In this epilogue to the surprising Final Joke story arc, Batman Beyond #30 focuses on the dangers and traumas that come with being a sidekick to the Dark Knight.
This current storyline centered on the original Joker’s return to Neo-Gotham, albeit as an elderly man, given the futuristic setting of this title. After a decade’s long absence and long presumed dead, Joker has returned and inspired a street gang to intensify their violent and sadistic crime spree. Naming themselves after Joker and adopting his face-paint and fashion sense, these copycat criminals assist the Clown Prince of Crime in attacking the city and hatching one final attempt at killing Bruce Wayne, Terry McGinnis, and the rest of the Bat Family.
Writer Dan Jurgens has given readers the best Batman story in 2019 with this tale of past demons resurfacing to terrorize a new generation of heroes. The idea of an elderly Joker amassing an army and inspiring a new crop of sadistic followers plays at the most terrifying aspects of the Joker; his ability to influence and manipulate others to his liking.
This is evident throughout the issue as we see the new Robin, Matt McGinnis, deal with the lingering effects of becoming Joker’s prisoner. His time as a hostage has scarred Matt, who suffers severe nightmares of being beaten to death by Joker, in the exact manner that Jason Todd was murdered decades ago. Matt’s experience with the Joker is also affecting the other members of the Batman family, as they debate whether to allow Matt to continue to be the new Robin, or to allow the moniker to retire and allow Matt a chance at childhood. This poignant scene brings to light an interesting concept that not only affects the Batman family, but also superheroes in general; Is it ethically irresponsible to allow children and teenagers to combat villains despite the increasing violence and threat of death that is prevalent in the changing society?
Though Dan Jurgens’ script deals with some dark and emotional subject matter, the artwork has a bright, cartoonish look that contrasts against the heavy tone of the issue. Artist Evan Shaner illustrates the issue with a mixture of subdued hues and shadows during times of reflection and debate, and counters this with bright action-packed fight scenes. These vibrant action scenes emulate the look of the classic Batman Beyond cartoon, which gives readers a sense of nostalgia as well as differentiates the scenes from any other Batman title today.
Comic fans who are not reading Batman Beyond are missing out on one of the most unique titles on the market today. Though the hero behind the cowl isn’t Bruce Wayne, the conflicts and scenarios are just as familiar as any other Batman title. And given the quality of this issue, I am excited to see where Batman Beyond takes us for the remainder of 2019.