First Impressions – BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE #1

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The limits of Unlimited have been reached. With the previous series concluded, BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE #1 skips forward one year in time. What aspects of Neo Gotham have changed in that time? What remains the same? And while the future Batman fights crime, how is Superman and the future Justice League faring? Nothing lasts forever! Things Change!

For those just coming in, Batman Beyond was a part of DC’s series of cartoons; specifically, it was the sequel to Batman The Animated Series. Set forty years later, Batman Beyond told the story of Terry McGuiness, Batman of the future. Eventually, when Batman Beyond ended, the continuity from the show was continued…in comic form. But that series ended around the time DC rebooted its entire comics line as part of the New 52. And then shortly after that, a new comic series began: Batman Beyond Unlimited.

A series I’ve followed from the beginning, up until its end last month.

So to get us caught up, Batman Beyond Unlimited ended with Terry contemplating what he’s going to do with his life, while the Bat-family began amassing additional allies. Terry and his on-again/off-again girlfriend Dana reaching a new stage in their relationship by her finally finding out he’s Batman. Everything seems like it’s looking up for Gotham, like everyone’s on the same page at last.

In comes BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE #1, and all of that is changed.

While it’s all well and good for characters to move forward into more positive areas of their lives, it doesn’t necessarily make for good drama. Or at least that’s probably what the new creative team for this book thought when designing it, because it’s one year later and everything is different. Terry is in college, broke up with Dana for unspecified reasons, and probably the most jarring, has broken ties with the elderly Bruce Wayne, and now uses a less elderly Dick Grayson as his trainer and tactical adviser. We’ll probably learn how these things came to pass during the skip in later issues.

For right now, BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE #1 further establishes the new main plot: the mayor of Neo Gotham dies of what appears to be a heart attack in the heart of a new Arkham mental health facility. Since no one, not Commissioner Barbara Gordon nor Dick Grayson nor Bruce Wayne, actually believes the death resulted from natural causes, Batman has to dig deep and figure out what’s what.

Two things. One, nice to see even forty years into the future Gotham still thinks locking their resident crazies up in Arkham is a good idea. It didn’t work nearly a century before, so why do they think trying basically the same thing would work now? And two, Terry up to this point always lived in the shadow of Bruce Wayne. But this comic is adamant that he no longer be considered just future!Batman. He is Batman, as evidenced by him gloriously proclaiming “I’m Batman”.

Because one is not truly Batman unless one says the phrase “I’m Batman”.

In between the investigation and some locked up villain named Ghoul mugging for the panels like he’s supposed to be important, we see that Terry’s love life and school life is suffering. We don’t learn any specifics about the former, as I stated before, but I’m going to assume both were a direct result of him becoming Batman for reals. Oh, and we meet a generic looking guy named Ryan who is, I think, Terry’s room mate in college. The fact that the comic introduces him so directly means he will be important. You can bet on it.

Because this is a Batman Beyond comic, the issue is divided into parts. The first part is the Batman feature, while the second concerns the future Justice League, and Superman in particular. Due to the presence of a space thingie in the sun, Superman’s powers go out of control. Fearing untold damage being done to those around him, Superman tries to take a leave of absence from the League for everyone’s safety.

But he’s Superman – and moreover he has some backstory issues to deal with – so he cannot retreat from the world. Even though it would be best for everyone if he did, as the fluctuations are temporary. He could quite easily just chill in his fortress of solitude (he he he), and wait for it all the blow over. But no, he insists on returning to the world…even if he has to strip himself of his powers entirely to do it.

As one can imagine, this doesn’t go as planned.

One of the flaws of the previous comic series was its multiple plots. Having two different ongoing stories wasn’t that big a deal, but most of the time the book had three, sometimes even four separate features running simultaneously. This created a Four Lanes, All Waiting situation; plotlines advancing at a snails pace from month to month. Thankfully BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE #1 presents only two to start, but that could easily change in subsequent issues. Really, the best bet would probably be to read these stories in trade format, and the last comic did have its Batman and Justice League features collected in their own respective books. Makes for much more brisk reading. Don’t know how heavily this title will carry that trend.

The writing for BATMAN BEYOND UNIVERSE is alright, but it has less optimistic tone than Unlimited. Change came, and not entirely in a positive way. Mysteries abound, but I almost wish this title had been pushed back a few months. A combination of the time skip and the exhaustive last year and a half of publication left me a tad hesitant to jump into the sequel so soon. I will say that while the change in status quo is sudden and heavy, it can be welcome alteration to the cycle that was previous Batman Beyond stories. It’s nice to see characters evolving beyond their roots; especially to see Terry get out of high school and on to college. If you’re a fan of Batman Beyond, it might be a solid title to check out, though reading the previous series (and possibly the one before it) is recommended.

The art is also pretty good. Can’t complain about the art.

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