The Matt Signal Beyond – Batman Beyond Comics: Part 3 (The Tim Drake Era)

Contrary to my original claim I wouldn’t be covering the Batman Beyond comics because there are so many more of them than their BTAS/TNBA equivalents… let’s take a look at Terry McGinnis’ comic book exploits over the years.

These books can be divided into four distinct eras, and the worst of them is finally upon us, as Dan Jurgens takes the helm for… The Tim Drake Era.

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!

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Notes

As you might have been able to tell from the fact there were essentially four volumes in a short span of time in the previous era, DC were struggling to find a Batman Beyond comic they were happy with.

Enter ‘The New 52: Future’s End’, a company-wide crossover set 5 years in the future that published weekly for 11 months (2014-2015). Written by Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire, Terry McGinnis ended up being one of the central characters.

Following the conclusion of Future’s End, Batman Beyond Volume 5 began in 2015, written by Dan Jurgens, who handled Terry’s portion of the crossover. It managed 16 issues before DC reset their entire line of books with the ‘Rebirth’ event.

Again, we’re dealing with one long story rather than isolated issues, and Terry only factors into around a quarter of Future’s End, so I’ll be picking out highlights rather than recapping and ranking issues (Future’s End is mostly bad!)

This is undoubtedly my least favourite time for the Beyond books because of its almost systematic dismantling of the entire continuity, most notably by killing off Terry and replacing him with Tim Drake!

A Man Out of Time

So, what set this ridiculous series of events in motion? Bruce Wayne (and Mr. Terrific) built an advanced A.I. called Brother Eye that ended up conquering the world 35 years in the future, of course! Red skies, most of the major heroes mutilated and turned into deformed robo-spider things, that kind of thing.

Bruce endeavours to go back in time to DC’s then-present and stop any of it from happening, but he gets mortally wounded and has to hand the mission over to his protégé, Terry McGinnis. There’s no time for details about which events from the cartoon did and didn’t happen, but it definitely reads like it’s not 1:1 with the show.

However due to the time travel device being calibrated to a different body, Terry goes back 30 years instead of 35, which was 5 years into DC’s then-future. This gives them free reign to tell a wacky (overly long) story with characters dying, coupling up, falling on hard times and all kinds of other shenanigans, safe in the knowledge it’s just a hypothetical future that will be undone by the time the event concludes. Oh, and because everyone loves a time paradox, Terry actually sets the events into motion by accidentally exposing the future creators of the tech to it in the first place.

Terry is only one of dozens of characters in the event, which is mostly a boring or bad attempt to recapture the lauded ‘52’ crossover. I enjoyed their updated take on Frankenstein a whole lot (a warrior poet wielding a gun and a sword, desperate to die), but the rest with Firestorm, Shazam, Brainiac, Grifter, Lois Lane, Deathstroke and Tim Drake is tedious.

Tim’s story is somewhat important though given how things play out. Essentially he was thought to have died in a war but really attempted to leave the hero game behind and take on a new identity as a bartender, but all the bombast forces its way back into his life regardless. He has a girlfriend, Madison, who knows nothing about his past and is ticked off when she learns the truth.

Batman Is Iron Man Now

In the same way that Heath Ledger’s Joker clearly had an influence on The Joker King from the previous era, it is painfully obvious that Dan Jurgens was really into MCU Iron Man. This is most obvious in the form of his in-helmet A.I., Alfred, who gives him someone to talk to, deliver exposition, and give and receive gentle banter. This is definitely the element that works best, and it takes on even greater significance when Tim gets to talk to it. His mask also behaves like the nano-tech armour Tony employed in the comics in this era and later in the movies, allowing him to reveal and cover his face in an instant.

The bit I’m less of a fan of is the general way in which his combat methods change. Sure, his little rocket boots were always a staple of his arsenal, but seeing him soar through the skies and carpet bomb his targets just doesn’t sit right. In fact, Batman is far more into explosives in general. He even flies across the country using just his boots like it’s nothing. There’s nothing in the show that directly states he couldn’t do that, but the context clues always suggested they’re intended for shorter flights, and the Batmobile was preferred for transportation as it’s both faster and has more stamina. Yet here are Terry and Tim, getting their Iron Man on.

This is taken a step further when Barbara reveals that the suit Terry and Tim have been wearing in this continuity is version 5.0, and that the original prototype was the suit her father briefly wore during Scott Snyder’s iconic run. It’s given a quick digital re-paint and then hey… you’ve got a sorta/kinda Hulkbuster armour firing off missiles and heavier artillery! Such Batman!

All in all, it sort of makes sense given he’s a future man with an advanced suit that can fly, and this style of action lends itself better to the crossover than the stealth and hand to hand approach Terry tended to take in Beyond, but it’s still jarring and when taken in conjunction with the general changing/ignoring the character’s roots, it’s gross.

Bruce Watches Terry Lose His Virginity

The second-most noteworthy thing to happen to Terry during his adventure into the past is that he falls in love with niche villain, Plastique. She is one of a trio of lower-level villains he recruits to help him break into TerrifiTech, where Brother Eye can be shut down. The robbery goes awry and they split up, with Terry sticking with his new gal-pal. They flirt a lot and it’s actually pretty cute, as he’s introduced to various foods and activities that simply don’t exist in his time. They bemuse each other, essentially.

This all culminates (no pun intended) in him losing his virginity to her during a rooftop stakeout, blissfully unaware that Bruce Wayne is watching the entire thing through binoculars!

Future Bruce warned Terry to stay away from his younger self, as he’d never believe him and would instead do everything in his power to stop him. That was proven exactly right, with Younger Bruce demanding to know what the hell is going on. They fight, and surprisingly Terry wins. Unfortunately, Bruce tails him to try and get to the bottom of everything, which apparently means not averting your eyes when your future protégé makes awkward first-time love to a reformed villain. What a pervert.

Terry Dies Fighting a Batman/Joker Murderbot

Speaking of perversion, aside from the Younger Bruce, Terry’s main foe in the book is… The Older Bruce… horrifically combined with The Joker into a monstrous killer robot creature. Both faces are mounted to opposite sides of the same head and maintain their individual personalities, albeit under the control of Brother Eye.

This leads to some disturbing turn-taking and at least one instance of ‘eyes in the back of their head’ shenanigans. Future Bruce even manages to conceal an incoming attack from behind by not telling Joker. It’s all very messed up. Terry and Younger Bruce fight it several times, and some sickos out there will probably dig the design.

Anyway, towards the end of the book, the monstrosity threatens to wreck everything, so Terry valiantly tackles it out of a building. As they battle in free fall, Terry realises he has only one option: murder/suicide. Snapping the killbot’s neck, they both eat shit on a huge landing and Terry dies in Plastique’s arms.

The final conversation between Terry and whatever remains of Bruce will likely split audiences. Batman Classic tells his protege that failure isn’t an option, and then apologises because he is in essence ordering him to kamikaze himself. Sorry isn’t good enough, but it is in keeping with the Batman ethos, I guess.

Tim Drake Takes Over

No time to dwell on Terry’s death though, as true star of the event, Tim Drake, puts on his Batsuit, takes the time-travel device, and travels backwards 5 years to put a stop to all this Brother Eye nonsense once and for all. Except he doesn’t and instead exhibits some of the dumbest behaviour by any major superhero I can remember. Rather than blowing up the genocidal A.I., he thinks he’s talked it out of ever turning evil and then politely asks it to send him back to his retired life.

Naturally, Brother Eye lies to him, and sends him 35 years into the future where life is basically the same as the start of the event, only now there’s a slightly larger resistance, including his girlfriend, who he’s fine to resume a relationship with despite her being 30 years older than him now.

That’s what takes us into Volume 5 of the book which… ignores a large chunk of that ending and instead proceeds to spit in the face of the history of Batman Beyond. Where to begin? Barbara Gordon is drawn to look significantly younger, which sticks around into the next era. Max makes one appearance before being put into a coma by the villains, where she remains for the rest of the volume. Tim completely takes over Terry’s life, including forging a friendship with Matt McGinnis, who initially blames him for his brother’s death, but then lets it go and becomes his BFF. Plus Gotham barely resembles what we saw in the show.

What makes all of this worse is how pointless it all feels. Tim isn’t remotely interesting, especially compared to the more idiosyncratic Terry. Instead, it’s just a more tenured character replacing a less-utilised one, immediately ‘finishing the job’ for him by killing the villain that survived the events of the 11-month crossover, ending the global apocalyptic takeover and then stealing his life. All you really get out of it is Tim needs things like The Jokerz explained to him, so he can act as an audience surrogate for those who didn’t watch the show. Why bother, then?

The Justice League, Splicers and Lucius Fox Jr.

The first wholly new story after finishing off all the Brother Eye stuff is a pretty lame one, wherein Matt gets hold of John Stewart’s Green Lantern Ring and is compelled to go to Metropolis, now the worst city in the country.

Tim follows and uncovers a conspiracy with Dr. Cuvier splicing again, and having also taken control of the JLU, long thought to have died in the war. After some Batman vs Justice League shenanigans, one of the Spliced turns on Cuvier and removes his ability to manipulate the JLU. I say ‘one of the spliced’, it’s niche DC character Tuftan, Prince of Tigers. He leads the other Spliced to start a new life away from humanity’s cruelty.

Playing out in the background is a really gross story wherein Mayor Luke Fox refuses to admit refugees into Gotham due to a national resource shortage in the fallout from Brother Eye. I have no interest in a debate on this topic, but it’s a shitty thing to have to read about, and doesn’t really lead anywhere beyond rioting and Tim and Barbara arguing with a dude who should be their friend. The revived JLU stop the rioting, but none of it is really addressed again. Also why Lucius Jr.? Just to subvert expectations? Weird.

Terry Lives!

I’m unsure if it was always the plan, a response to fan backlash or a course correction because of what would end up happening for ‘Rebirth’, but over time some traditional Beyond elements creep back in. ‘Neo Gotham’ (they never once called it that in the show) starts to look more like it used to, the Brother Eye stuff is firmly swept under the rug, and characters start returning, including Bruce (via flashback).

This really comes to a head when it is revealed that Rewire (created by Kyle Higgins in the previous era), who has been watching Matt from the shadows for several issues… is revealed to be Terry. Due to whatever Tim did manage to change about the future, Terry went missing during the war with Brother Eye and was presumed dead. He was instead tricked by Spellbinder into thinking he is Rewire and does the villain’s bidding.

Everything is revealed during a dramatic confrontation, and after Spellbinder’s illusion is broken, Terry is able to remember who he really is, facilitating a tearful reunion with his family and friends. He takes the Batman name and costume back from Tim, who vanishes into thin air in the series’ final page, part of Dr. Manhattan’s grand meddling with the multiverse in Rebirth.

So there you have it, a grand waste of time, with Terry finally getting to play with the DC regulars in a thoroughly underwhelming book, falling in love, dying, getting replaced by Tim Drake for 16 issues of another thoroughly underwhelming book… only to end up right back in the suit for Rebirth. 

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 and most recently The Batman!

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, is back and presents weekly coverage of Moon Knight.

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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.

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