasoning for wanting to cast away their identities is supposed to be tied to witnessing the emergence of the Gotham AI and not liking that people fight, but the throughline on how they got from that to joining their minds feels tenuous. We’re also not told why they were stealing diamonds at all other than that the plot needed it to happen so that Terry could find them. After all that the investigation ultimately leads to nothing, which raises the question as to what the point was.
- You’re curious how Terry figures out how to stay hidden from an omnipresent city AI
- You want to see Terry fight a cyberpunk tentacle monster with some Jokerz thugs thrown in
- Plots should be summarized quickly to get to the action
Batman Beyond: Neo-Year #2 struggles due to not giving enough focus to any of the ideas that it puts forth. Either a high concept science fiction story about an antagonist with a shared consciousness, or a gritty detective story of Terry working in the shadows while the city itself is out to get him could have been really interesting. However, since neither of those premises are given enough space to fully develop, what’s left is a story that feels inconsequential.
DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.