Batman Beyond #31 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Rick Leonardi, Penciller; Ande Parks, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ever since the return of the Joker a few issues ago, Batman Beyond has gone back to basics and used the history of both the comic and the cartoon to set up new dangers for its lead characters. Batman Beyond #31 returns Bruce Wayne to the scariest site in Batman legend – Arkham Asylum, now reinvented as a holistic mental health center that refers to its inmates as “guests”. The new warden seems to be a kind woman who gives Bruce a full tour to win his support, but Bruce is clearly ill at ease – and gets only more so when there’s a brief power outage. Afterward, he seems out of sorts and has taken to day drinking. Terry and Matt are dealing with less serious issues, but Matt’s grades have cratered after his tenure as Robin and it’s clear there’s still some lingering tension between the brothers over recent events. They’re able to put their issues aside to deal with the newest mystery, involving Bruce’s old rivals at Powers Tech.
Rick Leonardi’s art on this issue is overall strong, although everyone looks a little more smoothed out. Bruce looks younger and Matt looks older. The return of the Powers clan to the series ups the stakes, as Bruce and Terry’s old arch-nemesis may just be lurking. There’s no confirmation here, but we do get a new villain in the form of Splitt, a tag-team of mercenary brothers who seem to be able to merge into one person. We don’t know much about them, but they’re dangerous enough to get the drop on Batman and ruthless enough to trap him in a death chamber where gravity will rip him apart.
Complicating things further, Bruce has been largely useless since he returned from Arkham, and a twisty last few pages make me think this might not be Bruce at all. The issue is tense and feels like a step forward as the title uses more elements of the classic cartoon to build its next arc.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.