Writer – Dan Jurgens; Penciller – Inaki Miranda; Colors – Chris Sotomayor; Letterer – Travis Lanham; Editors – Jessica Chen and Dave Wielgosz; Group Editor – Ben Abernathy
Batman Beyond #39 is a great way to start this series back up in the new year, as it has a lot of throw backs to the 1999 cartoon series. Blight, the original Batman Beyond villain from the first episode of the 90s cartoon, is attacking Gotham after his apparent death in the cartoon almost two decades ago.
A lot of this issue is spent reestablishing this character and his story. For fans that have been into the show since the Bruce Timm cartoon, it’s old news, but probably worthwhile to teen readers and those in their early 20s. While Batwoman and Blight fight, Bruce Wayne and Matt McGinnis explain what happened in the first episode of the TV show and the episode where Blight presumably “died” aboard a submarine.
For those unfamiliar, Derek Powers was a businessman in Gotham that worked with Bruce Wayne. Powers used Wayne Enterprises to make a nerve gas and, when Terry’s dad acted as a whistleblower, Powers had him killed. Terry became Batman to stop Powers and, in the process, Powers was exposed to his own gas. The only way to save him was with extreme radiation, turning him into the radioactive villain, Blight.
Now he’s back, still alive after his last run-in with Batman, with the explanation that “radiation doesn’t die.” When characters say that he is still human, and ask why that part of him didn’t die, he brushes it off with a line about how his human side is dead and how he is just Blight now. Not exactly the most satisfying explanation, but it works here, as super villains narrowly escape death all the time.
Wayne and Matt are also still trying to discover Batwoman’s identity. The book covers this in one page, which seemed a little rushed and shoe-horned in, but is nice in that it does help to cover the obvious question, why not test your hypothesis. They do that here by calling Melanie and Barbara Gordon, the women they think may be Batwoman, and seeing if either answers their phone. It is admittedly kind of silly, but also kind of perfect in its simplicity, and it hails back to the old cartoons where people discovering a hero’s identity was a contestant source of drama. Either way, the next issue is billed as “Batwoman Revealed,” so we can look forward to that mystery being solved.
Finally, there is a fun twist with Terry McGinnis on the run with a former Powers scientist that created the toxin that resulted in his father’s death and Blight’s existence. In this issue, she discovers who Terry really is, Terry unsure as he is suffering from amnesia after his confrontation with a villain that wipes memories in the last arc. How she’ll deal with realizing his identity will be a confrontation to look forward to in the next issue, as the conclusion of this issue sets us up for an exciting arc resolution. How Jurgens ties the A and B stories together is really good and worthy of praise, as this must have taken some serious planning.
Overall the issue is very enjoyable storywise, if not a little slow. That said, there were some weird character moments where Batwoman, Bruce, and Matt are all a little too keen to see Blight die and there was a lot of exposition in the dialogue.
Miranda and Sotomayor’s art was also quite good in this issue. Blight’s new costume is interesting, an updated version of his containment suit that looks a bit like Brainiac, but still with the cool radioactive skull. There is a nice use of different colors with the shiny purple containment suit with glowing green lines through it. The design isn’t groundbreaking, but it is perfect for this character and this story, and the use of some more bright colors is a nice balance to the book’s usually dark palate. This is especially true as Sotomayor has this apropos use of a greyer palate for Terry’s scenes as he experiences homelessness in Gotham.
Miranda makes great use of detail lines on Bruce Wayne’s face which make it look pulpy, always a plus for a Batman book. Gotham City looks, as always, cool and futuristic. That’s something great about this book and series as a whole; the art is always reminiscent of the cartoon, a nice touch for all of the readers that got into this series from the original TV show. Miranda deserves praise for that.
Batman Beyond #39 is a great issue to start of 2020, as the story revels in nostalgia of the original 90s cartoon.