Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Batman Beyond #8 - Blacked Out Awesome
It's almost here! The big DC relaunch is almost upon us! And here I am reviewing a book that really won't be affected by it. I don't know if that's luck, karma, or my tenancy to fuck with DC. Either way, it's hard to ignore at this point. It would be like coming home from work and ignoring a massive orgy with out-of-work penthouse models, midget wrestlers, and a donkey. It just can't be done. So I'm not going to try as I review Batman Beyond #8. I've been following this series since DC decided to dust this old idea off, give it a fresh enema of awesome, and relaunch it. For the most part, it's been pretty damn awesome. Even with the DC relaunch waving it's dick in the face of the comic industry, it still is able to stand out.
The first mini was about bringing in new enemies and revisiting old faces that never showed up in the cartoon. The new series took it a bit further, mixing both new characters and old. We got to see a new villain who was corny as hell that called himself Matter Master. We also got to see the future Justice League. Then in the last arc, Derek Powers (future DC's equivalent of Rupert Murdoch) returned as Blight and tried to fuck up both Batman and his son. It ended with him dissolving in a puddle of radioactive ooze while Bruce was left to undo the damage done by Powers's lawyers, which in an of itself should have been an equally epic battle. So by and large, the series has done a great job balancing new stories and old stories. The cynic in me says that it's only a matter of time before a story comes along that throws that balance out of whack. That or it's just the voice in my head that keeps telling me to drink more whiskey, but it's hard to tell.
Batman Beyond #8 may or may not be that book those voices were warning me about. Whereas the last arc reintroduced Derek Powers, this one revisits the second major villain that Terry McGinnis confronted when he put on the mask: Inque. Who is Inque? Picture a homicidal goth with shape-shifting abilities. She's like Mystique, only harder to masturbate to. She was one of Terry's most tenacious and frustrating foes, leading to moments that did push the Kids WB censors (let's just say they had to be tactful for a scene where Terry threw up black globs of ooze). This issue starts out with yet another battle between Inque and Batman. And when I say it starts out I mean there's no fucking build-up whatsoever. We walk in on the fight the same way a mother walks in on her 12-year-old son with a Victoria's Secret catalog in one hand and himself in the other. It's not quite as jarring, but it is a little unnerving.
If you've watched Batman Beyond, you'll see plenty of familiar shit. Whenever Inque and Batman are within spitting distance of one another, they see fit to beat the everloving shit out of one another. Now it's not clear why they're fighting. I'm assuming Inque hijacked a truck full of orphans or something, but I think the point of this scene is just to demonstrate that Inque is really badass and can rough up Batman and a bunch of Gotham's finest. If that was the goal, then I would say the defense rests.
However, it isn't enough for Inque to just rough up some cops. Remember, this is a comic. DC doesn't have to abide by those pussy Kids WB rules. That means they can be a little ediger this time. That means she can take full advantage of her Inque form and literally ram herself down a guy's throat and not in the way that makes for awesome gay porn. She can get in, fuck up their insides, and get out in a way that's worse than dry heaving over a dirty toilet in Tijuana. It's groteque and graphic. You'll never see that shit on TV, which makes it all the more awesome to witness in a comic.
This is something I was hoping that this series would do. Comics can afford to be a little edgier here. I'm not saying that Inque should become a tentacle monster and impersonate Japanese anime porn, but DC shouldn't be afraid to go a bit further than they did with the cartoon. I liked this scene and there have been a handful of others. I hope there are more in future issues because I'm just so sick of the FCC's bullshit.
There's no feel-good ending to this little scuffle. Batman doesn't outsmart Inque, encase her in ice, or wrap her up in a nice bow for the police to take in. Like most white collar criminals, the bad guy gets away this time. Inque roughed up Batman, but didn't stick around to finish him off. She's found out in previous battles that pushing her luck with Batman is like waving your dick at the IRS. He finds a way to make you regret it. So while Terry is pulling himself together and trying to assemble what's left of his dignity, Inque gets away. It's not the first time it's happened in Batman Beyond. It probably won't be the last. However, this is the point where the comic takes a defining turn that will leave some dizzy and others sick to their stomachs.
Start rolling your eyes because the clip show begins here! That's right, the rest of this comic is basically a fucking clip show in the form of a flashback. I remember clip shows. They annoyed the fuck out of me. They never moved the story forward. They were gimmicks so cheap that a billion of them couldn't get you a hand-job from a Zimbabwe hooker. But this isn't entirely a clip show equivalent. It's one big flashback that re-tell's Inque's past. It's actually a solid concept because we don't know shit about where Inque came from, but now they're telling us in this issue...the whole fucking issue. So yeah, if you don't care for flashbacks you're fucked.
It's pretty basic. Picture every Oliver Twist knock-off you ever heard. Inque's life is one of great tragedy. Her country was a shit hole. She grew up in a shit hole. So it's really not too surprising that she had some shitty luck that landed her on the black market looking to survive. I know it's gritty and tragic, but it's been done before. And there are real stories in the real world that are just this bad. Basically parodying them like this without any real depth is a dick move.
The weepy tragedy angel continues. Inque somehow gets smuggled into America the same way the Mexicans are smuggled in to do shitty jobs for shittier pay. So basically, Lou Dobs wants this woman dead. She's hungry and desperate so when some guy comes along asking her to be part of some fucked up medical experiment, she doesn't even think. Because when you're hungry, you'll let someone shoot you with animal jizz if it will get you a hot meal. So that's what happens. She ends up in a lab where she gets pumped full of mutagen among other things.
What are those other things? Well it's semen mostly. That's because she gets pregnant and has a baby. Remember, she did have a kid in the cartoon, but of course the show would never tell the story of a war refugee who gets raped and impregnated. She has the kid, but puts her up for adoption because she knows her life is fucked. That's when shit starts getting fucked up. That mutagen along with the semen really didn't react well so she started becoming more Inque-like. Thus begins her life as a Batman villain.
The problem with this teary eyed bullshit is it makes her too damn sympathetic. So she had such a rough life and we're supposed to feel sorry for her when she maims cops? And as soon as she gets her powers, she has absolutely nor problems maiming people for money? Sorry, but there's tragic and then there's just tragic for the sake of being tragic. It's eye-rolling to the point where you think it gives a bad name to the real orphans of the world. DC just tried way too fucking hard with Inque. That or they didn't try hard enough. It's hard to tell.
Needless to say, her daughter wasn't too thrilled to find out that her mother was a sociopath that overplayed the tragedy role. So it's hard to imagine why she would be surprised when her daughter screwed her over in one of the most ironic and satisfying moments in the Batman cartoon. But like all good villains, Inque survived and kept an eye on her daughter. Even though her daughter ran off with all her money, she just shrugged her shoulders and kept watching her. Wait what? She didn't do shit about her own daughter trying to kill her? Okay, that's pushing it even further. I get that Inque's life sucks, but trying to make up for it like this is fucking stupid.
But it's not all doom and gloom. There are actually some answers within this issue. Like how the fuck did Inque pull her sloppy ass together after her daughter screwed her over? Well simply put, she had help. Your typical mystery man in a lab coat shows up and offers her a hit of mutagen. And like a crack addict in withdraw, she jumps at the chance. This explains how she was able to show up in the first place so that's one major plot hole filled. It's doesn't completely overshadow the many eye-rolling aspects of this issue, but it does show that DC hasn't forgotten the stories that led up to this one and made an effort to fill them.
So now Inque is back and somewhat coherent. So what does she do? She goes back to her daughter. Yes, the same one that tried to kill her and take her money. Now this is usually an incident where corporal punishment is more than appropriate, but Inque has something different in mind. As it just so happens, her daughter is in a hospital bed. Being the daughter of someone who sucked up mutagen the same way Glenn Buck sucks the life out of logic, it's going to affect her. Now it looks like she may follow in dear mommy's footsteps and rather than spare her the discomfort she decides to make it worse. It's tough parenting, but given that teenage girls are probably still spoiled as fuck in the future I won't say it's completely inappropriate. Plus, it sets the stage for yet another Inque plot. We still had to go through an entire fucking clip show to get it, but it could have been worse.
Now let's state the obvious here. Not a whole hell of a lot happened in this issue. It was the comic book equivalent of a clips show. While it did fill in an old plot hole and give some overdue depth to a pretty badass character, it didn't do much with it. The reader might as well be in a lecture hall in college, getting lectured on the history of the sordid subject that is Inque without falling asleep or playing Angry Birds on your cell phone. Aside from the fight in the beginning, of which no explanation is given, there isn't a lot of action to speak of. It doesn't tie into the plots of the previous issue. It doesn't offer any progression from previous arcs. It almost feels like this should have been a one-shot for all Inque fans out there...all seven of them. This issue was essentially in a no-win situation. I respect what DC and Adam Beechen were trying to do here, but it might as well be trying to paint the Mona Lisa with a jar of spit.
Now I'm glad Beechen took some time to flesh Inque out. The problem is she's made into too much of a tragic character. She's the victim of a war, she's a mother, and she just wants to do what she thinks is best. Well, that really doesn't jive well with who she was in the show. In the show, Inque was an unapologetic sociopath that would gladly choke a police officer to death with her inky form and not bat an eye. That's not too tragic. Where at any point in this vignette did she become okay with maiming people? Where at any point did she completely lose her moral compass? That's not clear at any point. In fact, it's a big ass plot hole that makes it difficult to feel sorry for Inque let alone appreciate her story. While it does hint that there could be an interesting plot with her daughter unfolding, it still feels underwhelming by the sheer lack of coherence.
So I guess the voices in my head were right for once. I did get that extra bottle of whiskey and this was an issue that threw the careful balance of the previous stories out of whack. I can't completely step on it for revisiting a character from the show and trying to tell a story they never would have gotten past network censors. However, I can wave my proverbial finger at them for not tying it into the recent events of the series. It's an anomaly that is like a masseuse giving you a kick in the balls between the back rub and the happy ending. It's not a horrible story, but in the greater scheme of the series it does fall flat. So I'm left to give Batman Beyond #8 a 2 out of 5. This comic wasn't so terrible that I'm inclined to give up on the series, but this was a poor issue and one that DC should try hard to improve upon. Nuff said!