Monday, March 7, 2011

Batman Beyond #3 - The Next Generation of Awesome

While I have lost most of my respect for Marvel comics, I take comfort in the knowledge that DC can fill the void with a growing list of awesome. As Marvel insists on making comics that screw over more readers than Courtney Love when she's in heroine withdraw, DC has been stepping up their game with series like Brightest Day, Superman, Batman & Robin, and all sorts of other books that the editors at Marvel wipe their ass with when they eat more than two black bean burritos. One of the newer series that is actually based on an old TV series (think Knight Rider, but actually worth seeing) is Batman Beyond. This series went on hiatus for years, much like George Michaels. But unlike George Michaels, it didn't take a blowjob in a public bathroom to get this series going again.

It started off as a one-shot annual for Batman/Superman. Then it turned into a mini. Now it's an ongoing series that follows Terry McGinnis in a new round of stories not bound by the censors at Kids WB. There have only been two issues thus far, but both issues have re-established the futuristic world where a new Batman has taken up the mantel and Apple STILL hasn't allowed Adobe Flash on it's products. Sadly, Batman isn't strong enough to take on the evil corporations of the future so he sticks to standard supervillains.

The first villain on the docket for Batman 2.0 is an upstart who calls himself Matter Master. He's actually a dying cancer patient who used to work at the Justice League's HQ. Well when he found out that being around so many meta-humans who can break him with their pinkie toe may have given him the Rock Hudson treatment, he got pissed. So he stole a special wand that gave him the ability to transmutate matter. With this new gift rather than transmutate bricks to gold and spend the rest of his days eating caviar off a Playboy playmate's snatch, he goes bat-shit and takes hostages. He's a lot like Saudi radicals except Saudi's have better dress sense.

Among those hostages Matter Master took are Terry's little brother and mother. Now the Justice League (also the 2.0 version) wanted to go in guns blazing like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 9 assuming that move came out within the time line of this comic. However, Terry stopped them to protect his family. They didn't take kindly to that shit and spent most of Batman Beyond #2 trying to beat the shit out of Batman for getting in their way. Guess that means in the future the spirit of the east coast/west coast rap wars continues to thrive. Batman eventually managed to convince them to work with him. By the time they reach Matter Master, he's already turned his hostages into bronze. It's sort of like Medusa, but with less class.

Now Terry freaks out about this at first, but Bruce is there to reassure them that his family's vitals are still intact. They weren't transmutated. They were encased. Again, how does that allow them to breath or move? You ever been in a Japanese subway? That shit kills people. But this is a comic so you can kick reality to the curb with a bottle of whiskey.

In addition to reassuring him, Bruce tells Terry to keep his distance. You don't want to go hand-to-hand with a guy that can turn your dick into weapons grade plutonium just be giving you a hand job. The rest of the Justice League doesn't quite get that. They can't out-think a bitter old man. What hope does that give us for the future? Barda, Micron (the future Atom), and Warhawk all put up as much of a fight as David Hasselhoff in a custody hearing. At the very least Matter Master gets creative in the way he humiliates them.

While the league gets their asses kicked, Batman tries to be somewhat more productive. He moves the petrified (literally) hostages away from the battle. He briefly contemplates trying to free the hostages, but Bruce talks him down. Then something new comes up on Bruce's end and it's not something as simple as taking his pills or changing his colostomy bags.

Keep in mind that this new ongoing takes place after the events of the Batman Beyond mini, which saw the return of Hush in the form of a Dick Grayson clone. Well that plot wasn't exactly resolve completely. Like the end of Inception, it was left open and unlike Inception it's not left up to the freaking audience. Even though Hush was a clone, Dick Grayson is still wanted for questioning so now Bruce has another fire to put out. That means Batman has to operate on his own without an annoying old man's voice in his ear. It's not as hopeful as it sounds.

So once Bruce isn't there to talk him down, Terry forgets his advice on avoiding close-quarters combat in the same way Gary Busey forgets his appointments with his psychiatrist. By now Matter Master has taken down the entire Justice League, including Aquagirl (who has dropped hints that she may want to jump Terry's bone). It's only fitting that Batman comes in at this point and lands the first serious blow against this asshole.

It's the first in a wave of humiliation that will insult cancer patients everywhere. But before that can begin, there's a brief glimpse of Terry's long-suffering girlfriend, Dana. Keep in mind she's been on the sidelines since this series was still a cartoon on a shitty kids network. She doesn't know her boyfriend is Batman and is constantly left behind because of it. In the last issue she was helping Terry buy a new hover scooter because apparently Lance Armstrong completely destroyed traditional cycling's credibility. Then when he runs off she throws a massive hissy fit and does what you would expect teenage girls to do. She runs home to her mother.

Wait what? That's it? Dana is a girl tough enough to date Terry McGinnis, but her pussy is so dry she runs home to her mother? I don't know if that's a twist or some kind of anti-feminist statement. The last issue indicated that she may be heading towards the mall to see what the commotion was about. But instead she just runs home. Right, like that's believable for a teenage girl. I don't care what advancements they have in the future. There's no amount of advancement that will make a teenage girl act that rational. At the very least it seems the next story is set up when Dana finds out her brother (who hasn't been mentioned at all in the world of Batman Beyond) is getting out of prison.

So for all you Batman Beyond fans, you may think less of Dana after this. Thankfully, this is the last scene she shows up in. The action goes right back to Batman and Matter Master. By now Matter Master is being reminded that having cancer does not make you a good supervillain. All the energy he's exerting is sending him towards Chernobyl status. Bruce is back in Terry's ear. Wait, didn't he have something to take care of regarding Dick Grayson? Did that shit all happen off-panel? If so then DC is taking one too many cues from Marvel.

Once again a wise old man's warnings proves vital to Batman's tactics. I'm sure this means the AARP has friends in high places at DC. To get Matter Master to overload like the power outlets at Stevie Wonder's house, Batman enlists the help of the Justice League who have been pondering the collapse of their collective balls since they were beaten back. Being arrogant superheroes they're a bit reluctant to take orders from a guy whose only power is a fancy suit with an old man's voice in it. Just as some are reluctant to take orders from a black president. They listen anyways, most likely because their balls are still hiding in their rectums. They work together to start overloading Matter Master like an Ipad trying to run a site with Adobe Flash.

It's a simple tactic, but it works. Matter Master's madness, cancer, and sheer douche-baggery finally catch up to him. He ends up blowing his top like Jim Cramer when he talks about interest rates. To keep his villainy from making a crater the size of Rosanne's ass Green Lantern (who is a bald kid in the future for some reason) uses his powers to contain it. That leaves Matter Master to whither so he won't hurt anybody. I'm not sure how lousy cancer feels, but this is probably worse.

So Matter Master is defeated. Batman gives him one last little pep talk at how he could have done so much more with his powers. He didn't mention turning bricks into gold or raisins into diamonds, but I'm sure the subtext was implied. Matter Master doesn't seem to give two farts from a raccoons asshole about a pep talk. He just turns to bronze and that's the end of that.

Fast forward a bit later and everything is just peachy again. The cops show up to clean up the shit like they always do. Hopefully the future includes better benefits in wake of Wisconsin protests. The hostages are no worse for wear aside from some of them probably shitting themselves during the crisis. Among them are Terry's mother and brother, who are okay and don't appear to be in need of new pants. So it looks like Batman has saved the (future) day again.

Now that everything is just peachy, Batman has one last chat with the Justice League. Keep in mind that thse are the same assholes that fought him in the last issue. So it isn't just awkward. It's humbling, something super-powered douche-bags tend not to experience on a day-to-day basis.

Humility aside, the Justice League do exactly as they did at the end of the cartoon series. They extend an invitation for Batman to join. Everyone is pretty enthusiastic about it with the exception of Warhawk. Aquagirl needs to set him straight, showing once again how desperately she wants to fuck the Dark Knight. Since Dana is being extra bitchy, she may her chance (please DC?). It's a happy moment worthy of 60s era cartoons. But Batman being Batman doesn't say yes or no. Like the Batman before him, Terry accepts their invitation in a limited fashion. He's like a politician without the elephant diarrhea spewing from his mouth. The league accepts and everybody's happy, except for Warhawk who still looks like he just watched a sex tape by Rosie O'Donnell.

Like a trip to an Asian massage parlor located next to a tire store and a strip club, it's a happy ending. This marks the conclusion of the first arc of the Batman Beyond ongoing series. So what can we take from it? How do you make a series awesome that was for all intents and purposes shut down when kids discovered that they could get more entertainment from the internet than shitty kids networks? Well Batman Beyond had an uphill battle, but by most measures it succeeded. Like Rocky Balboa, it has defied the odds and reinvigorated a series that still has so much potential. The first arc covered plenty of basis from Terry's family to Dana to the Justice League to how cranky Bruce is when senility sets in. That's a lot in just three issues and yet somehow DC managed to make it feel as though you just watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy naked with a bottle of vodka.

As good as the first arc was, it's not Brightest Day or Superman. There were some dangling plots that disrupted the flow of this issue. That one panel where Bruce is reminded of the ordeal with Hush and Dick Grayson was essentially glossed over. Dana's role in this series continues to be nothing more than a shameless appeal for hot Asian chicks. They all had potential to add more depth to this story. They were forgotten faster than Vanilla Ice's movie career. It's a shame because it prevents this issue from getting the high score it deserves.

When scoring this issue, I also try to account for the overall arc and how this series came to be. Batman Beyond hasn't had it easy. It's got a shit ton of competition and it's relying on readers who weren't too stoned to remember the cartoon. Even if readers were stoned, this series is awesome enough to stand on it's own merits. That's why I give Batman Beyond #3 and the first arc of this series a 4 out of 5. DC will have a planet-sized hole to fill once Brightest Day is over. For the moment it looks as though Batman Beyond can help fill that void. Nuff said!

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