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FUTURE STATE: THE NEXT BATMAN #2 [Review]

FUTURE STATE: THE NEXT BATMAN #2/ Scripts by JOHN RIDLEY, VITA AYALA & PAULA SEVENBERGEN/ Pencils by LAURA BRAGA, ANEKE & EMANUELA LUPACCHINO/ Inks by LAURA BRAGA, ANEKE & WADE VON GRAWBADFER/ Breakdowns by NICK DERRINGTON & ROB HAYNES/Colors by ARIF PRIANTO, TRISH MULVIHILL & JOHN KALISZ/ Letters by CLAYTON COWLES & BECCA CAREY/ Cover by LADRÖNN/ Published by DC COMICS

Thus far, the Batman family of Future State books seem to have been the strongest and had the most unified continuity. I suppose that’s not surprising given the strength of the Bat-Editors and their usual commitment to keeping everyone on the same page. It’s just something that occurred to me given that The Next Batman #2 contains three radically different stories but, unlike Superman of Metropolis, they seem to be set in the same reality.

The second chapter of The Next Batman finds the new Batman in hot pursuit of two murderers. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of the Magistrate – the private security firm now running Gotham City like a military junta – and is forced to continue the chase while wounded. The long night will teach the new vigilante some harsh lessons and force him to make a choice regarding what force he ultimately serves; Justice or Law.

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John Ridley spins a compelling story and I’m happy to know he’ll be telling more stories in this setting in the future. The action is thrilling, but there’s a deeper undercurrent and a discussion of morality that seems oddly topical, in regards to how far the government should go in policing morality, from the politicians issuing edicts to the beat cops who wonder why armed soldiers chasing masked vigilantes is any better than masked vigilantes chasing costumed criminals. The artwork by Laura Braga and Nick Derington captures the cyberpunk aesthetic of the new Gotham perfectly, with Arif Prianto’s colors adding a slick sheen that makes Gotham look much brighter than we’re used to, but still unmistakably Gotham in all its tragic splendor.

The second story, Batgirls, is set within a Magistrate prison for metahumans, to which Cassandra Cain (aka Orphan) has just been sent. She is quickly stuffed in a cell with former Spoiler, Stephanie Brown, whom we are informed betrayed the Gotham Resistance led by Nightwing. Since then she’s become a major power in the prison black market, wheeling and dealing with the incarcerated heroes and villains. It spoils little (see what I did there?) to reveal that Steph has a higher purpose for what she’s done and Cass has a mission that required her being captured.

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Vita Ayala’s story reads like Orange is the New Black in a superhero setting. This is not a bad thing, but I fear this story may be somewhat inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t already know Oprhan and Spoiler from earlier Bat-books. Ayala has a fantastic angle on their voices and shows us who they are fairly well, but established Batgirl fans will probably get more out of this issue than newbies. The artwork by Aneke is fantastic, however, possessing a sense of dynamic action even in the static scenes of two people talking. The colors by Trish Mulvihill help to convey the tension of the story, despite the drab setting and uniform colors.

The final story, Ladies’ Night Out, finds Poison Ivy and Catwoman on a decidedly different mission of mercy. Their goal? Show a good time to the robot girlfriend of one of Gotham City’s wealthiest tech magnates in exchange for proof of his many crimes. Apart from the fact that he has an actual robot girlfriend. Because eww.

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This story surprised me, as most of the Future State comics to date have been dire and depressing. As was typical for the original Gotham City Sirens series, the tone here is light and funny, with Paula Sevenbergen playing up the absurdity of the situation Selina and Pamela find themselves in. It’s a shame Harleen wasn’t along for the ride, though I shudder to think at the influence she might have on a robot woman looking for girlfriends whose only experience with female relationships came from binging Sex in the City. The artwork by Emanuela Lupacchino, Rob Haynes and Wade Von Grawbadger is similarly bold and comedic, with John Kalisz’s colors adding to the bright yet gothic aura of Future Gotham. I’d love to see more of these characters with these creators in the future.

The Next Batman #2 is a mixed bag, but in this case variety is the spice of life. There’s a little something for everyone here, whether you like high action, personal drama or light entertainment. This is easily the best of the Future State offerings so far.

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