“Your angel of death awaits!”
This month’s Batman Beyond Universe, written by Kyle Higgins and illustrated by Eric Wright, Thony Silas, and Phil Hester, not only picks up where where issue #12 left off, but also expands on stories generated from two of the top animated Batman films to date.
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that Batman Beyond Universe #13 is the best single issue of a comic series that I’ve read in months, if not in all of 2014. The issue serves as the introduction of the four-part mini-series “Mark of the Phantasm” in which Terry McGinnis (Batman) comes in contact with old-school rogue, The Phantasm. In doing so, he is also forced to confront Bruce Wayne, Barbara Gordon, and Dick Grayson about their past and the skeletons they’ve pushed into the deepest, darkest corners of their respective closets.
Before I go any further, in order to really, truly appreciate this comic in all of its awesomeness, there are a few pieces of background that one must know:
Firstly, The Phantasm, featured in the 1993 film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, is a vigilante who murders murderers. There’s not much else I can say without massively spoiling that movie, so before reading this issue of Batman Beyond Universe, make sure to check it out. The Phantasm is also featured in the “Epilogue” of Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006), which is available on Netflix. However, as there are even more spoilers throughout that episode, it would probably be a good idea to see the movie first-thing.
There are also significant references to the animated film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000). In this flick, The Joker returns from the grave to give Neo-Gotham a good kick in the pants, thrusting Batman and Bruce Wayne into one of the darkest plot points in all of Batman lore: The “Son” of the Joker.
(The hyperlinks on both of those titles will take you to their respective Amazon pages. I’d sincerely recommend those movies to a Batman fan before any of the Christopher Nolan live-action takes, especially Mask: It is a milestone in super hero narrative that still stands very strong, even after over 20 years have passed since its release.)
Back to the comic book!
Higgins’s writing ability shines ever brightly throughout this issue, as, although the ratio of action to dialogue is slightly skewed toward speech, every word propels readers more deeply into the many layers of plot that are occurring simultaneously. The story itself is fascinating, and there is no doubt that its arc will forever alter the way that the public will perceive the Bat Family.
Higgins isn’t the only one bringing his A-Game. One of the coolest aspects of this comic is the manner in which the atmosphere of the pages changes as readers are taken back-and-forth in time. For example, in several instances, we are thrown into Bruce Wayne’s time as Batman: As this flashback occurs, the illustrations morph into images that are reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. Every illustrator’s work is exquisite, not to mention inherently complimentary to the narrative.
Overall, I give Batman Beyond Universe #13 a 9.4/10, only losing points due to the potentially esoteric nature of the adventure.
I’m beyond excited (shameless pun intended) to see where else Higgins and his team are going to take this chapter in the Batman Saga!