Batman and Robin are caught in a heated battle with Gotham City citizens. These innocent people think the heroes are literal monsters, looming above them ready to eat them alive. Of course, the Scarecrow is pulling their strings, but this can’t be Jonathan Crane, could it? What does Scarecrow Beyond have in store for the Dark Knight of the future?
While this is an exciting and imperiling adventure for Terry McGinness, it’s a bit predictable. With the exception of the Scarecrow’s identity, we know what’s causing this fear-fueled anger. We’ve known since the first issue of this story arc that it has to do with these Amazon Echo-like devices that have suddenly popped up in everyone’s homes. We’re four issues in now and not even the world’s greatest detective has a clue as to what’s going on.
Although the story is rather decompressed, it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of seeing Terry’s brother Matt in the field as Robin. He’s got his own suit that fits his personality perfectly. Artist Will Conrad captures his youthful exuberance which is a quality shared by all Robins…OK, maybe not Damian. The Boy Wonder serves as the emotional balance to Batman’s darkness. It’s clear that’s true in the future too.
Where Conrad really excels is in the monstrous visages the Gotham City citizens see when they look at Batman and Robin. These are frightening creatures that are more animal than man. Plus, they change throughout the issue. Sometimes Terry looks like a vampire version of Batman with his signature cowl, while others are a literal giant bat. It’s no wonder these people are afraid of him.
Colorist David Baron balances the dark and gritty shadows that Batman is known for with the bright, technicolor lights of a futuristic Gotham City. We’re definitely in a sci-fi setting, but we haven’t left that grim quality behind. Gotham is still a dark and ominous place. In this case, the dynamic duos are lit by the hazy screens on the sides of buildings all around them, casting this eerie light as they fly about the city.
I really like the design for this new Scarecrow, too. It has many of the same attributes of the original, but with some updates. This is a classic look that doesn’t need to be pulled into the future. It’s not like farmers are suddenly using digital scarecrows, right? There’s this ominous and unsettling feeling about the character, especially with the rag mask that hides the eyes. You get the feeling that this being pulled itself into our world and is struggling to stay here despite the universe working to put it back where it came from.
This disturbing tone even extends to the Scarecrow’s speech. Letterer Travis Lanham gives the character these waving word balloons, like the words are coming through as a rasp, even when yelling. It’s a nice touch that adds to the overall experience.
There are some nice twists in Batman Beyond #23, but I’d like to see the story move at a quicker pace. We’re four issues into this storyline, and it feels like we’ve been treading water for a bit. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a similar pattern with writer Dan Jurgens‘ recent arc in Green Lanterns. In both cases, the story feels stretched out, like it’s trying to fill six issues with a three issue plot.