BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 #27 (Higgins, Siegel, Rousseau & Hester) does better in this issue than the one before it.
Because where the first two parts of this story arc serve only to set up a sequence of events, it seems like STATE OF DISTRUST is the episode of this story that’s designed entirely to let us know what’s really at stake. Make no mistake! Between the super heroics and homage to the animated series, BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 is a series that’s about taking a hard look at the character of Batman, and in many ways feels like a light deconstruction of some of the ideas that make the character whole.
The crux of a good Bat-Family story has everything to do with how everyone’s relationships with Batman work. BATMAN BEYOND was never any different in that regard – the show was constructed entirely around Terry and Bruce’s relationship to each other . It was a story about Bruce finally taking responsibility for his tendency to drive his closest allies away, and representative that even as an old man he still could act like a hurt child.
BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 uses the familiar device of using a villain – specifically a figure from Bruce’s past, to examine how Terry and Bruce (and others) view each other. In that regard it’s a little more high brow than some of DC’s other weekly titles out right now. As certainly high-brow as I’ve seen a weekly superhero story be! It’s not going to alienate the crowd seeking a fun jaunt in the BATMAN BEYOND universe, and it still has a lot to offer people that might want their stories with a little more depth.
We open with a flashback to just after the events of the film BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER. I have to confess – as a narrative device I’ve never been too keen on flashbacks. I know the folks behind this book didn’t have the opportunity to tell this story right away but they could still focus on the parts that are more interesting. Namely, the moments between Terry and the now aged Bat-Family. There’s even a moment – one simple, simple moment halfway through the issue where the art team really plays up their inspiration from the animated canon and sets a real nice example of symbolism with art – which is spectacularly something you don’t see in a lot of DC stories these days.
It seems like such a small thing to note, but effective use of art to do more than communicate a story is such an important part of good comicking that it’s amazing just how many creators completely overlook it. Even with such an obvious example of it that’s used here – it still makes you realize that the story is being more than just “told” to you through exposition. I would almost wish that BATMAN BEYOND become a monthly series so Higgins and the rest of his crew have more time to formulate plot and art direction. I really think if DC gave them more, they could build something incredible with it.
The juiciest parts of BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 are not the flashbacks to the pre Return of the Joker timeline. Rather, I think the story effectively lets you know how these characters fared after the ordeal by showing where they are ‘now’ and It almost feels like these parts are more heavily thought out. BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 is mostly held back by its committment to telling us a story about the past in the least interesting way I think possible. It could also serve as kind of a meta commentary about our obsession with origin stories. BATMAN BEYOND is telling the story about how Terry’s role was shaped by Bruce’s decisions, but the most interesting way of telling that story would be to show us more of the aftermath of them.
BATMAN BEYOND: 2.0 still feels like an episode of the animated series with a guest-director. It has a touch of Timm and an influence of Dini, but not so much it overpowers the message the new creators are trying to make.