Somehow, I missed the boat on Batman Beyond. As a wee lad of 10 when the show premiered, I caught a few episodes, picked up an issue or two from the spinner rack at the local grocery store, and owned a couple sweet action figures. However, my Batman was Bruce Wayne, and this future knock off (with an admittedly awesome suit) mattered little to me. Years later, I gained a new found appreciation for the character and his universe after reading Paul Levitz and Renado Guedes’ Beyond-themed “Superman/Batman Annual” #4. Now, I take every chance I can to get more of this world, and while nothing surpasses the quality of the original series (which I’m currently watching in full for the first time on Netflix), “Justice League Beyond” matches it while mixing in some Justice League Unlimited for good measure.
As a part of DC Comics’ “Digital Firsts” initiative, “Justice League Beyond” shares a rotating release schedule with sister titles “Batman Beyond” and “Superman Beyond,” which are eventually packaged together in the print publication “Batman Beyond Unlimited.” “Justice League Beyond” is primarily written and illustrated by Derek Fridolfs, an inker turned writer thanks to the “Digital Firsts” initiative, and his frequent collaborator Dustin Nguyen. The book (set in the DC animated universe or “Timm-verse, as it is affectionately called) follows the Justice League of the future. The team is a fantastic mix of well known characters and new blood, consisting of; an aged Superman, Big Barda, a young Green Lantern, Warhawk (the son of Jon Stewart and Hawkgirl), the Atom-esque Micron, Aquaman’s daughter, and, of course, Batman.
Part of what makes the Beyond universe so appealing is its ability to move past the chains of the DC universe status quo. Those who bemoan the New 52 or DC’s apparent Silver Age fixation should delight at a world that moves past the “present” and shows what the DC universe would look like decades from now, after most of the “Big 7” and their contemporaries have gone the way of the world, leaving a new guard behind to pick up the pieces. It’s ground that isn’t touched in mainstream comics outside of elseworlds and imaginary stories that are quickly resolved, and as such it’s extremely refreshing.
Recently, “Justice League Beyond” wrapped up its first ongoing story-line, ‘Konstriction.’ It appears that while infiltrating the villainous Kobra, League member Micron has gone native, falling in league with the organization. The League investigates, and the story launches into an epic equal in scale to any comic event within the past decade. Featuring a nightmarish armageddon cult, a monstrous serpent destined to bring about the end of the universe, the Green Lantern Corps, the New Gods, and essentially every other character or concept utilized by Jack Kirby during his tenure at DC, ‘Konstriction’ is an undeniable under-the-radar blockbuster event. Twists and turns abound, with characters being repositioned and used in fresh and exciting ways. If hyperbole like “Nothing will ever be the same!” ever rang true, it’s here.
Interspersing ‘Konstriction’ are small “Times Past” stories, featuring members of the League. Artist Eric Nguyen illustrates the tragic story of the love-triangle between John Stewart, Hawkgirl, and Vixen, as told by Warhawk. James Brouwer delivers a tale in which Aquaman must rescue his then infant daughter from the clutches of Granny Goodness. Ben Caldwell tackles Big Barda, Dustin Nguyen tells the origin of Green Lantern Kai-Ro for the first time, and a little known artist by the name of Fiona Staples does the same for Micron. That kind of talent alone should get you to stand up and take notice of this grossly overlooked series.
If there is one fault besetting this series, it’s the sporadic release schedule afforded by its digital nature. The “Beyond” family of books currently launch on Saturdays, rotating between new issues of “Justice League,” “Batman,” and “Superman.” However, the rotation is not fixed. As such, DC may release back to back issues of “Justice League,” only for the next issue to appear a month or more later. Also, because of the “bite-sized” nature of the digital issues, it takes a long time for stories to be told. ‘Konstriction,’ which took place in chapters #1-#15 (three of which were interlude issues), released over a span of nine months. That’s an extremely long time to wait for a story, especially one that is essentially the length of five to six print issues.Continued below
Luckily, for all those who have yet to read the series, DC is publishing a trade paperback in just a few weeks. Collecting chapters #1-16, which includes complete ‘Konstriction’ saga, as well as the Warhawk, Aquagirl, and Barda chapters, it’s the perfect way to catch up on this great series. Recent chapters have seen Dustin Nguyen relinquish his duties as regular artist, and future issues will see writer Christos Gage and artist Iban Coello step on as the regular creative team. However, don’t let that stop you from sampling the “Beyond” family of books. Fans of DC who have felt spurned by the New 52 or are tired of the headaches brought on by DC’s current regime, need look no further to get their fix.