EP0036: Batman Beyond, Volume 2: Rise of the Demon

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Terry McGuiness has to fight his own suit to deal with the new head of the League of Assassins, a former member of the Bat-Family.

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Transcript follows:

Terry McGinnis tries to survive another adventure in Neo-Gotham, but he has a challenging obstacle: his Batman suit. Find out what happens as we take a look at Batman Beyond Volume Two: Rise of the Demon, straight ahead.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

Before talking about Batman Beyond – the comic, I should talk a little bit about Batman Beyond – the television series. It was kind of a niche thing and it was easy to miss. It was on TV from 1999 from 2001. It was set in the future where Bruce Wayne is an old man who has been forced to retire as Batman, but a teenager named Terry McGinnis stumbles on the Wayne Manor and he ends up recruited to be the new Batman after he steals Bruce’s last very high-tech Batman suit in order to avenge the murder of his father. And from there Bruce agrees to train Terry McGinnis and Terry becomes the new Batman of this future era in Neo-Gotham – a technologically advanced city with flying cars and a lot of futuristic looking stuff. The series was set in 2019 originally, which makes the predictions of the future from Back To The Future Two seem pretty conservative by comparison. Batman Beyond came from the same creative team that brought us Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series; however, it was written with a more mature audience in mind. It was definitely aiming for teenage and above. The theme music was a very memorable sort of techno-jam and the stories had a serious tone, but there wasn’t a whole lot in the TV series proper that would be problematic for kids. The movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, well that’s another matter. The series lasted for Thirty-Nine episodes as well as that movie, and there was an episode of Justice League Unlimited which tied up some loose ends for the series in what was supposed to be the series finale for Justice League Unlimited, but they got another season. And, you might think, OK, so you’ve got Forty episodes of a couple TV series plus you’ve got a movie, and you think that might be it for Batman Beyond. But no, it has actually continued to be very, very popular in comics.

The series we’re going to talk about today is actually the sixth Batman Beyond comic series. In fact, when I first started reading digital comics, the very first series or one of the very first ones I got into was Batman Beyond because the continuity was a little less daunting, though the series definitely has a loyal fan base who are into the comics. Most of these series should be considered part of the DC Animated Universe comic book universe. The events that happened to them didn’t impact the main world of DC Comics – it’s a separate universe for all of the animated shows in their tie-in books and there were quite a few. However, in 2015 Batman Beyond became a full-fledged DC Universe series, however, I wasn’t much interested in this initial series because Terry McGinnis wasn’t Batman in that series. However, with DC Rebirth, Terry McGinnis was once again Batman and I’m once again following it and enjoying it.

In the first volume after Terry has returned, he’s got to set some things right. There is talk of resurrecting the Joker by a villain known as Terminal who claims to have the Joker ready to resurrect, but when Terry gets up close it turns out that he has Bruce Wayne made up as the Joker. And Bruce, who had been thought to have died and some of the events that happened in this universe is actually still alive, and so at the end of that first volume the two have been reunited. This volume contains two stories: Issues Six to Eleven is a six-part story and then Issue Twelve is a stand-alone. Eyes of the Demon begins with Terry and Bruce reuniting and Terry talking with his girlfriend Dana who doesn’t know his secret identity – or didn’t prior to the last story – and Bruce getting settled in the Bat Cave. However, Bruce finds out that Terry is using a dangerous prototype bat suit because the one that Terry used to use has been destroyed. Before Terry can get back to the Bat Cave, CurarĂ©, a member of the League of Assassins, comes to get Batman’s help because the League has hatched a very dangerous plot. And so Terry has to go off in this Bat suit. The suit presses its wearer to win at any cost, whether that cost be the physical destruction of the person wearing the bat suit, or even if it pushes beyond the ethical limits that Batman has set for himself traditionally. He…Bruce designed the suit so that it would never allow Batman to lose after a tragedy had occurred. Unfortunately, the no-killing rule was not something that got factored into this. Ultimately this leads Terry up to the Himalayas and the headquarters of the League of Assassins now headed by Damian Wayne, and Bruce goes after Terry because he’s concerned about what’s going to happen to him with the suit. And this leads to a very big confrontation with Terry, Bruce, Damian and just the complicated relationships between them.

The action in the story is good. Even without a super suit Damian Wayne is a definite challenge, and the battles between him and Terry really are great to look at, and there are some fun twists in the way the action plays out. But what really makes this book work for me is the character stuff. I think on the TV series there was a default: Bruce was a lonely old man who had pushed away everyone in his life directly or indirectly by his drive to be Batman. He cared but his caring was often not felt, and he was too proud, too set in his ways to ever actually really change. And then you throw into this mix Terry McGinnis, and Terry was a teenager. He was Batman and he’s trying to be super cool. And so their relationship would be interesting, but there would be this angle of things that were not spoken – things that are not communicated or even fully felt by both parties. And it felt like when I was reading the Batman Beyond comic books that were set in the DC Animated Universe that the writers really just didn’t want to take it beyond that point. The only thing they would do with the relationship is there was several issues where Bruce is so mad or Terry is so upset with Bruce that he will no longer let him train or assist him as Batman, because in the TV series and throughout most of the comics Bruce was always there looking through a camera and able to provide Terry advice and guidance as needed while he was battling.

But in this issue Terry is older and he has gone through a situation where both he and Bruce were considered dead, lost, missing, and he had thought that Bruce was totally gone. And the most unexpected thing happens in Issue Six: there is a panel of Terry giving Bruce a hug and Bruce has just got this incredibly surprised look on his face, and I was shocked as well but then I realized Terry is growing up. He no longer has to be so tough all the time and that actually follows through to Bruce as the story goes on. And really, while you’ve got this great action, it’s about Bruce Wayne reconciling these relationships, and it’s a challenging thing because when you get to the point where Terry is in this killer Bat suit battling Damian, you’re talking about a situation where on one hand he has his natural son Damian fighting with Terry McGinnis – someone that he views as a son, and it’s some rich emotional conflict that just really surprised me, and I was really pleased by it and I was glad that writer Dan Jurgens is really able to let these characters grow, because a lot of comic book writers have just kind of wanted to keep them exactly as they were on the TV series, even while having them age and have new adventures. So, I really like that and I found the character part of this even more satisfying than the action.

The final Issue is a one shot and it’s Batwomen Beyond and it’s written by Steve Orlando and it’s set while everything is going on at the League of Assassins headquarters. Barbara Gordon who is the Commissioner of Police in Neo-Gotham is missing, and with Batman and Bruce Wayne both out of town Terry’s friend turns to the new Batgirl, Nissa, for help in locating Commissioner Gordon. Yeah, women team up issue without our protagonist in it. And some people were confused about why they were doing this with this character because it essentially purports to introduce Batgirl to the Batman Beyond universe, but people remember Batgirl being introduced back in 2012. However, that was technically in the DC Animated Universe comics. This says, yes we’re carrying this character over to the main DC Universe. As a character she’s fine – she comes from one of the tougher parts of town. She’s carrying a bit of a chip on her shoulder because she feels that part of Neo-Gotham is being neglected. This is something to be careful of because, as she’s not dealing with an actual place or actual ethnic group, as someone with a chip on the shoulder probably we have a little less tolerance for if that’s not balanced out by other characteristics. But I’m glad Steve Orlando wrote the story in which we do get this character established as being in the DC Universe main.

Overall I’ll give Batman Beyond Volume Two: Rise of the Demon a rating of Shway, and that of course is Batman Beyond Universe slang for Classy. It’s a good comic, it continues in the spirit of the original series, it doesn’t get too bogged down in continuity though if you are fan of the TV series I think you’ll probably appreciate it just a bit more.

Well that will do it for now. If you do have a comment email it to me: classycomicsguy@gmail.com; follow me on Twitter @ClassyComicsGuy, and check out the website: classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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