Batman Beyond #37 // Review
The older generations grind through old business as youth looks for some balance in the shadows of the past. A young Batman searches for an old Joker in Batman Beyond #37, written by Dan Jurgens with art by Brett Booth inked by Norm Rapmund. Andrew Dalhouse handles the color.
“The Final Joke,” story reaches its third chapter this issue. The Joker is responsible for mass murder in Neo-Gotham. He’s killed thousands. Batman takes some time out from the hunt to share a moment out of costume with romantic interest Melanie Walker. Melanie and the young Batman Terry McGinnis have a few moments together, but the issue is dominated by a cranky, aging Joker addressing his fresh-faced clown gang: The Throwbacks. Batman and Robin head off to fight the gang only to come face to face at issue’s end with the monstrous construct that is...Joker Beyond.
Jurgens is playing with a kind of a fun balance here between seemingly well-adjusted youth of the future having to deal with a criminal psychosis from the past as an aging Bruce Wayne pits shiny, new model Batman and Robin against the Joker and his new gang. Wayne is as driven as ever. The Joker’s usual criminal insanity mixes with a longing for the darkness and mayhem of old Gotham. With the contrast between the older generation and youth, it’s too bad that Jurgens doesn’t bother to spend much time exploring the culture of Neo Gotham decades into the future. There’s a compelling intricacy to the social and professional relations in a rather large ensemble of character. It would enhance things a bit more to see those relations put in the context of a future just a few decades away.
Brett Booth’s detailed rendering is given a bold depth by Rapmund’s inking. Booth delivers highly-detailed art to the page. There are so many, many lines. Thankfully all that detail doesn’t weigh down the action the way it sometimes does. The detail in Booth and Rampmund’s line work allows age to clearly show itself. Wayne looks ancient. The Joker...well...he’s probably wearing a hell of a lot of foundation, but he looks pretty old too. Under Booth’s visual momentum, a range of different moods and motions glide from page to page with smooth transition. Tender moments between young Batman Terry McGinnis and Melanie Walker feel suitably romantic. Pages later McGinnis is back under the ears as Batman leaping into a cluster of blaster fire to do battle with the Throwbacks. The contrast between the two feels kind of exhilarating as motion, emotion, action and aggression glide around a largely uninspired script.
Dalhouse coats the art in a dynamic range of color. There’s a particularly dramatic splash of color when Batman and Robin shoot out to engage The Throwbacks. Batman is framed against a positively massive moon over Neo-Gotham in the background.Getting the right mix of color on a page like that is a lot more tricky than it looks. Give the moon too much aura and it begins to look like it has some kind of atmosphere. The moon may be ridiculously immense in that full-page panel, but Dalhouse manages to harness the drama in a way that makes it feel reasonably realistic.
Jurgens delivers a solidly satisfying bit of storytelling here that fails to live-up to its potential. He’s got a great sense of rhythm and momentum that Booth brings to the page quite well, but the series continue to miss its opportunities to explore Batman in the cultural context of a future that is likely to be insanely complicated. The future is a minor detail in a story of older generations echoing aggression into the future. The past continues to be repeated as the future evolves. A new Batman might find a balance with a healthy social life. A new clown gang looks just a bit uncomfortable trying to live out the twisted fantasies of a deranged clown prince of crime. If Jurgens can hold onto the details of dissonance between youth and the older generations, he might really have something compelling here.