Welcome to Adventure(s) Time’s thirty-seventh installment, a look at a classic animated series and its tie-in comic. This time, a review of a Batman Beyond episode that disrupted the status quo. Then, a sequel in the tie-in comic from the episode’s author.
Airing on October 16, 1999, featuring direction from Curt Geda, “Hidden Agenda” is the 18th episode of Batman Beyond. The story, by Hilary J. Bader and Shaun McLaughlin, has Terry McGinnis concerned that his precocious friend Max will discover his secret identity as Batman with a new computer program she’s developed. Max has her own problems, however, as her classmate Carter Wilson is violently envious of her higher score on a college placement test.
Not coincidentally, the opening also introduces us to a new crew of Jokerz. Inspired by the notorious villain, and the’90s fad of x-treme phonetic spellings, the Jokerz generate chaos across Gotham. Sometimes their antics seem harmless, other times they’re legitimately deadly. This crew falls into the latter category.
Led by Terminal, a Joker who dresses as Marilyn Manson in a straightjacket, this gang terrorizes a businessman in the opening sequence. And when one of the Jokerz irritates Terminal, he’s nearly killed by his leader. Unbeknownst to the world is Terminal’s secret identity as Carter, the seemingly perfect student at Terry’s school.
Carter at times comes across as a 1980s teen movie villain, only he’s simultaneously a jock and a brain. Some characterization is provided during his conversations with his mother, who acts as a cold disciplinarian with impossible standards. During their exchange, there’s a credible rationale for why he would lash out at the world. (One reason why so many young viewers connected with Beyond is its unflinchingly nasty view of adults.)
What really sells Terminal, however, is the voice work of Michael Rosenbaum. He’s just as believable as a teenage honor student as he is a remorseless killer. Rosenbaum’s creepier than you’d expect to hear anyone sound in a Saturday morning program, and when he threatens someone’s life, the implied violence is credible.
Terminal orders his gang to target Max, who responds by altering her computer program. Now, it will divulge the most likely identity of this Jokerz leader. Its answer? Terry McGinnis.
Max thinks she can stop the harassment by exposing to Terry, via email, that she knows his secret. (People don’t text in the hi-tech future of Beyond.) She orders him to meet at the park where…he’ll likely kill her, if he is a Joker. What’s the girl thinking? You literally just tested as the smartest kid in your school, Max. What kind of a plan is this? Terry reads the email in a panic, believing Max has uncovered he’s Batman.
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