CREDITS: Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini and Stan Berkowitz; directed by Curt Geda.
REVIEW: Now we're in uncharted territory. Though Batman, Superman and Justice League have all been living in my memory since they first aired, I've never watched a single episode of Batman Beyond. It's all new, and it's a little more exciting for it. It helps that I love this comic book trope, which Beyond shares with Marvel's original Guardians of the Galaxy and its 2099 universe. It's fun to look in on your favorite shared universe decades after the present day to see how the heroes and villains' legacies have manifested. 20 years from the New Batman Adventures, Bruce Wayne is wearing the Beyond suit, rescuing Veronica Vreeland's adult daughter and quitting because of health concerns. 20 years after that, he's a crabby old man, Barbara Gordon is Commissioner (she's mentioned but not yet seen, but this is a strand that interests me immensely given how corrupt the police force appears to be), the Joker has inspired a colorful gang of thugs called the Jokerz (which are pretty fun, spiked woopy cushion and all), and Gotham City has become the Metropolis-like Neo Gotham.
The show's aesthetic is cool. A mix of Akira (the motorcycle race especially), A Clockwork Orange, and Blade Runner. The red skies have turned yellow, perhaps it's smog. The rock music I've hated on the other shows (Lobo's theme, for example) here works well, with some strong cues (the sad guitar and keyboard as Terry prepares to ask Bruce for the mantle) and some coming off as rather cheesy (the acoustic strings of Bruce giving Terry a job, though they nicely turn into organ sounds once he's accepted). The driving theme of the opener is pleasant, and the show goes for a crazy montage of weird CG, slick action, stamped key words... and people dancing in a night club? On the action side of things, it's acrobatic and exciting; the producers know they've got to hit the pilot out of the park. Will it hold?
One of the things they manage to do very well is go more violent without showing that violence. When Warren McGinnis is killed, we don't follow Terry to the body, but instead pan to a wall with Jokerz graffiti "Ha Ha!" When Batman is crushed by a mechanical claw, we see it from the operator's servo hand. When Mr. Fixx hits Batman inside the carrier ship, we cut to the outside and see the hit smash the glass behind Terry. The terrifying deaths of those infected by Derek Powers' virus are likewise not shown, except on their witnesses' faces.
But all of this is secondary to Terry McGinnis as protagonist. Is he a viable hero? Definitely. He's got the physical abilities, but the way he gets on his father's murder, he's also a detective worthy of the cowl. But he's not Bruce Wayne (who is in the show as mentor, regardless). He's a troubled teen with a girlfriend and a family. How will this play in his story? It's maybe a bit too Spider-Man at times, what with the Flash Thompson stand-in spitting at the back of his head during wrestling practice, but this entirely new dynamic should provide an experience different from that of the previous Batman shows. He has a small frame and a quick temper, both things that differentiate him from the elder Batman. Fatherless, Terry may have to turn to Bruce Wayne as a father figure - and there's an indication that he is the latest in the line of orphaned boys taken under the Bat's wing, and that perhaps, there's a tragedy there that's stopping Bruce from doing so early on; where are the boy?! - but he has enough of a support system left that he doesn't have to take any abuse from Bruce. The old man still has enough energy to partake in an action scene, so he remains a vibrant link to the past. Who doesn't love his smirk when the street gang claim to be the Joker?
The villain, Derek Powers, is more Lex Luthor than Joker, though his final fate may turn that on its head. We know he doesn't die, and we wait for their next engagement. Mr. Fixx also has an out though we don't see it. I can't believe that was his end either. Obviously, the series will present us with a whole new Rogues Gallery, and perhaps some of the old. Or takes ON the old. I had concerns that I wouldn't necessarily love Batman Beyond when I finally got to it, but the pilot has sold me on the premise, the world, and the characters.
IN THE COMICS: Though "Batman Beyond" made cameos in the DC Universe proper in the early 2000s, hinting that the continuity was either a probably future or a parallel Earth (Earth-12), it wasn't until the 2010s that DC made a real push to make Terry and Neo-Gotham a tangible part of the mainstream universe, and perhaps not until the New52 that it became undeniable, with Terry appearing in the Futures' End event. The latest Batman Beyond series had Tim Drake replacing Terry in the lead role. Kingdom Come also had a grizzled, older Bruce Wayne working from behind the scenes, while The Dark Knight Returns kept the old man in the suit. Bruce's line here, "Never again" is straight from that Frank Miller's book. Bruce's dog is named Ace, after the "Bat-Hound" that was part of the Batman Family in the Silver Age. At the end of the episode, Derek Powers becomes the still unnamed Blight, who shares notable characteristics with another Batman villain, Dr. Phosphorus, though the way the origin is told, it mirrors the Joker's (at least when Batman is involved in his accidental creation).
SOUNDS LIKE: Terry McGinnis, the new Batman, is played by Will Friedle, who was in the main cast of Boy Meets World. Lauren Tom (Angela Chen, Friends) plays his girlfriend Dana. For Derek Powers, they got Sherman Howard (already Steppenwolf of the Superman series, and the live action Lex Luthor in the Superboy series). His henchman Mr. Fixx probably has the most recognizable of voices, that of George Takei. The McGinnis family is played by Teri Garr (as mother Mary), Michael Gross (best known for Family Ties, as late father Warren), and Ryan O'Donohue (as kid brother Matt). Seth Green (Buffy, Robot Chicken) is Terry's school rival Nelson Nash. The Jokerz' leader is voiced by Bruce Timm himself. Corey Burton (the voice of Brainiac, Shockwave and Megatron) shows up as Kaznian oligarch Vilmos Egans.
REWATCHABILITY: High - A well done pilot that looks back at the past to build a new future. I'm in like Flynn.