Batman Beyond: Neo-Year #4 is primarily a fight issue, but uses that time to establish some themes around perception and fear. It’s not a concept that the series has really played with until now, but it’s one that is fitting for Batman. The question becomes how well the issue is able to tie that theme into what’s going on in the plot and with the characters. On that front it’s a bit of a mixed bag. That being said, it manages to take an otherwise straight-forward fight and add some complexity.
On the surface, Terry’s fight with the Sword of Gotham is a drawn out sequence of Terry repeatedly being put on his back foot and trying to not die. As an action sequence it’s not a bad one. If you skip past all of the underlying narration about deception, what’s left is a fast paced battle that is able to keep the tension high. Max Dunbar’s art provides a frantic energy that makes sure that, similar to how Terry is never really able to get a moment to catch his breath, the reader feels like the punches never stop coming. It’s an energy that has become somewhat of a staple in this series.
However, the fight itself is only half the story. In the midst of trying to not die, Terry takes a moment to reflect on some lessons he learned from Bruce about the superstitious and cowardly nature of criminals. Perception becomes the main focus, and just as Batman strikes fear into the hearts of evil, he must also not let himself become blinded by the falsehoods that they will try to put forth. This is a good idea for a Batman story to explore, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with the scene at hand. The way that Terry emphasizes each action with one of these nuggets of wisdom implies that they are somehow helping him fight, but the fight itself doesn’t have anything to do with that.
The advice, in practical terms, is really nothing more than a “don’t give up, try harder!” motivation. At no point does Terry use guile as part of his strategy, nor does realizing that he shouldn’t let himself be fooled change his actions. Terry does realize after the battle is over that the Gotham AI had been tricking him by using a normal old man as a puppet for the Sword of Gotham, but that’s getting cause and effect mixed up. Figuring that out had nothing to do with Terry’s thoughts from before, it’s just a coincidence. It just happened as a natural result of what he was doing anyways.
As a complete side note, the Gotham AI kidnapped that old man from “Isley Gardens Retirement Facility”, which raises so many questions for me. I guess Poison Ivy decided that helping old people was a good side gig in the future?
Terry does eventually break through Sword of Gotham’s (man, that’s cumbersome to write out every time. Can I just start referring to them as SoG?) “deception” by discovering that he can deactivate the mind control by electrocuting it, but that feels like a stretch. Once again that just comes as a natural result of fighting. At no point does it feel like Terry is actively acting on Bruce’s advice; it just happens to line up nicely with the events unfolding around him.
- You want a nice fight scene between Terry and the Sword of Gotham
- Terry being forced to operate without his gadgets is a part of this series that you enjoy
- Some introspection on how Batman fights his enemies is interesting, even if it doesn’t totally connect with the story
This is a well done fight issue that’s tense and exciting. It’s fun to read a story where it feels like the hero is constantly has their back up against the wall and can barely keep going. The attempt to tie that fight to something deeper is commendable. However, that connection is often tenuous and doesn’t always work the way the story wants it to when you step back and think about it. The Gotham AI’s plan does involve deception, and that does tie into some major ideas behind the Batman identity, but the way those two concepts tie together in practice often feels tenuous. It’s becoming a recurring theme with this series that I see and like what they’re going for, I just don’t know if the book quite pulls it off.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.