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.

Trade Post: Batman Knightfall Volume 1

Batman Knightfall Volume 1 (DC)
Collects Batman #491-500, Detective #659-666, Showcase 93 #7-8, Shadow of the Bat #16-18 & Vengeance of Bane
Written by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon & Alan Grant, drawn by Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent, Bret Blevins, Klaus Janson & Mike Manley

You guys, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw that DC was re-collecting the Batman Knightfall story. If you’re unfamiliar with early 90s Batman comics, a weakened Batman went up against a new bad guy on the street named Bane who released all the villains in Arkham. After trying to stop and recapture all the bad guys, Batman finally goes up against Bane and — as you can see on the cover to the left here — Bane breaks Batman’s back. After this, a guy who has been hanging around for a little bit named Jean-Paul Valley, also known as Azrael, gets named the new Batman. JPV’s a little nutty to be nice about things and Robin realizes this is a problem, but Bruce is worried about finding Tim’s kidnapped dad and their shared doctor who Bruce wants to tell he’s Bats. There’s a lot going on, but what else can you expect from a 630 page book?

The reason I was so excited about this book — and the two that come after it — is because these were really my first Batman comics. I’d read one or two before and knew the character from the Adam West TV show, but these were the first ones I collected. The death of Superman got me into that book and the breaking of Batman got me into this one, I guess I was a little morbid as a kid. Anyway, while I have most of the issues collected therein, this is the very first time I’ve read them in order. I got many of the issues piecemeal, read them and then promptly placed them in bags and boards.

I was surprised by a lot of things reading through this book. First off, I was shocked that Kelly Jones didn’t do any interiors, only covers. This surprised me because what I remember about these stories is mainly his covers (as well as the gatefold foil Joe Quesada one for #500). I was also surprised at how quickly they got to breaking Bats. I assumed it would be towards the end of the book, but it actually takes place around the half way point.

My other surprises were more story based, so they deserve their own paragraph(s). I should note that, even if this book was a complete artistic embarrassment, I would love it because it’s so near and dear to me. While I didn’t think it was embarrassing at all, I was surprised at how flimsy Bane’s reasoning is presented in the book. We see his origins in the Bane one-shot, but his reasoning doesn’t make much sense. Why does he care about Gotham or Batman? Because some guy told him how great it was? I assume the intent is for Bane to compare himself to the highest physical specimen and win, but that falls apart when you release an army of madmen to bend him so you can come in and break him. Along similar lines, I have no idea why Bane hangs out with the trio of goofballs he does, Bird, Trogg and Zombie as they don’t do a whole lot for him.

Another problem I had which might have come from seeing how well this source material was handled in The Dark Knight Rises was that I didn’t get the impending sense of worry and doom with this story that I got in the film. Bane not only releases every crazy into Gotham and breaks Batman’s back IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, but also starts taking over all of the crime in the city, but the normal people we see don’t seem super upset or worried about it. The story lacks a sense of larger urgency that the film absolutely nailed. This is not helped by the inclusion of the Shadow of the Bat issues included in this collection which come right after JPV went out as Batman for the first time and give you three issues of Scarecrow trying to become a fear god, JPV being crazy Batman and Anarky trying to kill both of them. These don’t really help the series along and slow things WAY down, but I’m glad they’re in there. Maybe it would have been better to put them later in the book? But then they’d come after JPV made the AzBat armor…hmm

Okay, that was a good deal of complaining and critiquing, but I still really enjoyed reading this book and not just because of the wonderful trip down memory lane. Watching Batman getting so worn down facing also-rans like Firefly was actually pretty amazing. And, man, that scene where he fights Bane and gets broken? Still gives me chills. So intense. I also liked how JPV goes over the edge bit by bit. I mean, he’s clearly a terrible choice for Batman, but Bruce is not in his right mind, his brain’s as broken as his body, so it kind of makes sense. Plus, JPV was apparently hanging around before all this and was being trained by Batman and Robin. I’m pretty excited to break into the next book and see how his books hold up.

Ah, I’ve got one more complaint or more positively, a suggestion. It would be nice if there was a trade collecting some of the stuff that leads into this book. Bane appeared in a few other comics that are referenced several times that I’d like to read, but it’d also be cool to get a little bit more of JPV’s back story. Sure, I’ve got the Sword of Azreal trade on my shelf (and plan to read it again soon), but that’s a pretty old and, I assume, out of print book that I’m sure other people would like to read. Similarly, I noticed from looking at the second Knightfall volume I have and the information out there for the third, there’s a lot of stuff that’s still not collected like the Justice League Task Force stuff and a few other tales of Bruce Wayne running around trying to save Tim’s dad and their doctor. It’s entirely possible that these trades will get made in the future, especially if the planned Knightfall ones do really well, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Maybe I’ll just make my own!