Batman Beyond Neo Gothic #5
As Neo-Gotham above falls under the unstoppable shadow of Donovan Lumos's City of Light, Batman faces down the monster that lives in Gotham's heart: the Garden! With the combined powers of Swamp Thing, Poison Ivy, and Black Orchid, the Garden's motivations are finally revealed...as is the tragic figure that lives at its center. Has Batman gone so far into the darkness that he can never return? Is it time for Terry McGinnis to join Bruce Wayne in the Garden's endless embrace?
Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic’s first four issues are a tour down into Gotham’s inner darkness. At each level the series has pried deep into Terry and Kyle’s psyches and troubled moments from their past. By contrast, Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic #5 doesn’t delve very deep. The conflict here is largely surface level. But the issue does what it needs to in paving the way for what will come next.
Terry and Kyle are in the garden when issue five begins. They are set upon by Poison Ivy and Black Orchid (who Terry recognizes) and Swamp Thing (who he does not). At the heart of it all, though, is Constantine. He’s kidnapped dozens of children, all of whom are captive in the garden. Meanwhile, above ground, Lumos carries out his plan to demolish the old parts of Gotham and continue his plan to modernize the city. The dangers above and the dangers below are on a collision course.
Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic #5 dispenses with the series’ borderline horror sensibilities in a rush toward the finish line. The conflict in the garden is superficial compared to the previous issues. With regard to Terry, it lacks the depth that prior confrontations possessed. Though the villains in the garden are historically linked to Batman, this issue doesn’t directly connect them to Terry in the way Killer Croc, the Court of Owls, and the Batman Beneath were.
Kyle and Terry’s encounter with Constantine carries a little more emotional intensity. Terry takes point in the confrontation. It touches on Kyle and Constatine’s relationship but is largely plot oriented, discussing the missing children and prepping for the larger fight between Neo Gotham and the old city it’s built upon that’s coming in the final issue. But Terry’s confrontation with Constantine does effectively set up Kyle to exorcise his demons by facing Constantine in the final issue.
The surprising turn in Batman Beyond Neo Gothic #5 is the extra development Kelly and Lanzing give Lumos. All of one series and most of another portrayed Lumos as someone who is at best indifferent to the havoc his march toward the future is causing. Here, quite out of the blue, the writing duo includes a brief exchange between Lumos and Beam that humanizes the self-appointed architect of Gotham’s future. That isn’t to say that he’s suddenly sympathetic. But showing him not only aware of the cost his work is exacting, but also uncomfortable with it, adds surprising depth to the character. In some ways, it’s the most shocking moment in the issue.
The art gives the garden a look unlike anything seen in the series to this point.
The dark color palette and its reliance on blacks and grays is gone, befitting the overall move away from borderline horror. Beredo chooses bright colors, a more natural and alive look not just compared to the various levels of the undercity but to Neo Gotham as well. Even as Terry and Kyle climb upward toward Constantine’s location, the browns are more natural, reminiscent of fresh wood rather than the dingy and dirty colors of a city.
Dunbar draws everything in the garden with more curves than hard angles. This place is alive–twisted and interwoven. As with the color choices, the setting contrasts with the rest of the undercity. The enemies, the ground of the garden, and the various tangles in it are all highly detailed.
Dunbar and Beredo depict the garden and Constantine’s location in it as a place entirely separate from everything else we’ve seen in the series. It’s unlike the undercity, the old sections of Gotham, and the neon heights of Neo Gotham. It’s somehow appropriate that this place, the most alive setting yet seen in the series, is where the series’ greatest danger originates.
The issue’s lettering adds to this sense of tangled growth. Otsmane-Elhaou uses irregularly shaped dialogue bubbles for the enemies in the garden–curved like the overgrowth rather than angled and sharp.
Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic #5 does its job effectively. It doesn’t have the same depth in character exploration (though the Lumos scene is quite revealing), but it does what it has to as a penultimate issue: set up an high stakes finale.
Batman Beyond: Neo-Gothic #5: The Dark Garden
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9.5/109.5/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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