By Dan Jurgens, Phil Hester, Ande Parks
Batman Beyond #14 begins the latest story arc in the series, The Long Payback. Because of this, there’s a feeling that not much happens. It feels slow at some points, but there are enough interesting story set ups to pull through the entire issue, and likely the next one. The art here helps, too, as it builds on the established style from the animated series, but is still able to define itself as something new. The best part of this issue, though, is the relationship between Terry and Bruce and the themes that are starting to emerge as a result.
It’s only hinted at in a few scenes, but the obsession of being Batman and what that means for the person under the mask is apparent not only for Bruce and Terry, but for a third, unexpected character as well. Motivations are tested by internal and external forces in a way that’s not only interesting, but natural. Jurgens shows us how characters’ opinions have developed over the long span of this character’s existence, all the way back to the original Batman’s. The development of this theme should make for a great story arc.
It should also be noted that Batman Beyond #14 feels organic for readers new to the series. If any references are made back to previous story arcs, they aren’t intrusive to the unfamiliar reader’s experience. The majority of the issue is aimed forward, focusing on what will happen rather than what already has. This can be a crux at some points, however. The team clearly has a lot of plot points they want to cover, and the jumps from one subplot to another are frequent. At times this hinders what might have been more emotional scenes, given more space.
Hester and Parks know exactly how to fill the space, though. Anyone familiar with the animated series, Batman Beyond, will have a sense of nostalgia reading this series. The development of the art from then to now transfers to the character himself, showing that Terry has been growing even when eyes aren’t on him. The dark future aesthetic of Neo Gotham is palpable in every panel, thanks to the luminescent colors and sharp lines of the city’s architecture. The deep shadows of the book contribute to the tone as well, whether they’re present on Terry’s suit, the faces of the main cast, or the environment itself.
Batman Beyond #14 is a solid issue with a lot to offer. The team of Jurgens, Hester, and Parks proves to be knowledgeable on the characters as well as the space they exist in, and are cultivating the title in new ways. The anticipation of this exploration masks slow or clunky scenes, making them forgivable. Fan of the futuristic Dark Knight or not, this issue promises to be the first in a thought provoking arc.