Monday, June 13, 2011

Batman Beyond #6 - A Meltdown (of Awesome)

So the big wigs at DC comics got into my stash recently. They probably took a couple of the blue pills, broke up the purple pills, mixed them with the grayish powder wrapped in a used condom, and snorted it off the tits of a Power Girl cosplayer from last year's comic con. I assume after the strippers went home and the donkey passed out, the idea finally came to them that they should reboot their entire line. You have to be pretty fucking high to come up with something that bold and think it can work. Either Brett Favre is running DC secretly or they're really that crazy. But while the excitement/angst/outrage/shock sinks in, there are other ongoings quietly churning out awesome. Batman Beyond has been one of those books.

I know I don't review as many DC books anymore since Brightest Day ended. I'm sorry, but since then there hasn't been the same caliber awesome. Batman Beyond is an exception mixed as that hot step-sister you secretly jerked off to. It's not tied to the current insanity in the DCU. It basically takes the cartoon series that ended during Bush II's reign of error and continues it in a comic. It continues it well in fact. The mini brought Dick Grayson into the world of Batman Beyond when he hadn't even been uttered in the show. The new ongoing has picked up where Terry left off in the show, basically struggling with the same shit of being Batman and trying to manage what counts as a normal life in the 2040s. Yeah it's the future, but criminals are still everywhere and big businessmen are complete dicks.

This leads right into the current story that began in Batman Beyond #5. It started with a labor dispute at Wayne Industries that was triggered by a corrupt lawyer. Yeah, lawyers are dicks too in the future. No matter how advanced iphones get in the future, there's no app that'll stop men in suits from fucking people over. This came on the heels of the return of Derek Powers, aka Blight. He was the epitome of the future CEO douche-bag. While Bernie Madoff was content with stealing people's money, Powers was content to sell bio weapons to dictators with spare cash and an itchy trigger finger. An accident turned him into a radioactive Skeletor knock-off. In the show he was supposedly drowned in a sinking submarine. Well it took the show's cancellation and a new comic, but he's back. And what's the first thing he does? He tries to blow up both Batman and his douche-bag yet non-radioactive son, Paxton Powers.

The final page of the last issue made it look like there was no way they could survive, but this is fucking Batman we're talking about. Surviving explosions is like popping a zit. Paxton is a little less enthusiastic. Even after Batman saves him by stuffing him into an armored car, he's still whining like a little bitch who was forced to watch Pakistani animal porn. The whole building is coming down around him. Even though Paxton is the kind of overprivlidged douche who most people wouldn't mind watching get roasted like a redneck turkey, Batman still saves him. He also does it by taking a page right out of the Dark Knight, using the trade-mark motorcycle that just happened to be in the warehouse. I don't care of it is contrive or convenient. It looks pretty damn awesome. I just assume that's the 2030s equivalent of a Delorian.

Derek Powers sees all this from afar. He probably doesn't think it's nearly as awesome. He looks a bit different from his cartoon version. And why not? The show was on Kids fucking WB. They couldn't be too graphic to animate anything that resembled blood, tits, a wet fart. Powers has to wear this space-suit, which helps contain the radiation that he's dishing out more than free joints at a Willie Nelson concert. He offers a brief flashback as to how he survived. It directly recalls the sub from the episode in the cartoon. Not surprisingly, he survived and swam away. He then found a guy with brains and resources who he scared the piss out of enough to help him. It's not the most imaginative explanation, but it's still an explanation.

It further helps that this scene shows Beechen tying the comics directly to the show. Now this is part of what stands out about this series. It didn't have to follow the cartoon. It could have started from scratch and given Terry McGinnis a much grittier background. They could have made him a real deviant who dunked the heads of freshmen into a toilet he just pissed in and banging cheerleaders, all in the same afternoon. But they didn't. They kept everything from the cartoon. It's risky, but it keeps a strong sense of flow between the cartoon and comic. There aren't too many comics that have done that, especially for cartoons that only have reruns on random channels no one gives a shit about. So I applaud DC for taking the harder road.

Blight's ambition isn't just to render Batman sterile and make him go bald from radiation. He wants to take back the life he lost. He wants to be the rich, pampered CEO of Wayne Industries again. Yeah, he's a walking nuclear meltdown, but I'm sure most investors won't care so long as he keeps the stock price up. To do that he can't just destroy Batman. He has to make it so Wayne Industries needs him. Hence using dick-cheese lawyers to stir up trouble. That's almost as bad as radiation poisoning.

It's pretty sinister ploy. There aren't too many plots that can't be made more evil with parasitic lawyers. When Terry returns to the bat cave, he finds out from Bruce that while Powers failed to blow his ass up he's doing a bang up job blowing up Bruce's company. That labor bullshit that started in the last issue did what you would expect. It tanked the stock price and left the company that pays for all of Bruce's fancy bat toys in jeopardy. So Bruce being the sneaky old coot he is hatches a plan. He's going to try and lure out the asshole fucking up his company by trying to buy out the stock. It's a fucked up ploy that even Ted Turner would find insane. But he's fucking Batman (and possibly a little senile). He can get away with it.

Terry's not brave enough for Wall Street yet so he sticks to high school. There he meets up with Max, who played the role of the girlfriend he wasn't boning in the cartoon. They talk about Dana, who Terry recently broke up with for what is probably the sixth time (or maybe tenth given all the crap they dealt with in the show). She's still not talking to him, but she has an excuse this time. Her brother is back in town. Her brother that was in jail no less. He had to have been a touchy subject because she never even mentioned him. I'm assuming she never cried his name during sex. Max has her own issues. She's been dealing with the future equivalent of a Facebook stalker. She hasn't told Terry yet, but it's a plot that's still building. It's just building painfully slow.

Speaking of Dana's brother, we actually get to meet him here. He comes off about as friendly and sociable as that monkey that ripped a woman's face off. Dana is clearly as comfortable as Bristol Palin at an abortion clinic. He doesn't say much. He just says he's out of prison and it changed him. Aside from the flexing capacity of his asshole, that can be taken many ways. Before he goes into detail, he offers to cook Dana dinner. Seriously, that's what an ex-con does in the future. He decides to fucking cook. I guess they don't serve the same goop to prisoners that they serve in high school cafeterias. It's not much of an advance, but it's something.

Not much is done here. Dana's brother goes off, looking creepy as hell in the process. But that's about it. There's no hint as to what he's up to. He has the look of Ted Bundy at a sorority house, but nothing is shown. It's a bit disappointing and it causes the story to further drag. You get the sense that Batman Beyond is trying to develop multiple plots. It's just not being very efficient in some areas.

One plot that hasn't been dragging is the return of Blight. While Dana's brother is off cooking up his sharpened shank surprise, Terry goes back on duty as Batman. Bruce is set to open the stock market the next day as part of his ploy to get the assholes fucking up his company to show themselves. Batman is there to make sure nobody sets any traps without getting a bat-o-rang up the ass. And that's not a prison rape joke. Bruce even goes on to explain that his company is more than just something that pays the bat bills. It's part of his family legacy. Even though being Batman is important, the Wayne name is pretty damn important as well. It adds a touch of depth to Bruce's otherwise old and brooding personality in Batman Beyond. Terry probably doesn't know jack shit about the stock market, but he still understands.

There's just one problem with this elaborate business-plot of his. The guy on the other side is a businessman as well with the ethical fortitude of Josef Stalin. It's worth remembering that Derek Powers wasn't always a glow-in-the-dark psychopath. In the cartoon, he managed to usurp control of Wayne Industries from Bruce. Even if you are a douche, you still need to be pretty smart to pull shit like that off. So when he suspects that Bruce is launching a counter-measure, he launches one of his own. When Batman shows up at the stock exchange, he's right there waiting. The fight that ensues ends too quickly along with the comic. Blight is pretty pissed about being sunk in a fucking submarine and he's looking to take it out on Batman. It sets the stage for a fight that could double as botched chemotherapy in addition to being a typical Batman style ass-kicking.

So despite some slow plots, the return of Blight in Batman Beyond delivers with awesomely satisfying results. It shows that despite the mental breakdown DC had recently before deciding to re-launch their books, they're still competent enough to tell great stories with the book that won't be stained in that potential shit storm. Batman Beyond doesn't miss a beat. If you got a good thrill out of the old cartoon, you'll enjoy experiencing that thrill again with this comic. It's like going back to your high school reunion and banging that former cheerleader you got drunk with during your senior graduation party. She still has a nice ass and it's still pretty damn awesome.

It's far from perfect. While the comic has the same awesome essence as the show, it really doesn't improve all that much. This isn't Kids WB anymore. The comic could go a lot further now and it has to some extent, but within limits. Blight's new look is pretty sick, but that's about it. Given Batman Beyond's circumstances, it can't afford to be too slow or bland. Otherwise readers are going to get caught up in the whole 52 new number ones. I wish I could think more highly of the comic market, but that's how shit works in this world. This along with the slow development of certain plots keeps Batman Beyond from reaching it's full potential.

While parts of the issue are forgettable, Batman Beyond #6 succeeds in the most important area. It brought Blight back into the picture and set up a strong, in depth plot for him. It even took time to offer more insight into Batman's logistical issues, namely Bruce Wayne's company. It's not always touched on in Batman books, but when so much of your crime-fighting involves paying for super-expensive shit it is important. Batman Beyond #6 dealt with it masterfully and for that it gets a 4 out of 5. Since I don't want to run the risk of going on a rant about DC's relaunch initiative and the many imitations it's spawned (namely Marvel's decision to relaunch Uncanny X-men), I'll just say Batman Beyond is a great escape from DC's current madness. Enjoy it before the shit hits the fan and everything starts stinking. Nuff said!

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