Batman Beyond #34 // Review
The good news is that an aging Bruce Wayne no longer has a doppelgänger alienating his friends and colleagues. The bad news? Batman’s been commandeered and now a young and active crime fighter is on the loose...as a criminal in the latest issue of Batman Beyond. Dan Jurgens’ tale of body snatching and switched identities continues in another issue drawn by Rick Leonardi with inks by Ande Parks. Chris Sotomayor handles the color. Jurgens keeps the action going in an issue the narrowly avoids living-up to the potential of a story in which a villain is forced to play along as hero in a strangely inverted future.
False Face has vacated the identity of Bruce Wayne only to find a more comfy home in the body of Batman. False Face Batman evades suspicion early on by doing exactly as his support crew expects him to. He may not be totally aware of who’s own capabilities, but the faux-Batman doesn’t arouse suspicion with Wayne and company until the issue’s end when False Face reveals his true nature to Splitt— the twin villains Wayne is pursuing. Meanwhile, the real Batman Beyond is lost without his mask, unaware of his true identity in False Face-induced global retrograde amnesia.
Jurgens has successfully juggled false identities for False Face on the way into this issue. False Face Batman’s lack of competence or compassion is played delicately enough to make his colleague’s initial lack of suspicion completely believable. The script falters a bit with False Face himself. A villain forced to take the role of a hero has great potential for blurring lines between hero and villain that Jurgens isn’t tackling here. The plot DOES need to move along in a story also featuring the ongoing hunt for the formidable Splitt. Given more time, False Face as a hero might yet live up to its potential.
Leonardi and Parks are given large expanses of this issue in which to render action. The drama clings to the margins of a story largely featuring a reckless False Face Batman jumping into action in the interest of maintaining his cover. In action, Leonardi and Parks give the classic image of Batman Beyond a wilder, less reserved energy. False Face is clearly enjoying his time in the cape. Leonardi and Parks bring this energy to the page cleverly without exaggeration. Sotomayor’s colors are clean and powerful in She gleaming black and red of Batman Beyond cast against the simple impact of the future city at night. It might feel a little TOO clean with such fresh, uncluttered expanses of basic color in the background, but Sotomayor gives the rich colors of the future Gotham its own distinct impact.
Batman Beyond has ventured into a potentially interesting territory in. A world featuring a villain of fluid identity. There’s a great deal of potential in the villain cast against an amnesiac hero in a story of the future. If Jurgens and Leonardi can find the right place to cast the story, this could turn into a very interesting narrative.