Batman Beyond: Neo-Year # 4 is primarily a matter of struggle, but uses that time to establish some themes around perception and fear. It’s not a concept the series has played with until now, but it’s one that suits Batman. The question is how well the problem is able to link that theme into what is going on in the action and with the characters. On that front, it’s a bit mixed. That said, it manages to take an otherwise straight forward fight and add some complexity.
On the surface, Terry’s fight with Sword of Gotham is an extensive sequence in which Terry is repeatedly put on the back foot and tries not to die. As an action sequence, it is not bad. If you skip all the underlying story of deception, what remains is a fast-paced battle that is able to keep the tension high. Max Dunbar’s art provides a hectic energy that ensures that the reader, like how Terry never manages to catch a breath, feels that the blows never stop coming. It’s an energy that has become a bit of a staple in this series.
However, the fight itself is only half the story. In the midst of trying not to die, Terry takes a moment to reflect on some lessons he learned from Bruce about the superstitious and cowardly nature of criminals. Perception becomes the main focus, and just as Batman strikes fear into the hearts of evil, he must not be dazzled by the untruths they will try to convey. This is a good idea for a Batman story to explore, but it has nothing to do with the scene. The way Terry emphasizes each action with one of these lumps of wisdom means that they somehow help him fight, but the fight itself has nothing to do with it.
The advice, in practical terms, is really nothing more than “do not give up, try harder!” motivation. At no point does Terry use betrayal as part of his strategy, nor does the realization that he will not be fooled change his actions. Terry realizes after the fight that Gotham AI had tricked him by using an ordinary old man as a puppet for Sword of Gotham, but cause and effect get mixed up. Finding out that it had nothing to do with Terry’s thoughts before, it’s just a coincidence. It just happened as a natural result of what he did anyway.
As a complete side note, Gotham AI kidnapped the old man from the “Isley Gardens Retirement Facility”, which raises so many questions for me. I guess Poison Ivy decided that helping old people was a good side event in the future?
Terry eventually breaks through the Sword of Gothams (man, it’s cumbersome to print every time. Can I just start referring to them as SoG?) “Deception” by discovering that he can disable thought control by electrocuting it, but it feels like a stretch. Once again, it comes only as a natural result of fighting. At no point does it feel like Terry is actively acting on Bruce’s advice; it happens to coincide nicely with the events unfolding around him.
- You want a nice fight scene between Terry and Sword of Gotham
- Terry is forced to operate without his gadgets are part of this series you like
- A little introspection of how Batman fights his enemies is interesting, although not entirely related to the story
All in all
This is a well-executed match that is exciting and thrilling. It’s fun to read a story where it feels like the hero has his back to the wall all the time and can barely continue. The attempt to link that struggle to something deeper is commendable. However, that connection is often weak and does not always work the way the story wants it to when you go back and think about it. Gotham AI without plan do involves deception, and that do relates to some main ideas behind the Batman identity, but the way the two concepts are connected in practice often feels weak. It’s becoming a recurring theme with this series that I see and like what they go for, I just do not know if the book quite manages it.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic in connection with this review.