This series seems to have modeled itself as a cyberpunk detective thriller. The premise is built on Terry being left all on his own while the city itself is literally out to get him. With no one to turn to and no leads, he’s stuck in the unenviable position of finding a way to take down the rogue AI that killed Bruce Wayne. This is the part where the “detective” part of “detective thriller” becomes important, and it’s an aspect of the series that has been struggling. Since Terry doesn’t know much about the AI’s plans or how to confront it, he’s done a lot of meandering as things just happen around him. The last issue especially spent a lot of time on threads that ended up going nowhere. Thankfully Batman Beyond: Neo-Year #3 seems to have maybe found a sense of direction and plants some hooks for the narrative to follow.
What better way to gather intel than to schmooze it up with the city’s wealthy elite? It’s a tried and true opening that we’ve seen playboy socialite Bruce Wayne use to kick off plenty of stories. Terry attends a retirement party for Commissioner Barbara Gordon, which is just filled to the brim with sycophantic hangers-on. This allows us to get a better picture of all the players involved and how they connect. It’s an opportunity to highlight the dichotomy between the dark center of Gotham and the flamboyant theatrics that mask it. And just as Batman did with the vapid playboy Bruce Wayne, it’s a mask that Terry must learn to create. On paper this is a great idea to show how much Terry is filling the role that Bruce left behind, but aside from an awkward scene of him flirting with a detective, it doesn’t amount to much. That contrast is much better highlighted by Barbara’s weary, restrained attitude towards policing and the gravity it holds, contrasted with the flamboyance of people like Donovan Lumos.
As the new head of Wayne Industries, he’s an obnoxious character you can’t help but hate. He flaunts his wealth and openly brags about how everything he does is solely to benefit himself. It borders on cartoonish how moustache-twirlingly evil he and the other wealthy attendees are written. It’s anything but subtle and definitely takes a bit away from the gritty, neo-noir tone the comic sometimes goes for, but it makes the juxtaposition that much more striking. Sebastian Cheng’s bright, garish colors of the partygoers really emphasize how unreconcilably different they are from people like Barbara. That being said, I would have liked to see more done with that sort of visual contrast; while Barbara is still technically wearing her subdued blacks and browns, the bright coloring and lighting of the art is always “on” so some of the effect is lost.
One of the attendants of the party is detective Beam Boonma, who offers a much needed sense of direction for the narrative. She’s incredibly driven in her desire to investigate what’s going on in the city, and serves as a foil to Terry who seems out of his element trying to track down leads. She’s a character I hope we get to see more of in the future. However, the story seems to be confused as to what her role in the mystery should be.
After one of the many expository two-page spreads that this series seems so fond of (which, pretty as it is, doesn’t gain much by having an entire conversation’s worth of dialog put on a single image), Terry plies her for information regarding the missing mayor. He later comments about how guilty he feels about using her for intel, but that it was necessary. The problem is that never actually happened. As soon as he started questioning her, she got suspicious and left. From the point of view of the investigation, absolutely nothing was gained from talking with her. He passively overheard someone mentioning that the mayor is missing at the party, and when she leaves that’s still all he has to go on.
When Terry does finally investigate the mayor’s office himself, he learns that it was a trap the whole time. The reveal is tense, helped by the ominous way the Gotham AI’s speech is presented between the panels on page that I really like. It’s also nice to have things start to tie back into the main plot and get back on track. It does, however, raise questions as to what the AI’s plan actually was. The only reason Terry showed up is because he happened to overhear someone say that the mayor has been missing “for 32 hours.” Has this Sword of Gotham guy just been sitting in that room, waiting, for over a day until someone showed up? How long was he planning on waiting if Terry didn’t hear that one person talking? I really hope he had snacks.
- Last issue felt like too much of a side story and you’re ready to focus on the main plot again
- You want to see the antagonist ham it up and revel in how evil he is
- Terry stumbling his way into learning how to be a detective sounds interesting
You can tell the kind of story that Lanzing and Kelly are trying to tell, but they’re struggling with the execution. They want to say something meaningful about about how the rich abuse their power for personal gain, but they’re written as such caricatures that it loses much of its bite. They want to write a detective story where Terry investigates how to track down the Gotham AI, but he hardly does any investigating and is so passive that plot events need to happen to him. The book is not bad, but it can be frustrating to clearly see the writers’ lofty ambitions while failing to live up to them.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.