How do you defeat an enemy made of pure thought? That is a question discussed in more than one DC comic this week. In The Multiversity, Grant Morrison, never shy of tackling esoteric and psychological topics, postulates foes that are literally the embodiments of evil ideas. The authors of The New 52: Futures End aren’t prepared to go quite that far. However, in Braniac and Brother Eye they do provide villains whose intelligence is artificial, at least in so far as we understand the distinction between natural and artificial, and untethered to individual physical manifestations. Indeed, these evil mentalities seem to be largely unconfined to particular points in time and space. In this penultimate issue of Futures End, Tim Drake, the newly minted Batman Beyond, must travel back in time to the notional present to confront Brother Eye and prevent its reign of terror, in other words he must end the future. To accomplish this, he uses the weapon that decades of science-fiction writers have honed in their stories for the purpose of battling artificial minds – destructive logic.
Actually, the reasoning that Batman Beyond uses to defeat Brother Eye is not the standard mental paradox causing a breakdown of inflexible neural circuits. Rather, in a refreshing twist, he simply appeals to Brother Eye’s common sense. Revealing the shape of the future to the intelligence, he points out that this goes against Brother Eye’s purpose to protect humanity. The intelligence agrees, and proceeds to destroy itself, first revealing its remarkable powers by hurling Tim Drake back into the future once again.
The suicide of Brother Eye neatly sets the stage for the upcoming Convergence event by preventing the timeline of Futures End in which a signal from the Brother Eye satellite guides the refugee fleet from Earth 2 to Earth 0 with the forces of Darkseid hot on their heels. With Brother Eye destroyed, no signal will be sent, and the refugees will find their way to Telos, the planet that is a villain.
The end of Brother Eye also sets the stage for the new Batman Beyond series recently announced by DC. Terry McGinnis is dead, and Tim Drake’s original timeline is destroyed. But he still longs to return to his love, Madison Payne. This setup is not as effective as that for Convergence. Perhaps it is nitpicking, but Tim is still a cypher. We do not understand his history or his motivations. What exactly led him to leave the life of the hero? What led to his bitterness toward Bruce Wayne, an antipathy that seems to be festering still? What are his relationships with the other heroes of this world? Probably, all of these subjects are meant to be explored in the new series to come. But as of now, Tim feels slightly unreal, for all of the genuine skill that his gone into writing his scenes in the series he stands against a blank background, a portrait not yet finished because it does not yet have a context to give it meaning.
Tim Drake is launched on his career as the new Batman Beyond, and it promises to be a journey full of unexpected detours. He has won for the moment, but the preview for next week's issue shows that Brother Eye is not yet completely destroyed, and interviews and solicits speak of disasters and apocalypse worlds. This series has often felt aimless and incoherent. But if it does not succeed completely in its immediate purpose, it will likely not fail completely in its longer term goal. It is asking too much of the future series to redeem all that has gone wrong with this one. But, maybe it can make it, in balance, worthwhile. And any parent should wish that from a child.