My last memory of BATMAN BEYOND is the episode of Justice League Unlimited where Terry McGinnis discovers that his entire life was orchestrated to pretty much create another Batman.
I didn’t really keep up when a new BATMAN BEYOND series was announced as a digital-only title. I wanted to, but for me, part of the luster to the DCAU was how wonderful and simple Bruce Timm & Paul Dini made everything. It didn’t really feel ‘right’ to keep those designs and that storytelling format for comic books.
That’s a brilliant turn of plot to do for a legacy character, and a very “DC” way of handling things, if that makes sense. From what I understand, much of BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 is a continuation of that theme from the DCAU, and a continuation of the DCAU itself proper. It’s fitting, then, that the storyline 2.0 is currently two issues into deals so heavily with Terry McGinnis’ past. It’s like I didn’t even miss an episode.
BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 # 26 (Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rousseau, Hester, Gapstur) opens up more in the story of just exactly how the future incarnation of Batman came to be. Our players are a descendent of Joe Chill – forced into the same role that his ancestor once performed, and a character masquerading as The Phantasm yet far in the future. Whether or not it can live up to the legacy of the tight plotting and art direction that the DCAU is yet to be seen, so let’s get right down to it.
BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 looks enough like the DCAU to feel authentic. For a story like this, so measured and steeped in an extended canon, I don’t think it could look like anything else. The smattering of artists behind this book do a great job of making it look cohesive. It also doesn’t look like a traditional superhero book that DC might publish – once again reaffirming that Bruce Timm’s designs are essentially timeless. However, the parts the shine most in this issue are the parts that take place in BATMAN BEYOND 2.0’s native timeline of the cyberpunk-inspired Gotham City. I say that because the art looks like it draws from Bruce Timm, but isn’t necessary trying to be a 100% accurate recreation of the artistic style displayed in the DCAU.
The best thing about the art in BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 is even though it looks the way it does, it still has its own visual identity. That’s the most important part of trying to lift that art style. Animation and comics are different artistic mediums, and certain designs work better in comics than they might in animation. Case in point: The Phantasm. While The Phantasm certainly was visually striking, here the long draping cloak The Phantasm wears is free to billow in the air and whirl like it has a life of its own as much as the artist wants.
If you’re going to try and sell me on a BATMAN BEYOND story, it can’t just be visually. Luckily, Kyle Higgins is on writing duties here with Alec Siegel. The plot structure of BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 #26 alone is good enough proof that they know what they’re doing. There’s even a moment halfway through this book you can miss for just more action dialogue when it actually spells a character’s motivation quite plainly.
There’s not a lot of bad going on with BATMAN BEYOND 2.0. It could be a little too tethered to the DCAU Batman mythos for some people, but I don’t think they’re going to be the ones picking up the series every other week. I’m all for more stories about Terry McGinnis, and there’s even been a few attempts to give him his own chance to stand with the rest of the natural DC universe. This series isn’t for that, so it’s more along the lines of something I just notice rather than a strong mark against it. BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 is meant for people that still long for the days of the DCAU, and I think it’s plain to see that’s all it will ever really be.
BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 #26 is like reuniting with an old friend after they’ve had a nose job. It’s pleasant, if a little disconcerting.