Many of Batman’s adventures have us following him through a case, a mystery, a fight, or something like that. Sometimes though, Batman works well as a stand-in for the audience. He becomes a way for the writers to explore stuff that might be outside Batman’s normal subject matter thanks to his ability to slip in anywhere and simply watch. This week, Batman Beyond peeks into a twisted version of the Marvel universe as Terry follows the Terrific Trio.
Batman Beyond: Heroes
Batman’s world is one of tragedy. Over in the Marvel universe, horrifying accidents so often turn out for the best. Instead of dying of radiation sickness, Peter Parker and Bruce Banner get superpowers. Instead of developing cancer, the Fantastic Four becomes the world’s foremost team of experts on the cosmos. Meanwhile, the DC universe has Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and even goofballs like the Clock King, whose misfortune takes over their life and turns them against the world.
Batman is out one night when a stretchy guy, a lava-rock guy, and a flying ice woman stop a crime that he was too slow on. The 2-D Man, Magma, and Freon are the Terrific Trio, a play on Marvel’s Fantastic Four. They were bombarded by radiation that transformed them and gave them superpowers. It’s not long, though, before one of them, Magma, attempts to rescue someone who is terrified by the fact that he’s a giant lava monster.
The Terrific Trio was, at least in part, the intentional result of an experiment by the fourth guy–who would be the Reed Richards of the group if he’d been there, too. Batman Beyond, even more so than Batman: The Animated Series, has been about the secret agendas of the super-ambitious, and about the way their behavior destroys the lives of those around them. Our current culture of worshipping tech giants looks pretty rough when we look back at this show for kids and young teens and the hard stance it takes against exactly those people.
The show also hones in on the body horror that would come with these transformations; the Fantastic Four deals with sometimes in regards to the Thing, but rarely outside of that (shoutout to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for getting horrifying with Mr. Fantastic pretty quickly, though). Magma and Freon hate their new forms. One is literally made of lava, and the other is an intangible ice being. The two were a couple before the accident, and now they can’t touch each other.
I would be remiss in not at least mentioning in passing the 2004 “Ice Station Impossible” episode of Venture Bros., which tackles similar ideas but in a much more adult way.
Batman himself has very little to do in the episode. We only see him as Terry once for a moment, and otherwise, he’s in the Batsuit but sidelined thanks to the overwhelming power the Terrific Trio possesses. Interestingly, though, he seems to have no qualms about killing these characters–a flood of water turns Magma into a hissing block of obsidian, while Freon and 2-D Man are sucked up into ventilation, with Freon seemingly dissipating in the process.
It makes for a strange but interesting episode of Batman Beyond that’s well worth watching.
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