A Cyborg Joker Terrorizes Neo-Gotham In Batman Beyond #28

by James Ferguson

The Joker has upgraded to the new century. While you can’t go wrong with old favorites like a water gun flower, he’s found something a bit more deadly by creating a human cyborg puppet. Batman has some new toys, so why can’t he get some too? The real sinister side of this is that he didn’t do this to himself. Instead, he’s taken over a member of the Jokerz gang and he’s pulling this poor man’s strings from far. The original Joker is still out there and he’s just as dangerous as ever, as the new Robin is about to find out.

While Terry and Matt are fighting Joker Beyond out in Neo-Gotham, Bruce is back in the Bat Cave, using the computers to search for the real Joker. He’s joined by Dick Grayson who can’t believe that Bruce is still up to these tricks. Dick is one of the only people who can criticize Bruce in this way, judging his stalwart strategy for his never-ending war on crime.
They argue not as father and son, but as equals. They each represent a different viewpoint in this battle. While Bruce has continued in the vigilante role, Dick has taken a more public persona to clean up neighboring Bludhaven. I think Bruce needs someone like this in his life. Terry and Matt are young and full of attitude, but they’re not going to challenge the former Batman the way Dick can.

Writer Dan Jurgens creates an interesting dynamic here that’s mirrored to an extent out in the field. Dick and Bruce are arguing in the cave while Terry and Matt are fighting side by side out in Neo-Gotham.
You can see the concern Terry has for his brother, even through the mask. Artist Brett Booth has a very expressive style. The tension is heightened in the opening battle and it never lets up throughout the entire issue. This is life and death stuff we’re dealing with. We know how deadly the Joker is and what he’s capable of.

The battle between Batman and the cyborg Joker is epic in scope. This is a mountain of an enemy, unlike anything Terry has faced before. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse creates this sickly look of the robot where the cold, emotionless metal shines through in bright greys, but the sadness of this broken man can be seen in the eyes.
There have been numerous references or homages to the death of Jason Todd during this arc. It casts this foreboding tone over Matt, like a dark cloud hanging over him. Is he meant for a similar fate as the former Robin? Since he just started flying through the skies, I hope not. Terry has had enough death and tragedy in his life. He doesn’t need anymore.

Booth has some impressive art direction in Batman Beyond #28, especially during the fight scenes. The panel layouts are varied and impactful, creating a frenetic energy. This gives you the feeling that anything can and will happen. With the Joker involved, that is definitely the case. Inker Norm Rapmund highlights the intricate and detailed lines in each image, from the wrinkles in Bruce’s face to the individual mechanical parts of Joker’s cyborg.
Speaking of the cyborg, you have to feel sorry for this guy. The Joker is torturing him. Every so often his voice breaks through in this pathetic plea for help. Letterer Travis Lanham uses these pitiful word balloons, giving the impression that these are his last cries before his soul leaves his body. This contrasts well with the Joker’s bombastic tone, exploding out of the center of the cyborg in jagged balloons.

If you’re going to deal with the Joker, it has to be something big. He’s not a throwaway villain. This arc in Batman Beyond has most definitely delivered on that front with an earth-shaking battle on and off the field. You know that Terry is going to figure a way out of this, but at this point, I have no idea how. That feeling is very exciting.
Batman Beyond #28 from DC Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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