By Cat Wyatt
I’ve been waiting for Batman Beyond #18 to release for only a couple of week, realistically, but it feels like it’s been forever. With the reintroduction of Ten, I’ve found myself even more invested in finding out what is going to happen next. Especially since she’s in the hands of Payback (I’m a little bummed that her great reveal ended with her getting kidnapped, but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re not the main character in a series).
So, as I said, Payback has taken Ten away to his lair, likely in hopes that Batman will follow. It’s odd that Payback is suddenly back (no pun intended there) and hates Batman as much as he does, but then again Batman’s villains don’t always use the best logic, so it happens.
Meanwhile, Terry and Stalker are still in a burning building. Well, actually now they’re falling from it, and I don’t think Batman is conscious. Thankfully Stalker is, and he’s got a really strong sense of paying back his debts. Since Batman saved his life, he’ll return the favor. And then rush off back to his village (I sincerely hope that Wayne arranges for payment to the village so they can get some much-needed food and resources).
After saving a couple of civilians, Batman doesn’t hesitate to rush off into danger again. Once Payback starts playing the recording of him threatening Ten (knowing it’d make Batman run to the rescue), it was clear where he was and more importantly, where he was keeping Ten.
It may have been over a decade since Terry and Melanie have talked, but there’s still a connection between the two (I swear that’s not my ship showing) if nothing else than the refusal to see the other hurt. So Terry literally doesn’t take any time to assess the situation or his suit before charging into the building…and a trap.
Batman does succeed in getting out of the trap, but not before setting off another trap. This one just hurt him rather than imprisoning him (which sadly, is better than the alternative). Everyone is just as confused as I am about Payback’s motives. Batman is questioning him, while Bruce and Matt are using the computers to try and track Kenny’s records to see what went wrong.
And boy, did it all go horribly, horribly wrong. Honestly, this was probably one of the most heartbreaking revelations I’ve seen in sometime. Payback isn’t Kenny Stanton. He can’t be. Kenny Stanton killed himself back in the institution he was stuck in after his first run as Payback.
The man behind the mask is Kenny’s father. The man who ignored Kenny in favor of his patients the first time around; resulting in Kenny becoming Payback. The man who couldn’t bear to visit his son in the institution. The man who lost his son.
My heart breaks for this man, even while I have trouble forgiving him for what his negligence caused. I can see how he would snap like this and try to continue Kenny’s one surviving legacy, Payback, while simultaneously going after the only other person he could possibly blame for his son’s death (even though I personally think Terry shouldn’t take any of the blame; he was just doing what he had to do).
The twist at the conclusion? I think we all saw it coming. Matt has been chomping at the bit to take up Robin’s mantle, so it was only a matter of time. While we can pretend that Bruce couldn’t stop Matt from running off, let’s be honest with ourselves here. Bruce knew full well this is what Matt wanted, and he could have said or done something sooner to dissuade him, but he didn’t. There is no way in hell that Bruce wasn’t aware of Matt’s training sessions in the batcave (especially because he used recordings on the computer to do so), and it certainly wasn’t random for a newly designed Robin suit to be in reach of Matt.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bruce had been planning this from the moment Matt and Terry moved into the mansion. I actually agree that Terry needs backup. I do not agree with that backup being Terry’s younger brother. I actually believe Max would have been a better fit (though I know she’s being groomed to eventually replace Bruce’s current role), but that’s just my personal opinion.
This was a fantastic issue. While I’m still a little bummed about how small of a role Ten is playing, I can’t deny that everything else in this issue was great. The emotions behind Payback, the regal honor in Stalker, Batman’s confusion and eventual guilt (we all know he’s going to blame himself for what happened to Kenny), and Bruce’s conniving nature stealing another kid’s childhood away. It’s everything I’d hope to see in any Batman series, but especially in Batman Beyond.
I can’t believe the raw expression they were able to get on Payback’s face. I honestly wasn’t expecting it, and I have to say it hurt my heart a little to see him like that (even though I don’t like him in the slightest). The action sequences were fantastic as well, which is a plus. I loved the use of brighter backdrops in this issue; it contrasted nicely with the darker subject being discussed.
Batman Beyond #18