My game of comic book catch-up continues this week with Batman Beyond, a continuation of one of my favorite animated TV shows that takes a look at the Dark Knight of the future.
You know how, when you’re a kid, the greatest thing about Saturday morning is the cartoons? Well, that tradition continued for me well into high school. I was a huge cartoon fan growing up, and one of my favorites was the superb Batman: The Animated Series. One day, a new Batman showed up in my Saturday morning line-up–Terry McGinnis, Batman of the future. The show was Batman Beyond, and I eagerly tuned in every Saturday to view it along with my weekly doses of The New Adventures of Batman/Superman and Pokemon. A few years ago, I bought the series on DVD and was very impressed with how well it held up. Naturally, when I heard Batman Beyond would finally be making the jump to comics, I was ecstatic.
I highly enjoyed the 2010 comic miniseries, and bought all eight issues of the 2011 series, but somehow, the books didn’t get read… until last week, when I finally started reading. And once I started, I couldn’t stop.
The first three issues of Batman Beyond have Terry trying to balance work and his normal teenage life… again. His ever-patient girlfriend, Dana, is certainly appreciative, but not so much when he jets off in the middle of a date (again). This time, the threat is a new Matter Master, and when the Justice League flies into town to help Batman take care of it, Terry–and Bruce Wayne–are none too pleased. But since Terry’s mom and brother are among Matter Master’s hostages, he has no choice but to work with them.
What’s interesting about this story arc, entitled “Heart of the Matter,” is how Terry ultimately disregards Bruce’s instructions about how to deal with the Justice League, and follows his instincts. This isn’t the first time Terry has run into the Justice League of the future, and those episodes of Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited were some of my favorites.
The fourth issue is a one-shot in which we get a closer look at Terry’s friend Max, a computer genius who knows his secret identity and often helps him out. To be honest, I’ve never given Max much thought before this issue; sometimes she’s annoying, sometimes funny, but it never occurred to me that she might actually have a life outside of being Batman’s BFF. With skills as elite as hers, someone else was bound to take notice eventually–and now it might be Max who’s leading a double life.
Then comes another three-issue arc, “Industrial Revolution”, which I didn’t like as much as the first four issues, but it still had some great moments and the return of a classic Batman Beyond villain. The power struggles and riots at Wayne-Powers were less interesting to me than finally getting to see what Dana’s life is like outside of being Terry’s girlfriend. As a character, she’s often one-dimensional–getting mad at Terry for being absent, forgiving him, then getting angry all over again–and, like with the Max issue, it’s nice to see that she has other concerns. In this case, it’s an older brother who was just released from prison, and apparently, Dana still doesn’t entirely trust him.
Finally, the eighth issue is another character-specific one-shot that details the origins of Inque. This is a real treat for fans of the TV show, since Inque is one of the most memorable Batman Beyond villains, and I was surprised by the dark past that led to her current state.
The writers and artists on this book have completely captured the tone and aesthetic of the television show and put it on the page, which I love. It’s a little darker, but not being a Saturday morning cartoon anymore, Batman Beyond can get away with that, and I like it. For so many years after the cartoon ended, I talked about how great the show was, and I often felt that I was the only one who cared. I’m glad enough people thought that Terry McGinnis was a character worthy of a continuing story, and I’ll keep on reading with Batman Beyond Unlimited #1, which is next on my pile.