Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis disagree over Matt McGinnis’ future as Robin – Matt wants to prove himself, but Terry firmly believes he isn’t ready. Meanwhile, Commissioner Barbara Gordon finds herself in the center of a hostage crisis when one of the Jokerz goes from being a run-of-the-mill trouble-maker to someone far deadlier!
Batman Beyond #20 – Target: Batman Part One
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciller: Marco Castiello
Inker: Mark Morales
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Colorist: Wil Quintana
Cover: Viktor Kalvachev
Variant Cover: Shane Davis & Wil Quintana
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Editor: Rob Levin
What You Need to Know:
Matt McGinnis, Terry’s little brother, put on a Robin suit to save Terry from a new Payback, who blamed Terry for the death of his son, the first Payback. Dana Tan didn’t approve of Bruce’s using Matt in this way and wants Terry to quit being Batman. Melanie Walker, formerly Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, has returned to Terry’s life and is trying to prove that she’s turned over a new leaf by trying to aid Batman in his battles. Unbeknownst to her, Batman and Terry are the same person.
What You’ll Find Out:
Jack Ryder is still giving the news in Neo-Gotham, with a co-host named Adalyn Stern. They start by talking about the arrest of Tommy Falcone, but the story is quickly derailed by some important breaking news. There’s an active shooter in progress at the GCPD headquarters.
Commissioner Barbara Gordon is on the scene, trying to get Scab to drop his weapon, otherwise, she’ll be forced to shoot him. Scab, one of the Jokerz who dresses as though he’s a distaff counterpart to Harley Quinn, has a hostage and is talking about how Batman is everywhere. Barbara wonders what he has to do with this – Batman isn’t even there.
At Stately Wayne Manor, Terry and Bruce discuss the fact that Terry thinks its a mistake to let Matt become Robin. Sure, Terry became Batman at a young age, but he was older than Matt at the time. Bruce points out that Terry took the suit w/out permission and went out on his own when he wasn’t prepared, but that Matt has Terry to help him, which is beneficial to him. Out behind the Manor, Matt is wearing part of a new Robin suit, using the wings to fly. Bruce tells him that Matt will be in the game, with or without Terry’s permission. It wasn’t Bruce’s call to make, but now Terry has to coach him.
Bruce sees a lot of potential in Matt. With their parents dead, Terry is Matt’s legal guardian, and he really wanted this cleared with him, but Bruce explains that Payback forced his hand.
Melanie visits, and she’s still unaware that Terry and Batman are the same person. Melanie wants to start over with their friendship, and she’s been working hard to show him that she’s changed. Yes, she did a little B&E recently when she swiped that photo of Terry, and old habits die hard, but she’s working on it.
Melanie asks why Terry lives there with Bruce when he’s not related to Bruce, and Terry explains that it goes back to his job in high school as Bruce’s assistant. He then tells her that he knows that’s not why she’s there and asks why. She tells him she wants to know why he never came after her after she left the Royal Flush Gang – after all, they’d had a nice thing going there, between them. Terry tells her it’s because of stuff, life, fear. Melanie tells him that she saw that he helped Batman and that she’s been trying to prove that she’s changed, by helping people.
While this is going on, Dana is on her way to the Manor. Terry hasn’t returned any of her calls, and they need to talk. She doesn’t like this whole Batman business, but she loves him, and she’s sure that he loves her, so hopefully, she can convince him to stop being Batman. Except, of course, she walks in on Terry and Melanie kissing in the woods and silently walks away, tears in her eyes.
Matt actually interrupts their time together, though, because Bruce needs Terry right away. He tells Mel they’ll talk later when he’s done with whatever Bruce needs. In the Batcave, he finds out that Scab is back, and that he’s unhinged, which isn’t like his usual self, since he’s a trouble-maker, but not a murderer. He’s taken out cops, civilians, and other Jokerz.
Terry starts to suit up, but Matt arrives with the prototype Robin suit, ready to charge into action with him. Terry tells him that he’s not ready, but both Bruce and Matt oppose him, Bruce warning him that if Terry continues to deny Matt the chance to be Robin, then he’ll strike out on his own, implying that things won’t end well if he does that. Terry has to be the big brother and teach his brother how to be a superhero.
Matt is a bright, exuberant Robin, and Terry tells him to stay behind him and follow orders, a directive that Bruce echoes.
Inside the GCPD precinct, Scab is losing it, believing that his hostage works for the Bat. Barbara tries to convince him that he’s hallucinating, but Scab is having none of it. Batman and Robin arrive on the scene then, with Batman going after Scab while Robin goes to make sure that Commissioner Gordon is okay. She’s surprised at Robin’s appearance there. Robin offers to get Barbara to safety, but Barbara tells him that she can take care of herself.
Seeing Batman there exacerbates Scab’s condition, and he reaches into a bag and pulls out a gun, firing everywhere. Batman is able to deflect the bullets and take Scab down. Angry at Robin for not being able to get everyone to safety, he tells him that he’s done as Robin.
Adalyn Stern returns home, glad that Batman took care of Scab, even though she hasn’t been a Batman fan since she was a kid. Unfortunately for her, waiting for her in her apartment is a fearsome visage of Batman, promising her a one-way trip to hell.
What Just Happened?:
With the exception of Dick Grayson first becoming Robin in 1940, no one has ever had an easy time of slipping on that particular cape or mask, and the same holds true for Matt McGinnis, who fans have always surmised would eventually don the mantle of Robin. Matt proves to be just as exuberant as his fore-Robins – bright, eager to help, joyous. Jurgens is clearly setting up a struggle between Matt and Terry, and hopefully, his foreshadowing about Matt striking out on his own doesn’t lead to dire consequences.
The Melanie-Terry-Dana triangle is one that was never quite explored in the animated series, given Melanie’s few appearances, and while her appearance here works to further divide Terry and Dana, one hopes that Melanie will be put to more use than that. She’s a fascinating, conflicted, complex character when written correctly, and she should be given that chance to come into her own and complete her redemption arc. Her reward shouldn’t be Terry or Batman, but she also shouldn’t just be the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who derails a relationship. Though, to be fair, Dana has been cast in a thankless role of late, and so it’s difficult not to root for Terry and Melanie, who are better matched in many ways.
While it’s not clear who the Bat-monster targeting the people of Gotham City might be, there are a couple of options for whom it would make sense. The first villain to come to mind is the Scarecrow or someone who has found the Scarecrow’s fear gas to manipulate people and cause them to hallucinate an evil Batman. There’s also Spellbinder, who of late has been one of Terry’s villains. With hypnosis and mind control abilities, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that he’s behind this mess.
Dan Jurgens has set up some classic plots here – people disapproving of Bruce Wayne bringing children into his crusade, the fear that Terry has about his brother becoming Robin, the triangle between Terry, Melanie, and Dana. They’re not groundbreaking stories by any means – which ones are these days? – but they are solid, and it’ll be interesting to see where this takes the characters as they move forward. One hopes that Matt becomes a solid, capable Robin, and it would be great to see Melanie given some development and forward momentum that allows her to stand side-by-side with Batman as the hero she so clearly wants to be. Terry’s condemnation of Matt as Robin at the end of the issue feels as though it comes a little too suddenly, but at the same time, it’s clear that Terry wants Matt off the field as soon as possible, and this was likely his idea of the best, quickest way to do it – and that’s sure to backfire spectacularly.
Marco Castiello’s art is solid, classic comic book art, easy to follow, and appropriately emotive. His take on Barbara Gordon seems a little younger than other versions of the Batman Beyond incarnation of the character, but it works. His take on Matt as Robin is excellent – Matt’s enthusiasm really leaps off the page. If there’s one complaint, it’s only a minor one in that Melanie Walker’s always had something of a specific hairstyle, and that seems swapped out here for a far more basic style, which detracts from the personality that her hair used to give her, as well as the visual cue that told the reader that the character on panel is Melanie. Granted, she’s also trying to change as a person, and what is a hairstyle change but not expository for a direction that a character wants to go in?
Final Thoughts: This incarnation of the Batman Beyond book is heading into a better place than it was when it started out – there are long-term plot threads being added, and the conflict between the characters are well-written. If you’re looking for a classic superhero adventure story that doesn’t wrap itself up in meta-textual narrative or isn’t some complicated event but is still a fun, fulfilling read, this book is definitely recommended.
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