Batman Beyond #23
As Gotham descends into chaos, the Scarecrow stands revealed as the shadowy figure behind the sudden fear of the Batman. Batman realizes that they need to leave the scene of the angry, fear-gas afflicted citizens, but Robin tells him that they need to stay because there’s a plan. While Bruce and Jack Ryder try to figure out who this new Scarecrow may be, Batman notices that things must be absolutely awful if even Barbara Gordon has turned against him.
The plan, it turns out, is a few gas pellets that Bruce had given Robin, which knocks the crowd out. Scarecrow is horrified by this movie – it's a sudden loss of power – and Batman claims that he’s got Scarecrow now, but Scarecrow distracts him by grabbing the little girl who is next to him and throwing her off the side of the building they’re on. Batman springs into action, going after the girl and telling Robin to take on Scarecrow. Batman saves the little girl, by the time he gets back, the Scarecrow has disappeared.
Back in the Batcave, Bruce and Ryder cannot seem to figure out how the Scarecrow is getting to everyone. No gas or chemicals are being used, and that tends to be the Scarecrow’s usual M.O. Ryder and Bruce start an argument about Bruce’s old fighting methods – he never really cared for collateral damage like Adalyn Stern – and Bruce tells him that they have a difference of opinion there. Before the argument can deepen, Batman and Robin arrive, the former confused to see Ryder there, while the latter is excited. Bruce explains that Ryder is an old friend – an old costumed friend – and Ryder tells Robin it doesn’t matter who he was, the important thing right now is to worry about the Scarecrow. With that, he leaves to go find Adalyn.
Across town, at the News 52 offices, the Scarecrow is in panic mode. Everything was set: Scarecrow was about to win and Batman should have been dead, but that wasn’t the case at all. It’s then revealed that Scarecrow is causing fear and chaos over the airwaves, manipulating the public that way. All around town, people start getting affected by the subconsciously induced fear. Well, everyone except Melanie Walker, who is reading instead of watching or listening to any live media that could affect her. She watches as below, the citizens of Gotham form another mob, ready to kill Batman.
Ryder arrives at the News 52 offices, looking for Adalyn, whom he finds cowering underneath a news desk. She talks about stopping the monster, scared, and Ryder tries to convince her that the bat beast she’s thinking of doesn’t exist – the Scarecrow was making her see things that didn’t exist.
In the Batmobile, as the Dynamic Duo collects air samples to figure out what is going on, Robin tells Batman he doesn’t understand how Scarecrow is affecting people if not by gas. They come across a bunch of large screens filled with static – static that seems hypnotic. Their Batmobile warns them that a particle beam is being detected, and Batman and Robin jump ship. It turns out that Barbara Gordon was aiming to take the Batmobile down. Unfortunately for Batman, once they’re out in the open air, Robin turns against Batman and attacks him, under the influence of the same thing afflicting almost everyone else in Gotham.
As Batman fights for his life against his brother, Ryder tries to convince Adalyn that she needs to get help – they need to find a way to stop the Scarecrow from getting to her. The only problem is...Adalyn doesn’t want help. She doesn’t need it because it turns out that she’s the new Scarecrow.
While Ryder freezes in shock over this latest revelation, outside, Batman plummets towards the crazed mob below after Robin manages to disable his high-tech suit.
This current incarnation of Batman Beyond is one that’s proven to be full of surprises, with each issue getting more interesting, especially in this latest arc. Dan Jurgens has been laying the groundwork for some really interesting, meaty things for a while now, and some of it is beginning to pay off. Batman and Robin have been having a rocky start as the Dynamic Duo of the future, but it’s not just the usual issues between brothers – Matt has been susceptible to Scarecrow’s fear-mongering since the start of the arc, and it makes sense that he would turn against his brother here, unfortunate though that twist may be. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger, but this being Batman’s title, we know that he’s not going to die. Having said that, though, there’s no telling what the merciless mob below will do to him.
The revelation of Adalyn Stern as the Scarecrow isn’t exactly much of a surprise, though she did seem to succumb to her own fear gas at the beginning of the arc. How and why she became the Scarecrow isn’t quite clear, though the groundwork is definitely there, considering the fact that she was emotionally scarred by Batman as a child. Where Scarecrow will go from here is anybody’s guess – does she have a connection to Jonathan Crane? Is she doing this on her own? There are no real answers yet, but it will be exciting to find out.
Jurgens is also clearly setting up something big for Melanie Walker – formerly Ten of the Royal Flush Gang. Whatever it is, it’s clear that she is going to end up being a partner of sorts to Batman, maybe even redeeming herself in Terry’s eyes in the process. Redemption for her would be great, especially as that’s the thing she’s been fighting for so long.
Will Conrad continues to give some very sleek, polished art here. His Gotham is slick and grimy, industrial, dirty in places, but also filled with the bright neon lights and giant, garish signs that make the night bright in a way that doesn’t make the city seem safe or welcoming – exactly as Gotham should be. His work with Bruce and Ryder is particularly well-done and expressive, the tension between them palpable. David Baron’s colors only add to the atmosphere of Gotham, making Conrad’s artwork stand out all the more. It’s definitely a good-looking book, even though it strays away some from the traditional physical aesthetic of the established Batman Beyond universe, bringing it more in line with the traditional comics DC Universe.
Each issue of this arc ramps up the action and tension a little more than the last and this issue is no exception. Filled with action, drama, and some great twists and turns, this is a fun, classic superhero story that is well worth a read.
Batman Beyond #23: Scarecrow Revealed!
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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