Sunday, February 13, 2011

Batman Beyond #2 - Both Sides of Awesome

Whenever I think about the future I always wonder the same thing. When the hell is science going to give us perfect virtual reality that will allow us to have endless sex with Pamela Anderson before she punched out two of Tommy Lee's demonic yet well-endowed offspring? I've brought this up with the National Science Foundation and their response was and I quote "We're working as fast as we can, damn it!" But until they can at least offer a prototype, I'm left with the future depicted in comics such as Batman Beyond. There is no mention of a VR sex bot so I can only assume it's the future equivalent to keeping porno in a hollowed out part of the bedroom floor. When the citizens of the future get done with their three-way with Natalie Portman and Scarlet Johanssen, they get on with their lives in future Gotham. So far, the story surrounding those lives and that of the future Batman has been pretty compelling.

This new Batman Beyond series has attempted to do something that's exceedingly difficult. It has to take a cartoon that's been off the air for years and freshen it up like a virgin on her prom night so that it's appealing to the readers. Not everyone saw that cartoon. Some who saw it didn't like it. Some who saw it smoked too much Mexican dope and forgot about it along with various other vital memories. The six-issue Batman Beyond mini helped get Batman fans adjusted to the future world where a guy name Terry McGinnis is Batman and Bruce Wayne is a grumpy old fart. From that mini, the new ongoing has spun out and the first issue seamlessly moved readers deeper into the Batman Beyond world.

The first issue captured many elements of the show. An old face from Bruce's younger days succumbed to senility and turned himself into a supervillain, much as what happens when certain elders get their hands on the prescription drugs that sell several grand on the street. While this is going on Terry is living his life, hanging out with his girlfriend while his mother and brother are out shopping. Since Terry's luck is so utterly fucked both in the show and in the comics, his family ends up as hostages to said supervillain's madness. So he has to ditch his pretty girlfriend and go rescue them.

There's just one problem. The future version of the Justice League is called into the scene and they want to handle this in the tradition of George W. Bush, who I assume in the future has become a cute euphemism for poorly thought out plans that involve blowing shit up. Since Terry's mother and brother are involved, he simply can't allow that. The last issue ended with him stopping the Justice League before they could attack. In Batman Beyond #2 that moment immediately continues. Do the Justice League listen to him and allow him to dictate their plan? If they ever considered it, they did so for about as much time as a teenage boy would consider peaking up the skirt of high school cheerleaders. So what's Batman's response? Well in the tradition of the bat, he does what Bruce would have done. He kicks their asses.

It's not the fight one would expect. Batman usually fights the bad guys, who if you recall are still holding his family hostage. Fighting the Justice League is not his preferred tactic, but being Batman it's not as crazy as you may think. To protect his family, Terry is willing to risk getting his ass kicked by those who kick the asses of superpowered mega-beings for breakfast. With Bruce Wayne guiding him with his years of experience and shit crazy plans, he knocks out Green Lantern first (who looks like one of those creepy kids from Children of the Corn). Then he confronts the likes of Barda and Warhawk, two people you really don't want to piss off. He holds his own, but Terry being a teenager can't help but get a little cocky. And like all cocky teenagers, they get a lesson in humility at some point. This time it comes in the form of the future version of Captain Atom giving him the cockroach treatment.

In the future they've taken bumping down a teenager's ego to new heights. There's an athletes foot joke somewhere in these pages, but it acts only as a minor break in the action. Batman has a contingency for everything, including being stepped on by a giant foot. In the past Batman would have done something with his utility belt. But this is the future. Belts have gone the way of the Walkman. Terry burns Atom's foot with a heat blast. I don't remember Bruce saying that the suit was capable of a heat blast so I can only assume it's a recent upgrade. Once Atom is out of the battle, he has to face something even more difficult than a giant foot...a hot girl. Not just any hot girl either. It's Aquagirl, who in the show seemed to have the hots for Batman. Well that's enough to make Terry hesitate and as a result, Aquagirl makes it clear that he will never see her naked.

Even thought Aquagirl is hot, being frozen in ice is enough to kill any would-be boner. While Terry has to work on recovering his manhood, the hostage situation in the mall is getting worse. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? While this fight with the Justice League is going on, there's still a crime going on with innocent lives at stake. Those lives, which include Terry's mother and brother, are left to confront this newly ordained supervillain who in the last issue came into contact with some exotic future material that physicists today would surrender their left testicle to analyze. He's not completely crazy though. He's a sick and dying man who really doesn't know what he's gotten himself into. He's no Joker, that's for sure. Because of this, the hostages try to channel their inner John McClane and subdue him. It's heroic and all, but there's a big difference between a bunch of guys with guns and a guy with enough power in his pinky finger to turn your dick into radioactive plutonium.

Also going on during this fight, Terry's girlfriend Dana is in the least dangerous situation. In the last issue she was helping Terry buy a new speeder, the future equivalent to motor scooters. As usual, Terry has run off and like any sane girlfriend that has ever watched daytime talk shows (which I assume are still around in the future and being run by clones of Dr. Phil) she gets worried. Now Dana could be a normal girl and just get pissed, vowing to lock her panties for the rest of Terry's natural life. But she's dating Batman. Normal just doesn't cut it. So rather than let the high pressure salesman talk her into buying useless upgrades that break down three months after you buy them, she closes the deal and takes the scooter for a test drive. It's not clear what she's doing, but given Terry's luck she'll likely get caught in the crossfire. It just wouldn't be a Batman story if she didn't.

Back with Terry, he manages to break out of the glass shell that encased him and his dignity. He continues fighting the Justice League, having to knock out the kid Green Lantern yet again. At the rate he's going he could be charged with child assault, which may or may not be a crime in the future depending on how powerful people allow Sarah Palin to become. Rather than risk coming off as an even bigger douche-bag, Batman surrenders. He also hasn't forgotten that his family is in danger. He tries to explain to them that there are people in the mall that are important to him. He makes a reasonable case, but that doesn't stop Green Lantern from waking up and punching him in the face. Seeing as how he got knocked out twice, he earned the right to salvage some sense of dignity.

Once Green Lantern gets that out of his system, the focus shifts back to the hostage situation. And it only took half the book to remind themselves of that shit. As expected, Aquagirl does calm the others down and listen to Batman. That shows she may want to bone him after all, which should do wonders for Terry's confidence. While they're getting over their little scuffle, they get word from the police as to what they're up against. This old worker, Jatts, stole something called metachem. It's like meth for Lex Luthor. It allows him to transmutate materials. Add to that he's fatally ill and you've got someone who is unstable, desperate, and probably constipated. That's not a good combination.

At this point, all the bumps and bruises from their earlier battle are forgotten. They'll probably schedule a rematch for whatever counts as an MMA fight in the future. They quickly hatch out a plan. They intend to infiltrate the mall through the old train system. It's always a train system or a sewer. It never gets old in comics. Green Lantern is supposed to be their best weapon against this guy, but since Batman hit him so hard he's a bit concussed. Given how concussions fuck up concentration (just ask any football player not named Brett Favre), that's probably going to make the battle a lot harder. It also makes Terry look like an asshole because he may have hurt their best weapon against this guy. Again, he's Batman. His luck sucks.

Mr. Metachem addict doesn't know he's got superheroes on his trail now. However, he's still in a pretty decent position. Remember those hostages that attacked him last time? Well he kind of turned them into bronze statues. Now they're the world's best hostages and he doesn't have to give them any bathroom breaks. Exerting that kind of power also fucked up his already unstable mind. When senility mixes with superpowers, you can always expect something to go horribly wrong.

While Jatt's is taking a trip down crazy-town with Gary Busy and the spirit of John Belushi, Batman and the League are working their way through the train tunnels. It's not a filler scene though. There's a fair amount of dialog here. Some of it is standard, dreading over how the world will be doomed if this guy gets loose. It's the kind of shit the DC universe faces every Thursday.

There are some interesting moments though. While the others are still fuming at Batman, Aquagirl once again shows that she may just want Batman to go snorkeling with her. There's a nice moment with them where Batman laments how he didn't trust the league sooner and Aquagirl urges him to trust her in the future. She might as well slip him the address of where to find her later on and what kind of panties she'll be wearing.

Any potential sexual innuendo is rendered completely irrelevant when they make it through into the mall. Inside they find the hostages. They also find Jatts. He's become as skilled with his powers as he has crazy. He's turned his hostages into statues, again probably so he won't have to hear them whine about needing to take a piss. He also is going by a new supervillain name. He calls himself Matter Master. It's not very original. I could just as easily call myself Pot Master, but that doesn't strike fear into anybody. So the future still has villains who utterly lack creativity. Guess there are some things that technology can't fix. So long as they still have those VR sex machines, I'm okay with that.

It was an eventful issue to say the least. It was an issue that covered pretty much everything that was set up in the previous issue. Everything from the hostage situation, the fight with the Justice League, Matter Master, and even Dana buying a new hover scooter was developed. Some got more screen time than others and that's to be expected. This book left no loose ends. It didn't forget about anything. That's exceedingly rare for a comic book. Rare as finding a unicorn jerking off a dragon. Usually every comic leaves something open for interpretation. This issue just moved the story forward and did a damn good job of it.

While it may not have left loose ends, this issue did tend to drag at times. The fight against the Justice League was a little too drawn out. It also ended a bit too abruptly as soon as Terry threw his hands up and tried to talk it out. It makes the reader wonder why he didn't try that beforehand. It would have saved them all plenty of bruises. The scene with Dana was a bit underdone, but at least it looks as though she's playing an active role in the story instead of just being eye candy. The way Matter Master was developed worked out nicely, but his name may still cause some eye-rolling.

Batman Beyond still has a ways to go in order to capture the magic the old cartoon once had. It's not easy getting everybody excited again after a show has been off the air for years. Batman Beyond #2 does an admirable job of carrying on the story. It doesn't feel like a complete rip from the cartoon. It is starting to establish itself as something unique. For that, this issue deserves some accolades. All it will get from me is a score of 4 out of 5. We'll know more about the future potential of this book once the first arc is over. Until then, this series still qualifies as awesome. Nuff said.

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