*Warning Spoilers Ahead*
“The Long Payback” Finale
It sure has been a while since I dove into to the world of Neo Gotham. Batman Beyond may be one of my favorite franchises of all time. I know I know it’s got Batman in it. (shocker) but even more than Batman, I seem to love the character of cranky old Bruce Wayne. He has resonated with me in some form or other since the late 80’s when The Dark Knight Returns (which just so happens to be the greatest comic book of all time imo) came out. I’ve always found an over the hill and beaten and war torn Dark Knight fascinating.
So naturally when the epic trio of Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett came up with the idea of a young Batman aided by a cranky old Bruce Wayne, I was enthralled. I remember watching the prime time premiere with eyes and jaw wide open. It was slick. It was cool. It was, in a word… schway. From the character designs to the magnificent voice acting, (Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy) it truly is a 90’s gem. I digress though. Even though Batman Beyond has existed in comic book form before, it has never lived up to what I felt the spirit of that incredible animated series was. That is, until now.
When DC Comics announced a new Batman Beyond series back a few years ago, I had some mixed feelings. These fictional characters are some that are near and dear to my heart and I don’t want to see them done any injustice. Luckily when I learned that Dan Jurgens was going to be writing, those feelings started to subside. Bernard Change started with art duties but have now passed them on to Phil Hester. I feel he is a great choice for art in the Blade Runner-ish world of Neo Gotham. Since his run on Green Arrow long ago, Phil Hester has always been a talent I am proud to follow.
Anyways on with the show, the reason I have picked up the title again is the solicits said they were introducing a new Robin. I’m a sucker for Robin. So this was the perfect launchpad back on the future Bat Train for me. Unfortunately it is the last part of a story called “The Long Payback”, however even though I missed all the previous chapters. I feel I did not miss much.
The gist is this: Terry (Batman) is trapped by a new villain who calls himself Payback (clever huh, yawwwn) who blames Terry for the death of his younger son and wants to torture him. The only chance Terry has, is Bruce suiting up his younger bro as the new Robin to get him out alive. Now that sounds like a paper thin plot right there (and it is) but there are moments between the obvious that make it quite enjoyable. One part I loved was the outright objection of Dana (Terry’s gf) telling Bruce that some one should have reported him to child services a long time ago for allowing yet another young child into his never ending war. She brings up the fact he could have contacted the police or even the Justice League but for some reason he didn’t. I really liked this because it brings up an important part of Bruce’s character. It focuses on his constant obsession of knowing what is right for Gotham. No matter what the cost.
At this point Bruce is confined to a wheelchair and has to deal with the fact that he is no longer able to be a mobile guardian in any capacity. The fact that he sends young Matt McGinnis into battle without being properly trained is curious. I love Robin as much as any character (Damian being my favorite) but sending Matt into such a dangerous situation certainly raises questions. Ones that will be answered down the line.
For the most part the issue is pretty paint-by-numbers with the exception being the Bruce and Dana stuff in the Cave. I have to say though, Matt’s Robin costume on the cover is a striking image and very cool interpretation. I always loved robin with a hood and more muted colors. This suit on the cover pays homage to both Tim Drake and Damian’s time as the Boy Wonder. Hood? Check. Mask. Check. Throw in a sick hoverbike and you are good to go.
I don’t want to ruin the issue for anyone completely, only to say it is nothing you haven’t most likely seen before. It was very reminiscent of Tim Drake’s first official appearance as Robin wayyyy back in Batman #457. The covers showing Robin racing to Batman’s aid, only to pull a little bit of a swerve in the actual issue itself. All in all not a bad way to open a new chapter in the bat sidekick mythos, but it left me wanting much much more. Here’s hoping there is a lot more Matt Bat action to come.
Story: Dan Jurgens Art: Phil Hester Inks: Ande Parks
Story: 6.5 Art: 8.0 Score: 7.3 Recommendation: Pass (unless you are a Robin enthusiast)
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Just for fun here is Tim Drake’s first cover appearance as Robin below. See if you can draw comparisons.