Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Graphic Novel Review - Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond

Let's take a trip back in time about 11 years, shall we? The year was 1999. Clinton was president, the twin towers were still standing tall, Buffy still had 4 seasons to give us, and a little cartoon called Superman: The Animated Series was in it's prime. Superman: TAS was the second series in the DC Animated Universe (DCAU), with the first being Batman: The Animated Series, considered one of the best cartoons of all time, with good reason.

However, executives had decided that, due to the success of both Animated Series, and the TV Show Buffy (Who was still in High School at that point), that they needed a new, more kid friendly "Batman In High School" series, to follow up Superman: TAS with. But the creators of the classic shows weren't about to make some watered down "Batman Babies!" show, no, instead they gave us a cartoon called Batman Beyond.

(I wanted to show the video of the intro here, but I can't find an embeddable version here... So click the link to see one of the best intro sequences ever. Seriously.)

Now, arguably they failed at making a more kid friendly version of Batman: TAS or Superman: TAS. In fact, if anything, it was darker and edgier than either of those shows. But it was incredibly AWESOME.

The series took place years in the future, after Bruce Wayne has hung up the cape, and Gotham has once again become a crime run city. New gangs, such as the "Jokerz" (who model themselves after the Joker) run around the city causing chaos, and corruption is rampant. That's when a new Batman, Terry McGinnis steps up and, working with Bruce Wayne, becomes the new Batman.

The show was excellently executed, giving Terry his own, new rogues gallery instead of just cashing in on the old enemies, while still paying their dues to the original Batman with episodes centering around old foes like Mr. Freeze, Bane, and the absolute pinnacle of the series, the feature length film, "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker", which in all honesty can hold it's own against any Batman film, and still be respectable.

I loved Batman Beyond. I was very young when it was on, but I remember loving every minute of it. I've even been watching the first season recently, and it holds up very well. (You can find it streaming here, but the episodes are out of order. A list of the episodes can be found here.)

The show was cancelled in 2001, and was succeeded by Justice League unlimited, along with Static Shock, both of which featured crossover episodes with Batman Beyond. In Static Shock, Static goes to the future, and rescues his future self, with the help of Terry. JLU featured an episode called "Epilogue" which finally gave the show the finale it deserved. I won't spoil that episode for you, but track it down if you get a chance.

Terry was a very different character from Bruce Wayne, but one who I felt, if given his due, could be just as compelling. Unfortunately, since the DCAU as a whole has been ended, and a new Animated Universe has begun, it seemed that Batman Beyond was dead for good.

Until, that is, last year, when a mini-series called "Hush Beyond" ran. 6-Issues. I didn't really start collecting comics until early this year, so I never read those. Until now that is, as I purchased the trade paperback for "Hush Beyond" collecting all 6 issues.

The mini-series itself was, thankfully, very popular, and actually ended up getting an ongoing series going, which started last January. IT. IS. AWESOME. I've gotten all 4 issues that have been released (the 5th is currently being mailed to me) and I've loved every second of them. I may review those at a later date, but for now, let me give you all my impressions of the mini-series "Hush Beyond".

"Hush", for those not familiar with Batman lore, especially recent Batman lore, is a villain who first showed up in Batman comics in 2003. He's really Thomas Elliot, childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, and super successful surgeon. I haven't read any of the Hush storylines from the Batman comics personally, so I'll explain his motivations as best I can, but for a better description, you may want to just go ahead and read the wikipedia article on him.

Tom Elliot was, like Bruce, a childhood billionaire, and a friend to him. Unlike Bruce, however, he hated his parents. A lot. As in, he cut the brakes on his parents car and tried to kill them both. He only actually managed to kill his Father though, since his Mother was saved by Bruce's Father, Dr. Thomas Wayne.

A lot of stuff, none of which is really essential to understanding today's topic, happens, and Tom Elliot (surgeon extraordinaire) unites with Edward Nigma (The Riddler...) to kill Bruce Wayne, under the persona "Hush".

Eventually, he figures out Bruce Wayne is Batman, things happen, he's evil, yada yada yada, all of Hush's plots involved other supervillains in some capacity, we're moving on.

In "Hush Beyond" someone, Tom Elliot supposedly being dead, has taken up the mantle of Hush once more, tracking down and killing old Batman villians such as The Mad Hatter, or Calendar Man.

In short, this is a bad thing. After all, all these years later, a lot of these villains either did their time and went straight, or are still in mental hospitals. Hush, however, seems to be sending a message to Bruce Wayne, and makes very sure that Terry knows that Hush thinks of him as an "Imposter".

The mini-series takes a much darker tone than the series had, including bloody sequences, some fairly brutal murders, and it's very clear that this is aimed at those of us who, like me, were kids when they saw the series, and are now teenagers (or adults). The end result is excellent.

The mini-series, much like the show used to do, excellently blends new and old Batman mythos, including appearances by Cadmus, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and even a new Catwoman.

The art is very nice, looking as good as any Batman comic on the market right now. The characters are fleshed out well, and it really feels like the writers knew, and loved, the characters as much as I did.

My only complaint, however, is that the last two issues are where the story falls a little flat for me. Without revealing TOO MUCH, let's just say Hush's identity is revealed, not because of Terry's detective skills, but because Hush chooses to out himself. That's just lame. Terry has taken up the mantle of Batman, world's greatest detective. I would have LOVED to see him use his detective skills he's picked up from Bruce over years of working with him, to figure out who Hush was BEFORE Hush unveiled himself. Unfortunately, that never happens.

Also, the identity of Hush itself felt a little bit anti-climactic to me personally, although your mileage may vary on that.

The action is great, the story is great, I absolutely LOVE the fact that they've introduced a new Catwoman (and I can't wait for her to reappear in the ongoing comic, as I'm sure she will) and overall, I'm glad I spent my $15 on the TPB. Could it have been better? Sure. Was it good? Oh heck yeah.

Seeing where all these characters who we never did see in the show are, even bit characters like Calendar Man, is awesome.

Now, I know I gave a lot of backstory at the beginning of this post, so I'm sure a lot of you are wondering, "Can I buy this without any knowledge of the Batman universe?". To that I'd say... Sure. It's actually a very good introduction to the Batman Beyond world. Everything you DO need to know is explained within the context of the story, even small things like who Dick Grayson was (which I'm sure most people know.) and even who Hush himself was.

So I'd say that if you're looking for a quality graphic novel, "Hush Beyond" is definitely worth your time and money. It may not be perfect, but it's a great way to start Terry McGinnis' comic career off.

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