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Review: Superman/Batman Annual #4


Before we get started on this issue, let’s do a little history of the future lesson.

 

Following the end of The New Adventures of Batman & Robin, or Gotham Knights as the series is sometimes called, Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and crew came up with a new series to continue their successful run with both Batman and Superman. That series was Batman Beyond, and it debuted in January of 1999. The setting of the series would be in the not too-distant future of Gotham City, or Neo-Gotham as it is called in the time period. The two-part pilot episode, simply called “Rebirth,” starts in the year 2019. Bruce Wayne is aged but still fighting the good fight and in a newly designed suit to fit the times. Unfortunately, while mixing it up with some thugs, Bruce is felled by a weak heart, and is forced to wave a gun in a thug’s face in order to save his bacon. Disgusted by his actions, Bruce hangs up the cowl for the last time and vows never to don the costumes again.

 

Flash forward about 20 years, Bruce is an old recluse, but events bring teenage Terry McGinnis into his life. McGinnis finds out who Wayne is, takes the redesigned suit out to seek revenge for his father’s murder, and after acquitting himself well and because the incident was tied into Wayne’s company, Terry McGinnis finds himself in employment by Bruce Wayne, and the new Batman.

 

The series would last three seasons, through the end of 2001, and includes a Direct To Video movie in 2000 called Return Of The Joker, which naturally deals with the return of Bruce’s old foe. Also in a 2005 episode of Justice League Unlimited, the second season finale of that show, tries to solidify McGinnis’ “claim” to the Batman/Bruce Wayne legacy.

 

Now, there were comic book tie-ins as well, as with just about all televised versions of DC properties; A six issue mini-series in 1999, written by series writer Hilary J. Bader when the series first came on the air, a 24 regular series running from 1999 through 2001 and a one-shot Return Of The Joker adaptation in 2000.

 

For those who are interesting in getting to know the series, besides watching the episodes by various means (all three seasons are now on DVD, as well as available for download on iTunes), check out the Earth-2.net’s World’s Finest Podcast (a blow-by-blow, episode by episode look at the Timm/Burnett/Dini “DC Animated Universe” of Batman The Animated Series, Superman The Animated Series, Gotham Knights, Batman Beyond, The Zeta Project, Static Shock, Justice League, Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited) episodes 39 through 50 for a complete and exhaustive look at the series and the movie Return Of The Joker.

 

In the series’ third season, there is a two part episode called “The Call,” which will be referenced in this book. Terry is recruited by Superman to join the Justice League Unlimited, and to weed out a possible traitor in the league. It turns out to be Superman himself, whom was controlled by Starro The Conqueror, a space starfish whom Superman had in a preserve in his fortress. This was Superman’s lone appearance in the Batman Beyond time frame.

 

And so we come to a few years ago where rumblings of Terry McGinnis being inserted into the DCU comics proper started to be heard. It started with an appearance in an alternate universe in, funny enough, an issue of Superman/Batman (#22), getting an Earth designation during Countdown, and now this year Adam Beechen will be penning and Dustin Nguyen will be drawing a 6-part miniseries on Terry’s world. And that miniseries looks to be spinning out of Superman/Batman Annual #4 which is written by current Superman/Batman artist Paul Levitz and art by Renato Guedes and the story is titled “A Time Beyond Hope.”

 

We start with Terry in midst of taking on some thugs with Bruce in his customary role as voice in Terry’s head from the Bat-Cave, much like Barbra Gordon’s role with Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl in the current Batgirl book. Terry finds out the thugs are the latest in a stream of thugs whom have come from Metropolis, and spooked by something they call “The Ghost.” Doing some more sleuthing, Terry finds that Metallo has come to Gotham with the intention of pushing some new drugs, and after beating Metallo, Terry takes the drugs back to the cave, and realizes it has been laced with Kryptonite.

 

We find out that this issue takes place just after the end of the series as the events of The Call are mentioned, and as a reason for Superman apparently quitting the superhero business and pretty much going into hiding. In Superman’s absence, Metropolis has gone to hell and Lex Luthor was made “mayor for life.”

 

In trying to trace where the drugs are coming from, it is learned that Superman has even taken Clark Kent off the grid, but apparently is still leaving flowers at the grave of Lois Lane. We then see Superman hovering over Terry at Lois’ grave site, and through, well I guess at this point he is more Kal-El than either Superman or Clark Kent, so Kal inner monologues the fact that Luthor had been working hard while Superman was controlled by Starro to the point where one of the things to neutralize Superman was to get Kryptonite into residents’ blood in order to make it tough for Superman to even exist in Metropolis without some pain.

 

We then see that Terry has infiltrated a major drug ring, and after a skirmish with “The Ghost” he is put on assignment to get something from Superman’s fortress. Again “The Ghost” shows up at the Fortress Of Solitude, leaving Terry as one of the few “survivors” of a vanishing trick it does. This leads to Terry meeting the boss, which of course turns out to be Luthor; who was pulling the strings to have one more confrontation with “The Ghost”, aka Kal-El; who was also pulling Terry’s strings in order to get inside Luthor’s fortress.

 

Terry and Kal wind up fighting a foot soldier turned into a “Superman for a new generation” super soldier thanks to a solar collector. Terry figures out that the chair Luthor was in was stored with Kryptonite, so Terry manages to get Luthor out of the chair and destroys the chair, eliminating the Kryptonite. Kal then makes short work of the soldier and shows Terry exactly what “The Ghost” was doing when “zapping” thugs. It actually is a Phantom Zone projector, and Luthor gets sent to the Phantom Zone. Kal presents Terry with the projector and tells him to be the “warden” and that now that he is sure Metropolis can be back on the road to recovery that it is time to leave Earth. And he does just that, and tells Terry to call him if he needs any help via a signal watch, and that he’ll be watching Terry in the stars.

 

Whew. That’s a story alright! Definitely had a comic book feel to it rather than a TV show feel, which is good. And it appears Levitz was mixing some elements from the mainstream DC lore into the mix as well. For instance, Terry mentions the Robins dying, yet there was no death of a Robin in the DCAU; Dick Grayson became Nightwing, the Tim Drake character was an amalgamation of Jason Todd and the comics Tim Drake, but he wasn’t killed. It also appears Terry was “handed” the role as opposed to stealing the suit and “proving” himself worthy and bringing Bruce out of retirement. There is an appearance of and interaction between Zod and Mon-El inside the Phantom Zone, neither character ever appeared in a DCAU cartoon, it is possible that Levitz is referencing the events of the War Of The Superman event where Zod was trapped in the Phantom Zone, and Mon-El went in there as one of the wardens of the Zoners. And finally there is the ultimate fate of the DCAU’s Lex Luthor. In the final episode of Justice League Unlimited, “Destroyer” it appears that Luthor and Darkseid vanished into an anti-life equation Source Wall thing, and while of course this is comic books we are talking about, it did seem finite and Luthor never does appear, or is mentioned of, in Batman Beyond.

 

Those things are just nitpicky things though, just brought up for comparison purposes, and probably in a way to help the world of Batman Beyond “fit” into a DC Universe rather than picking up entirely in the DCAU’s continuity. There is one thing though that is a bit off putting, and that is Guedes’s art. For the most part its pretty great. Both Terry and Bruce appear to be comic book versions of their Batman Beyond selves, its just that for Superman, it seems Guedes has adopted the style that seems to be more and more prevalent of making Superman look exactly like Christopher Reeve. While its one thing for Clark to look like the actor who brought him to the big screen, its another thing entirely when everything else, right down to the costume displays in the Bat-Cave, is modeled after the cartoon design to see something from another medium. Especially considering Superman in the DCAU, including The Call, had his own distinctive look. It was nice though to see several different “designs” for Superman in a Fortress display case, we saw the black suit from the Return of storyline, normal Superman, the “current” Superman, Kingdom Come Superman and Electric Blue Superman.

 

Overall this does seem like a nice introduction to the Adam Beechen mini-series, and hopefully a long stay for Terry McGinnis in the DCU proper.

 

Superman/Batman Annual #4:

 

 

Reviewed by SteveJRogers

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