A completely new creative team jumps in for a fill-in issue of “Batman Beyond” that has me far more excited for the book than the regular creative team does. Does the team deliver on that excitement? Read on for a mostly spoiler-free review!
Written by Vita Ayala and Steve Orlando
Penciled by Siya Oum
Inked by Dexter Vines
Colored by Tony Aviña
Lettered by Travis Lanham
In a special issue by the guest team of writers Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala and artist Siya Oum, Batman and Bruce Wayne are away-so who’s left to protect Neo-Gotham? Enter Nissa, the seldom seen 15-year-old Batgirl of the future! Crime and corruption lead Commissioner Barbara Gordon to the lawless neighborhood of Crown Point where she soon finds herself under siege. Can this young, self-made caped crusader save Gordon without the resources of Batman?
The “Batman Beyond” concept has had an uneven life since the TV show ended its initial celebrated run. After years of no appearances outside of TV reruns, the book eventually returned for a miniseries, a short series, a digital first comic, a digital reboot of that digital first comic, a print ongoing starring a completely different character, and now the Rebirth ongoing. The quality has varied over all of these, from great to poor. So in the grand scheme of “Batman Beyond”’s strange publishing history, here we have a fill-in issue by a guest creative team which focuses on the supporting cast. So where does it fit on the quality scale?
On first impression, the issue seems less like a story that needed to be told and more like a vehicle for DC to use some of its creators from their Talent Development Workshop (in this case, writer Vita Ayala and artist Siya Oum). Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see why DC did this. They want to start using these creators beyond short stories, and they want to ease them into the comics creating grind. They give them fill-in issues, they give them a veteran creator as a collaborator/mentor (in this case, Orlando and Vines). This approach seems to work well for the artists, but the problem from the writer side is that Ayala doesn’t get to make her mark on this world as fully as she might want to.
Being “Batman Beyond,” Ayala does have a lot of freedom. It’s a futuristic world and this is the only title to take place there, so it’s pretty open for her to explore. Focusing on the supporting characters lets her even further carve out her niche. I’m not a regular reader of the “Batman Beyond” title, so I’m not sure how much this does or doesn’t line up with what’s been established in other issues, but within this one issue, I got a clear idea of who each of these three main women were and how they complement each other. Gordon is the seasoned veteran, Max is the young, creative, diplomatic one, and Nissa is the hothead. Moreso, the three definitely become more than those archetypes when interacting against each other. Going back to the problem, though, there isn’t much space to fully develop everyone, and outside of the fact that the characters worked together, there aren’t any lasting changes here. That isn’t the worst thing — plenty of single-issue stories end up insignificant in the long run. I just get the feeling that Ayala is capable of more than this and that she was a bit stifled by being relegated to a single fill-in issue.
As for the work she did succeed in, she effortlessly weaved some deeper themes into the story. Ayala clearly has a certain perspective and/or knowledge base about low-income neighborhoods that comes through in the details and helps build both our Batgirl Beyond and the neighborhood she inhabits. Ayala especially understands Nissa’s drive: the law enforcement doesn’t help this neighborhood, so she feels the need to help herself. This in turn sets up the frenemy status with Gordon, who is the figurehead of the law. Likewise, in giving Max a more reasoned, subtler perspective, she also works well as a foil for Nissa. These characters make sense together, and they’re built out of an attention to social issues that Ayala uniquely brings to the table.Continued below
Oum does a solid job with the art. In all honesty, nothing about her art particularly stands out to me: it’s perfectly competent, she knows how to structure a page, she switches up framing enough to keep things interesting. Her style is inoffensive and she does slightly modify some costumes to fit with it. There’s a softer, youthful quality to her lines which fits these younger female characters. There are some nice panels of computer screens or the Neo Gotham skyline which, along with some interesting clothing choices, set us firmly in this era only slightly more futuristic than our own. Aviña provides a neon futuristic glow on a few pages where appropriate, and Vines’ inks solidify Oum’s style without taking away its personality. Simply put, this is some nicely done street-level superhero art with a softer edge, and it bodes well for this newer creator.
Ultimately, this is a well done standard issue of a superhero comic. Ayala, with some help from Orlando, got to explore the futuristic Batman world, carve out a niche for the supporting characters she wanted to write, and embed some of her own perspective into the story. Likewise, Oum delivers some solid art that fits this story.As a chance to let some creators from DC’s Talent Development Workshops play in the DC Universe, it mostly succeeds. The only real issue with this “Batman Beyond” interlude is its designation as an interlude, and all the lack of importance that comes with that label. These creators are ready for something bigger — let’s see it, DC!
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A good showcase for some of DC’s newer talent, showing off some of the unique perspectives these creators can bring to the table, even if stifled a bit by the fact that this is only a single-issue fill-in.