The Matt Signal Beyond – Episode 3: Black Out

Plot summary: Derek Powers unleashes his trusted agent, Inque to sabotage his competition, with Batman struggling to figure out a way to harm the amorphous villain.

After completing the original run of Batman The Animated Series, Matt Waters looks to the future each Saturday and Sunday with recaps of every episode of Batman Beyond, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

Follow The Matt Signal on Twitter!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Black Out’

Original Air Date: January 30th, 1999

Directed: Dan Riba (1)

Written: Robert Goodman (1)

This was the show’s first award-winning episode (‘Rebirth Part I’ only got nominated), earning an Annie for storyboarding.

The display cases for the old Bat Family costumes have grown a little since ‘Rebirth’.

Bruce is in possession of The Grey Ghost costume, with some theorising he revealed his secret identity to Simon Trent and as a result inherited it in Trent’s will.

Recap

A mysterious entity resembling a liquid shadow infiltrates Foxteca and triggers a series of explosions and then slips past the compound’s security to get away.

Bruce Wayne meets with Derek Powers (no longer looking like a radioactive Skeletor), warning him to stay away from Foxteca, which we learn was founded by Lucius Fox. Powers escorts him out and plots his next scheme with the shadow blob… who turns into a pretty lady.

Terry attends a wacky future sport at Hamilton Hill High with Dana but gets called away by Bruce to do Batman Things. Turns out Power and Foxteca are competing for a government contract, so he’s setting Inque loose to cripple them.

Arriving on the scene of Inque’s latest attack, Terry gets his ass handed to him by the enigmatic femme fatale, who is gone before he can recover.

After a quick pit stop to learn more about Inque’s vague backstory, Terry gets to fly the new model Batmobile to another Foxteca site where the two face off again. He notices her aversion to water, but she gets away again.

Inque reports the incident back to Powers, who starts turning in to ‘Blight’ when he gets angry, brought on by the mention of Batman. He demands she find and kill Batman and his unseen accomplice and tells her to scram.

The super spy sets Terry a trap and slips aboard the Batmobile to gain access to the Batcave. Bruce detects excess weight but Inque gets the drop on them and nearly murders Terry by… forcing herself down his throat!

Bruce dons the Grey Ghost costume as a disguse and turns a firehose on Inque to weaken her. She’s unable to pass through the blast door leading back upstairs, so returns to trying to murder them.

Improvising, Terry electrifies the giant penny from ‘Almost Got ‘Im’ while she’s standing on it and then shoots her with Chekhov’s Mr. Freeze’s cold gun, which at last takes her down.

Bruce phones Commissioner Barbara Gordon, offering to introduce her to his new sidekick. She declines, but Bruce reveals that Terry has already left Inque outside her office, advising her to keep the criminal in cold storage.

Best Performance

This is a hard one because the four main characters make roughly equal impacts. Inque talks the least, but Shannon Kenny’s performance is dripping in sultry borderline indifferent confidence.

I guess my instinct is to recognise Kevin Conroy’s Old Man Bruce for the first time. He turns the stern levels up to maximum, freed of the burden of trying to be a likeable protagonist, with as much of the show’s conflict coming from bickering between the two leads as it does from heroes vs villains. We get some of that here with his borderline annoyance at Terry for not being telepathic during the investigation scene. But it’s not just crotchety old grump, as the whispered collusion with Terry after meeting Powers, and the playful banter with Barbara at the end let him show off some range.

Will Friedle labelling the Batmobile as “unbearably cool” is the kind of earnest line read that makes Terry so likeable. Batman is utterly unflappable, which both makes him a badass, and no fun whatsoever. The premise of Beyond lets our new protagonist be far more good natured, especially in contrast to the doubly-jaded Bruce.

Derek Powers may be a mwahaha villain, but Sherman Howard still plays him well, basically bragging about firing Lucius Fox Jr., and losing his temper at the mention of Batman, which in turn causes him to be weirdly cryptic with Inque about his ‘condition’.

Ranking

Bruce Timm was adamant about designing an all-new set of villains rather than finding contrived ways for the classics to return or having more than one themed gang like the Jokerz. Given the immense popularity of the Rogues Gallery from BTAS, you can understand why fans were wary of the new show, but to absolutely knock it out of the park with their first villain spotlight episode was an important flex. One great villain doesn’t make a set, but in terms of cool factor you can put this against any equivalent episode from BTAS/TNBA.

Big fan of Bruce getting a funny feeling about the sculpture in Powers’ office that turns out to be Inque hiding in plain sight, as well as him getting the quickest of glimpses at a report on the desk and committing it to memory. This episode makes sure to point out that while his body quit on him, Bruce’s brilliant mind remains invaluable and something Terry can’t do without. The cutting back and forth between Bruce analysing a sample of Inque (revealing he did manage to quickly touch the ‘sculpture’ with his handkerchief) and her sneaking up on Terry is fantastic direction.

The new Batmobile cockpit is one of the show’s most enduring visual motifs, bathing Terry in red light while he zips through the Gotham skyline. The one-two punch of that and Inque’s otherworldly movements make a hell of a case for the Neo Gotham aesthetics.

The episode is dripping with not just Inque, but dope, creative action scenes and plenty of corporate espionage, which I’m all about.

  1. Rebirth Part I
  2. Black Out (NEW ENTRY)
  3. Rebirth Part II

Villain Watch

Inque (Shannon Kenny) (first appearance)

While Derek Powers/Blight was designed to be Terry’s nemesis, Inque ends up being the member of the Neo Rogues Gallery he fights the most. And for very good reason! This is one of the cooler villain designs you could ever hope to see, evoking Venom from the popular Spider-Man cartoon of a few years earlier, but with far more elaborate abilities. I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing her hide in shadows and slip through small cracks, and she’s also ridiculously hard to hit, so definitely not a villain that can simply be punched into submission. Few foes are as confident as Inque taking on Bruce and Terry in the Batcave, seeming to find the situation funny until they at last succeed in taking her down.

Heck, even her ‘human’ form is cool, with her hair drawn to look like the ink she’s named for, and even her ‘clothes’ are covered in swirls. The huge white ‘eye’ of her main form is pretty iconic too, giving her an alien appearance.

I can’t say enough good things about her. She nearly drowns the hero by forcing herself down his throat for god’s sakes! One for the sickos!

Derek Powers/Blight (Sherman Howard) (third appearance)

Powers being at risk of turning into Blight when he gets overly emotional is a good bit, and it shifts him towards the classic cartoon villain trope of the scheming puppetmaster hiding a dark secret. His warning that Inque should get away from him before he fully changes teases his radioactive nature, which we see take full effect when he melts a phone during his treatment.

The beat of him firing Lucius Fox Jr. is also a great shortcut to making us hate him even more than we already do for murdering Terry’s dad and ousting Bruce from his own company.

  1. Inque (NEW ENTRY)
  2. Derek Powers/Blight
  3. J-Man
  4. Mr. Fixx

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie including Return of the Joker.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, continues its coverage of What If…?

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week we’re totally buggin’ with Clueless.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s