This review contains spoilers for Batman Beyond #31 and #32.
Between Bruce Wayne’s newfound penchant for day drinking, clandestine trips to the casino, and a weakness for women, it is quite clear that the former Caped Crusader isn’t acting like himself. Well, maybe we should be concerned about everything except his proclivity for pretty women. I mean, he did date the daughter of the Demon’s Head. Or, how about the time he absconded with a troupe of ballerinas? Digressions aside, his nonchalant attitude toward the potential death of his protégé and complete lack of knowledge regarding, well, anything only compounds the notion that something about the man is truly off. Unfortunately, with Terry working alone in the field now that Matt has been relieved of his duties as Robin, the former boy wonder can only sit in the bat-cave and ponder:
“What in the world is wrong with Mr. Wayne?”
From Sherlock Holmes to Nancy Drew and DC’s very own Dark Knight, everyone loves a good mystery. I think whodunit element is what largely drew me to this particular arc of Batman Beyond. It is hard not to love a mystery, especially when it involves the World’s Greatest Detective. Thankfully, this issue has the whodunit elements in spades. As with the previous issue, Batman Beyond #32‘s focus is split between two mysteries: Bruce Wayne’s peculiar behavior and Terry’s investigation into The Splitt.
Dan Jurgens does a great job intertwining these two mysteries to form one narrative. Terry’s conflict with The Splitt, although relatively standard fare, frames a large portion of the issue. As Terry struggles to break free from the gravity generator under the floor, it is Matt, and not Bruce Wayne, that ultimately comes up with a solution to save the new Batman. Jurgens’ use of this situation to stoke the fires of the other mystery is excellent.
Throughout the entire conflict, Bruce is entirely too complacent regarding his protégé’s potential demise. However, as out of character these actions might be, it is Jurgens’ use of dialogue that truly sells the feeling that something is wrong. The character never comes out and says something entirely nefarious. Rather, Bruce Wayne does not read like Bruce Wayne. This change is dialogue does an excellent job in inspiring an uneasiness regarding the character.
“Just who is that guy, anyway?”
However, the answer to the mystery of Bruce’s behavior may have been revealed by the end of the issue. At the end of Batman Beyond #31, we are introduced to a masked character claiming to not belong in Arkham Asylum. During the conclusion of Batman Beyond #32, it is revealed that this character’s name is False Face. Now, if you’re not familiar with the character, don’t be surprised. Only appearing in Batman #113 and the 1960s television series, False Face was a criminal make-up artist and self-proclaimed master of disguise who impersonated wealthy individuals in order to commit robbery.
Given the sudden change in Bruce’s demeanor, and the knowledge of this character’s abilities, I think it is safe to assume that False Face has somehow switched places with Bruce Wayne. Although the answer to this mystery may feel a little anticlimactic, I think it is important to note that we do not know the villain’s exact reasoning beyond robbery, or how this switch was achieved. The reveal of these elements are often the most entertaining parts of the story. My hope is that Jurgens finds a way to subvert this knowledge and surprises me.
“Caught me by surprise once. Won’t happen again.”
Additionally, Terry’s investigation into The Splitt is entertaining in large part due to his underestimation of the character. Although Terry assumes that the character has a particular set of abilities, and has a plan to combat them, it is quickly revealed that he is wrong as the villain pummels our hero into the ground. Although we know that the characters are stealing from Powers Technology, and using the company’s black sites to build a device, we are not privy to their motivations. Insight into this information will help to give the story more depth.
In order to truly stick the landing, I think we will need to be given compelling information regarding each of the villains and their motivations. Although it isn’t necessary, one of the things that has me the most intrigued is the possibility that there is a relationship between each of these mysteries. I will be interested to see if Jurgens has a way to tie everything together in a way that feels organic.
Rick Leonardi’s pencils do a great job conveying the action sequences in this issue. His suited up Batman looks amazing, especially when he is striking poses in front of the moon. However, some of his facial expressions miss the mark for me. There is one panel in particular where Terry’s younger brother, Matt, looks like an old man. These panels do take me out of the moment when I’m reading the issue.
Batman Beyond #32 features an excellent mystery begging us to answer the question, “What in the world is wrong with Mr. Wayne?” Although the answer may have been teased at the end of the issue, I am still intrigued by Jurgens’ answers to “how” and “why” this has all happened. Leonardi’s pencils do a good job telling the story, especially when Batman is getting beat up by the bad guys. However, there are a few panels that take you out of moment.