“Futures End” wasn’t the end for the future Batman, but it’s a different crusader beneath the familiar costume appearing in the new “Batman Beyond” #1 by Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang, as readers of the concluded “Futures End” weekly series already know. The new face under the mask is also a familiar one and a wise move by Jurgens that brings the character a little closer to the Batman family, despite taking place a few decades later than the Bat-family’s present day adventures. The Batman of Neo-Gotham was already introduced into the DC Comics universe several years ago, but this issue makes the first serious attempt to truly integrate the character into the mainstream DCU, albeit in a different time, and Jurgens and Chang get it off to a successful start.
Yes, the events of “Futures End” remain relevant in the post-“Convergence” DC landscape, although Terry McGinnis’ journey back in time during the course of that storyline has clearly impacted the era he came from. Jurgens posits some interesting differences that add some intrigue to the story, and these dissimilarities are discovered by readers through the eyes of Batman as he himself also learns about this altered world. As this issue stands to be the first exposure to this incarnation of Batman for many, Jurgens makes these readers feel welcome by introducing them to all of the character’s trappings at a relaxed pace, while keeping things lively by putting the character into action almost immediately. Establishing the status quo early on, Jurgens then explores both what has changed and what has stayed the same; it looks like the same future Batman, sure, but Jurgens wastes no time letting readers know just who exactly they’re learning about.
Chang plays the same tune as Jurgens, with the very first attractively illustrated and vertically-oriented panel indicating that Neo-Gotham is a very different place from the Gotham of today. The next panels, though, show that — despite this disparity — the crimes and the criminals who commit them are all-too familiar and no less violent. Chang, in conjunction with colorist Marcelo Maiolo, delivers some absolutely breathtaking panels; as Batman himself notes, Neo-Gotham is “almost beautiful,” and Batman’s flyover of another major city that finds itself in a decidedly different condition is beautiful in a different way, hauntingly so. Another familiar but drastically altered character seen in “Futures End” makes an appearance, and Chang wickedly captures this once heroic persona as especially sinister.
Maiolo doesn’t hesitate to use as much of the color spectrum as possible and does so to great effect; Neo-Gotham shines with contrasting neon hues, while the night sky is gorgeously embellished with painted strokes of varying shades of red. Daytime skies over areas outside of Neo-Gotham are shown with similarly blended shades of orange and yellow, artistically conveying the strange background of a similarly strange world that’s seen far happier times.
Jurgens keeps the surprises coming right up through the very last page, where another familiar — if older looking — face makes a welcome appearance, solidifying this incarnation of Batman’s place in DC continuity. Jurgens seamlessly blends elements of the Bat-mythos from both present day and the future, setting up a permanent place for this Batman in the DCU proper that has lasting potential, rather than coming across as a gimmicky crossover between two very distinct eras in Bat-history. “Batman Beyond” #1 is an excellent re-introduction to a once largely benign character that makes a convincing case towards a maintaining a regular role in both the Batman cast as well as the larger DC Universe.