We’re behind schedule due to sudden onset of illness, so only two books for this weekly pull. The two Annual issues don’t count as part of the regular followed ongoings, so they’ll get their own seperate articles. For right now, we’re looking at BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #4 and THE SHADOW #2.
The advantage of having a book not strictly within the New 52 is that it can basically go anywhere DC feels it’s convenient, including the rare fifth Wednesdays. Unfortunately, this is also the disadvantage, because BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #4 has been a while getting here. Though it doesn’t disappoint. As is now the format of this comic, we have three storylines this issue: the regular plot with just future Batman dealing with Gotham’s domestic threats; the one featuring the future Justice League; and the newest backstory with Superman. On the one hand, I feel like I’m getting my four dollars worth (as opposed to Justice League; retrospective forthcoming). On the other, the issue can get a little cluttered.
Actually I’m mistaken, there’s now a fourth feature starting in this issue. More on that later.
Let’s start with the regular future Batman story, which sees the conclusion of the plot involving Mad Stan, his chiwawa, and a bunch of Russian arms dealers. This plot did a lot to give the deranged anti-establishment villain some much-needed depth, while also reinforcing what was already there to a degree. I don’t even know if the networks would have allowed Stan to do what he does at the climax, given that it basically paints him as a potential suicide bomber if he’s confronted with the possibility of compromising his ideals. That takes some guts, and makes the character less of a guy who just opposes government and big business because it’s personally inconvenient.
The Justice League storyline takes us from the comfort of Earth to the far reaches of space, as the League goes to aid the New Gods of New Genesis against Kobra’s secret weapon: the Midgard Serpent. Except they’re too late, as the Serpent came, saw, and ate everything, including most of the New Gods. Although the fact that Big Barda’s husband Mr. Miracle – the greatest escape artist ever – got swallowed means he’s probably going to find his way out of it. I’m calling it now, he’s just fine and coming back in later issues, just you wait.
It’s always nice to see Jack Kirby’s creations get new life, although I think DC’s getting into a habit of killing them off these days. The New Gods are nowhere to be seen on Earth A (my name for the main DC Earth of the New 52), they’ve been killed entirely in Earth 2, and now they’ve apparently been swallowed by a giant snake in the animated universe. Then again, between these things, OMAC‘s cancellation, and Before Watchmen, DC doesn’t seem all that fond of the creators of their greatest properties. Just ask Alan Moore.
The Superman Beyond storyline is two issues forward, and I’m not entirely sure what I think of it. So far as quality is concerned, it’s a perfectly good story. Lex Luthor’s daughter has access to her father’s technology and has been fed his version of the rivalry with Superman via hologram record. And the firm behind the nanomachine augmented cops is stepping up their efforts in order to stamp out crime in future Metropolis. I’m not really in any condition to strain my brain looking for points to discuss (least of all without invoking spoilers), so let’s move on.
As stated before, the overzealous writers of BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED added another plotline to the mix. It’s the first part of a flashback detailing the origin of Warhawk, the Thanagarian with the armor. For those who never watched the original Batman Beyond or Justice League Unlimited, Warhawk is the son of Green Lantern John Stewart and Hawkgirl. If you did watch those, you’d know John Stewart once time-traveled and met his son…at a point in the show where he’d already broke off his relationship with Hawkgirl for reasons of betrayal, and was dating fellow Justice League member Vixen. So obviously, this story needed to fill in the gaps and explain why that relationship didn’t work out and why John got back together with Hawkgirl. We won’t see the latter until later, but we do get to see why the former happened.
It’s a cruel end. Perhaps not as cruel as the end of the Batman Annual, but I’ll get to that when I get to it. Let’s just say the return to the old will be final.
Here’s hoping the book doesn’t add another backup story to this book. It’s crowded as it is.
My comic book store finally got a copy of THE SHADOW #2, which is an issue I have trouble determining whether I like it or not. The Shadow, in civilian clothes, takes a plane with his lady friend to Japan in order to investigate…whatever it is he’s investigating that has to do with the Japanese. I honestly still don’t really know what exactly this Major Kondo guy has to do with the Shadow, other than the fact that they have a history and Kondo is doing something on behalf of the Emperor. If this seems unhelpful, it’s only because my brain is full of sick and this comic keeps its cards against its chest about what’s going on.
Also some Germans that Major Kondo tipped off about the Shadow sneak onto the plane and try to kill him. That I understand perfectly. Which brings up another point: Konda (and the Germans apparently) already know at least a few of the Shadow’s aliases, yet the Shadow still goes under those names. Maybe he doesn’t know those identities are compromised, or he’s unafraid of assassins – because he’s the freaking Shadow – but how hasn’t this come back to bite him before? This is more obtuse backstory, so it’ll probably do well to keep reading.
What I will praise this book for is making the villains here both fleshed out enough to engage, and yet repugnant. And all in subtle ways. I like villains that seem like they have lives outside of their villainous actions, yet aren’t grasping for audience sympathy. Is it so much to ask for the evil guy to be, well, evil?
I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll continue with THE SHADOW. On the one hand, the plot is hard to follow and keeps a few too many secrets. But on the other hand, The Shadow makes a Nazi think he’s stabbed his mother to death, and then snapped his neck. I call that a good day.
For the audience, obviously. Not too good for the Nazi. But who cares about Nazis, really?