It’s been about two years now since I last purchased a comic from DC. There are lots of pretty good reasons to hate DC comics. Whether it’s the grimdark movies, bad executive decisions, offensive changes in characters, the list goes on and on. Largely I tolerated them because of one thing, and one thing only: I am a rabid Batman Beyond fangirl. Batman Beyond was for the longest time the red-headed stepchild of the DC universe. While the company happily adopted animation originated characters like Harvey Bullock, Rene Montoya, and everyone’s favorite Harley Quinn, the DC editorial staff really dragged their heels to make Terry McGinnis canon.
Over the years DC went from ‘Terry Mcginnis will never be in any Batman comics’ to ‘okay fine, we’ll do a special event comic but it won’t be canon and it’s just a mini series.’ So we got Hush Beyond...which sold so well it went on to make a regular series. So then DC went, ‘fine, it’ll be a regular series, but it won’t have any connection to the regular continuity.’ But then that series sold so well that they started referencing regular Batman stories and events like Batman, Inc. and the Court of Owls. Then DC went ‘fine! Terry McGinnis will be an official canon character of our regular continuity,’ which at the time was still the New 52 universe. Fans like me were thrilled that our dollars and our loyalty were finally going to make Batman Beyond an official and total part of the Bat Family. Except the wish we got granted was one from the monkey’s paw and this time, DC got the last laugh.
Terry became a major character in Future’s End, the event comic that basically ended the New 52 universe and set up for the next shift in ongoing story lines. And then they promptly killed him. Not only was Future’s End one of the worst event comics to be shat out by DC (and this is the same company that did Amazon’s Attack and Infinite Crisis...) it spat in the face of every loyal Batman Beyond fan who had been supporting the series with their wallets since the cyberpunk legend went off of TV in the early 2000s. They continued Batman Beyond as a regular series, but former Robin Tim Drake was given the mantle. Something that infuriated most fans and had me so livid I threw in the towel and swore I’d never buy a DC comic again.
And apparently I wasn’t the only one. After about a year of trying to make Drakeman a thing, DC realized killing off the title character and trying to sell the series without him wasn’t actually working out and they had piles upon piles of unsold comics because of it. So they brought back Terry in a brand new series that takes place in the current ReBirth continuity. My sources have said the new series doesn’t suck, so after waiting for a trade copy (because while I might have cooled down over my anger about never buying DC comics again, I also learned the hard way from pouring over 100 dollars over 2 years for Future’s End not to buy individual comics ever again) I gave DC another chance with Batman Beyond V.1: Escape from the Grave. Is the new Batman Beyond comic any good? Or is DC still being a big whiny shit baby over any other character being Batman besides Bruce Wayne?
Considering that Future’s End is still canon, how did they manage to even bring Terry back in the first place? They pretty solidly murdered him, and when Time Drake comes to the future to continue the fight against Brother Eye (which is still a stupid Skynet ripoff. Just because you doubled down and included it in Injustice 2 doesn’t make the concept any less bad, DC) pretty much everyone knows he’s completely and utterly dead. The answer: they pulled a Dallas. That’s right. The whole thing was a dream. Terry’s memories of going back in time to stop Brother Eye was all a hallucination caused by long-time Batman Beyond rogue, Spellbinder. In a fight with Brother Eye, Terry is injured, captured by Spellbinder and put in a simulation while Tim Drake takes over and continues the battle against the half hero, half machine Cyborgs (but not that Cyborg. Honestly, I don’t even know what happened to Cyborg while this whole Brother Eye thing was going on. I think it’s implied he got killed in the war with Dark Seid or something. You know what, this explanation is requiring way too much previous knowledge of Future’s End, and that series sucks so this the last time I’m covering that trash. Moving on.) Point is. Terry was just missing, not dead. His version of events was just a dream, but Brother Eye was still a thing and they still murdered Midnighter and Apollo in a really disgusting way (okay, this is the last time I mention Future’s End. Sorry, there was just so much of that series that really, really bothered me.) And at the end of the Drakeman version of Batman Beyond, Terry is freed and is back at the mantle of Batman. While the explanation is unimaginably stupid, there was no really way that DC could have done anything better with the corner they painted themselves in with the Series That Shall No Longer Be Named. And aside from a few other minor story gripes (And soooo much bitching about Future’s End. Fuck. Did it again. I really hated Future’s End, you guys...) the rest of the comic is actually really fantastic, a major Mea Culpa for what they screwed up before.
First off, the art, layout and coloring is amazing. Previous Batman Beyond titles have been pretty hit or miss. Hush Beyond’s art was garbage, as was some of Industrial Revolution, and while Batman Beyond Unlimited was really hitting its stride, this new title blows them all out of the water. The characters are mindfully and thoughtfully drawn. They are recognizable from their original designs from the cartoon, but realistic and expressive. The main female characters are pretty without being sexualized, though I wish they wouldn’t be so afraid to give Commissioner Barbara Gordon more wrinkles, the backgrounds are lusciously detailed without being overwhelming and the fight scenes are amazing in their movement. In the continuing trend of bucking layout convention, pages melt, escape from their panels and use shadows and negative shapes to create really snazzy panel designs. A few of the pages might be a bit too ambitious and make them a teensy bit hard to follow, but I rather have a few failed experiments compared to same old, same old. The coloring also does a lot of great things with lighting so you have a lot of vibrant neons and other bright colors that pop against the inking, and also use color to express emotion rather than staying strictly realistic. Batman Beyond swings more Batgirl of Burnside/Black Canary than Batman Noir, and for the cyberpunk setting, works better that way. I’m a little torn on the new Batsuit. A lot of the design elements are a great reimagining of the classic animated series suit, but the red eyes I’m not a big fan of.
But even the best eye candy in the world can’t save a crappy story. Thankfully, aside from continuing off of That Series That Gets Under My Skin But Doesn’t Deserve to be Mentioned Again, it manages to almost entirely make up for bumping off Terry in the first place. As Terry comes back to being Batman, he finds that the Jokerz gang have been using the absence to up their level of anarchy. The now organized Jokerz have a single goal in mind: reviving the Joker whose corpse is being maintained by Terminal, a very cool but underutilized rogue from BB’s second season.. As though that alone wouldn’t be enough to get Batman involved, Terminal also kidnaps Terry’s ex Dana Tan. But Batman’s not alone. Terry’s little brother Matt, now in on the secret, and Terry’s BFF (and one of my fictional character idols/crushes) computer genius Max Gibson work as backup and intel since Bruce Wayne died in the war against Brother Eye. As Terry works to save Dana, the story of what really happened with Brother Eye (Nope. This time I’m keeping my word.) is explained organically, and there are actually quite a few amazing twists. The characterizations are also well maintained. Max is still a bad ass but in the earlier iterations of the comic was overlooked, so it’s great she’s more in the forefront, and Dana, who was probably the worst characterized female in the original show finally gets the development she sorely needed, and even called Terry out on some real bullshit.
The few gripes I have aside from it still being based off of That One Terrible Series is that there are quite a few retcons. First, it’s no longer 100% based off of animated series, including Return of the Joker. While the origin story of Terry becoming Batman is retold (interestingly, something that never actually happened in any of the previous series, which assumed you were familiar with the original cartoon), it’s clear this is not the same universe as Terry’s mom, Mary McGinnis, is said to have died in the war against the cyborgs (Oh goody, they killed off one of the important and influential female characters for tragic backstory. DC, you are making no attempt whatsoever to try to make The Stupid Series even remotely redeemable, are you?) It’s also no longer based off of the previous series and its canon in Batman Beyond Unlimited, and that’s a real pity. That means no more cute Warhawk/Aquagirl, no more Zod snowball fights and no more Danica as Flash. Hopefully as the series goes on at least some of that stuff can be added back.
This series isn’t enough for me to forgive DC, but it’s a start. It’ll take the editors to write ‘I will not kill off fan favorite characters for shock value’ a hundred times on a blackboard, and a Terry McGinnis figure from that new Kotobukiya line to put me back in their good graces, but at least this series is a step back in the right direction.
And on a final note, Future’s End is really, really bad and you should feel bad, DC (sorry folks, had to get in my last shot.)