“Hello, Gotham. Joker’s back in town.” In the original Batman Beyond cartoon, that line changed everything. The Joker, the greatest enemy that the original Batman ever faced, was back from the grave to terrorize Gotham again. Not long after, the story was adapted into a graphic novel, but there was no way that the Joker was going to show up as the main antagonist in the mainstream Beyond comics, right? Wrong. He’s back with a vengeance, and this time, he has his sights set on a new yet familiar target.
In the last two issues since the Joker returned, he has destroyed a new train system developed by Wayne Enterprises that killed thousands in the resulting chaos and attempted to kill Barbara Gordon. Since then, there have been no leads on his whereabouts. This leads directly to where this issue begins: with Batman (Terry McGinnis) patrolling the city for the Clown Prince of Crime. However, with no direction and no idea where to even begin looking for Joker, Terry decides to take a breather by meeting with Melanie Walker (Ten from the Royal Flush Gang. Don’t worry, she’s fully reformed from crime now) for a walk in the park. As the two of them walk and talk, chaos is about to reign once more across the city. We see a member of the Jokerz gang walking into a novelty joke store. He then reveals a suicide vest and bombs the store, killing everyone in the immediate area. Of course, this was all orchestrated by Joker himself. He voices his displeasure at the idea of a gang that ripped off his gimmick, so he kidnapped five of them to create his own gang again. As Joker tells this new gang how much he hates that Gotham has become such a futuristic city, he calls one of them forward. As the thug, John, tells Joker that he will always be there for him, Joker attacks him with a knife.
At this time, word of the bombing has reached the Batcave. As Bruce informs those there (Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and Matt McGinnis), Matt decides that he need to suit up as Robin and find Joker. Naturally, given how much Joker has taken from the entire Bat family, no one is behind that idea. As Matt flies off, he informs them that he has no intention of facing Joker alone and will go find Terry first. As the new Robin leaves, Dick Grayson makes point to emphasize to Bruce how bad of an idea this is. When Bruce says that Matt is capable enough to handle this, Dick replies with, “Until he takes a crowbar to the face…The sad truth is that things don’t end well for Robins.” Meanwhile, Terry and Melanie are still together, discussing how to fit into each other’s lives. Before the two can take it any further, Robin arrives and informs Terry of the situation. As the two of them prepare to go, Terry asks Melanie if they can “Pick up on this later?” Melanie replies, “I sure as hell hope so” On route to the site of the bombing, Batman and Robin are attacked by Joker’s new gang. As they easily dispatch them, Robin runs off to chase one of them. When he nears the door of a nearby building, he is sent flying back into Batman’s arms. Then, what Batman sees is enough to show that as Gotham evolved, so did Joker’s insanity. John, the man Joker killed earlier in the issue, was killed so that Joker could turn his body into a cyborg weapon for Joker to use against Batman.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but Batman Beyond has been a favorite of mine, especially with this new Joker story. We saw how things played out between Joker and Terry in the animated universe, but to have this fight in the mainstream DC universe is something many never thought would happen. Unfortunately, something else from the main canon may happen in the Beyond comics that could rock Terry to his core: Joker killing Robin. Since Matt put on the Robin suit and people knew Joker was lurking in the shadows, readers have been anxiously waiting to see what happens. Will Joker kill yet another Robin? If he does, there is no way Terry doesn’t go off the deep end. Even in his darkest moments, Terry has always been more lighthearted than Bruce could ever dream of being. Despite his mother and father dying, his first love leaving him and seeing his world attacked by more threats than a normal person could handle, Terry still has a smile on his face during his daily life. He’s got his little brother at his side and a relationship with a girl he’s been infatuated with since he was in high school. Overall, you can say that Terry is happy. But there is no way that can survive if Joker kills his brother. Will this end with Terry becoming as miserable with life as Bruce? That would be the greatest loss of all, as far as I’m concerned. Not to say that Matt dying isn’t horrible, but to see someone with such a lighter outlook brought down to such a pessimistic view of things would really hurt. On another note though, I’m so happy Dana is gone. I haven’t been able to stand her since the animated series.
This story may be about to get very heartbreaking if things go down the route that’s been foreshadowed. I honestly don’t think DC can pull this off without losing readers. We’ve seen Matt go from the annoying little brother that was always in Terry’s way to a young man who became a hero to help his brother. To kill that off so soon after becoming Robin, in my opinion, would be a mistake. Or maybe I’m too emotionally attached to the characters. While I can credit part of that to the show, the writing of Dan Jurgens must be credited. He finally made Robin Beyond a thing after so long of fans waiting to see it happen. Add in the artwork by Brett Booth (a personal favorite of mine), and Batman Beyond is a must read right now for fans of the old animated series. Let’s just hope this doesn’t end in heartbreak.