Supers looks at series that focus on superheroic beings, from Spawn to The Tick.
“Rebirth, Part 2” obviously continues from where the previous episode left off. Bruce has Terry down to the Batcave and they investigate the data which Terry found in his departed father’s briefcase. The disk holds information on some sort of flesh-eating virus that Powers has been developing in hopes of selling it to foreign terrorists. This is supposed to be a kids show, right? But hey, maybe kids need to know about the evils of the world too.
Wayne is furious that Powers is using Wayne-Powers Industries to bankroll this biological weapon but seems intent on letting the police handle the situation. Eventually Terry, who wants to take matters into his own hands, sneaks back into the Batcave and steals the most recent Batsuit. With the writers putting Bruce into a more passive role–after all, he must have really been effected by his eventual ineffectiveness to put his faith in the Gotham police–Terry steps up to the role of the vigilante. Much like Bruce in his younger days, Terry realizes that he must take justice into his own hands due to the corrupt system in which he lives, and is thus the ultimate neo-Batman.
The rest of the episode plays largely to this theme, with Terry going after Powers on his own, rogue if you will. He gets in some quippy dialogue here and there and has several scenes where he’s learning the suit as he goes, thus informing the audience of its capabilities. In some of these scene, I’m reminded that Terry McGinnis is sort of a mix between Bruce Wayne (lost his father, somewhat dark) and Peter Parker (is kind of a smart ass, is much more of a novice than Batman). Take for instance a scene where Terry is standing on a ledge, far off the ground and eaves dropping on one of Powers’ conversations. Before long security guards find Terry and corner him, asking if his costume is for Halloween. Terry replies, “I was thinking more for Fall.” and then falls backwards off the building, using Batwings to glide down. This sort of repertoire was hardly the kind of dialogue issued by Batman in Batman: TAS. I think at the end of the day, Batman Beyond needs a lighter hero, since its setting is arguably darker than it’s sibling series.
Back to the story, in the midst of fighting his way into Powers’ bioweapon processing center, Terry hear’s the voice of Bruce Wayne telling him that he (Terry) needs to return the Batsuit. Terry refuses and Bruce goes so far as to disable the suit–leading Terry to be practically paralyzed and come within an inch of his life–before letting Terry carry out his plans, albeit begrudgingly. When Bruce starts helping Terry, getting him to safe passages and teaching him how to use the suit, we hit upon one of the coolest features of the show; the relationship between Terry and Bruce, with Bruce playing mentor and Terry playing the surrogate child that Bruce never had, well besides Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl.
The plot plays out as expected, with Terry eventually coming up against Powers’ right-hand man who calls Terry a Batman imposter. Terry gets off the iconic line, “I am Batman”, sealing the deal that’s been building over the last two episodes. Terry has ascended to the role of Batman. He belongs there even, as we’ve seen in his character up until now.
The episode ends with a non-alias alliance being formed in the day light between Bruce and Terry–Terry is to “work” for Mr. Wayne as a “gofer”–and a haunting scene reminiscent of the Joker’s origins in Batman (1988) but with Powers. Not only is Terry Batman, but a new villain, directly linked to him, has emerged as well.
All in all, “Rebirth Parts 1 and 2”, serve as an enthralling origin story for Terry’s Batman Beyond, even if we’re prepped for some of the paces.
Supers looks at series that focus on superheroic beings, from Spawn to The Tick.
With the recent release of The New 52 – Futures End–the new weekly comic book series from DC starring Terry McGinnis, (the future Batman)–I thought it apt to revisit DC’s 1999 television series, Batman Beyond, the show from whence Terry was born.
Batman Beyond is a close descendent of the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, both sharing creators/writers Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett. The problem with Batman Beyond, is that for years the show hasn’t gotten its due credit, being in the shadow of Batman: TAS. The show is certainly worth a more critical look, as it not only touches on many of the same ideas of its legendary brother series but also introduces fears of technology and societal breakdown, inherent in its dystopian future setting.
The premier episode of Batman Beyond, “Rebirth, Part 1”, begins somewhere in the not too distant future. Before long, we’re thrown into the day to day of the original series, with a new costumed-Batman raiding a warehouse where criminals have recently brought a kidnapped woman. In the midst of a pivotal fight with one of the kidnapper’s however, Batman has an inner pain that brings him to the feet of the street thug. Before he knows it, Batman has to resort to pointing a gun at the kidnapper, who runs out of the warehouse and is accosted by the Gotham police. The day is saved, but at what cost? We see a beleaguered Batman leave the warehouse and throw his mask off, revealing a much older Bruce Wayne than the one seen in Batman: TAS. He wanders off into the night, defeated. Back at the Batcave, we see Bruce putting away his costume and shutting off the lights with a final, “Never again.”
This dramatic opening sets the tone for the rest of the episode and the series as a whole. We flash forward 20 years to a Gotham city that clearly lacks the hero it needs. The future Gotham’s rampant technology is worthy of Blade Runner or The Minority Report and innocent civilians are hassled by gang members during their daily commute. Terry McGinnis just so happens to be on a train where a member of a most prevalent gang, The Jokers, tries to shake down a passenger for money. Terry, the good citizen with an attitude, squares off with the gang member, unknowingly filling in the Batman role, though on a much smaller scale.
Earlier in the same scene, we are provided with more world building as anchors on the news discuss several corporate takeovers by Derek Powers, the CEO of the merged Wayne-Powers Corporation, one anchor extolling of Powers that, “Everyone loves a winner”. These two set pieces introduce us to a world without the Batman and showcase the importance that such a figure represents to a jaded society, one that devolves into a sort of capitalistic anarchism without him.
Eventually, we find that Terry’s father works for the Wayne-Powers Corporation and has come into some powerful, and thereby dangerous, information stored on a data disc which Powers wishes to collect. As a side note, the way that the data–and most textual technology–is displayed in the show, makes little to no sense. It’s portrayed as various hexagonal shapes that everyone can read/understand somehow. Or maybe it represents encrypted data? Either way, if you’ve bought into the futuristic setting this far, the data/text design comes off as somewhat charming in its simplistic futurey-ness.
When we jump back to Terry, we find him getting into more tussles with members of the Jokers after trying to protect some of his fellow classmates. We’re shown fight scenes and a car chase that both prove him as a worthy adversary of the A Clockwork Orange-esque gang and lead him to the gates of Wayne manor. Just as the gang members surround Terry, Bruce Wayne steps out of the darkness to frighten them away. Of course a fight ensues and Terry ends up in Wayne manor, helping an ailing Bruce Wayne who is slightly hurt. Another series of coincidences lead Terry to find the Batcave and Bruce Wayne’s secret life just before Wayne kicks him out. All of this comes off as somewhat contrived but these are the necessary moments that build the inevitable origin story.
The last piece falls into place as Terry returns home to find his father’s house trashed, vandalized and now a crime scene. Terry’s mother is waiting with the police and consoles Terry, telling him in so many words that his father was murdered. The loss of his father, much like Bruce’s loss of his own parents, are what lead Terry into action. Soon, he comes upon the data disc that was left in his father’s safe keeping and, after a quick read of the hexagonal shapes, is off to Wayne manor, presumably to solicit the help of Gotham’s long lost hero. The episode ends on this cliffhanger, setting up how the second part may play out but keeping us intrigued as to how we’ll get there.
This inaugural episode of Batman Beyond serves to give us an introduction to the world of Terry McGinnis but also to bridge the gap between Batman: TAS and this series. The animation style flows smoothly between the two series, though Batman Beyond ends up using lighter colors than were used in Batman: TAS. Through this, Batman: TAS can be seen as a show about dark things happening in the night while Batman Beyond is about dark things happening in the day, a far more unsettling idea.
In the end, “Rebirth, Part 1” serves as an excellent starting line for this dystopian Batverse. Tune in next Monday when we look at the conclusion to this two-parter, “Rebirth, Part 2″… obviously.