SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Batman Beyond Unlimited #1A comic review article by: Ray Tate, Jamil Scalese, Shawn Hill
Ray: Batman Beyond takes place in the probable future of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini/Dwayne McDuffie Animated Series continuity. After losing his father, Terry McGinness appears to stumble upon Wayne Manor and the secrets of Batman. Bruce Wayne, now old and retired from crimefighting due to an incapacitating heart attack, molds Terry into his successor. Bruce and Terry with the help of Commissioner Barbara Gordon keep the Jokers, the Splicers and Kobra at bay to make the future safe. Later, the new Batman joins the future incarnation of the Justice League, and this is where he belongs.
Justice League Beyond
In the Justice League episode "Epilogue" viewers discover that Amanda Waller, once a staunch foe of the League joins them as a government liaison, and she concludes that one vital factor catalyzes the League's ultimate success. Batman. The trouble is Batman is getting old, and to quote the Doctor, "Everything ends, and everything dies." Waller decides the only way to secure the League's future is to make new Batmen, and Waller knows the only Batman that's acceptable is a Batman that is Bruce Wayne. So, she institutes a cloning program under the facade of an infertility treatment. Terry McGinness and his little brother are actually clones of Bruce Wayne. Terry didn't just stumble onto Wayne Manor. Wayne Manor is his ancestral home.
Jamil: Of all the late-summer news about the New 52 the subject that caught most of my ire was the exclusion of a Batman Beyond title from the lineup. After years of being noncommittal to the sub-franchise DC had a decent young series with Adam Beechen's short run starting with a six-issue limited that pitted Terry against the new Hush. They seemed to be abandoning one of the few good things they had going pre-relaunch. Lucky for us, they wised up. You sum up the Beyond mythos well, Ray, but the one thing our readers should know before they jump into our review of Batman Beyond Unlimited is that the events in this book take place before "Epilogue", and so Terry, and probably even Bruce, don't know they're related.
Ray: This is true, and the idea of it being a "Missing Adventure" actually catalyzes one of the only objections I had in the series, but since it's a common problem among the type and Beechen doesn't dwell upon it too much, I didn't factor it into the grade. In "Epilogue" Dana knows Batman and Terry McGinnis are one in the same, and he's even about to ask her to marry him if memory serves. That growth in character makes Dana's abrupt break-up with Terry a little silly and seems very artificial.
Shawn: Well, I didn’t know about the cloning either, as I haven’t been following the series very much (though I really liked the animated episodes). The Dana development seems more to do with the subplot involving her brother, I guess. The road to love is often a bumpy one. What I’ve always liked about the concept is that it’s a slick and fun take on the future of Gotham, and nothing I read in this new issue let that feeling down. I especially enjoyed the art, which borrowed from the animated feeling that made the original series look so futuristic, but also has a connection to great Bat-tales of the past through Norm Breyfogle. I really loved his visual ideas for all these gathering bands of Jokerz-yo-yos (very much an evocation of Walter Hill’s great film The Warriors), and I thought Nguyen also captured the oddly familiar qualities (or familiar oddities) of the future JLU very well, too in the second story. They’ve done the principal thing they need to in this sort of future history story: they’ve gotten me involved in all the players, who are recognizable but unique in their own ways. And Barda’s always been my favorite Wonder Woman substitute.
They Don't Call Her Big Barda for Nothing
Shawn: Jamil, you're on the money with the Peter Parker/Bruce Wayne mashup; Terry doesn't live in the same world that Bruce grew up in, and he's got a Fray-like irreverence that reflects his youth as much as anything else. Yet he seems right at home alongside the mature Superman, and fighting the horrifying progeny that have evolved from all the old Bat-foes.
Jamil: You sufficiently summed up all of the things I really love about Neo-Batman: the beautiful balance of new and old, maturity and youth. And yeah, Barda rocks.
The art is outstanding throughout this whole double-stuffed issue. I thought Breyfogle got off to a little bit of a rough start with the Jokerz scene, but he absolutely kills it throughout the rest of the Batman story. I will go out on a limb and say one of the best depictions of McGinness in the Batsuit I've ever seen. I think Adam Beechen stepped up his game for this premiere issue and the prelude for "10,000 Clowns." He manages to acutely pull together many of the dangling threads from his short run on the previous series and give us some huge forward momentum. Also, Terry, for the purposes of this issue anyway, really reminded me of an old-school Peter Parker. People sometimes say that Batman Beyond is like a Batman and Spider-Man mash-up, and while that's an oversimplification, I got the "I'll crack wise while I kick your ass" from him and loved it. That's a huge departure from the previous guy to take the mantle. This story really served as a stage-setter, and damn if I'm not excited for what's to come.
Ray: Batman does have a sense of humor. Witness from Batman Returns: "Eat Floor. High in Fiber." He simply bides his time until the joke is worth telling. In any case I think Breyfogle actually hit the comic book running and never stopped. He's lost none of his pizzaz. He duplicates his Batman's penchant for attacking more than one foe, and Breyfogle sells it as anything but outrageous.
Ray: You grin with Batman not at him. Terry McGinnis naturally would fight just like Batman, and with the suit accented by colorist Andrew Elder, he actually might, just might, look better that the original Breyfogle Bat. Of course to be fair, I haven't seen the original Breyfogle Bat rendered in the color technologies of today. On the flip side, Dustin Nguyen, whose art I never had a taste, for seems right at home in a stylized version of the animated model. His Justice League Beyond is quite impressive and very entertaining, not just when the League are fighting either.
Jamil: Dustin Nguyen manages to match Breyfogel in quality, which is a nice surprise. Also, he shares writer credits with inker Derek Fridolfs on the Justice League story. I agree that Nguyens version of the Beyond universe characters is fantastic. He keeps the original inspiration and inserts a certain fierceness and authenticity to the world. Although, I think his Superman looks a little sickly.
Ray: That's a cute natural pose from Aquagirl. His older Barbara Gordon also looks better than Breyfogle's incarnation, more like the animated series version.
Ray: I'd also be remiss in not noting the presence of Dee-Dee, who actually killed Terry McGinnis in an alternate universe. It's very enjoyable to watch Batman clean their clocks.
Shawn: Nguyen may have found his métier in emulating animated stories; his somewhat stiff poses and stylized anatomy makes sense with these characters, in this alternate future DCU. While not aping the animated stories we've seen, he gives a sleek, clear and naturally streamlined consistency to Terry's world. And Breyfogle makes even the clowns who only have one sentence between them entertaining due to his mastery of facial expressions. If it sounds like the art is my favorite thing about Batman Beyond Unlimited, well, that's true. But I also think the creators have recaptured the initial excitement of the concept, and that this is not only one of the best-looking books of the New 52, it's also one of the most entertaining issues I've read this year.
Jamil: We spent a good amount of time talking about how beautiful this issue is. That cannot be denied. However, it should be stressed this book is bursting with new ideas and avenues for Terry, Bruce and the future League. We went through this whole Sluggy without really mentioning the hacker group Undercloud, the nationwide Jokerz army, the Jokerz/Splicer War, Bizarra and Kidzarro, Bruce using the Bat-Wraiths again, Kobra's attempt at world takeover or Micron's apparent defection. That's probably because this is one of those rare occurrences where great art overshadowed a high-quality script.
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.
Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.