I’m having a hard time keeping track of all the Batman variants popping up every time I turn around. This time, we’ve got 16-year-old Terry McGinnis, working under the tutelage of the retired and semi-invalid Bruce Wayne in an adventure in the future Neo-Gotham as someone starts working down the list of Batman’s old adversaries, with lamentable results for the villains. Based on something he said to a nurse before being chased off, Batman and Wayne assume they are pursuing Hush, supposedly killed some while before — but as Wayne says, he never saw the body. As it happens, the real identity of the killer is much worse. (Helpful hint: the opening sequence covers the escape of someone from Cadmus Labs, with a trail of corpses in his wake. Director Amanda Waller immediately goes into CYA mode — this is obviously not something she wants to be associated with.)
This miniseries is a spin-off of the animated TV series, which was, interestingly enough, conceived as “kid friendly.” Even though the TV and comic series both focus on some of the darker aspects of the Batman mythos, I can actually see the producers’ point: compared to some of the post-Alan Moore characterizations, this one is downright sunny. Terry is trying manfully to keep up with the sudden crime wave, in spite of being ridden mercilessly by Wayne, for whom no effort seems to be quite good enough. It’s not until Terry is nearly killed that Wayne is forced to moderate his attitude. McGinnis finally enlists the help of Dick Grayson, the former Nightwing, whose own attitude toward Wayne is not particularly positive, although fully justified: the Bruce Wayne/Batman we’re seeing here is not what you’d call a nice guy, and even though he shows some signs of turning over a new leaf — or at least, pays lip service to the idea — it’s a pretty sure bet that’s not going to happen.
Ryan Benjamin’s pencils, beautifully support by John Stanisci’s inks, keep the essential lightness of the story while subtly enhancing the futuristic aspect of the setting: the towering skyscrapers and flying vehicles are a given, but not overplayed. What’s more telling is the Batman costume worn by McGinnis, a stripped-down, high-tech creation sans cape (glider wings take its place) and, even more so, the new Catwoman (who, incidentally, wants to have nothing to do with McGinnis/Batman whatsoever), a highly abstract outfit that gives the idea of “cat” without ever making a direct reference. Character designs are right on target, for the most part, while layouts are pretty much action-adventure, frame-follows-frame standard.
This one is fun, and not nearly as confusing as some of the recent offerings in the Batman complex. I’m looking forward to more.
(DC Comics, 2011) Includes Batman Beyond #1-6.