Back in October, I was concerned about Batman
Beyond going chalk as it entered the Rebirth foray. Tim Drake was sent off
into a horizon that brings all sorts of timeline and continuity questions.
Terry McGinnis was back, which some fans seemed to happily embrace and annticipate. And we
even got a recounting of his origin story. The story hasn’t gone chalk since
Terry took back the Batman mantle, though, and with how things have played out
it’s been having its cake and eating it, too.
For the purposes of this post we’re going to
prioritize the Batman Beyond story and Neo Gotham as we know it.
Including the big news about Tim Drake being [spoilers] seemingly
killed in Detective comics 943 a few weeks back, only to end up being snatched
by the enigmatic Mr. Oz, just introduces the kind of mindbending that takes the
fun out of comics. Timelines and continuity aren’t perfect and DC’s been kind
of lousy with them for a while.
What Batman Beyond is doing is
acknowledging that history
happens, and when it does, we
can find ourselves in a wistful state of “what if?”
Terry McGinnis is back as Batman. That, alone,
gives us fuel for a decent storyline, even if you didn’t care for him being
supplanted through the book’s 16 issues before Rebirth. Displacement is a fluid
and powerful concept that naturally provides us a journey to follow or
participate in. The mere idea of being where you’re supposed to be, or not, may
be what most dictates inner peace. Right now Terry is simultaneously
reconciling his displacement and loss of time while having to explain them to
others. His little brother Matt is pretty much over it and has welcomed him
back; such is the benefit of him being a young kid. But his love interest Dana
Tan, on the other hand, presents a whole different host of obstacles.
This says nothing of Tim Drake supplanting him
in the first place, having been pulled into the timeline through the Futures
End event. When he finally disappears into the horizon it’s an open-ended
sequence like the end of Shane. The ambiguity isn’t in determining if he’s alive or dead,
Whether you care for it or not, Tim Drake is in
the Batman Beyond timeline now. It might be a different one than in the current
DC continuity, but it’s a Tim Drake. He’s without purpose or residence
but still has a longing sense of obligation. Everyone knows someone with such a
trait, or at least someone who gives a sense they’re capable of more but
haven’t found a way to be or show it. Having a character out there who’s
defined by that potential leaves open the possibility that he could become a
part of the story again; having one as dynamic as Tim Drake means that story
could be a lot of fun and right around the corner.
But the biggest kicker to Batman Beyond
having its cake and eating it, too, is Dan Jurgens using Terminal and the
Jokerz to reveal that Bruce Wayne is alive.
Again: Some forty years in the future, Bruce Wayne is alive.
Characters through the whole series have
lamented that Bruce is dead. And now we and Terry know he’s alive…to
some extent. He’s got Venom pumping through him and appears to have a heart
rate. Terminal seems to be using him for the sole purpose of enriching himself
and I doubt we’ll see a walking, talking Bruce again. But the premise of Bruce
Wayne existing after Neo Gotham has crumbled, after one of his proteges has
been displaced and left to roam without direction, after nemeses have died and
another of his proteges has essentially risen from the grave? It puts the
principle and symbol of Batman in a light we’ve never seen.
Like the Tim Drake storyline drudges up thoughts
of people for whom we want more, Bruce being alive brings to mind the people
we’ve lost and think of in the midst of important moments. A wedding, a birth,
being lost in the car…there are always times those people show up in our
minds before we realize they can’t show up next to us. It’s unlike anything
Batman Beyond is
giving us a glimpse of the Bat World past, present, and alternative. By not
going chalk and giving us a straight story about just Terry it’s opened itself
to myriad possibilities and amusing speculation.