Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colours: Marcelo Maiolo
Release Date: 26th October, 2016
[This is a review of Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1. There will be SPOILERS.]
Dan Jurgens’ first issue of Batman Beyond starts with a lot of promise but quickly devolves into a Saturday morning cartoon. Picking up where Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 left off, Dana Tan has been kidnapped by Terminal, who reveals his plan to resurrect The Joker. Meanwhile, Terry McGinnis attempts to rescue her, but discovers (the hard way) that being Batman requires patience, a plan and training.
The first four pages of this issue are amazing. Terminal and Dana discuss the ideologies of Batman and The Joker and how society is more like the latter than the former. This discussion takes place in a room adjacent from where The Joker’s body is being reanimated. Artist Bernard Chang makes The Joker even more disturbing as a lifeless corpse with wires and tubes plugged into him.
Even the smaller panels throughout the philosophical discussion depict how rough Jokerz Town really is as an unfortunate citizen wanders into the area. Two Jokerz ask him to “pay the toll.” It’s a high price to enter into this part of the city, and the man pays with his life. The two clowns kill him and leave the body on the street. The bright colors Marcelo Maiolo uses in these panels gives Jokerz Town, the Jokerz and even The Joker himself a sleazy neon sheen that adds to the overall dark tone.
Unfortunately, after such an incredibly promising start, the issues takes a dramatic turn from page five onward, shifting from dark and hopeless to a larger-than-life action adventure.
Terry’s little brother Matt McGinnis and Maxine Gibson go to the Batcave to assist Terry remotely. Terry’s in critical condition following his fight with a “roided out” Joker. The fight is over the top with expositions and bad jokes like, “you wouldn’t hit a man with glasses, would you?” Terry is able to dispatch the Bane-like joker by severing the tubes pumping the goon with venom. It’s not until a number of Jokerz come out chanting “KILL THE BAT!” that the element of danger comes back. It’s a Warriors-esque vibe as this gang of clowns comes out of the woodwork wielding knives, bats, crowbars etc. Overwhelmed by the Jokerz, Terry makes off to the cave to regroup.
Chang does a great job making this fight seem up close and personal at least, leading up to the splash page which adds to the threat level – three Jokerz face off with Batman and get in their lucky punches in. The splash page of 16 or so Jokerz seems like over kill. Personally I think a handful of Jokerz capitalizing on Terry’s previous injuries and lack of training by getting a few slashes and hits in make the scene more effective. I’m a fan of how Chang illustrates the suit being cut up, but it also seems like the suit is just made of spandex. This version of the Batsuit is supposed to be state of the art, so it’s an odd choice to make it so vulnerable to melee weapons.
My biggest problem with the book is how the issue ends. Terry decides to go undercover by dressing like the Jokerz, which looks like a lower rent version of Hot Toy’s The Joker (Batman Imposter Version). Okay so obviously I’m not a fan of the costume design, but the problem here is Terry admits that he isn’t ready to be Batman again. He hasn’t trained in weeks since being under Spellbinder’s control (see “Batman Beyond” issues 12-16), he couldn’t defend himself from a group of Jokerz even with the help of an enhanced suit and now his plan is to go in without the tech and fight them hand to hand if it comes down to it. This moment seems disingenuous to the character and goes against Terry’s motivation to suit up as Batman again.
Although Jurgens’ first couple of issues show signs of life, I’m hoping that the idea of bringing back The Joker gives this series an added boost because at this point, it most definitely needs it.
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The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511