The Vanier Report: Week 24
Tim, Barbara, and Max all find themselves within the confines of Brother Eye’s mysterious “Lodge” prisoner camp, where they are hunted down by the Eye in order to be “processed” – a serious of drug-induce tortures that slowly open the human mind to Brother Eye before turning what is left into a cyborg shell. Max’s capture arouses the interest of Inque, a supervillain-turned-accomplice to Brother Eye, who in turn goes after Tim and Barbara.
The opening arc of Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang’s Batman Beyond is moving at break-neck pace, but what strikes me about this second issue is how well choreographed the writing and artwork are. Each supports and fills in for the other – as is meant to be the case in comics – in such a way that the book manages both to focus on the narrative development and action beats as well as the leviathan task of world-building a future that is unlike any in the history of the character. The concurrent goals form a powerful storytelling engine, accelerating at an alarming speed.
In a way, it’s almost too difficult to keep pace with Jurgens’ story. From Tim Drake adjusting to his role as Batman, to establishing the world outside of the Veil-protected Gotham City, to advancing the plans of Brother Eye, to setting up the prisoner camp and its own sinister purpose, to introducing an iconic villain like Inque; Jurgens has given readers more to learn and digest and remember in two issues than many books give in ten. And yet, the flurry of information isn’t as frustrating as I would have expected – in fact, it’s rather like a challenge to the reader to dive in headlong and trust that the world and the narrative will hold together.
Chang’s artwork plays a pivotal role in this regard. Despite being heavily influenced by DC’s house style, Chang’s artwork draws a lot of inspiration from more classic interpretations of Batman Beyond. The angles and linework, particularly the creepy faces of the Stage One prisoners, are less cartoonish than Babs Tarr’s current work on Batgirl, but definitely spring from the same source. Together with Marcelo Maiolo’s crisp colours, even Jurgens’ dystopian future retains some of the cleanliness and sheen of the original animated Batman Beyond.
But the most exciting element of this issue, in my opinion, is the DC Universe debut of Inque. A frequent and dangerous foe of Terry McGinnis throughout the animated series, it is interesting to see the character come to life in such a new context. Jurgens’ dialogue is new territory for the character – wordier than she ever was in her original context – but Chang’s art captures the shapeshifter’s very particular movement and combat style. The result is a character that feels both old and new, much like this version of Batman Beyond himself.
This is both the strength and weakness of this new series. So much of what is associated with Batman Beyond has been tampered with that one has to wonder why this isn’t just an alternate future Batman? Without Terry, without elderly Bruce as a mentor, without Neo-Gotham in all its pristine, far-future glory, what about this story is Batman Beyond? Then again, it still features a young but capable hero out of his depth, against considerably greater odds than the original Batman ever faced. And though I am overtired of the same Brother Eye arc again and again, it’s beginning to feel more like a backdrop than a direct plot.
With Batman Beyond #2, Jurgens and Chang demonstrated that they can infuse the familiar into this new version of a beloved character – enough to earn the cautious trust of suspicious readers as well as the wide-eyed awe of those who crave something fresh. Two issues in, Batman Beyond is proving to be a dynamic and exciting adventure, one that I hope will continue to build and develop.
Feature Written By: Reid Vanier
“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”