Batman Beyond #28 // Review
The older generation battles itself from behind the younger generation as Batman and Joker face-off with immature proxy avatars in the latest installment of Batman Beyond. A juvenile Batman and Robin are led from a command center by an older Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. They face the menace of a cybernetic human puppet piloted by the Joker in the far future, prompting possible echoes back to the ‘80s. Will the Joker in the future prompt another Death in the Family? Dan Jurgens scripts a story drawn by Brett Booth with Norm Rapmund inking and Andrew Dalhouse handling the coloring.
As the issue opens, Batman of the future Terry McGinnis and a fresh, new Robin face-off against the monstrous victim known as Joker Beyond. It’s an issue-length multi-generational battle between iconic heroes, villains and their progeny along with plenty of taut internal monologues and personal struggles in an amidst all of the action.
Jurgens has been writing superhero comics for nearly thirty years. What he’s bringing to the page here may not feel like a revelation for the superhero genre, but Jurgens really knows what he’s doing. There aren’t many people who could put together an issue-length fight sequence and make it seem all that interesting. Jurgens is one of the few. That being said...the story doesn’t deliver the inter-generational drama coherently enough to feel as powerful as it could. The intensity of things between Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis and the Joker and an aging Dick Grayson feels a bit muddled by all of the action. It doesn’t need to be, though. With the right thought to the composition of the pages and the pacing of the action, this could have been a really interesting issue. The rising tension meant to lead-in to the ultimate peril of the new Robin versus the old Joker (which is announced by the tagline on the cover of the issue) is being formed entirely in narration when it could be delivered to the page much more graphically with the visual impact of a young Robin with skills that aren’t quite as precise as they need to be to face off against a legend.
Booth and Rampmund’s art is striking. The highly-detailed art with complex webs of hatching and crosshatching deliver impressive detail to the page, but it’s all really, really blown WAY over the top. Everyone seems to be shouting wide-eyed with mouths wide open in the middle of battle. There are a HELL of a lot of teeth going on here as pain and madness explode off the page in a busy cacophony of amped-up exaggerated detail. It’s not that it isn’t fun. (It is.) It’s also exhausting. Dalhouse’s color is powerful when it’s allowed to be. There are some really nice moments of luminosity against the action in places as energy blasts strike out against the night. The coordination of the art seems to have missed an opportunity to us Dalhouse’s color to its full potential with the Joker’s visage. He’s projecting a holographic image of his face onto the chest of his cybernetic puppet monster. The ghostly visage could’ve had a really appealing presence there on “Joker Beyond” if they’d decided to let the color render the face. Instead the drawing is inked to look like a little gutter-less panel floating out there in front of the villain monster. Instead of giving the monster visual impact, it just looks a little confusing.
It’s nice to see Jurgens etching the echoes of the past into a future Batman, but it would be nice to see it develop into something new, which just might start to really assert itself once the action dies down and the drama ramps-up in the next issue. A new Robin lies in the hands of a very old Joker. Grayson isn’t far away. Things could get interesting.