In Batman the comics, lore, and concept of Batman Beyond has always been a difficult problem to solve. Both the series and the idea feel intrinsically tied to the world of the animated universe, and outside of the series’ comic sequel, attempts to weave it into mainstream continuity have been mixed. With the awards of Future endings and DC Rebirths, it is always a bold choice to look into the Beyond concept. that’s why Batman: Beyond the White Knight is such a fascinating read. With two numbers under his belt, it’s clear that the world of Beyond fits naturally into the series, thanks in large part to the DNA the book shares with the animated series.
Beyond the White Knight #2, written and drawn by Sean Murphy, with color by Dave Steward and lettering by AndWorld Design, opens with a quick origin for Terry McGinnis, showing how he came to work for Derek Powers and the CEO’s ties to the GTO. In just a few pages, Murphy’s script and panels help further establish Neo-Gotham, and how much the world has changed since. Curse of the White Knight. The book jumps between the plot of the former sidekicks and where they are now, with a haggard Dick Grayson leading an independent GTO with Duke Thomas, while Barbara Gordon opposes the group as the leader of the traditional GCPD. It’s an interesting setup and a rich place of conflict for both of them, both following in the footsteps of their father figure. Barbara resents Dick’s willingness to give in to Derek Powers and a militarized, authoritarian police force, while Dick is angry that Barbara supports a world that has more freedom, but allows crime and vigilantes in it. to exist.
This simmering tension between Barbara and Dick is the best part of the book, and almost makes the case for another spinoff of this series without Bruce. There’s enough interesting world-building and compelling character work that makes Bruce’s return to the plot almost disappointing. The other plot, that of Terry starting his steps as the new Batman, and his origin, is eerily reminiscent of Jason Todd, another character getting his own spinoff series in the Murphy verse. It’ll be interesting to see if Murphy cooks up a possible Jason/Terry team-up for the back half of this series, as both characters have that raw anger, running into unhealed wounds with their father figures and plenty of rap sheets. It’s a testament to Murphy’s storytelling skills, both as a writer and as an artist, to form Terry as that foil to Jason, and set them both in place as fallout from the sins of Bruce.
From there, Murphy returns to Bruce’s point of view, following up on the big cliffhanger from the last issue. Apparently, during the events of the previous series, Jack Napier during his first use of the GTO implanted a chip in Bruce’s head that projects a hologram of Napier. The premise is a great choice, forcing Bruce to consider the past, especially the past that led to the show’s current status quo. What seems to be missing is the explanation for the hologram in Bruce’s head. It feels like a convenient option that doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of the series. If Murphy had used a chemical explanation for this appearance, perhaps related to the healthy pills Jack takes, or even just a manifestation of Bruce’s guilt and stress, it would be more narratively satisfying than a hologram inserted between the scenes of the previous panels.
Murphy’s art is the headliner of this book, and his sequential storytelling is thrilling here in the book. With two full volumes and the spinoffs under his belt, Murphy knows and excels at rendering this version of Gotham and its people. The book is a tight, streamlined series, with no wasted pages or panels. Murphy’s narrative economy in his art is sometimes stunning, using shadows and backgrounds to provide exposition that another book would convey using full panels or text captions. The weakness of the book and its art is that Murphy’s style doesn’t lend itself to making the characters older consistently. Bruce’s worn and rugged look is most consistent, but that’s largely down to Stewart’s coloring.
It’s a minor thing to remember, but with a book this good, it’s distracting that some characters have that weight of the last ten years, while others almost look alike from Curse of the White Knight for Beyond. Harley is specifically in this nebulous design, although she only appears for a few pages, it’s distracting that she seems out of place between the aged Bruce and the fresh-faced Napier. Much of this has to do with Murphy’s frantic, scraping pencils, where much of this altered stylization is already a visual element of his art. Again, not a book-breaking choice, but noticeable the same way a TV will have a 10-year time jump, but the actors are just covered in light makeup.