Give Damian his Supervillain Merit Badges; he not only monologued about how he became Ra’s Al-Ghul, but he revealed his plans going forward. All while declaring that nobody could stop it to boot. Damian’s version of events is very different from the perspective that Bruce gave us last month, and offers a slightly better picture of how the conflicted boy of the present-day comics chose his grandfather’s mantle over his father’s. Meanwhile, as the X-7 activates increasingly extreme measures, Terry is hardly even in the book anymore.
Batman Beyond #10: Out of Control, or, We Get It, You’re Blowing Up The World Because Daddy Didn’t Love You
The issue opens with a flashback from Bruce, reminiscing on the first time he met Damian including a brief history of Damian’s life. Bruce’s memories are interrupted by Damian stabbing the ground by Terry’s head, rather than beheading the new Batman as he threatened to do at the end of the last issue. The new Ra’s then declares that he would never kill such a weakened opponent and insists that he could not care less about Terry, anyway–the entire purpose of the exercise was to get Bruce to appear.
Damian and Bruce argue about Damian’s motivations, completely ignoring Terry sacked out in the snow. This gives the X-7 time to get back online and knock Damian off of his feet. A couple of assassins rise out of the snow to hold Bruce back while the fight between Damian and Terry resumes. Bruce is left to internally monologue about what an incredible fighter Damian’s become, far surpassing Bruce himself at his peak.
He doesn’t seem so much worried about Terry as worried that Damian’s skills will push the X-7 to respond with ever greater extremes, which it does, waiving its “deadly force restrictions”. Damian responds by summoning Goliath, his pet bat dragon. While Terry and Goliath smack each other around, Damian goes back to telling Bruce how completely not jealous of Terry he is and Bruce keeps pressing for Damian’s true motives.
We then briefly check in with Max and Matt, who hit on the idea of using Bruce’s private satellites to take a peek at what’s going on in the Himalayas. I guess we’ll find out if they see anything next month, because those four panels are all we get.
Back in the mountains, Damian has been telling Bruce that he blames the X-7 for too much, and insists that leaving to join Ra’s Al-Ghul was entirely his own choice. Damian goes into his own flashback, explaining that his grandfather asked Damian back again because he’d overused the Lazarus Pit and could no longer regenerate. He was more in need of his heir than ever–especially when the world was facing a threat as terrible as Brother Eye.
The former Ra’s apparently foresaw that Bruce’s AI satellite defense system would eventually turn on humanity and asked Damian to help the League of Assassins prepare. Damian has spent the intervening time modernizing the League of Assassins, caring for his ailing grandfather, and waiting for Brother Eye to turn on the world.
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Brother Eye attacked on the day of the former Ra’s Al-Ghul’s funeral, and Damian, as the new leader of the League of Assassins… sat back to wait and see who wins. All of his modernization of the League of Assassins and his preparations to fight Brother Eye weren’t to protect humanity, they were because he intended to claim the winner. The winner was humanity, so now Damian’s ready to have his go.
All throughout Damian’s flashback monologues, the pit that he, Bruce, Terry and Goliath are fighting in has been sinking deeper into the earth, revealing a arsenal of missiles ready and waiting to get on with “purifying” humanity. Damian declares that he’s drunk heartily of the Ra’s Al-Kool Aid, and is ready to significantly reduce the population of humanity for the sake of the Earth. He only brought Bruce and Terry there because there’s not a damn thing they can do to stop him.
Then Terry chokes out Goliath and declares that Damian’s next.
Damian and Bruce’s initial argument–where Damian tells Bruce that he should stop blaming the X-7 for everything–felt more than a little familiar.
Bruce blaming the X-7 for Damian leaving shows how little he actually understood his son, or even listened to him. In the flashback from Bruce’s perspective, Damian talked about Ra’s motives and behavior in a way that was almost praising, enough to draw comment from Bruce. Yet Bruce treats it as completely inconceivable that Damian would willingly choose to align himself with his grandfather’s goals. He was raised believing in the League of Assassins until he was ten, and what we see of him through Bruce’s flashbacks doesn’t show us a kid who ever really gave up on Ra’s Al-Ghul’s ideas. Bruce wants to believe that his AI suit was the only reason his son left him, but the truth is that he didn’t understand his son or how he thinks at all.
Of course, Damian’s perspective on Bruce is just as mixed. Damian doesn’t believe Bruce when he says that he couldn’t find Damian on the basis that Bruce is, after all, the World’s Greatest Detective. On the other hand, I think it’s possible that an aging, severely injured Bruce might not exactly be at peak detective form. Bruce has also repeatedly mentioned that he expected Damian to return, implying that he either thought Damian left willingly and would come to his senses or was kidnapped but fully capable of escaping. According to Damian, he did, in fact, return once… years later, after Terry had been recruited.
Damian feels abandoned and replaced, as if he didn’t matter to Bruce. Bruce’s memories of Damian are actually overwhelmingly warm and positive–even in his current thoughts he can’t shut up about how incredibly great Damian is at everything–but they show very little understanding of Damian’s feelings or beliefs. While mentoring Terry wasn’t about replacing Damian, he did, undeniably, give up on Damian as lost to him. His inability–or unwillingness–to acknowledge the kind of person that Damian actually is and the reasons that their relationship fell apart make it impossible for him to fix anything.
The kind of person that Damian is, apparently, is somebody who sat back and watched while Brother Eye killed people even though he’d built the resources to fight it because he wasn’t interested in saving lives. In fact, now that humanity has defeated Brother Eye, he’s ready to significantly reduce the number of survivors. His goals are unambiguously monstrous, and he seems completely confident that he is both justified and capable of carrying them out.
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Once again, in between all the relationship issues between Bruce and Damian, Terry is just kind of…there, assenting to everything the X-7 suggests and occasionally getting pissed off at being called inferior. He’s still functioning more as a point of conflict between Bruce and Damian than as an actual character, and this, I feel the need to stress, in a book where he’s supposed to be the main character.
Moving the protagonist to one side to focus more on the inner workings of the rest of the cast can and often does work, but only after the protagonist’s actually had at least one fully realized personal arc. Terry’s still barely gotten anywhere with the question of how to balance his personal life with being Batman. The last couple of issues have only tangentially connected to this theme by using Bruce as an example of how not to have functional relationships with your loved ones, but it’s hard to know if Terry’s noticing a thing with the X-7 controlling him.
It’s arguable that these last two issues have been functionally setup and exposition, and that things will get moving with Terry next issue now that he’s strangled his way back into the book. All of Bruce’s internal monologues about what an incredible fighter Damian is, far better than the original Ra’s Al-Ghul or Bruce at his peak, do mean that Terry defeating Damian means that he’s superior to all of them–even more so if he does it while overcoming the influence of the X-7 rather than because of it.
The thing is, though, that this is pretty much exactly where he was two months ago. I really feel like an arc like this should’ve been saved for later, after a couple of arcs that were more focused on Terry and his nearest and dearest. But I am looking forward to Terry taking back the fight and the comic in the finale next month.
My money’s on the satellites that Max and Matt are hijacking being crucial to stopping Ra’s Al-Ghul’s plan. Damian only took Bruce and Terry into account–he doesn’t consider anybody else to pose a threat up to their level. He also likely doesn’t expect that anybody would care enough about Terry to keep trying to track and communicate with him even after he’s shut them out. It would be incredibly thematically satisfying if Terry’s relationships with Matt and Max are the unanticipated fly in the ointment that leads him to victory over both the X-7 and Ra’s Al-Ghul.
Random Extra Thoughts
- By panel count, Talia Al-Ghul was in more of this chapter than Matt and Max were and she only appeared in flashbacks. She does seem to still be enjoying the Lazarus Pit’s rejuvenating effects, so she’s probably still hanging around.
- It’s unclear if Terry killed Goliath or just choked him unconscious. Bruce’s “Terry, DON’T!” makes it look like he thought Terry was going to kill Goliath. Or maybe he’s just worried that Damian will go apeshit if Terry seriously hurts his pet.
- I wonder if the X-7’s creation has any relation to all the AI problems that the vigilantes of Gotham are currently facing in Detective Comics with Azrael and Ascalon. At the end of #961, it looks like Luke’s built himself a Batman-based AI suit.
- I just realized that Damian’s comment, that the greatest threat to humanity was the work of Bruce rather than Ra’s Al-Ghul, applies to Damian himself as well as Brother Eye.
Final Score: 7/10
Some really nice fight art, and I’m not gonna lie and say that the conflict between Bruce and Damian isn’t really interesting. But can this comic about Terry McGinnis actually be about Terry McGinnis sometime soon please?
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Bernard Chang
Inks: Bernard Chang
Colours: Marcelo Maiolo