Batman Beyond #31
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Rick Leonardi
Fresh off his battle with the Joker, Terry McGinnis is trying to get his life back to (relatively) normal. His brother Matt is retiring from the role of Robin, something Terry is perfectly happy with, considering the danger they’ve faced lately. Much of this issue plays with the idea of a return to the traditional Batman Beyond status quo with Terry operating solo in the field and Bruce Wayne giving him advice from the Batcave (although it seems like Matt is still willing to man the computer from time to time). The only problem is that there is something very wrong with Bruce (if it even really is him), which becomes increasingly apparent as Terry battles a new pair of villains.
This is a fairly standard Bat-family case of the week story that’s imbued with a greater degree of intensity thanks to the unsettling presence of “Bruce” (at this point I feel the most likely explanation for his behavior is that this is an impostor). Writer Dan Jurgens has a strong handle on Terry’s voice and personality but his part in the issue is not especially emotional or dynamic. There’s only one page of Terry’s internal monologue, for example, and it’s limited to some light musings on the dangerous potential of technology as well as some necessary exposition. Matt is the character that stands out the most. He’s clearly somewhat disappointed his time as the Boy Wonder is over but also can’t make himself get back in the field (at least not yet). It’s the beginning of what looks to be a strong, if not particularly surprising, arc. The presence of “Bruce” throughout the issue has a similar effect. It’s obvious from pretty much the first scene that this either isn’t the real ex-Caped Crusader or that something has messed with Bruce’s mind, and this only becomes even more clear because of his stunned reaction to seeing Terry suit up. While Jurgens’ intent was clearly to have the reader be aware that “Bruce” can’t be trusted to increase the tension of the final scenes, it would’ve been even more entertaining to have that realization be built up to more gradually. As it is, the issue makes Terry’s detective skills look rather weak, given that he doesn’t notice his mentor is behaving strangely.
While the Bruce Wayne problem winds up being the more striking of the threats the McGinnis boys face, this issue also introduces the new villainous pair known as the Splitt. The duo consists of a gold and a silver-grey being that spend the majority of their time conjoined but are also able to separate. They’re an intimidating enough threat (and give Terry a pretty sound beating) with some interesting attributes (such as their inability to be separated for very long and the grey one’s less violent nature) but the issue treats them as more of an afterthought.
Rick Leonardi’s art is a good fit for Batman Beyond, doing a fine job of replicating the style of the animated series. Chris Sotomayor’s colors don’t always evoke the shadowy futuristic-noir vibe that made the show so striking, though that may be more the result of the limited number of outdoor scenes in the issue. There’s not a lot of opportunity for the particular atmosphere of Neo-Gotham to be evoked.
Ultimately, this issue will be enjoyable for those already invested in the Batman Beyond world and especially those that have been reading this run, but it probably won’t grab many new readers. And while some intriguing questions are left open at the end, the issue may have benefitted from not making its main surprise so immediately obvious.
Batman Beyond (2016-) #31
Batman Beyond #31 is a fine transitional issue for those already invested in the series but doesn't do a lot to grab new readers.