The Joker has returned to Gotham, but he’s not a fan of all the futuristic bells and whistles, so he’s trying to take things back to the simpler times. That means unleashing a brand of terrorism that only the Clown Prince of Crime can cook up. He’s outfitted a handful of Jokerz in old school costumes and rebranded them The Throwbacks. Batman has embraced new technology so Joker may have to adapt as well if he wants to keep up.
Adding the Joker into Batman Beyond is a tough job because you have to do it right. He’s Batman’s arch-nemesis so you need to do it justice. I’m happy to say that writer Dan Jurgens is doing a phenomenal job with this arc. The Joker is just as terrifying as ever as he’s armed with not only the element of surprise, but vast amounts of new and deadly technology. Think of what he could do with a simple iPhone. Now imagine the terror he could unleash with advanced robotics.
The Joker brings out a different side of Bruce Wayne. He’s usually all business, but he’s even more so when this villain is on the scene as he knows what the Joker is capable of. This time around, Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are along for the ride. They’ve also witnessed the Joker’s sadistic nature firsthand and they’re advising caution as Terry and Matt head into battle. This contrasts well with the wide-eyed enthusiasm Matt displays in his new role as Robin. I really hope he doesn’t meet a crowbar soon.
Artist Brett Booth brings out that excitement and conversely, the stoic seriousness in his facial expressions. Every character says so much with just a glance, whether that’s a look of grave concern or a quiet moment away from the chaos. The Joker is perhaps the most expressive. You can see each individual laugh line around his eyes, showing some age to the Clown Prince of Crime, but still just as menacing as ever. His face might as well be made out of rubber with how he twists it this way and that in a conniving grin.
Travis Lanham’s letters work wonders with the Joker, adding just the right touch of madness to everything he says. The character’s word balloons are distorted and oddly shaped, giving the feeling of a strange voice echoing out of that crazed face. It’s full of equal parts rage and insanity.
While the Joker is plotting and putting his plan into action, there are some peaceful moments in the night. Sure, they’re full of tense, but at least Terry gets a few minutes out of costume to spend some time with Mel. This budding relationship is sweet and it has a lot of potential. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse creates a sense of calm for this scene which is immediately contrasted with complete entropy as Terry is called into action against the Throwbacks. The bright colors remind you of the futuristic setting of Neo-Gotham as lasers fly through the air.
Terry is facing his toughest challenge as Batman yet with this arc and it doesn’t look like it’s letting up any time soon. While having his brother by his side gives him some backup in this battle, it also adds a layer of concern and distraction as he’s worried about keeping the kid safe. This is most definitely a white-knuckled ride and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.