Batman Beyond #1

Batman Beyond 1

B

After taking a couple months off, DC’s newest Batman Beyond comic returns, this time in an ongoing series. Essentially everything’s been retained from last fall’s mini except the numbering, because what comic company could resist the chance to put out another first issue? That means that Adam Beechen and Ryan Benjamin come back for writing and penciling duties, respectively. The story also picks up pretty directly from the mini’s end. When Batman Beyond #1 opens, it’s been a few months since Gotham’s heard from Hush (who, in this reality, is a clone of Dick Grayson) and things are relatively quiet. But a new threat to the city’s about to emerge from within the Justice League organization itself.

Let’s start with the art. People who’ve been following my reviews know that I’m not a big fan of Ryan Benjamin’s work. It’s kind of sketchy and ill-formed, a style that has never been to my liking, especially since it tends to put characters in really bizarre poses and render them inconsistently from panel to panel. Ideally, the upside of that style is that it allows for truly dynamic action scenes. Sometimes Benjamin pulls those off, and other times not, but any time when two characters are talking definitely doesn’t suit him. Unfortunately, since most of this issue is expository set-up for action to follow, the art isn’t great. That said, I do feel his pencils have improved from the miniseries, or perhaps I’ve just adjusted to them. Either way, at the end of the previous mini I had such a problem with the art that I considered dropping the book, whereas now I find it only a bit distracting. It could still be better, but I’m willing to give Benjamin the benefit of the doubt, especially considering the pretty cool way he renders the Justice Leaguers who show up later in this issue.

Story-wise, written Adam Beechen continues to do an admirable job of nailing the voices of these characters. Occasionally the script veers into over-exaggeration (Terry gets perhaps a little too goofy, Bruce a little too emo), but that’s easy to overlook given that so much of this dialog feels so familiar, and I mean that in a good way. Besides that, Beechen has constructed a fantastic plot here. I wasn’t too keen on the miniseries’ use of Hush as a villain (in general I don’t care for that character), but I very much like the new enemy the ongoing establishes. Carson Jatts is a maintenance employee who works in the Justice League Watchtower. He now finds himself ridden with cancer, which he’s told is likely from years of exposure to alien artifacts and substances working with the League. Understandably enraged, he steals the wand of obscure villain Matter Master from his employers and somehow ends up with the power to transmute elements merely by touch. When he turns the mall at which Terry’s family is shopping into a steel fortress, this first arc’s conflict kicks into high gear.

I can see where some might find an “angry cancer victim” story a little strange, especially given that almost the same set-up was used for Lex Luthor in the Justice League cartoon. However, the idea of a frustrated working man demanding revenge in a world of superheroes is a well that has been tapped for riches in the DC Animated Universe since Batman: The Animated Series began, and I’m glad to see Beechen continuing the tradition. Anyway, it’s nice to get an original villain, and I feel Carson Jatts provides an interesting addition to Beyond‘s world. In addition, I like Beechen’s inclusion of the Justice League here; it really opens up the scope of this comic in a way that the previous miniseries didn’t. I do find myself wondering where Superman is, and I really hope that last year’s awful Superman/Batman annual by Paul Levitz (in which Superman essentially banishes himself from Earth) hasn’t stuck. Still, that’s nothing I can hold against this series’ current creative team, and I think they do a really good job working with the tools they were given to create a compelling story that would fit right in with the Batman Beyond cartoon. The end of the mini had me a little down on this series, but consider me picked back up!

tags: adam beechen, batman, batman beyond, ryan benjamin

  • http://www.johnpariah.wordpress.com/ John Pariah

    Good call Eric. I need to go pick this up, but I’ll have to wait I’ll i get paid. Batman beyond FTW!

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