FUTURE STATE: THE NEXT BATMAN #1/ Scripts by JOHN RIDLEY, BRANDON THOMAS & PAUL JENKINS / Art by NICK DERRINGTON, SUMIT KUMAR, RAUL FERNANDEZ & JACK HERBERT/ Colors by TAMRA BONVILLAIN, JORDIE BELLAIRE & GABE ELTAEB/ Letters by CLAYTON COWLES, STEVE WANDS & ROB LEIGH/ Cover by LADRÖNN/ Published by DC COMICS
Welcome to the Future State of the DC Universe. More of a project than an event, each of these stories takes place in a possible future for the characters involved. Over the next two months the status quo will be upset as the more popular characters are removed from the landscape to make way for a new generation of superheroes. Case in point: Batman is missing and we do not know where he is.
Future State: The Next Batman is an anthology book containing three strips, each taking place in Gotham City police state controlled by a private security firm known as The Magistrate. John Ridley crafts the titular tale wherein aerial drones support the these military personnel as they patrol and protect the city. The Magistrate is extended every latitude in the performance of their duties, including a zero tolerance policy on masked individuals that carries a “shoot on sight” order.
This new dynamic places a unique strain upon Batman as he patrols his city. As a Bane-themed gang attempts to expand their control of Gotham’s underworld, Batman balances protection of the innocent, elusion of the Magistrate, and preserving the lives of those that would inflict the most harm.
In a press release from DC in December 2020 it was revealed that Tim Fox, estranged son of Lucius Fox (CEO of Wayne Enterprises), would be the new Batman. This is not confirmed in the actual story, however, as the pacing led me to believe that his brother Luke (formerly Batwing) was running around with the mantle.
Future State: The Next Batman begins with a healthy balance of action, drama, and intrigue. Nick Derrington brings a complementary style that epitomizes the Gotham dichotomy: tension on the streets and sterility at home. Tamra Bonvillain helps to establish a noir essence that all dystopian tales require. The one thing that threw me off was the balloon styling Clayton Cowles chose when lettering the pages. He chose to square off the tails rather than bring them to the traditional point. This was not a negative, just something new that took some acclimating once I noticed them. How bad can it be if it takes nine pages of dialogue to notice?
Following this story is The Outsiders, Brandon Thomas’ is a tale that examines the relationship between those that “enjoy” the protection of the Magistrate versus those that live outside their jurisdiction. On the inside, The Signal helps to protect the citizenry, while Katana works her magic on the Outside. We follow her on an investigation that leads to some startling connections. While the story is chunky and awkwardly paced, the art more than makes up for it. Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez, and Jodie Bellaire team up to produce a stunning product.
The final strip, Arkham Knights, is written by Paul Jenkins (a personal favorite) and illustrated by Jack Herbert & Gabe Eltaeb. It is a story that requires more prior knowledge than should be required for an introductory tale. You can get all the information you need from Detective Comics #1000-1005. Comprising a ragtag team of some of Gotham’s more questionable personalities, the Arkham Knights stand up to the “fascist state” the city has become. The final story of the anthology is prosaic and a difficult read with overly busy panels. If the creative team had more pages for an introductory story, it could very well have been the best of the three. Twenty pages just were not enough.
Despite each story proving weaker than the last, Future State: The Next Batman #1 was an overall enjoyable read. There is enough interest here to push forward into issue two, a prerequisite for the success of Future State.