Saturday, July 24, 2010

Batman Beyond #2 - Unfolding Awesome

The return to awesome continues with Batman Beyond #2. In my last review of the first issue, much of the enjoyment from the issue came simply from the fact that this is Batman freakin' Beyond! A comic a line we never thought we would hear from until someone slipped ruffies to Dan Dido and Bruce Timm and got them to sign off on it! Well now that the excitement from the first issue has worn off, the onus now falls in the book itself to carry it's own weight. It's been common among minis like this for writers to get lazy, thinking that just the title alone is enough to move the book. That's like thinking your dick is big just because your name is Dicksmash McIroncock. The label does not affect reality so there needs to be a little something called substance to back it up. Does Batman Beyond #2 have it? Well here's the scoop.

In the previous issue the new Batman, Terry McGinnis was investigating a string of murders that lead him to one of Batman's classic villains, Hush. Not surprisingly, Hush is supposed to be dead. Nobody gave Terry the memo though that death in comics is like the ethics committee in Congress. It's there, but nobody takes it seriously. At the end of the last issue, Hush got away. It's kind of lame they didn't show a bigger fight, but you get the sense they're saving that. No need to open the floodgates of awesome just yet. So Terry returns to the Batcave for another lecture by geezer version of Bruce Wayne.

Since Bruce hasn't gone senile quite yet, he gives Terry a brief history about Batman and Hush. Anybody who didn't read the Jeph Loeb story back in the day won't be at a disadvantage. Bruce is pretty darn extensive in the story about Hush.

In it's most condensed version Hush is/was Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce who hated him with an insane passion because of the relationship he had with his parents. And by insane he doesn't mean filling his backpack with frogs as a prank. By insane he means he plotted to murder his own parents, take their inheritance, and exact his revenge. Bruce's father stopped that plan and Tommy's father survived. He went onto become a famous surgeon, hence the bandages he would later bear (apparently doing surgery when you're insane doesn't lead to the best results no matter what Nip Tuck says). Then he started hunting Bruce and that's how he became the crazed Batman villain that so many know and despise. What makes this description more awesome is that there's a lot of flashbacks to tie the past in with this present/future and that really fills in the extra details for the story. Considering the idea that lesser writers would probably not bother with those details, that puts this comic in a certain class already.

So Terry knows what he's up against. Bruce assumed that Hush was dead and that's like taking Larry Craig on his word on the cause of homosexuality. Terry may be young, but even he knows that Hush's death was probably a farce. Bruce still wants to do his detective work, but Terry's more of a 'hands-on' kind of guy so he goes right back to work. A killer is on the loose and the only detective tools he needs are his fists and a high powered suit. Factor in the suit and that doesn't make him seem nearly as tough though, but he still has other ways of proving it.

At this point the comic has too much talking and not enough blood so in the very next scene, there's finally some action in the here and now/future (yeah, I know that's confusing but cut me some slack. It's Batman Beyond). Another murder goes down. This time it's someone that fans of the show should recognize. In one episode there was a weapons maker known as The Armory. He wasn't the most memorable villain, but he had some big ass guns so that has to account for something right? Well apparently he was lame enough to kill with an umbrella. No, that's not a joke. He really was killed with an umbrella Penguin style.

So here's a new wrinkle to the murder mystery. The killer is now adopting old tactics of Batman's greatest hits. Terry isn't equipped to solve this so old man Wayne keeps working at it. Terry's job is to find the killer before he kills again. But before he can get back to finding clues, he comes across a new obstacle and it's one that may or may not have any bearing on this story: Catwoman. But not just any Catwoman. We're talking Catwoman Beyond here! Unfortunately, her future version seems to have developed an aversion to showing off cleavage so that costs her heavily even if she does have an awesome fucking suit.

Now normally Terry isn't too thrilled to be fighting a new villain, but seeing as how this is Catwoman he's not all that disappointed. If anything, he's stoked. Most of the assholes he fights are but ugly guys. Unless you're a blind Elton John clone, you're not going to see much appeal. But since Catwoman is a bad guy with an awesome rack, it takes some of the frustration away. While it's unlikely this woman isn't Selena Kyle (who at this point has boobs that sag to her knees), this Catwoman shows that she's every bit as skilled as her predecessor. She also looks pretty hot while doing it even though she shows no skin whatsoever (blasphemy in every Catwoman story).

This battle quickly becomes the biggest fight of the book. And why shouldn't it? Who would you rather see Terry fight? A crazed old man with bandages on his face or a hot ass chick in a skin tight body suit? If you chose the first option then you probably have some fetishes I don't even want to know about so I'll get my awesome from the Catwoman fight. This fight gets drawn out through the skies of Gotham and goes back and forth for a while. But as usual, Catwoman does not go quietly. Terry clearly has to learn that when fighting Catwoman, expect to have your balls busted to a certain degree.

So the hot chick gets away and Terry has to go back searching for clues. Yeah, it's a drag, but finding a killer is kind of important. He ends up investigating another old Batman foe, Julian Day, aka Calendar. In the annuls of Batman this guy is a C-lister on his good days and a D-lister on every other day. He looks like shit and he's got kind of a lame calling card, using days of the calendar to commit crimes. It's a pretty lousy tactic if you're trying not to get caught, but luckily he doesn't take up too much of the spotlight. As soon as Terry begins to question him, Hush enters the scene and another awesome fight unfolds.

It's not quite as awesome as the Batman/Catwoman fight (very few are), but it definitely holds it's own. It's a little less drawn out than the previous fight and doesn't end with any big revelations or clues. It just has Hush showing that the man can still hold his own and take on Batman, even in another era. He's pretty badass even if he still looks like a lamer version of Two-Face. The fight would have been even better if there were some more ominous hints dropped. But that doesn't happen. Hush just stands over Batman and says he's going to kill him. Yeah, that's about as shocking as Lindey Lohan's police record.

So I restate the question I posed earlier. Does this comic hold it's own now that it can't rely on the novelty factor that the first issue had? The answer is yes...for the most part. Now where does that 'for the most part' come in? Well even though this issue moves the story forward and has some pretty awesome scenes with Hush and Catwoman, there isn't a lot of flow to it. The fights and the scenes are kind of choppy. As great as the Catwoman fight was, what does it have to do with the murders? It may be the case she's involved somehow, but there weren't any clues to indicate as such. It comes off as something that was copied and pasted into the book because the editors thought "Wait a minute...let's have Batman fight a hot chick for once! That will sell more books!" This lack of connection does hurt the book, but doesn't kill it in the slightest. It just doesn't keep the flow of awesome coming.

However, the awesome is still great enough to make this book worth picking up. Anybody who likes old school Batman comics or is a fan of Batman Beyond that has been in withdrawal for the past five years would have to have extensive brain damage to avoid picking up this comic. It's creating an intriguing story and now that it has Catwoman in it, fans have no excuse. So Batman Beyond #2 gets a final score of 4.5 out of 5 and a solid thumbs up. In terms of Batman minis, and there have been many over the years, this one is worth it's weight in kryptonite. Nuff said!

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