By: Scott Peterson (writer), Annie Wu (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist)
Back-up by: Adam Beechen, IV (writer), Adam Archer (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist)
The Stories: It’s a two-for-one deal on Batgirls and Terry teams up with the Metal Men.
The Review: Though it’s the last issue of the series, you’d never know it. This month’s installment of Batman Beyond Unlimited is all about what’s to come.
The big news for most people is the introduction of the new Batgirl, a concept that’s been played around with numerous times, as far back as the second season of the show, but never came to fruition. Indeed, the main story is all Batgirl, all the time, with none of that pesky Batman to get in the way.
Some people might complain that their not getting their monthly dose of McGinnis, but he’s in the backup, so worry not and enjoy. Scott Peterson makes the wise choice to ground our tale around a familiar character, Commissioner Barbara Gordon. If you’ve ever loved Barbara, especially her slightly embittered Beyond incarnation, you’ll be in heaven for this issue. This story is thirty pages of pure Gordon badassery. Admittedly, Barbara needs a little help with the heavy lifting, but the woman’s pushing seventy and the issue opens with her jumping off a roof and taking out two roided up gang bangers, so I give her a break. Best of all, the issue hints that she was holding back! I love it!
The new Batgirl is a pretty great character too. The decision to give her a more contemporary looking costume avoids the risk of dating the character and hints at just how tough she is. Terry always had that muscle enhancement batsuit to protect him. This girl follows the long line of bat-ladies to take on the mantle without permission and, presumably, doesn’t have access to schway tech like that. It’s just her, a couple of escrima sticks and your face out there. Throw in a brusque but never obnoxious personality, the skills to back it up, and a beautiful character design and you’ve got the makings of an incredible character.
The plot feels a little rushed, but it’s clever and opens up new, and frankly terrifying, pathways for the Neo-Gotham environment. Connections to previous DC and Neo-Gotham continuity strengthen the issue, and Peterson gives every character their own voice, even the henchmen.
In the backup, Terry finishes an adventure with the Metal Men. Adam Beechen’s story doesn’t grab me the same way and depends too much on interaction with the old DCU. It’s fun to see where Superman is in that far off year of 2039, but to have the Metal Men, completely unchanged and no more topical than they are now, break into that world seems unnecessary. Most of the backup is spent wrapping up the adventure at hand, and the action is actually a little longer than it needs to be, but it is interesting to see how Bruce responds to the Metal Men. It’s all the more impressive when you realize that he’s recognizably Bruce, despite acting very differently than he might under normal circumstances.
Neither artist fully replicates the feel of the Timm-helmed television program, but thankfully, they don’t ape his style either. Annie Wu shows an acute awareness of time and rhythm in the lead story, getting the most out of the issue’s numerous fight scenes. She also makes great use of Gordon’s advanced age, which allows her more leeway with her expressions. There is one truly unfortunate image of a young Barbara, but it’s right next to a lovely image of Bane so let’s call it even. Andrew Elder’s fiery colors give the story a sense of palpable excitement and the last page proves that both of them are adaptable, talented, and capable of drawing a truly beautiful girl without stooping to the traditional ‘comic book’ look.
Adam Archer handles the back up, and draws a mean set of Metal Men. They’re cartoony and lively and generally excellent. The normal Beyond-era characters don’t fair quite as well though, with Bruce and Terry being unfortunate standouts. The panels are a little more homogenous that I would like and by no fault of his own, Archer struggles to replicate the essential look of the Beyond Bat-suit. Though Elder does excellent work in this story as well, I’d have to throw some of the blame for Batman’s wonkiness at his feet. Particularly in episodes featuring Inque, Batman Beyond really showed how much power you could get out of the pitch dark color of its lead, and this grey-black Batman isn’t cutting it. Without the sharp contrasting blacks, Terry just doesn’t quite look like Terry. I don’t know that I’ve seen an artist manage to avoid this problem without copying Timm, but it’s still a blemish for a series called Batman Beyond Unlimited.
The Conclusion: Batgirl gets another million-dollar debut, while Bruce and Terry make do with some decent world-building. Though the art in the backup is a bit weird at times, this is a beautiful comic all the way through. The writing is strong in both stories, though I lean towards the prior, and the differing tones provide for multiple tastes. Especially with a better price to page ratio than DC’s normal offerings, this is a great issue. If you liked Batman Beyond, this is a great issue to gauge your interest for next month’s Batman Beyond Universe.
Lead Story: A-