Updates From The Bat-Cave: Batman Beyond #5 and Batman: Long Shadows

Well, it’s back again: the slow, slow, sloooooow first week of the month. With literally only two Batman-related choices on the shelves this week, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the majority of your comic book entertainment. Secret Six and Jonah Hex are out and they’re always good. If I may be so bold as to suggest a Marvel title (*gasp* In this DC column?), Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run on Moon Knight kicks off and that would seem to be of at least some degree of interest for Batman fans, in tone if nothing else.

Batman Beyond #5

Well, there’s only one ongoing Batman book on the racks this week and it isn’t even set on “our” Batman’s Earth. All the same, if you’re going to get a week with only one Bat-book…well, you could certainly do worse than this one.

This month’s issue marks the beginning of the title’s second story arc. #s 1-3 saw Batman tangle with the new Matter Master, alongside his world’s Justice League. Along the way, writer Adam Beechen wove in some character-driven threads, which were actually much more compelling reading: while Terry McGinnis has to juggle his life as Batman and his personal life, his girlfriend, Dana Tan, has some issues of her own that she’s keeping secret. Namely, that her mysterious brother is being released, presumably from prison (but this IS a Batman book, so let’s not rule out Arkham, shall we?), a fact that Terry is unaware of, so preoccupied is he with his superheroics.

Issue #4 was technically a single-issue story, but it effectively served as a bridge between the first arc and the one beginning this week. There, sidekick/best friend Maxine Gibson did what she does best: get Batman’s back. However, even there, Beechen laid groundwork for future stories in character moments, as Max (who is a burgeoning hacker) is propositioned by Undercloud (who is sort of a dark version of Oracle, speaking directly through machinery) to join forces. Additionally, the foundation was laid for a dust-up between the aged Dick Grayson and the ever older Bruce Wayne, as in Wayne’s eyes Grayson betrayed Wayne’s trust to the media.

If it seems like Beechen has a lot of things in the air during this juggling act…well, that’d be because he does. This month, the book launches a new three-issue, “Industrial Revolution,” which sees riots at Wayne-Powers Industries sending the company’s stock prices plummeting. In seeking the cause for the riots, Terry will have to find Paxton Powers, the recently-released-from-prison brother of Derek Powers (the industrialist with whom Bruce Wayne’s corporation merged, who also became the toxic villain Blight). All the while, the already-established subplots look to be advancing, as well as the rumors that a spin-off title about the Justice League of this Earth is in the works (which would seem to be more likely after Batman joined them officially at the end of the first arc).

What the book lacks in relevance to the main Batman continuity, it possesses in simple fun. Batman Beyond does what its eponymous animated series (as well as the rest of the DC Animated Universe) did so well: doles out solid superhero stories that don’t require a steep financial buy-in or a wealth of background knowledge.

Batman: Long Shadows

This volume collects Batman #687-691, the issues of the title that followed the end of the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline. Herein, Dick Grayson officially assumes the mantle of the Dark Knight and becomes the protector of Gotham City that his mentor and adopted father once was. In classic modern Batman fashion, it isn’t long before his worthiness is tested and it’s in the standard vein: Arkham Asylum has sprung a leak, as it were, spilling loonies into the streets of Gotham at the same time that Two-Face and the Penguin go to war with their respective criminal armies for control of Gotham’s underworld.

It’s solid, readable material by Judd Winick, Ed Benes, Mark Bagley, and Rob Hunter. Dick Grayson’s maturation process from sidekick to solo hero to assumption of his father’s role (a classic hero’s journey, in some ways) has been well-received by comic fans, probably even more so than DC was expecting, given Dan Didio’s frequent jokes about killing Grayson off in one event or another. At $15 for 128 pages, it isn’t exactly a steal, but it’s not raking you over the coals either. In light of DC’s page count cuts to maintain the $3 pricepoint, you’ll actually get a bit more than you’re used to out of five issues.

Snoozing fans, take heart: next week is berserk. In the Batman line alone, we’ve got All-New Batman: Brave and the Bold, Batgirl, Batman Incorporated, Batman: Arkham City, Birds of Prey, and Red Robin, along with collected editions from Batman & Robin, Streets of Gotham, and Birds of Prey. Then, in the DC Universe proper, the event of the summer begins, with Flash #12 and Flashpoint #1 shipping.

Warn your wallet now.

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