WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS up to Batman Beyond #11
When the unbeatable Bruce Wayne finally succumbed old age, he found a new hero to carry the Batman name - and Batman Beyond was born. But it wasn't just the passage of time that led to Batman's retirement: it was a future group of DC supervillains, and Bruce Wayne's own technology that ended up ending his crimefighting career. And thanks to the world of DC Comics, and the continued comic series set against the backdrop of Neo-Gotham, the true origin story of Batman Beyond can finally be told.
It may have been seen as a continuation or spinoff story for fans of the Batman Beyond animated series, but Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang have spun some impressive new chapters in the Beyond saga since the DC Rebirth relaunched the series. Not only was Bruce Wayne returned to his role as mentor to Terry McGinnis, but his greatest enemy returned as well, recreating one of Batman's most iconic murders.
The parade of unforgettable moments for die-hard Beyond fans may have hit a new height, revealing to fans the truth of "Batman's last case," the reason Bruce Wayne became his own worst enemy, and most importantly... why the story isn't finished just yet.
Batman Goes To War With The Banes
Even casual fans can recognize that Bruce Wayne eventually got too physically weak to properly defend the city of Neo-Gotham, and wound up entrusting the Beyond suit and its many Gadgets and abilities to a young protege, Terry McGinnis. But the latest arc of the Beyond comic series shows the specific moment that Bruce Wayne realized he could no longer be the Batman. Well... the moment he realized he was too physically broken to ever wear the cowl again - and which villains were responsible for the damage.
The villains were known as The Banes, apparent successors to the original Venom-fueled, super-strong criminal (who actually played an extremely minor role in Batman: The Animated Series). As the aged Bruce explains through his recollection of his final days in the cowl, just one successor to the 'Bane' name would have been challenging, but not invincible, much like the original. But with FOUR superpowered behemoths in a Venom rage, Bruce must essentially go to war, with his best fighting days well behind him.
He emerges victorious, obviously, but the technology he needed to develop in order to vanquish these foes is real heart of the story - and a major addition to the Batman Beyond fiction that's still developing.
Bruce Wayne is Finally Broken
For those who may have forgotten, or never knew how the presumed-dead Bruce Wayne returned to the future of Batman Beyond, the story hinged heavily on Terry discovering a new Batsuit - more advanced and formidable than the standard. Unfortunately, once Bruce awoke from his coma he was shocked to see his "prototype" being used by his protege, urging him to remove it immediately for reasons Terry couldn't grasp. Now, the comics reveal that Terry wasn't the first to wear it... and it was no prototype. It's the combat suit Bruce created to give his aging body the advantage needed to defeat The Banes so many years ago.
It's hard to imagine, but the suit is even more determined than Batman, essentially taking the driver's seat when the one wearing it begins to break. Blocking out pain and exerting control over the suit's weaponry, the artificial intelligence helped Bruce Wayne defeat The Banes when he showed that he no longer could. Despite broken ribs and shattered vertebrae, the suit led Bruce to victory... until it, too, was damaged to the point of collapse. Bruce's body was permanently broken, and the suit was locked away in the Batcave.
At least until Terry found it, walking blindly into the same dangers Bruce narrowly survived.
Can Terry Succeed Where Bruce Failed?
We won't outright spoil whether or not Terry manages to overcome the programming of the Batsuit - or what fatal crimes, if any, he carries out before Bruce manages to address the situation, but the story itself marks a significant addition to the Batman Beyond mythology. It's been years since DC added the forward-looking animated series and its comic books to the Canon of the DC Universe, and since the company's Rebirth, the future has seen just asany twists as the present (or past). Apparently, that now includes the future of Bruce Wayne... not to mention the return of The Joker to Neo-Gotham, and the fate of Damian Wayne, whose own introduction to the AI combat suit is also explored in this same arc.
Fans shouldn't worry about the present of the DC Universe catching up to the Beyond future any time soon, with DC's top creators reminding fans that some of their most ambitious stories are still to come. Where Beyond is concerned, that means a re-introduction to Nissa, the Batgirl of the future. If that's not enough comfort, keep in mind that Bruce's 'Battle of the Banes' sees him an old, greying, beaten hero already - meaning he's still got a LONG career ahead of him before his final fight.
Batman Beyond #11 is available now.