Sunday, June 5, 2016

Superhero Media: Batman Beyond

Further proof, if any was needed, that the DCU is in far better hands with Bruce Timm that any editor DC Comics has ever had. As if Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited were not enough, Timm gives us Batman Beyond (for some reason, called Batman of the Future in some markets), a cyberpunk Batman re-imagining that sits in the same universe as the other DCAU programmes of the era, but remains a unique entity all the same. Decades after Bruce Wayne was forced to give up the mantle of the bat, teenager Terry McGinnis stumbles into the Batcave and appropriates a costume to seek revenge for his father's murder. Bruce sees the same fire in Terry that got him started as Batman so many years ago, and becomes the mentor of the next generation of Dark Knight. 

Like Timm's Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond is a tad more "lighthearted" than the comics tend to be, in that Terry cracks jokes, has to make excuses for his absence to his girlfriend and most of his enemies are other teenagers or somehow linked to his school. On the subject, Terry's girlfriend is a bit of a waste of a character, not really doing anything for the programme other than assuring us that Terry is totally straight guys. Few of the villains reach the level of "Iconic" of The Joker, Two-Face or The Riddler, but Inque, The [new] Royal Flush Gang and Shriek give the programme its own feel that matches the cyberpunk misc-en-scene. The two-part episode in Series Two that features Superman and the Justice League continue this feel outwards towards a broader "DCAU Beyond" that was sadly never explored terribly far. There's also some unfortunate retconning in Justice League Unlimited that changes Terry's heritage and essentially makes his origin story defunct, but, by and large, Batman Beyond delivers a compelling setting and characters. 

I am aware that there exists a certain subset of comics fans who dread animated adaptions for a number of reasons, but I can genuinely recommend Batman Beyond as a worthwhile endeavor. Timm having the freedom to explore a new version of Gotham really pays off, as well as having conclusive "endings" for several Batman characters, being, as I am, a fan of narratives with decent conclusions; Victor Friez's climax is pretty brilliant and a great bookend to the "Heart of Ice" BTAS episodes that redefined Mister Freeze across all media. I've read a couple of the comics that continue to story, but I simply do not rate them as highly as I do this series. I'm hoping for another series with a decent ending through Netflix one day, assuming Young Justice is a continued success as a streamed series. 

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