Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 Review

Batman Beyond Rebirth #1 Cover

As with everyone else that grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series I was a big fan of what Batman Beyond added to the universe. Terry McGinnis was such a great addition to the Batman Universe that showed us how to successfully have someone take over the cape and cowl. And as such a big fan of the character I was disappointed that Terry wasn’t the one headlining the New 52’s Batman Beyond series. While I am also a Tim Drake fan the New 52’s Batman Beyond story continuing the apocalyptic setting of Future’s End never clicked with me. Thankfully DC Rebirth is fixing that with Terry returning to the cape and cowl. Now let’s see if DC Rebirth can continue to work its magic and deliver an comic that is exactly what Terry McGinnis fans deserve. Let’s find out with Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1.

Writer: Dan Jurgens

Artist: Ryan Sook

Colorists: Jeremy Lawson and Tony Avina

Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Somewhere in Neo-Gotham a couple of Jokerz take a school bus filled with kids’ hostage. Before they can do anything to the teacher and kids Batman crashes through the window and kicks one of the Jokerz in the back.

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As Batman defends the children he thinks back to how he came to be Batman. He remembers how in order to protect Dana during their date he had a group of Jokerz to chase him. Terry hits ends up at Wayne Mansion where he has an impromptu team-up with an older Bruce Wayne. After taking care of the Jokerz, Terry helps Bruce back to the mansion. While there Terry helps Bruce take his medicine and fall asleep.

After doing this Terry notices a bat stuck in a clock and when he goes to free it he opens the door leading to the Batcave. That is where Terry discovers that Bruce Wayne was Batman. Bruce soon finds Terry looking through the Batcave and immediately kicks him out.

Back in the present, Batman notices two more Jokerz driving next to the bus and promptly uses his batarangs to take them both out.

With the Jokerz taken care of Terry goes back to thinking back to the past when he arrived at the scene where the Jokerz killed his dad. Terry then went to Bruce to try and convince him to be Batman again. When that didn’t work Terry stole the latest version of the Batman costume to capture his father’s killer. After that Bruce began coaching Terry on how to be Batman, though he resisted at first.

Back in the present the GCPD arrest the Jokerz that Batman took down. Commissioner Gordon welcomes Terry back as Batman. Terry mentions he feels weird being Batman without Bruce in his ear. Barbara tells Terry that he can call her by her first name. She explains how the Jokerz have taken over a part of Neo-Gotham now called “Jokerz Town” and that they are unable to nail them do to how they use the “town” for cover.

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Barbara then asks Terry how he is doing since returning. Terry says that he has done well with Max and Matt’s help but that he hasn’t seen Dana yet. Barbara is surprised that Terry hasn’t revealed to Dana that he is alive.

Before they can finish their conversation the two suddenly hear a distinct laugh coming from the Jokerz. Barbara says that back in the day Joker used his Joker Venom on his men so they wouldn’t talk. Terry wonders if this means that the Joker is back. Barbara reminds Terry that the Joker died years ago. Terry tells her that people thought he was dead too recently. Barbara tells Terry that he is starting to think like Bruce and reminds him not to get lost in being Batman.

Elsewhere in Neo Gotham, Dana tries to get a GCPD officer to stop escorting her around while she does her job as a social worker. Just as Dana and the officer approach a house the resident living there tells the two that they aren’t safe. Suddenly the officer is knocked out from behind.

Two Jokerz’s show up and reveal that Dana is currently in “Jokerz Town.” The Jokerz remind Dana that their boss doesn’t like people that try and help the people living in “Jokerz Town.” They then proceed to kidnap Dana and take her to their boss.

At Terry’s new place, Matt thinks that it is cool how his big brother saved a bunch of kids from the Jokerz. Terry thinks the only cool thing is being back with his brother after how they lost their dad years ago and their mom in the war. Terry then thinks of how good it was for Max to take Matt in when he was gone. Matt reminds Terry that his disappearance is Spellbinder’s fault and that the important thing is that he is back now.

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Max walks in surprised he is there. Terry wonders why Max is surprised. Max then shows a news article that talks about the Jokerz kidnapping Dana. Terry quickly goes to the box that has his Batman costume to go after the Jokerz.

As he flies through Neo-Gotham Terry thinks about how while he and Dan had a close relationship once he became Batman they became distant. Things didn’t get better when everyone thought he was dead thanks to Spellbinder. During this time Dana moved on and when Terry returned he didn’t know how to approach Dana with his return.

Batman soon in Jokerz Town and confronts a couple homeless people about The Jokerz. Before he can get an answer he gets punched by a Jokerz member who is using a version of Bane’s venom. The Jokerz uses his power advantage to quickly gain the upper hand on Batman and burry him in rubble.

At the No Laughing Matter club a tied up Dana recognizes the Jokerz leader as Carter Wilson. Carter says that he doesn’t go by that name anymore and that he is called Terminal now. Dana wonders why Terminal had her kidnapped. Terminal says that it wasn’t his order to have her kidnap. Dana is shocked when Terminal reveals that it was Joker, who he is bringing back from the dead. End of issue.

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Click for full-page view

The Good: DC Rebirth has revitalized the life of a lot of comic books with a sense of fun and optimism. That is where Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 unfortunately misses the mark. Instead of moving forward with a new sense of direction Dan Jurgens story felt like it was stuck in the past with what didn’t work during the New 52-era of DC.

One of the things that I appreciate about Jurgens story is that he aged the characters up. While there were a few episodes that involved Terry McGinnis time in school it was never something that defined the character. Seeing the character moving into a place of his own and taking up the responsibility of taking care of his brother is the right step for Terry to take. There will be plenty of time what Terry will be doing for money and his relationship with Bruce. Right now we needed to see what Terry is doing to become an adult outside his costume and his relationship with his brother is a strong foundation for this part of the series.

Jurgens also succeeds in making the Jokerz gang a bigger threat than they used to be. Jurgens gives us a good reason as to why the Jokerz have become an even bigger pain to actually capture for the GCPD with their own district within Neo-Gotham. Barbara Gordon was a good facilitator of information about “Jokerz Town” as an area that is not only dangerous but also how the Jokerz escape as they blend in with their surroundings. As long as Terry doesn’t find a miraculous way to take out “Jokerz Town” this setting within Neo-Gotham can be a good ongoing sub-plot for series following the first arc.

For his part, Ryan Sook delivered solid artwork throughout the issue. Sook maintained a consistent look throughout every panel that helps make his version of Neo-Gotham have a life of its own. From how he drew the opening sequence that showed off the flying cars to how he drew Batman in action it was all very crisp. I also liked the little addition of making the Batman costume’s eyes now red instead of white. It’s a small update that works for this world’s Batman and serves to show this is an older Terry who is slowly upgrading his suit.

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The Bad: Where Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 missed the mark is its reliance on the continuity established in the previous volume. While I understand that Dan Jurgens was also the writer of the previous volume of Batman Beyond that continuity makes it feel like the story is living too much in the past. With Rebirth presenting so many comics with a fresh opportunity for a new start that is what Jurgens needed to take advantage of. Instead he just wants to live in what made the New 52 unsuccessful when it relied on dark and gritty storytelling.

When you have a story that makes references to past continuity it will live or die on how it is integrated into the story. Even if this continuity is something that not every fan will understand right away it’s the writer’s duty to give the reader the proper details to have an idea of what is everyone is talking about. That isn’t exactly what Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 does. Instead it makes you left out as the reader if you didn’t read the previous volume since there is a large gap in time since Terry and others are now adults. That is not the feeling that I want to be having when reading a comic with stories I am not familiar with in the very first issue.

This also creates a problem with how we are supposed to understand the character relationships. Because while there is enough established in this issue to understand why Terry is on his own as Batman we don’t get information on how his brother Matt knows his secret. All we get is a brief mention of a war that doesn’t really go anywhere to give us actual details on how things ended up the way they have.

Things aren’t helped with how depressing Terry sounds throughout the issue. With so many characters acting as extensions of Batman in some way Terry’s lighter approach as Batman was refreshing. He wasn’t the ultra-serious character that Bruce was but didn’t just joke around like Spider-Man or Nightwing. Terry ended up finding a balance of his own that he added to his fighting style. But that is not existent here as Jurgens treats Terry as more of a Bruce-lite while in costume than doing things his own way.

Hurting the story even more is how the Jokerz plan turned out to be just them resurrecting the original Joker with Bane-venom additions. This sort of takes away the appeal of “Jokerz Town” as it is not something that is the Jokerz established on their own. It would’ve made the Jokerz much more terrifying if they established this on their own with someone new as there leader. This would in turn help create a new Kingpin-like villain to Terry’s Batman rogues gallery. For now Joker’s presence just makes the story feel like something that will have little consequence given how Joker looked at the end of the issue.

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Click for full-page view

Instead the Jokerz and their new part of town would’ve been better served as a sub-plot for this issue’s story. And what should’ve taken the spotlight for this issue should’ve been Spellbinder and what he did to Terry. This would’ve helped to serve as a way to clarify Terry’s current status quo while moving forward with what is next with the Jokerz. Even if it meant doing it in flashback sequences it would’ve done more for new readers of this series to not have questions or wonder if they need to read the previous volume to understand what is going on. And with how well Sook did with giving flashbacks to Terry’s origin a different style from the present day scenes I wouldn’t have minded seeing that.

Overall: Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 is one of the rare DC Rebirth titles that did not instantly win me over. With my pull list already reaching its max capacity I do not have room for a comic that can’t instantly grab my attention with its first issue. And while I am a Batman Beyond fan Dan Jurgens failed to get me to buy into what he is doing with this series. There are far too many questions with the foundation of this series and feeling like I have to buy other comics to understand what is going on. For now Batman Beyond is not a comic that is worth buying into right away. Instead fans of the Batman Beyond series will be better off trade waiting to see if it gets good buzz moving with future issues.