Batman Beyond Trade Post: Batgirl Beyond

batman beyond batgirl beyond Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, Scott Peterson & Hilary J. Bader, drawn by Adam Archer, Annie Wu, Norm Breyfogle, Rob Leigh, Peter Nguyen, Craig Rousseau & Craig Yeung
Collects Batman Beyond #1-2, Batman Beyond Unlimited #14-18 and online at Batman Beyond Chapters 19-29

In two previous posts, I wrote about how much I enjoyed Adam Beechen’s run on Batman Beyond. I think he did a great job of continuing the adventures of a character I wasn’t super familiar with while also tying it in to the existing Batman comic book mythos. At the same time, he crafted a series of stories large and small that kept me intrigued and turning pages. However, as I mentioned in my last post, I was a bit concerned about how it would end. The previous volume had a huge threat in Gotham that Batman stopped, but not long after the series got a reboot, so I wasn’t sure how it would end. And, even after reading this last chapter of Beechen’s run, I’m a little up in the air on that subject.

The first half of this book is by Beechen and does pick up on the previous elements while always moving forward and adding new elements even up to the very end. I love the reintroduction of the Metal Men (possibly my favorite book featuring these beloved, but not particularly well handled Silver Age characters) and the potential for those characters in this new world. There were also satisfying conclusions and continuations of storylines that all felt right and complete.

And then there’s the other half of the book, which focuses on a new Batgirl running around Gotham who interacts with Barbara Gordon. This is actually a really cool story featuring some awesome art by Wu which looks like Phil Noto-meets-Freddie Williams II. My only problem is that there’s a lot of set-up for things that just don’t happen as the series ended. I’m sure these ran along with the ongoing chapters of the Beechen stuff, but it feels like a strange way to end the collection. Actually, there’s another story by Hilary Bader that looks like one of the Batman Beyond tie-in comics from when the cartoon was airing. This was a fun little story that got Bruce back in the Batsuit which is fun, but after all the craziness of the first story, it felt a little too light.

So, while I thought Beechen’s stuff did put a solid bow on the end of the series, these others just felt a little out of place thematically. I think when/if I add these trades to my collection (I got all of these books from the library), I’ll probably read these last couple of stories earlier because they don’t make for a great finale.

Batman Beyond Trade Post: Superman Man Of Tomorrow & 10,000 Clowns

Superman Beyond Man of Tomorrow Superman Beyond: Man of Tomorrow (DC)
Written by Paul Levitz, Ron Frenz, Tom Defalco & J.T. Krull, drawn by Howard Porter, John Livesay, Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson, Tom Defalco, Ron Frenz & Sal Buscema
Collects Superman/Batman Annual #4, Superman Beyond #0 & Superman Beyond Digital Chapters #1-10

After enjoying Adam Beechen’s first two volumes of Batman Beyond, I got right on my library’s website and placed the other available volumes on hold. They don’t have Justice League Beyond and I’m still waiting on the last BB volume, but quickly moved on to Superman Beyond: Man Of Tomorrow and Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns. These stories were originally presented in a digital-first format and then put out in hard copy for the most part.

Of all the Beyond comics I’ve read, the ones in Superman Beyond feel the most disjoined, but I think that’s because it’s got three different writers involved. The Superman/Batman Annual by Levitz and Guedes was an interesting story about Superman finally defeated Lex Luthor, but it ends with him leaving Earth to explore the cosmos. This got picked up in Superman Beyond #0 by Frenz, Defalco and Buscema which finds Superman returning to Earth and discovering his place in a world that’s evolved to a new place. And then in the J.T. Krull stuff, you find Superman wondering if he should stay on Earth or not without mentioning the fact that he spent a year off planet. In the end, it feels like the first two issues are one thing and the other pieces are connected, but not all the way.

The thrust of the main adventure finds Superman dealing with Lex Luthor’s daughter, Lucy, whose true identity was revealed to her by a projection of her father. Lucy uses a combination of her own smarts and her dad’s plan to get pretty darn close to killing Superman. Luckily, Metropolis has armored cops now and Batman swings by to help out, so the day winds up getting saved and a new status quo is set up for Superman including a new secret identity as a fireman.

At the end of the day, this book didn’t really do it for me. I was never convinced of Lucy’s turn from disillusioned youth to A level maniacal supervillain in like one day. I get that she was bummed for feeling like an outsider, but to go from that to piloting massive robots around Metropolis and surrounding the planet with Kryptonite meteorites is another thing.

There were cool moments though. Luthor’s plans were pretty spectacular and I really enjoyed the moment when Bruce Wayne popped over from Gotham in his Dark Knight Returns armor to help Superman fight Solomon Grundy. But, at the end of the day, this is another sad Superman story and that’s not the kind of Superman story I want to read. For me, the heart of Superman is that he’s got hope in his heart even when things are going terribly. There is some of that at the end, but you spend all this time hanging out with a sad sack that it’s not very fun. You could argue that they went this route as a way to flip the Superman/Batman dynamic in the future because Terry McGinnis is a young guy who seems to enjoy what he does, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m also not a fan of seeing Supes in that black and white costume, but that’s not to say that the artists in this book didn’t do a rad job of bringing it to life.

batman beyond 10000 clowns Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Norm Breyfogle
Collects Batman Beyond Unlimited #1-13

Thankfully, I had a much better experience with Beechen’s next Batman Beyond offering 10,000 Clowns. This one felt like a nice synthesis of the previous two volumes in that it had the overarching storyline as seen in Hush Beyond, but also handled a lot of evolving story elements like Dana’s brother Doug, her relationship with Terry, the appearance and origin of a new Vigilante and the reappearance of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and the new Catwoman in service of the greater good. Oh, and Bruce Wayne almost died.

In a move that feels like a great mix of The Warriors and a smaller version of the “Grand Guignol” story from James Robinson’s Starman, Gotham City is under siege by an army of Jokerz from all over the world. As it turns out, a fairly new character to the series has crowned himself The Joker King and has a new take on the Joker’s chaos theory: none of it matters, so let’s cause as much destruction as possible. To that end, he drugs all the thugs and sends them out into the city with explosives, a plan that decimates huge chunks of the city, even though Batman, Catwoman, the new Vigilante and Dick Grayson are out in the field trying to save the day. Even Bruce gets in on the action trying to protect people in the hospital while he’s seemingly dying from cancer.

I didn’t know much about this series going in, so I was surprised to see Norm Breyfogle’s name on the cover. He was a Batman artist in the 80s and 90s when I first started reading comics and actually gave me my very first comic sketch when he visited my hometown shop 20 years ago. I was surprised when I opened this book and saw him doing a very different style that was much more reminiscent of the Bruce Timm look of the original cartoon. Ryan Benjamin did more of a stylistic take in the previous two books, but this felt a lot more similar to the existing cartoon material, which was probably a conscious effort to make these digital comics as easy to digest for new, non-traditional comic book readers as possible. While I enjoy the look of Breyfogle’s usual pencils, I found myself really digging these books as well. It’s not easy looking classic and futuristic at the same time, but that’s what the cartoon did and that’s what Breyfogle did as well.

So far, I’m giving Beechen’s run on Batman Beyond a big ol’ thumb’s up, but I must admit that I’m a little worried about how it’s all going to end. I know Batman Beyond is a big deal in DC’s current weekly series/event called Future’s End and that there’s a Batman Beyond 2.0 book right now, but it’s by a different writer and also takes place in an alternate universe. Basically, I’m worried that Beechen’s run will just end and then this other things jumps in to take its place. It always bums me out when one creator does all this hard work bringing a character to a cool new place and then, after said character gets popular, someone else is brought in and changes things around to go in a different direction. I’m not saying I won’t like or try the new version of Batman Beyond, but I don’t want its existence to negate this other book that I’ve enjoyed so much. I also want to see what happens to Gotham in the wake of this insane attack by the Jokerz, so I hope to get a little bit of that, plus a well deserved ending in the last collection called Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond.

Batman Beyond Trade Post: Hush Beyond & Industrial Revolution

batman beyond hush beyond Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Ryan Benjamin
Collects Batman Beyond #1-6

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Toy Commercial Tuesday, I liked the idea and execution of Batman Beyond, but wound up not watching too much of it at the time. Still, when I heard that Adam Beechen was going to write a comic set in that universe — which also happens to be the same universe as seen in Justice League, JLU, Static Shock, Batman: The Animated Series AND Superman: The Animated Series — I was stoked. Not only did Beechen write a bunch of the comic book tie-ins for the DC Animated U back in the day, but he also penned one of the strongest Robin runs in my opinion.

The story kicks off with Terry McGinnis still rocking the futuristic Batman suit with in-ear help from his mentor Bruce Wayne. As the story progresses, a mysterious character escapes from one of Amanda Waller’s secret labs and wants to take out Batman’s Rogues Gallery past and present because he thinks that there will be no need for the hero if all the villains are gone. Everyone assumes it’s Tommy Elliot, also known as Hush, committing these crimes, but finding out if that’s true or not is all part of the fun. I won’t get into the whos and whys, but I thought this was a pretty clever way of showing off the BBU and also expanding on existing themes at the same time.

Another big part of the fun of Batman Beyond is seeing how so many familiar characters ended up and this story, by its very nature, has plenty of them. When you’re dealing with the regular DCU or any shared universe, there’s a lot of different avenues the characters might go down, but with something like this, you actually get to follow them and see what happens in a more definitive reality. Sure, it’s just one potential future and I might not agree with how everyone wound up, but it’s nice to see what Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and the others are up to and how being involved with Batman changed them.

batman beyond industrial revolution Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Ryan Benjamin with Eduardo Pansica & Chris Batista
Collects Batman Beyond #1-8

While Hush Beyond was a very focused whodunit, Industrial Revolution collects stories that feel a lot more like old school comics where there’s a main ongoing story while also working with a few potboilers and even a pair of one-off character spotlight issues. These are the kinds of comics I love and Beechen does a great job moving from piece to piece.

This one book features a new villain accidentally endangering Terry’s family to the point where he agrees to let the Justice League help him, someone trying to out Dick Grayson as an associate of Batman’s, Max getting courted by a super hacker group known as Undercloud, a strike at Wayne Powers, troubles between Dana and Terry, the return of Dana’s never-mentioned brother Doug and the return of one of Terry’s most dangerous villains. It’s a lot, but it all felt very balanced.

Above I mentioned how I like finding out what happened to certain characters, but I also like seeing what bits and pieces of the existing Batman mythos Beechen and company decided to cherrypick from. Dick Grayson explains that he worked for Batman Inc., which obviously didn’t exist when the cartoon first debuted, but has been worked in since. There’s also an appearance by Batman’s crazy motorcycle from The Dark Knight which was fun.

For the most part, these issues do a great job of walking that tightrope of servicing longtime fans and being accessible to newer ones (or ones with not-so-great memories like myself). Personally, I was a bit confused when the Justice League showed up, but that’s just because I didn’t know a few continuity things like whether that’s the Barda I know or someone else. The only other time that happened was in the last issue of the second collection which is an Inque solo story. Now, that’s a solid, sad story about what drives a person to become a villain, but the problem is that the character hadn’t shown up in the series before that. After that issue the book switched production and became a digital-first book, so it also comes off as a bit of an odd way of stopping a collection, but I guess that’s just the way things work out sometime.

At the end of the day, I had a really great time with both of these books. When you’re dealing with a tie-in comic like this, I think the creators are doing a great job when you’re psyched to read the next issue or trade, but also equally excited about getting back to the source material. That’s how it was with me and Batman Beyond. I’ve got the other two Beechen books requested from the library as well as Superman Beyond (they don’t happen to have the Justice League book in the system) and also started re-watching the series on Netflix, which has been a ton of fun.

Countdown’s Not SO Bad

DC’s been losing my interest more and more with their weekly comics over the past few years. 52 combined most of my favorite writers with some really interesting characters (thanks to those writers) into a comic that rocked my world week in and week out. Then Countdown came along and I was with it for about half of the series before giving up. And I’ve only read one issue of Trinity. I’m super excited about Wednesday Comics though.

I think my biggest problem with Countdown was how much they tried to tie the rest of the DCU into the book. Plus there were just too many stories being spread thinner than maybe they should have. Did the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding REALLY need to tie-in? How do Superboy Prime and Kyle Rayner fit in here as compared to Sinestro Corps? What the heck was the point of Salvation Run?

Well, to try and answer some of those questions for myself and to give the book a fair shot, I decided to read the stack of Countdown trades I’ve acquired. I’ve got the four trades making up the regular series (52 total issues) and then a number of the tie-in books (pretty much everything with Countdown in the title). I wanted to start off with just the main book and see how well it reads on its own.

I’ll be honest, it read a lot better than I thought it would. I definitely liked Adam Beechen’s issues the best and there was some pretty good art by guys like Scott Kollins, Jim Calafiore, Jamal Igle and Freddie Williams III. Overall, aside from the continuity head-scratchers that people still reference (how did all this tie into Final Crisis exactly?), the story suffers from being too long and seemingly directionless for the first half of its issues. You’ve got characters like Holly the former Catwoman, a tainted Mary Marvel, Jimmy Olsen, Pied Piper and Trickster and of course Donna Troy, Jason Todd, the Ryan Choi Atom, Kyle Rayner and Bob the Monitor taking a tour of the microverse and then the multiverse. For the most part in the first half of the story, head writer Paul Dini and his crew of Sean McKeever, Tony Bedard, Adam Beechen and Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do a good job of advancing these various stories (some more successfully than others), but they don’t really tie-in for a while (there’s also a lot of carry-over problems that lead to pacing issues and small things like the fact that at the end of one issue, Piper and Trickster are falling out of a plane with no bag and in the next, they have Trickster’s bag of tricks).

I know a lot of people didn’t like Mary Marvel’s transformation from goody goody superheroine into badass, evil chick, but reading the whole storyarc in a few days, I actually liked the progression. However, I did not like the turn they gave her towards the end of the book, but what are you gonna do? I also liked the Earth they showed us that Ray Palmer has been hiding out, though the twist right after that felt a little rushed.

Speaking of the main characters, I never really got a sense of Jason Todd’s character. I think it’s because he kept bouncing between hero and killer and he had been handled so differently by different writers over time, plus I know how (pun intended) Bat-shit crazy he’s gotten lately. And, on a final quick character note, as a big fan of Kyle Rayner (he was the GL that got me into that world), I found it annoying that they kept referring to him as someone who shouldn’t exist. I get Jason “Wall Punch” Todd and Donna “Been Dead and Back a Bunch” Troy, but what’d Kyle do? It’s never explained, he just shows up and is lumped in the the so-called Challengers (a name never actually established in this book, just stamped on at some point). I wonder if they’ll ever reference these Challengers as watchers of the Monitors again, but I kind of doubt it.

I’ve got a few more complaints that I’ve got to get off my chest. Where the heck did Superboy Prime and Monarch explode to? This may have been addressed since, but I can’t remember the events chronologically. I was bummed to see Monarch’s awesome army of multiverse evildoers getting taken out so quickly. I was hoping they’d be a bigger part of the story. Also, what the heck is the purpose of the Monitors? We’re never told anything more than they watch over their multiverse. Anything else? They seem to be pretty powerful at times, but not at others, what’s the deal? Another thing that bugged me was how they just took old Elseworlds stories and made many of those the 52 worlds. Sure, 52 is a pretty big number of worlds, but do you really want to give a whole UNIVERSE to “Batman is a vampire?” Seems like a waste. Related to that, why were we given two full issues showing how one of the Earth’s becomes the Jack Kirby-created Kamandi/OMAC world? I actually really, really liked those issues, but what was the point? Especially when they haven’t been referenced since (like the rest of the multiverse, sadly).

And finally, I was disappointed in the presentation of the trades. I get that people were over Countdown as soon as the last issue hit, but there could have been an intro or two or even a kind of director’s commentary. Worst of all, though, is that there weren’t any kind of recaps about what happened outside of the Countdown series. We’re not told anything real about Superboy Prime’s previous dealings or what happened at Green Arrow and Black Canary’s wedding. I’m totally fine with small paragraphs catching people up, they would have been a nice addition, especially when the book was so tied to continuity at the time.

Overall, it kind of feels like the creators either chose the most random characters they could find or were handed them and then asked to create a story. It’s not until Keith Giffen gets brought on as story coordinator about halfway through that the stories start coming together and making sense. So, while it feels like a clean-up job, the book definitely takes on new life in the last two trades. There were even genuine moments where I was worried for the characters and pumped my fist when cool stuff happened (especially Red Robin and a Batman jumping into the fray).

If I thought it would make any sense I would suggest just getting the last two trades, but the second volume actually has Giffen’s recap issue that kind of sets everything into motion. In the end, you don’t really need to know what happened in Countdown to understand the DCU right now (and not reading it will probably keep you away from some questions, especially continuity ones) but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and got through the four volumes reading them on and off over the past five days which says something. If I really disliked it, I wouldn’t have been able to finish the books.

So, I won’t suggest that you’ve missed out on something big or that you should even spend the cover price of $19.99 per volume on these bad boys, but if you find them in a cheap trade bin at a con or on Amazon, it might be worth your time to check them out. For me, it definitely helped that I was a few months back from all the craziness of the DCU at the time and agonizing over where the various stories fit in (I AM a continuity nerd after all). Now on to some of the supplemental stuff like the Search for Ray Palmer one-shots, Countdown to Mystery and Adventure, Death of the News Gods and beyond.