Friday, April 12, 2024

Father-Son Bonding Time in Batman Beyond

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Trigger warning for brief suicide mention.

The Batman Beyond Rise of the Demon arc comes to an explosive conclusion this month as the missiles are stopped, the X-7 is defeated, and Bruce sorts out his relationships with Damian and Terry–sort of.

The chapter opens with Damian in a blind rage after watching Terry fight and apparently kill Goliath. Terry and the X-7 ramp up their combat to match Damian’s increased ferociousness, but Damian reminds Terry (for the third time) that he is as familiar with the X-7 as Terry is, knows its weaknesses and is capable of stealing weapons from it (again). The X-7’s systems start to suffer under the onslaught, but it’s still strong enough to get a potentially lethal hand around Damian’s neck.

While they’re fighting, Bruce fights to get into the controls for Damian’s missile array, but he can no longer figure out Damian’s passwords. His attempts are interrupted by the return of Koru, who states that his father Ubu committed suicide out of shame for his repeated failure to defeat Bruce and that Koru is intent on taking revenge–so intent that he ignores both Damian’s life being at risk and Damian telling him to stop.

If there’s one thing I truly appreciate about Bernard Chang’s panel layouts, it’s the way he uses them to create parallels.

Despite his battle with Terry, Damian has not, in this entire arc, raised his hand to Bruce once, and he doesn’t want his father to die.

The X-7 wants Terry to kill Damian and ignore Bruce, but Terry, at last, resists the X-7’s commands and lets Damian go to save Bruce from Koru. Damian proceeds to violently express his extreme displeasure at Koru ignoring the orders of Ra’s Al-Ghul.

Matt and Max finally get a satellite view of the scene–and the missile array that Damian has set up. They start trying to figure out what they can do about it.

Terry runs to check on Bruce, but it takes only moments for the X-7 to reassert control and drive Terry to attack Damian while he’s distracted with Koru. With Damian off his guard, it’s easy for Terry to get the upper hand and pin Damian down to behead him, in a reversal of where the previous issue began.

Now the blade’s on the other wrist

But unlike Damian when he had Terry at his mercy, the X-7 has every intention of killing Damian, a plan that neither Terry nor Bruce is on board with. Terry struggles until Bruce puts himself in the path of the blade, saying that Terry will have to kill him first. Terry finally breaks away and pulls off the X-7’s mask, freeing himself from the suit’s influence.

With the fighting finished, Damian moves to fire the missiles, but Bruce begs him to reconsider and work with Bruce and Terry for a better solution to humanity’s problems. Damian is conflicted, then distracted by a moan alerting him to the fact that Goliath is still alive. Bruce mentions that he was only unconscious and Terry is relieved that he didn’t kill Damian’s pet after all.

While Damian is checking on Goliath, though, Koru regains consciousness and fires the missiles. He also reveals that the missiles are not nuclear, but filled with something that he calls a “DNA toxin” designed to eradicate “all but the strongest.” Damian is once again deeply dischuffed with Koru’s actions, but he says that there’s no way to stop the missiles. Terry disagrees, pulling the suit back on and flying after them. Damian says that Bruce shouldn’t be worried because Terry’s stronger than the suit, especially now that it’s damaged and weakened, but that weakness is exactly what Bruce is worried about.

Terry drains his suit’s power knocking two of the missiles off-course and smashing into another two, obliterating all four, but the fifth makes it to the atmosphere, and Terry doesn’t have the power to catch up to it.

No seriously, I really, REALLY enjoy these panel layouts. Even if this one just makes me laugh because it looks like Terry fell off of Rainbow Road.

All is not lost, however–Max moves Bruce’s satellite into the path of the missile, destroying it before can make its way back down to earth. Which is… not how I expected them to use the satellite to stop the missiles, but hey, it works.

Unfortunately, they’re now out of satellites, and Terry’s in the middle of a very long fall with a non-functioning suit. But Bruce and Damian have made their way back to the Batmobile and Damian, of all people, dives out of it to catch Terry and carry both of them to the ground on a parachute.

Is Terry wearing Damian’s clothes? I guess he needed something to wear home other than his shredded X-7

Back on the ground, all seems to be forgiven. Bruce asks Damian to return with them, and Damian says no…t yet. He believes that he can accomplish good things with the League, but he will return to see Bruce again soon. They hug, and Bruce and Terry fly happily away.

I retract all of my compliments to Chang’s panels. There needs to be more space devoted to this hug.

Overall Thoughts

lot happened in this chapter.

As usual, a lot of it’s about Bruce. Bruce’s life being in danger sparks both the reveal of something good still lying within Damian and Terry, finally, fighting off the X-7’s control. Bruce actually reciprocates this care pretty openly, not hesitating to sacrifice his life to protect Damian and referring to Terry as like a son to him out loud instead of in his internal monologue.

This ending is shooting so hard for heartwarming I feel like there should be a studio audience to “awwwwwwww” over it

The end shows how much Bruce has changed since the beginning of the arc–he goes from looking unhappy and uncomfortable when Terry embraces him to warmly hugging Damian. He admits to Terry that he needed to soften up and that not being a dad, not being there for his loved ones outside of Batman, was a major problem.

Terry, meanwhile, uh… no longer has the X-7? This arc was clearly all about Bruce’s character development and a bit for Damian, too. I may have mentioned it once or twice, but Terry is very much a side character in this arc, which I feel is a major problem given that he’s the title character and has not, as of yet, had any arcs primarily concerned with him and his character development. In both Rise of the Demon and Escaping the Grave, the arc starts out focusing on Terry but ends up being all about Bruce.

I can only assume that Chang is banking on readers coming to this book off of the 2015-2016 Batman Beyond comic, and possibly Terry is already more of a solid character to those who did read that series, but I can’t be the only reader to have come here off of a deep fondness for the original cartoon. Rebirth was a great time to start picking up new comics because it provided an easy entry point for new readers, but to those only familiar with the cartoon Terry–or who’ve never read or watched any Batman Beyond at all and wanted to start finding out about it–it’s hard to get a strong feeling for who Terry is as a character now when he’s so often sidelined by Bruce’s personal struggles.

Even Terry’s cast gets sidelined for Bruce’s–Dana hasn’t been seen since the beginning of the arc, and Matt and Max still get less panel time than Goliath.

At least Bruce and Damian, the ones getting all of the character development, get reasonably coherent development. Damian’s conflicted feelings over Bruce’s philosophy versus Ra’s plans was evident in the flashbacks and pans out in the present. Damian smacks Terry around but never tries to kill him and never once tries to hurt Bruce at all. It’s clear in the flashbacks that all he wanted was to feel like Bruce cared about him, and Bruce protecting him from the X-7 seems to quell a lot of his upset.

I mean, this all could’ve been avoided if you’d just spent some more time helping Damian walk his dog or something when he was a kid…

Bruce spends a lot of the fight expecting that either Damian or Terry, if not both, is going to die, and avoiding that loss by the skin of his teeth finally seems to knock some emotions out of him, as does all of his reflections about how pretty much everything went wrong in his relationship with Damian. It does feel a little lopsided, though, that all of these relationship revelations are exclusively focused on Terry and Damian, especially given that (again, working off of the Rebirth book alone) we know nothing about the present state of Bruce’s relationships with Dick, Jason or Tim, all of whom he’s thought of as sons in the past. This is probably odd for me to complain about on the back of complaining about the book being too focused on Bruce’s character development and not enough on Terry’s, but I feel like I’d be more forgiving of the over-focus on Bruce if it were more rounded. As it stands, much as I love Bruce hugging his kids, it doesn’t feel worth sacrificing Max and Matt’s panel time for.

On the other hand, at least Bruce can’t somehow consume the next issue as, according to the Comixology synopsis, a guest team is bringing us a one-shot story about Nissa, 15-year-old Batgirl of the future, and what she and Commissioner Barbara Gordon are up to while Terry and Bruce are in the Himalayas. I’m a little sad that I was apparently wrong about that one panel foreshadowing Max becoming Batgirl, but I’m still pretty jazzed to see some action from Batgirls of the past and future.

Random Extra Thoughts

  • What even is a “DNA toxin”? I’m probably not supposed to think about it because of future technology, but I am. I guess people with certain DNA combinations are immune to it, and others die horribly? That sounds wrong, but I don’t know enough about biology to dispute it
  • I think I’ve mentioned Damian’s art seems to change a lot during this arc depending on how good or evil he’s supposed to be in any given scene–in most of this issue, he’s notably slimmer than when he was introduced, and he looks much younger, too. Also, there are a couple of panels where it looks like he and Terry combined would just about weigh as much as Bruce. What the hell did Bruce eat to get that big and why didn’t he share any of it with his kids?
  • For that matter, I wonder if the foregrounding of Bruce’s relationships with Damian and Terry while making only the briefest mentions of Bruce’s various adopted kids is implying that Terry being Bruce’s biological son is canon here. I know this series is based off the cartoon, but it’s a different continuity, so as far as I know, it’s still unconfirmed whether or not that’s canon. Bruce’s comments on Matt reminding him of Damian might also be a hint, or might just be a result of Matt being the only child character around.
  • Speaking of continuities, I wonder if this is in the same timeline as the present-day Batman and Detective Comics, or if it’s an entirely different outfit. It’s definitely not in the same continuity as the Bad Future glimpsed in Batwoman, but my main question is if the X-7’s development was anything to do with the Bat-Azrael AI that Luke Fox developed. If not… he really should’ve left the Batman programming to Luke.
  • For all that Bruce and Damian’s reconciliation was extremely heartwarming, a lot of it still feels… abrupt. A lot of things in this issue felt like they happened because they needed to move the story forwards rather than because the situation had developed naturally. What do you think?

Final Score: 6/10

This arc had fun moments but was overall… kinda mediocre in my opinion. But I’m very interested to see what a different creative team does with the Batgirl of the Future next month.

Batman Beyond Rebirth #11–Rise of the Demon: Conclusion

Writer: Dan Jurgens

Pencils: Bernard Chang

Inks: Bernard Chang

Colours: Marcelo Maiolo

Images courtesy of DC Comics

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