You may find this hard to swallow, but there is actually a Batman series out there that I like. In fact, I think it’s pretty good. It’s Batman Beyond, from the team of Adam Beechen, Ryan Benjamin, and John Stanisci, who brought us Hush Beyond and now have come up with Industrial Revolution.
There are actually two stories in this compilation, with enticingly similar villains.
The first story arc in this collection centers on one Carson Jatts, who, due to his work in the Metahuman Evidence Confiscation Facility, has contracted an incurable disease that is slowly eating him from inside out, the legacy of his exposure to exotic substances and alien radiation. For some reason, he harbors a lot of resentment against superheroes. So he steals a wand that once belonged to the Matter Master. However, something Jatts wasn’t expecting: his altered body has internalized the power of the wand, giving him the power to transmute anything into — well, anything. So his first ploy is to invade a shopping mall and take hostages — among them Terry McGinnis’ mother and little brother. McGinnis, who as you will remember is the current Batman, is not real cool with this, even more so because the Justice League decides to horn in.
The second story also gives us a villain whose body is slowly being eaten away by his powers. This time, it’s Derek Powers, whom Bruce Wayne thinks he finished off when he was Batman. But he never saw the body. Powers has managed to gain substantial interest in Wayne Enterprises — enough for the name to be changed to Wayne-Powers — and has as his goal nothing short of destroying Bruce Wayne.
Well, others have tried. And Powers is going to need something more than a decent suit to pull it off. (And if you wonder what that’s about, you’ll just have to read the book.)
OK — it’s fun, shades of the old-style, pre-Dark Knight Batman, even though Bruce Wayne is certainly about as dyspeptic as he can be. The only thing missing is the POW! and the WHAM! Beechen’s scripts are tight and clear, and he’s taken the time to work in a couple of subplots that, for a change, don’t intrude. And it’s not all deadly serious and grimly introspective. Sure, there are dark edges, and Terry is having some serious problems with his girlfriend, but what teenager with a double life doesn’t?
The Ryan Benjamin’s pencils are beautifully finished by John Stansisci’s inks, proving once again the value of a good team on the graphic side: they’re clear, spare, tremendously expressive, and somehow manage to capture a lightness that fits the story perfectly. The layouts are pretty standard, but the graphics are lively enough that it doesn’t become routine.
I’ve never seen the animated series, so I’m coming to this series fresh. It could very well get me hooked on Batman again.
(DC Comics, 2011) Originally included in Batman Beyond 1-8.