The beginning of the next chapter in the Beyond Universe of characters stemming from the future DC Animated Universe, or the DCAU, Batman Beyond 2.0 and Justice League Beyond 2.0 expand the future timeline while reminding us why we loved the DCAU in the first place. Produced as bi-monthly digital firsts, trading off week to week, the issues are also collected in print form under the title Batman Beyond Universe. This is a different format from what had previously come before when Adam Beechan’s Batman Beyond and Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolf’s Justice League Beyond shared the same characters but told stories that were collected separately and always felt a bit disconnected from one another. The new creative teams, however, of Kyle Higgins and Thony Silas on BB 2.0 and Christos Gage and Iban Coello on JLB 2.0 make an active effort to give readers a real sense of a shared universe not just by telling partially connected, yet separate stories, but also in collecting the issues together under one title. In order to pull this off, the creative teams decided to jump one year ahead in the life of Terry McGinnis, the Batman of Neo-Gotham, and the current lineup of The Justice League consisting of Superman, Aquagirl (Mareena), Green Lantern (Kai-Ro), Warhawk, The Flash (Danica), Micron, Captain Marvel, Big Barda, and Mister Miracle.
I’d like to note that this review will consist of Batman Beyond 2.0 issues #1-#2 and Justice League Beyond 2.0 #1 as they were the only issues I’d read at the time I was writing this. My apologies to Mr. Gage and Mr. Coello for short-changing them an issue. I’ll try to do better next time.
Anyway, on with the review.
It’s really Batman Beyond that’s affected most by the one year jump as we catch up with Terry trying to balance his first year of college with his nightly outings as Batman. Let’s just say it’s not going as well as he planned, especially when the death of Mayor Dusk during the opening of the Arkham Institute (the newest incarnation of Arkham Asylum) begins to interfere in his “normal” life of cramming for exams and dealing with ex-girlfriend Dana showing up at the same university. The biggest shock, however, comes not from the mystery surrounding the Mayor’s death, but in Terry’s new mentor, Dick Grayson. As reveals go, it’s one of the best and really shows that Higgins knows how to craft a story that will leave readers wanting to come back. The same is true of the second issue that brings a new villain into Terry’s rogues gallery when he discovers that none of his previous foes, not even the obvious contender of Ghoul, were responsible for Mayor Dusk’s death. It’s someone new, though we only know he or she over the PA system of Arkham Institute as the inmates are released into the asylum. It’s a smart use of the one year gap since not only will readers be wondering why Terry would switch mentors but how such a decision came about. At the same time, Higgins is allowing himself the freedom to create a new villain, one not entirely beholden to previous stories or episodes in the Batman Beyond canon.
In Justice League Beyond, a confrontation between the League and the Nanodemons, criminals who use techno-organic and magically enhanced equipment, accidentally supercharge Superman’s cells, leaving the Man of Steel unable to control his abilities as they randomly build up power and release unexpectedly. Trying to find a way to control his fluctuating powers, Superman accidentally harms Aquagirl. Gage does a superb job of starting a new story for the League by placing Superman at the forefront while also making him the League’s antagonist to some extent. One of the big questions always posed to the League is how to deal with a hero who goes rogue, the ultimate doomsday scenario being Superman. But what do you do when a hero like Superman can’t control his powers and how does that affect the team’s dynamic? How do you know you can trust the your resident boy scout when he can’t even trust himself? These are intriguing questions and, if the descriptions for the second issue are correct, could have devastating repercussions for Superman and the League.
As a quasi re-introduction to the Batman Beyond Universe, Higgins and Gage (which sounds like a 19th Century Gotham City detective agency) make very different, but effective approaches. Higgins, a true fan of the original Batman Beyond cartoon, which is evident in his multiple guest spots on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast and Word of the Nerd’s own DC Confidential podcast, hits the ground running and gives you the opening and first act of a Batman Beyond episode. I get the feeling, though, that Terry dealing with a Man-Bat splicer in the first issue is a bit of an homage to the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but I could be wrong. He also makes sure to place cameo appearances by almost all of Terry’s rogues gallery, which will give any fan of the show a little moment of SQUEE! when they see villains like Mad Stan, Shriek, and Spellbinder. Gage, given his larger cast of characters to redefine for his run, goes about things a bit differently but handles it cleverly. With Superman’s powers on the fritz, he continues to search for a means of controlling the outbursts. He does so with the help of the individual members of the League offering him a different method. My favorite, naturally, involves Barda and Superman sparring while Supes wears a suit created by Mister Miracle to siphon off the excess energy. It doesn’t work out well, but it gives Barda a good enough excuse to briefly use Superman as a punching bag. Gage successfully allows the reader to meet each member of the League, and give a little insight into their character, while progressing the story, which is no easy feat.
Final Thoughts: It’s like coming home to the DCAU.