Hey gang! Hope you’re all doing better than me this week – I’ve been sidelined with a pretty nasty case of the ol’ cough-your-lungs-up cold that seems to have been making the rounds (thanks Winter, you frosty asshole). Luckily for you lot, my eyes and my typing hands still work, so you get to read all about what’s been keeping my mind active while I’ve been spending time as a human/doona burrito. This week, I’ve picked up volume one of the Batman Beyond Rebirth line, Escaping the Grave. Written by Dan Jurgens (Action Comics, Booster Gold) and drawn by Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps), Escaping the Grave doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of the other Rebirth titles, but it’s still a solid Batman Beyond story.
Terry McGinnis is back. Thought dead, he has broken free from the insidious machinations that kept him brainwashed and controlled by one of his most deadly enemies. His brother, Matt, is overjoyed to have his big brother back, and vows to help Terry resume his life as the Batman of Neo-Gotham – albeit without the assistance of Bruce Wayne, who died in a conflict with Brother Eye some months before. In Terry’s absence, the Jokerz gang have undergone a rapid growth; their new leader, Terminal, has seemingly unlimited wealth, and has plans that will shake Neo-Gotham to its foundations. With all the technology the future has to offer, Terminal plans to do what no one has dared do before: resurrect the Bat’s arch-nemesis, the long-dead clown prince of crime – the Joker. Desperate to stop the return of the deadliest villain in the history of Gotham, Terry needs to be at his best – or Gotham will never recover.
It’s been a while since I’ve read anything about Batman Beyond. Last I heard, DC had pulled some time-travel shenanigans and shoved my favourite Robin, Tim Drake, into the role. This was after a cataclysmic event involving Brother Eye that killed off Bruce Wayne (how dare you, DC!) and mangled pretty much everything in the Beyond universe. It’s a convoluted history, but thankfully Escaping the Grave manages to cut away a lot of the history and start fresh.
Despite my love of sci-fi, the Beyond universe has never really been able to grab me like the mainstream DC universe, and I’ve never really been able to pinpoint why. I really like Terry, and the design of his suit, but I suspect it’s his rogues gallery that lets him down – there’s only so many times that he can tussle with the Jokerz without them seeming stale. The tease of the OG Joker’s return was a great hook, and I can see why it was used, but I predicted the final twist of the volume about halfway through.
Gripes about plot aside, Chang’s artwork is great. One of the best things about Batman Beyond has always been its design – having Bruce Timm at the helm of the original TV show will do that – and Chang takes the established designs and tweaks them perfectly. His design of Terry’s undercover persona – Trey Malone, son of Bruce’s alter ego ‘Matches’ Malone – is fantastic, and when he’s paired up with colourist Marcelo Maiolo (Green Lantern Corps), it’s a winning combination. If you’re a fan of the established Beyond canon, Escaping the Grave is a great return to form, but don’t expect a mind-blowing plot beyond (hurr hurr) what you’ve already seen. One for the fans!
By Alastair McGibbon