Batman Beyond #31 // Review
Aging former vigilante Bruce Wayne visits Arkham Asylum. As he is also extremely wealthy, he’s been donating generously to the facility which has been looking to rehabilitate the criminally insane. Later-on his Bat-protege finds himself in a bind investigating a rash of thefts at a rival tech company. Shaken by his trip to Arkham, Bruce seems unable to effectively aid the new Batman in his investigation in an issue of Batman Beyond written by Dan Jurgens with art by Rick Leonardi and inks by Ande Parks. The story digs a bit deeper into aspects of the future sinking in around a traditional Batman mystery story, but the future around the edges is little more than minor decoration on an otherwise very standard Batman story.
Bruce Wayne understands that the rehabilitation of criminals is absolutely essential to the new Gotham City. To this end, he’s taking a great interest in ensuring that Arkham overcomes its shadowy history. Through generous contributions, he’s aiding the institution, but there’s something at the facility which jars the aging crime fighter. Elsewhere the new Batman is looking to investigate a string of thefts at Powers Technology facilities. During the investigation, Batman encounters a pair of super-powered figures with the ability to split apart and fuse together.
Jurgens is doing a lot here with quite a few different elements. On one level, he’s telling a pretty standard Batman story as the young, new Batman looks to investigate thefts of potentially dangerous technology. On another level, Bruce Wayne is showing a rare interest in taking a holistic look at solving the problem of crime in Gotham. On another level altogether, Wayne appears to be drifting into some kind of alcoholism as a life of tirelessly working to solve the world’s problems seems to be catching up with him. Though it’s quite a lot for a single issue, the bulk of the plot rests in simple action/mystery that is the hallmark of a Batman story. Any potentially novel look at the life of a shadowy multi-millionaire crimefighter takes a back seat to action and mystery of a kind that’s been around since pulp heroes like The Spider and The Shadow pioneered it back in the early 20th century. There really isn’t much new here, but it’s not without its charm.
Leonardi and Parks shift about the action in shadowy renderings against a black background. Though there is some intensity given to the more character-driven moments of the script, it isn’t anywhere near as interesting as kinetic action of a fistfight between people in shiny suits. The backgrounds Leonardi and Parks fit behind the action give the action a very vividly-rendered grounding in a slick future Gotham that seems much more interesting than the plot has time to explore.
Batman Beyond has great potential to go beyond the traditional concepts of a Batman story. Jurgens seems to be heading off in a direction that mixes the shadowy crimefighting with a technologically advanced future, but the title is still largely lost in the standard Bat-Formula action story.