So this is the way the series ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. When I first started reviewing Batman Beyond: Neo-Year, I was not very impressed. I commented that it was meandering and often unable to effectively convey the ideas that it was trying to get across. However, over time the series steadily improved. Each issue was better than the last, with the score creeping up all the way to an 8/10 last month. I was really excited to read the finale. Unfortunately, Batman Beyond: Neo-Year #6 finishes the series off by once again trying very hard yet failing to say something profound.
Kelly and Lanzing kick off the story by making the bold decision to recreate the famous “you’ve eaten Gotham’s wealth” scene from Batman: Year One. On its own it’s a decent moment for Terry’s big entrance, but by intentionally mimicking the structure and dialog from Frank Miller’s comic it invites comparison and contrast. Now, is it fair for me to compare this page to one of the most famous sequences from arguably the greatest Batman comic of all time? Possibly not, but they’re the ones that decided to take a shot so I think it’s worth talking about.
First of all, from a visual standpoint, the art abandons the darkness motif almost immediately. In Batman: Year One, David Mazzucchelli envelops the entire page in blackness, making Batman come across as a specter just as much to the reader as to the dinner guests. When he covers the flame, there is total darkness and a silent stillness lingers over the page as you can hardly tell what will happen next. Here, Sebastian Cheng’s usual bright colors cause the effect to be lost completely. The first panel indicates that the lights have been shut out, just like in the original, but everything after that is completely bright again and you wouldn’t even know that anything was wrong.
The dialogue itself is overwritten, especially when compared to Miller’s from the original. Part of what made is so memorable is that it managed to convey so much in only 26 words. Here, the writing says barely as much but takes about twice as long to say it. It gets wrapped up in the food metaphor, and tries to combine it with the line about darkness in such a way that it becomes muddled. It’s clearly meant to sound important, but comes across as just a listing of grievances in overly purple prose.
I know that I’m devoting a lot of time to a single page, but I think it’s emblematic of some of the larger issues with this issue and the series as a whole. It regularly tries to recreate the vague notion of deep concepts, but lacks the deftness to pull it off. What results is ultimately inoffensive fun at best, and pretentiousness at worst.
Another “big” moment is when all of Terry’s allies arrive to save the day. I think the idea behind this scene is to tie together all of the previous issues by including every faction that he’s met so far – The GCPD, Gestalt, and the Jokerz gang. I liked seeing Gestalt again, and Commissioner Barbara Gordon’s struggle with retirement has been one of the more interesting subplots in the series. The shot of all the police blimps coming in like an armada while Gordon stands at attention isn’t the most original visual trope, but it still builds excitement nonetheless.
The Jokerz gang themselves, however, feels completely out of left field and their role in helping Terry almost comes across as a deus ex machina. They barely had any narrative presence in the story up until this point except for a bunch of mooks that Terry fought without context in the second issue. Now all of the sudden they’re teaming up with him to take down Lumos. Not to compare with Miller again, but it feels like they were trying to convey the same idea as in The Dark Knight Returns when Bruce takes back the city from darkness in part by getting the Mutants to follow him as “The Sons of Batman.” The power of that scene is rooted in the thematic importance of their role in the story so far, and how Bruce is able to shape the city to his will. Here, they just randomly show up because why not, but we have no attachment to them aside from a two page fight scene that happened a few issues back.
Of course we have to have a final boss fight against the main antagonist. However, that wouldn’t really make much sense here given that Lumos is just an entitled businessman who seems unaware of what’s going on around him. The way that the story gets to have its cake and eat it too is by making it so that Lumos, after learning that an evil AI has taken over the city and is controlling people’s minds, decides “okay, yeah, that sounds good; take over me too.” Since he’s the main bad guy, he gets turned into one of the Sword of Gotham soldiers but, like, more. It ultimately looks very overdesigned and doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the Batman Beyond cyberpunk aesthetic; it’s more like something out of a JRPG.
The way everything is resolved is ultimately very anticlimactic.
Super Lumos is taken out by one of the Jokerz gang firing some rocket launchers, and then the AI itself is beaten by Gestalt hacking really well. I’ve already talked about how the Jokerz gang in this issue feel like they don’t belong, and having them pop up out of nowhere to deliver the final blow to the big boss monster feels unearned and unsatisfying. More importantly though, the way the AI plot itself is resolved completely undermines the entire series. So much of what made the Gotham AI an interesting antagonist was its omnipresence and the way that there was no single point of failure that it could be taken down by. There was genuine suspense surrounding how exactly the Gotham AI could be defeated when it was the city. All of that is thrown to the wayside, and instead someone in the background just declares that it’s defeated because they did computers good.
The epilogue tells us that everyone lived happily ever after. All the good guys are in charge of everything, the bad guys are defeated and/or humiliated so that they have to help the good guys, and Terry is apparently dating officer Boonma. They never really had any romantic chemistry up until now, but he’s a guy and she’s a girl, so I guess they need to end up together. It all wraps up far too cleanly in a way that is at odds with everything the series has been about so far. I’d say that it at least wraps up the whole storyline, except we get one final “Batman Beyond will return in 2023!” sendoff, so I guess I’ll be here next year to review that as well.
- You want to see how the series ends
- You were hoping that the story would end with a big battle
- You’re excited to see all the characters come together
Far from the crescendo that the series was building up to in recent issues, Batman Beyond: Neo-Year #6 highlights all of the problems the series has had up until now. What interesting ideas were suggested up until this point turn out to be damp squibs as they’re resolved hastily at the last minute. The writing frequently attempts to punch above its weight class but fails; it has all of these deep ideas that it wants to tackle like corporate greed, emergent AI, and systemic corruption, but none of it is explored in more than a superficial manner. It’s flashy, but no matter how hard it wants to be something more, beneath all the spectacle there is not much there.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided a copy of this issue for the purpose of this review.