Batman Beyond #27
Forty-two hours after the destruction of the Wayne Family Center of Tomorrow at the hands of the Joker, Batman needs to take a small break from hunting the Clown Prince of Crime, and so he changes into his civilian garb and meets up with Melanie Walker, formerly Ten of the Royal Flush Gang. Newly aware of his secret identity, Melanie has been working hard to change the direction her life had been taking and is glad that Terry feels he can trust her with his secret.
Across town, a man in clown garb named CC hesitantly goes into a Jokes On You, a novelty shop where the joke is definitely going to be on the shopkeeper, another clown named Bernie who supplied the Jokerz with their gear. Bernie is on Joker’s hitlist, since he believes the Jokerz to be pretenders to his throne, and so using CC as a human bomb (by holding his girlfriend Ruby hostage) the Joker blows up the shop. Once that’s done, he turns to the new gang he’s assembled – called the Throwbacks – and tells them that he wants to bring Gotham City back to the crime-infested, dirty, grimy city that it used to be. He references having worked with Terminal earlier and says that he’s gotten some ideas from him, namely embracing technology, since Batman and Robin have both done so. He then kills one of his Throwback members, since his name doesn’t fit with the names of the others, and he has another use for him.
In the Batcave, Bruce and Matt are joined by Dick, his daughter Elainna, and and Barbara. They deduce that the novelty shop explosion has to do with the Joker, and Matt rushes to go find Terry as Dick once again reprimands Bruce for allowing another Robin to happen.
Matt finds Terry and Melanie on a romantic walk that’s just turned the wrong side of awkward as Melanie tries to define their relationship. Matt arrives just as they come to the conclusion that most other couples come to when one or more of them is a costumed hero or villain – things are complicated – and Terry rushes off with Matt, though unlike previous girlfriend Dana Tan, at least Melanie understands where Terry is coming from.
As the Dynamic Duo fly to the remains of the novelty, they start getting shot at. It’s the Throwbacks – still an awkward name the second time around – and they get into a fight, because what else are bats and clowns going to do when they come across each other in Gotham City? Robin follows one of the Throwbacks – Ruby – into the building of the rooftop that they’re on, but he comes flying out moments later, attacked by something monstrous. That something monstrous, as they soon discover, is a giant half-man half-machine hulking monster, made with the remains of the Throwback that Joker had viciously killed. A screen on the torso of the thing bears a live feed of the Joker, who introduces himself as Joker Beyond. Yikes.
I have to hand it to Dan Jurgens – he’s a comic veteran whose career stretches back to the 1980s, and while he’s written a lot of great stuff, his Batman Beyond stuff might be some of the most fun. It’s a great melding of the sensibilities and continuity of the animated series melded with some of comics continuity, and though he looks at and nods to the past, he’s also moving Terry and his world forward and further into the future instead of letting the universe stay stagnant, and that’s a very welcome sort of storytelling. All of his characters have an arc of some sort, are growing and learning in one way or another, and that’s the best kind of storytelling, especially when mixed with the classic action comic style that Jurgens has and excels at.
This issue spends a little more time with the Joker, focusing specifically on why he’s back and what his mission is this time around – to bring Gotham City back to its former unglory, since Batman and company have cleaned up the city and made it too pristine for his own liking. He wants it all to devolve back into chaos, which is probably as Joker-y of a reason as you can get for why he does the things he does. While it seems unlikely that he’s going to be able to fell all of Neo-Gotham, the focus on the grittier parts of Gotham that his arc has had suggests that he will at least make some headway. What that means for Gotham’s guardians isn’t entirely clear, but it’s a good thing that the Batfamily is slowly expanding, because Terry clearly is going to need all the help he can get – including Robin’s, no matter what original Robin Dick Grayson has to say about it.
Seeing Terry and Melanie’s relationship develop and move further is a nice choice made by Jurgens – Melane is one of Terry’s more interesting, layered, and flawed supporting characters and love interests, a mix of Felicia Hardy and Mary Jane Watson to the more traditional Gwen Stacy-type role that Dana Tan inhabits – and seeing Terry choose to explore that relationship is a nice change of pace. Whether Ten is truly behind Melanie remains to be seen. Could be that she’ll slip on the costume again to work with Terry, or come up with a different identity for herself. In any case, it’s nice that he’s with someone who understands and supports him.
Brett Booth’s art in this issue – moreso even than the last issue – is energetic and animated, and a perfect fit for the book. There’s an expressiveness to his characters and a kineticism to his linework that pops. His Robin is exuberant, his Bruce and Dick Grayson appropriately moody and cranky, and his Melanie has a look closer to the look that the animated series set up for her, so she looks more like herself and less like almost any other blonde to inhabit Gotham City. He handles the big action scenes well, but he handles the smaller, more intimate moments just as well, and he’s definitely more than welcome to stay on the book for a long, long time. This truly feels like some of the best work he’s done in a while.
Between Dan Jurgens and Brett Booth, this book is fun, and firing on all cylinders. Fans of Batman, Batman Beyond, and classic comic book storytelling should absolutely check this book out.
Batman Beyond #27: Joker – Beyond?!
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 8/108/10
User Review( votes)