NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "Batman Beyond" #1
Ask the average comic book fan about the history or legacy of Batman, and they'll tell you one thing: while other heroes may change over time or pass their mantle to sidekicks, the Dark Knight is always Bruce Wayne. At least, that was the case, until DC spawned Batman Beyond, the story of Bruce Wayne's senior years when he handed the title (and Batsuit) over to Terry McGinnis. Not as a fill-in, substitute, or placeholder, but his successor as guardian of Neo-Gotham - and the current DC Universe has made that future of Bruce Wayne's canon.
With more and more comic readers being raised on the animated Beyond series, it only made sense for the title to join in on the company wide relaunch with "Batman Beyond: Rebirth", returning the series to its core ideals and message. No time has been wasted by writer Dan Jurgens, either: in the very first issue, it was revealed that a decades-dead Joker was being brought back to life.
In the new issue, hero Terry McGinnis is showing he's more flexible than Bruce Wayne ever was... and willing to wear the face of his greatest enemy if it means getting the job done.
Batman vs The Jokerz
For those who are new to "Beyond", Terry's path back to the cowl hasn't been an easy one (get more of the story here). But with things returning to a status quo, Terry only enjoys a short time on the job before his life gets turned upside down. First, it's the kidnapping of his former girlfriend by a murderous, deranged gang of Joker imitators known as 'Jokerz' led by a man with an odd fixation on the woman in question. Were Terry in peak fighting shape and level-headed, he may have stood a chance against the criminals responsible - but he's neither.
Not that training would have helped his mission, since it truly is a hopeless one. Setting aside the potentially soon-to-be-resurrected Joker, Terry still needs to infiltrate a neighborhood controlled and populated by the Jokerz (known as Jokerz Town). As Terry soon learns, even that is beyond the Batman's abilities, even after he manages to defeat a Venom-fueled Jokerz brawler. There's no choice once the gangsters start surrounding him, prepared to tear him apart themselves, and Terry makes his escape.
Back to the Batcave, and back to the drawing board. It may not have been Bruce Wayne's style to outright flee from a fight he believes he'll lose. But the solution Terry comes up with... well, let's just say Bruce Wayne wouldn't volunteer for it, either.
Terry McGinnis Does The Unthinkable
As Terry's allies stand in disbelief at his confession that the fight is one he can't win, he focuses on the real dilemma that Bruce would have advised him to out-think (were Bruce still alive to advise him at all). Infiltrating a town owned, operated, and patrolled by Joker wannabees to rescue his girlfriend isn't a job for Batman... it's a job for Joker. A Joker, more specifically. Luckily, Terry has all the ingredients needed to transform into one of the Joker wannabee crowd (not the least of which is a willingness to degrade himself by dressing up as his mentor's greatest foe).
Where other "Rebirth" titles have returned to iconic villains, fundamental relationships, or a return to the optimistic tone of DC's superheroes, "Beyond" has taken an interesting path in its first issues. Sure, the Joker reappearing is a nod to the history of the entire mythology. But if the basic premise of "Beyond" is the title and duties of Batman being handed to a younger, modern, more free-spirited or open-minded young man than the elderly Bruce Wayne could ever get along with, then the point is being driven home quickly. This is not a story of Bruce Wayne's world - and this is not your daddy's Batman.
How Terry will manage to infiltrate the Jokerz remains to be seen, as well as the potential enemies (living or reanimated) that he'll face when finally reaching the woman he loves. But as fond as Bruce Wayne may be of undercover work, surveillance and infiltration, fans aren't likely to see him do it in Joker makeup. That alone may not be reason enough to jump on board the "Beyond" train just yet - but for fans of the premise and hero, it's one intriguing twist to kick off Terry's brand new adventure.
Batman Beyond #1 is available now.