Sunday, 7 June 2015

Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution Review (Adam Beechen, Ryan Benjamin)


I want to like Batman Beyond - the character’s a great design and it’s Batman but in the future! So why is it seemingly so hard to write a good Batman Beyond comic? 

Industrial Revolution is a jamboree of stories: an irradiated employee of the Justice League’s Watchtower called Carson Jatts decides to steal some supervillain tech and take over a mall(!); Batman tries to keep old man Grayson’s secret identity as Nightwing from getting out; some industrial action shenanigans take place at Wayne-Powers; and Inque gets an origin story. 

Generally, the problems with Batman Beyond stem from a lack of identity. It’s basically the original Batman but in a slightly different setting - it’s still Batman with his usual setup but with a new outfit and a new guy as Bats, the same Justice League heroes but with different people acting as Hawkman, Green Lantern, etc., the same supervillains, and so on, but in Neo-Gotham (the Neo part means it’s the future, y’see!). Where’s the originality to separate this from other Batman titles?

Terry McGinnis is different from Bruce Wayne in that he’s a cheery Batman sans cape - the quips and the fact that he’s a high school student with girl troubles give his character a strong Spider-Man vibe. Not that this is a bad thing but it makes his Batman feel derivative. 

More specifically, the first story with Jatts and the Justice League throws up quite a few odd questions like: why does the Justice League Watchtower have civilian employees? Why do the Justice League assemble for a simple hostage-taking scenario - isn’t that a bit small scale for this team? 

Jatts steals a wand that transmutes elements. His bones and organs are irradiated from being around so much supervillain tech throughout his career as museum docent (I guess?) at the Watchtower. But given that he can change the elemental structure of anything, couldn’t he cure his own disease instead of go on some futile rampage in a mall? A character even points this out before being silenced for pointing out a major plot hole and it’s not addressed again! 

Batman and the Justice League fight each other because they’re idiots and that’s what idiot superheroes do, before deciding to work together and the Jatts storyline ends in a big dumb superhero vs the supervillain of the week fight. I guess that’s a spoiler but really who cares? These stories are so safely by the numbers, they’re instantly forgettable - you’ve read this kind of story a million times before.

I’ve only read two Batman Beyond books (the other being Kyle Higgins’ recent run) but uninspired, completely unengaging stories plagues Terry. Some guy who’s been turned into a glowing green skeleton tries to take over Wayne-Powers. He’s so corny with his monologue explaining his origins and his ridiculous speech about power, he’d be more suited in a Scooby-Doo cartoon, he’s so un-menacing. And Inque - geez, what a miserable origin story for her, eh? None of the stories in this book showed me a reason to care about Terry and his world - it’s depressing, it’s boring, it’s ordinary when it should be exciting and vibrant. Mostly, it’s a missed opportunity. 

I could list the similarities Batman Beyond has with other Batman stories and why they only made me prefer Bruce Wayne’s Batman more, but why bother? I don’t know why Adam Beechen, through constantly referring back to the original Batman, wants to compare the two - all I want him to do is write some entertaining story that could only happen in this future world yet instead he produces severely watered down old Batman stories instead. Why?

Ryan Benjamin’s art is like the tv show, the audience of which is probably the target for this comic, which is to say it’s kid-friendly and, suitably given the content, not at all remarkable. 

Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution is competently written and drawn for the most part but the stories amount to so little and leave so small an impression, it’s really not worth bothering with. This book continues to elude the question about Batman Beyond I’ve had for some time now: so what?

Batman Beyond: Industrial Revolution

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