Review: Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond, wrier Adam Beechen offers an interesting conglomeration of the Batman Beyond cartoon and Batman comics universes. The book takes a bit from column A and a bit from column B, and I liked that; it was not terribly hard (if I understood correctly) to understand where this book took place in regards to the Batman Beyond cartoon, where it's recently coming from and where it might be going next. As an introduction to Batman Beyond, fans of the cartoon might consider the conflicts between the characters worn ground, but Beechen also offers lots of possibilities for future story growth.

[Contains spoilers]

What I appreciated about Beechen's first Batman Beyond outing is how accessible the story is. Once the reader understands relationship between Bruce Wayne and the young new Batman Terry McGinnis, most of the rest of Beechen's story is filled with familiar faces and foes: Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Catwoman, Hush. Fans of the Batman Beyond cartoon, which I recall had its own set of original (not second generation) villains, might very well find this story set too much in the comics Batman universe -- the Jokerz don't appear, for instance, and we barely see Terry's friend Max or his girlfriend Dana -- but as a casual Batman Beyond fan I was nonplussed.

In the good "Hush" tradition, Hush Beyond is a mystery, though with what I felt was a sufficiently Batman Beyond sci-fi solution. This differentiates the story from a regular Batman tale, and I hope Beechen continues to use the more outlandish sci-fi elements in the future. As a reader, I'll have to train myself that Batman Beyond is not Batman -- my guesses to the new Hush's identity were much too far afield, encompassing elements of Jeph Loeb's Hush, when Beechen ultimately provides the reader all the hints they need right there in the story.

I was quite satisfied with the way Beechen blended the comics and cartoon Batman universes. Hush Beyond would seem to take place after the end of the Batman Beyond cartoon series and the Return of the Joker movie, as suggested by Tim Drake's presence in the book; but before the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue" (Hush Beyond foreshadows that episode). Unless Beechen will re-tell Return of the Joker for this comics universe (and I don't mind if he does), then we already know that Hush Beyond doesn't mesh with the exploits of "our" Tim Drake, and that Hush Beyond's cast are not "our" Bat-characters. Still, Batman: Cataclysm factors strongly into this book, not to mention considerable discussion of Batman's fights with the original Hush, Tommy Elliott (I also appreciated covers by Dustin Nguyen, adding a kinship to Paul Dini's "Hush" stories). One potential explanation for the timeline discrepancies? Esteban Pedreros is going to love this one -- Beechen hints at the end that Batman Beyond might tie in to Flashpoint ...

I was not an ardent Batman Beyond-watcher when it was on air but it did seem to me (I say, a little blithely) that just about every other episode had Bruce Wayne arguing with Terry and threatening to or actually taking away Terry's Bat-suit, before the two reconciled in the end. The conflict between Terry and Bruce is at the center of Batman Beyond -- Can Terry live up to Bruce's expectations? Will Bruce learn to let go and let Terry be his own (Bat)man? -- but there's an extent to which it lacks suspense; of course Terry will still be Batman by the end, else we don't really have a show.

Beechen deals with the same conflict here -- Terry's tired, Bruce thinks Terry's being too flip, Bruce "fires" Terry and replaces him with robotic Bat-Wraiths (reminiscent of Batman's Kingdom Come robots, another clever nod Beechen makes to DC Universe continuity). Beechen perhaps doesn't mean for it to be all that surprising that Bruce learns by the end to give Terry a little slack, and Terry renews his commitment to the cowl -- I just hope, as an introductory tale, Beechen's got it out of his system, and that future stories instead move the characters to uncharted ground, like the suggestion that Terry might finally join the future Justice League, and the mysteries involving the new Catwoman and Cadmus's imprisonment of Killer Croc.

As a lead-off to Beechen's new Batman Beyond series, however, I was sufficiently entertained throughout this book (enthused enough by the Batman Beyond character, in fact, to watch the free "Making of Batman Beyond" feature available online). Previously DC Comics released a similar "live action" take on the Space Ghost cartoon, and what put me off that book was that I didn't feel the author quite conveyed the Space Ghost character in the story, and that there wasn't enough play between the comic and the Space Ghost cartoon. Beechen avoids both of those problems -- if Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond covers some familiar ground, at least it feels familiar -- and I'll be in for another volume to see where Terry goes from here.

[Contains full covers. Printed on glossy paper]

Thanks again to Adam Beechen especially for participating in our focus week this week. New reviews coming next week -- see you then!
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