I have really been enjoying the new Batman Beyond title from DC. If nothing else, it’s got balls. Taking the scenario established in the cartoon show and attempting to assimilate it into the larger continuity of the DC Universe is an effort I applaud, but it’s going to be difficult. For example, if we take the events of Return of the Joker as canon (which we must, because the new book makes reference to them), then how does that jive with Tim Drake’s current storyline as Red Robin? It’s the kind of thing that’ll send continuity nerds into a tailspin of rage and confusion, and therefore I really appreciate it.
Batman Beyond sets this new precedent right off the bat (lolz!), by having its first arc deal directly with Bruce Wayne’s past, and the heroes and villains that occupy it. The first three issues dealt with the return of Hush, or someone using Hush’s name, who is singling out old Batman villains and killing them. The new Hush knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, and so the storyline deals with the mystery of who this dude could be, and it’s pretty cool.
However, I just read issue #4 of this series, in which Hush’s identity is finally revealed (in the very last panel, of course), and it left me a little bit cold. To talk about this, I am going to have to spoil that revelation, so be aware of that before you read this.
The issue begins with Hush battling the mysterious new Catwoman who has suddenly appeared in Gotham City. The new Catwoman apparently has the power to split into nine different Catwomen, which is a pretty interesting new way to approach the character’s theme.
During this fight, Hush is confronted by a new version of Batman that resembles the old Batman. He initially wonders if Bruce has donned the cape and cowl again, but almost immediately figures out that it’s a robot that Bruce is controlling remotely. Hush kicks the robot’s ass.
Meanwhile, Terry McGinnis is visiting a retired Dick Grayson, who he must reluctantly question as a suspect in the Hush killings. Dick provides an alibi (well, by that I mean he hands Terry a CD and says, “Here is my alibi” because we all know that in the fuuuuuture, all information comes on minidiscs), and the two basically start talking about what a douchebag Bruce Wayne is. Dick tells the story of the last time Nightwing and Batman worked together. Incidentally, along the way he drops this bomb:
Oh my god! Look at that! We are witnessing history here, folks. Unless I am misunderstanding this, what we have here is the first attempt to incorporate the events of The Widening Gyre into the larger Batman mythology. I kind of hate this and I kind of love this. Reasons I love it: Comic books are unique among mediums of storytelling, in that their collaborative nature spans across decades. What I mean by this is that an event or character introduced by some dude writing a story becomes a part of this huge mythos, and MUST be taken into consideration by anyone continuing that mythos, even if it’s years later. Look at the long-lasting effects The Killing Joke had on the DCU, for example, just because Alan Moore wanted the Joker to fuck with Jim Gordon’s mind. I kind of love the fact that Kevin Smith got stoned and made Onomatopoeia slit Silver St. Cloud’s throat, and now anyone writing a Batman story in the next million years is forced to consider that a defining tragedy in Bruce Wayne’s life, on par with his parents’ death and the murder of Jason Todd. Kevin Smith exploited the nature of the medium to force immortality upon his stupid story, and I actually love the fact that comic books allow that to happen. Reasons I hate it: Because it’s fucking stupid.
Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Batman Beyond. So, back in the day, Dick and Bruce had grown estranged, but were working together to take down The Joker. Due to a fuck up on Bruce’s part, Dick ended up getting plowed down by machine gun fire.
That proved to be the last time Bruce and Dick ever saw each other, and both of them retired from the superhero biz soon after. A bitter and heartbroken Dick warns Terry that Bruce Wayne is incapable of loving anybody but his parents, and that “standing behind him is dangerous.” Terry is shaken, but refuses to abandon his faith in Bruce. It’s all pretty sad, but Terry takes his minidisc full of alibi and leaves.
Immediately after his meeting with Dick, Terry draws Hush into a confrontation. After punching each other in the face for a couple of pages, Hush kicks Terry’s ass and then rips off his face bandages to reveal…
…that he is Dick Grayson. Dumb.
Hey, I’m no Agatha Christie, but it seems to me that if you’re going to have a scene in a whodunnit that bends over backwards to divert the reader’s attention away from a certain suspect, you should wait more than ten seconds before you’re all like, “Oh yeah, never mind, it actually is that guy.” Otherwise, it’s just stupid and corny.
And besides that… Dick Grayson? Really? The way I see it, there are a couple of possibilities here, and all of them are either really derivative, really disrespectful to this long-established character, really silly, or some combination of the above. If Dick actually has gone bad and wants to kill Bruce as payback, that seems too close for comfort to the recent Jason Todd/Red Hood storyline. If Dick is under some kind of mind control or something, that seems kind of like a rip of Return of the Joker. Either way, it’s just sort of seems like a shitty thing to do to the character of Dick Grayson. There are still two issues left in this arc, however, so I will withhold judgement. I’ve enjoyed the book so far, and think it has a lot of potential as an ongoing series, so it’s earned the benefit of the doubt from me. Hopefully, this whole Dick-Grayson-as-Hush thing will turn out to be interesting and non-retarded. Either way, I will definitely keep reading this ballsy and fun new title.