Many people in my age range got into comics because of the superhero cartoons of the 90’s. You’ve got your X-Men people, your Spider-Man people, and your Batman: The Animate Series people. Each had their own flavor to the superhero genre and each person has their favorite. It’s no secret how much influence BTAS has had on me (Remember when we only did DC Comics content?) but I remember watching the premiere of Batman Beyond for the first time. I remember seeing Bruce Wayne as an old man, Gotham as something familiar but brand new, and most of all I remember that feeling of seeing the future.
The show was a completely original idea for television that was unlike any other cartoon at the time. So when I grew up and really got into comics, I was hoping the characters comic counterparts would have that same feeling. But I never found one that felt different from any other Batman story, one foot was always in the past. But Collin Kelley, Jackson Lanzing, Max Dunbar, Sebastian Cheng, and Aditya Bidikar paint Gotham City neon in a glorious cyberpunk light.
Gotham City is alive. A sentient city determined to do what Batman could not, keep the crime rate flat…by any means necessary. Bruce Wayne is dead, his company usurped, and all of his wonderful tools that his protege Terry McGinnis had at his disposal are gone. That’s where we find Batman in the opening of Batman Beyond Neo-Year. But Batman’s gone analog, he’s so post modern as he journals with pen and paper and fights tooth and nail against criminals and the city itself. Donovan Lumos has taken control of the Wayne-Powers company and has a new tech called “Lumos” which makes hard light constructs. A lot is going wrong in Gotham but Batman can go beyond that and save the city, right?
The influences of popular cyberpunk stories like Blade Runner have a clear influence on this comic in the best possible way. Max Dunbar and Sebastian Cheng’s design of Gotham City in Batman Beyond: Neo-Year is so invocative of the major themes of cyberpunk. For example, so much of the city is heavily populated with buildings to a point you can barely see between them let alone the skies above. It’s a city that is crumbling under the weight of it’s own “progress”. Larger skyscrapers tower over older buildings that look to be future-fitted but couldn’t keep up. The city itself is a reminder that Gotham has moved past Batman as the city itself is now alive.
Cheng’s color palette of Gotham is exactly what you have in your mind when it comes to a cyberpunk future with beautiful neons and different variations of red and pinks that glow off of each of the characters faces. The one thing that breaks out of that color palette is the new villain who has a much brighter look but you will see that when you pick this book up.
Another major thing that sets this version of Gotham apart in Batman Beyond: Neo-Year is the variety of Gothamites we get to see. There are people with clear cybernetic augmentations which is another staple of cyberpunk. The idea that you can make yourself different with tech but at what cost? Where does your humanity lie when your body is more metal than flesh? It doesn’t stop there though because we see a few criminals who are feline human hybrids. Science has gone far in the future but to what avail? It’s clear Gotham is no better now then it was in Bruce’s time which begs the question, is Batman needed in Gotham? There are so many possible themes set up in this debut issue by Lanzing and Kelly that shows how brimming with possibility this version of Batman Beyond is.
The first issue of Batman Beyond Neo-Year opens with a narration by Neo-Gotham itself which is lettered by Aditya Bidikar. There are wonderful screen tears over the lettering that bring about the feeling of glitches in what the city itself believes is a perfect system. It sets the tone of the book from the jump with a wonderful bordering of the speech that is quickly followed by Batman’s journal entries which harkens back to Batman: Year One‘s journal. These written boxes aren’t as grainy or defined as those were though because Terry says he is basically writing on what he can find as paper isn’t exactly abundant in the true digital age. Bidikar’s lettering for The Holographic Man is much more colorful and almost loud compared to the rest of the lettering in a way that fits with the larger than life personality of the character.
As I read this first issue of Batman Beyond: Neo-Year, I remembered why I loved the show so much as a kid. It was something very different with a character I held dear. This series brings about that same feeling but with the possibilities of being so much more with it’s vibrant colors, it’s beautifully designed city, and everything laid out to build the groundwork of a new age of Batman Beyond.
For more information on Batman Beyond: Neo-Year #1, click here.
And for more DC Comics reviews from the GateCrashers team, click here.