Batman Beyond #29 // Review
An old Joker has captured a young Robin. A young Batman and an old ex-Robin are on his trail. Cold the whole thing end in combat between and old ex-Batman and the old Joker? Probably. This is the latest issue of Batman Beyond--a climactic chapter written by Dan Jurgens with art by Brett Booth that is inked by Norm Rampmund. Color is handled by Andrew Dalhouse. Billed as the conclusion to the multi-issue “The Final Joke” story, the issue has hints of stylishness about it that make it feel almost as monumental as it is clearly meant to be.
After a few pages of The Joker taunting a very young Robin, Batman Beyond appears searching for the location of the villain. The young Batman is joined by an aging Dick Grayson in his search for the Joker’s lair as the Joker arrives quite unexpectedly at the Batcave with the captured Robin ready for a showdown with an aging Bruce Wayne.
Booth wastes little time in rushing his way towards the climactic encounter at issue’s end. The action is delivered to the page in a relentless 20 pages with just enough modulation in intensity. The story isn’t really attempting to explore terribly new ground in an antagonistic relationship that stretches all the way back to the dawn of the Golden Age on the comics page. Jurgens isn’t going for anything terribly insightful, but that frees him up to do some really enjoyable multi-generational action that is brought to the page with great detail and graceful motion by the art team.
Jurgens and Rampmund continue to pound away at the action with really, really high-resolution detail. Oh so many, many lines. Every last crease and fold is clearly visible in every single piece of clothing. Facing explode with veins and wrinkles and things. It’s a level of detail that can easily overpower the action in the wrong hands, but Jurgens and Rampmund have a sweepingly kinetic delivery of action that keeps all the detail in place. They never seem to lose sight of the overall composition. The opening page is a nine-panel monologue delivered directly at the reader from the Joker. In the wrong hands, this would look like wallpaper, but Jurgens and Rampmund give it an energy that works its own kind of madness. Dramatic angles are struck throughout the issue whether in a mad monologue or concussive action. The final battle between an old Joker and an equally old Bruce Wayne might not be given quite the right impact, but it’s got a believable grace about it. The challenge with an issue as climactically action-based as this issue would be to overplay the color. Dalhouse keeps a tight discipline on the chromatic accompaniment with Joker’s moment playing in deep, dark greens and purples while the heroic team hunting him is awash in black shadows.
It’s a suitable climax to a long-running conflict. Booth and company close-out a series with some level of satisfaction, but it’s totally clear that this is no final ending, but there’s a somber moment at issue’s end that feels like a much-needed rest amidst the reflection on a lifelong conflict. There’s no real insight here, but there doesn’t need to be. Aggression and retribution remain as meaningless as ever, but there’s a pearl of moody wisdom about the ending that feels appropriately final even if it isn’t the end.