Batman Beyond #25 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Cully Hamner, Marco Santucci, Artists; Val Staples, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Gather the Bat-Family Together
Ray: Batman Beyond #25 is the best issue yet of this series and I’m surprised as anyone that this is coming from the return of the Joker. Both Corrina and I tend to be tired of Batman’s arch-nemesis, with only a few writers managing to make him a legit and interesting threat anymore. Jurgens tackles that challenge in this oversized anniversary issue by introducing us to a world where Joker is a long-forgotten relic. He died in the second issue of this series, in a flashback, and his banner has been taken up by evil but non-threatening gangsters. In the aftermath of the chaos and disasters of this run, Bruce Wayne and Mayor Luke Fox are on the verge of transforming Gotham into its finest form, and that’s where we pick up – with Bludhaven Mayor Dick Grayson and his ex-military daughter heading to Gotham for the dedication of Bruce’s new public service project. This is the first time we’ve seen Dick in this continuity, and he seems to be one of the few Bat-kids to have gotten a happy ending. Despite this, he’s still haunted by his very first encounter with Joker decades ago.
As Terry and his new Robin Matt get used to their new partnership, Bruce is fully recovered from his injuries early in the series and is reentering the public scene. But Commissioner Barbara Gordon is discovering something disturbing in Gotham – scores of Jokerz gang members are turning up dead, their bodies marked by someone who is very displeased that they’re using his name. This run has been kind of vague about whether Barbara was shot by Joker in this version, but she definitely isn’t taking any chances with Joker’s return. A flashback to a showdown with Mr. Freeze indicates that Red Hood is likely to play a role in this story as well, as he seems haunted by not just the Joker’s attack on him, but by a later tragedy.
By the time Joker finally appears, he almost seems beside the point – this is an issue largely about the Waynes and their legacy – but Jurgens delivers with his eventual return. He’s definitely the original – withered, his twisted grin bonier than ever – but no less deadly due to his age. This Joker story seems unpredictable, and that’s something I can get down for. After all, in the future no one is safe.
Corrina: Hmm…I don’t remember Dick having a daughter in other Batman Beyond-verse stories. (There was that one about Babs having a miscarriage but perhaps that tale is best swept under the rug, as it was full of weirdness surrounding Babs between torn between Dick and Bruce, if I recall correctly.) Here’s hoping Elainna is formidable enough not to be a victim of a Joker attack. (Hey, given The Killing Joke, can you blame me for being concerned?)
Everyone knows how much I dislike the Joker but, even with that, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the animated movie, is one of the best Joker stories, and a terrific coming-of-age as Batman story for Terry. It makes me a bit leery that this series is exploring similar territory, even if it does have a twist. I may like it in the end but that depends entirely on how this is handled.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.