Batman Beyond #12
Vita Ayala and Steve Orlando (Writers), Siya Oum (Artist), Dexter Vines (Inker), Tony Aviña (Colourist), Travis Lanham (Letterer)
September 27, 2017
Batman Beyond #12 marks the return of Nissa, a.k.a. Batgirl Beyond, since her first appearance in the 2014 Batman Beyond digital chapters #27-29 (later collected in print). That debut appearance made an impression on me with the witty sarcasm of Nissa’s Batgirl and the fantastic relationship between her and the original Batgirl, Commissioner Barbara Gordon. What really sold the whole thing was Annie Wu’s art.
The thing about great art is its ability to command the story in such a way where the prospect of another artist or style taking it on seems ridiculous. More so when they set the tone for a new property or character. The way Gordon moves as an aging former vigilante and the quirk of Nissa’s lips when she delivers a smartass remark are all thanks to Wu’s art (Andrew Elder also did the phenomenal colours). Yes, Scott Peterson supplied great lines, but Wu executed it flawlessly down to designing the heroine’s costume.
This walk down memory lane is important, because Peterson, Wu, and Elder set the bar that Batman Beyond #12 had to meet or surpass. It featured a character who became my favourite Batgirl from the moment I put it down, but when I put this issue down, I didn’t feel excited. I felt deflated. The story felt rushed with the pacing a bit off and the plot was forced. Nissa was snarky, but there wasn’t an ease to it. What is it about her that makes her interesting or a different Batgirl? She’s a brown teen girl behind the bat emblem, which is fantastic, but that alone doesn’t make you a dynamic character. Instead we got a typical superhero who comes from a bad neighbourhood without the interesting take.
Whereas Wu’s art elevated the storytelling, Oum’s pencils, Vines’ inking, and Aviña’s colours weighed it down. The character movements and action sequences were stiff. The continuity was off. There’s a flashback panel featuring Zatanna who Maxine recalls meeting as a child. She looked exactly like she does in the present DCU despite the fact that the Batman Beyond takes place about forty years in the future. There was also an issue of Gordon’s hair, but that’s more of a series critique than this specific issue. Gordon’s signature red hair being white in the Beyond franchise is important because it shows that she’s aged in the same way that everyone around her has aged. This is important, since she’s an older woman in a position of power who engages physically with opponents.
Overall, I was sad that I didn’t love this issue given how much I adore Nissa. Will this hinder future stories? No, but that’s the nature of comics from publishers like DC. There will always be new creators with their own takes who will pick and choose what they want included in their story’s canon. It’s just a matter of who will reach for the Nissa of Wu, Peterson, and Elder.