Review: Future State - The Next Batman #1
“The Next Batman”, "Outsiders", "Rise"
Writers: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas & Paul Jenkins
Artists: Nick Derington, Sumit Kumar & Jack Herbert
Colour Artists: Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire & Gabe Eltaeb
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands & Rob Leigh
Review by Max Byrne
DC Comics, you are much too good to us! Within the pages of this excellent new title, we are treated to not one, not two, but three stories! Talk about value for money!
This, the debut of the much hyped up "Future State" run of stories, is a great way to get events off to a hot start right out of the gate. Let's get things straight, depicting the DC Universe in the future is not a new thing. Recent memory serves to bring up the New 52 - Five Years Later run, which I personally found to be too nihilistic. Whilst the start of play for Gotham City here is also dark and dangerous, the book still has a vibrancy to it, a proverbial spring to the step.
So, this almost dystopian version of the city is ruled by the iron fist of The Magistrate, a shadowy organisation that is policing the new "no vigilante" rule, which has effectively rendered Batman and his allies to the status of criminals. All who wear masks are to be treated as criminals, with high tech methods employed to bring them to justice. This is an interesting way to alter the playing field, as Batman here has had to go back to basics, using the shadows to great effect.
Of course, with the title of this book rendering the next sentence a non-spoiler, Bruce Wayne is no longer our titular character here. Who is, though? Where is Bruce? I could tell you, but I implore you to read the sister publication to this, entitled Future State: Dark Detective, that will certainly fill in some of the blanks.
For what we can see, the latest Dark Knight could be a worthy successor to Bruce, as the hand to hand combat, depicted with style and verve by Nick Derington, is certainly top tier stuff. With a family situation that is complicated to say the least, this Dark Knight is going to have as tough a job dealing with errant siblings as he is battling the mask clad heavies of Little Santa Prisca.
I must give huge kudos must to John Ridley for his exceptional writing. Whilst the temptation to completely revamp the city, and to create something that's a complete about turn from the status quo, must have been very strong. Thankfully, he has instead crafted something that feels very authentic, and true to the universe. Long time fans will not feel alienated by the contents of this book, as it comes across as very familiar and real. It's almost as if it could slot in alongside the current arc being brought to us by James Tynion IV, with its grounded and urban tone.
As previously mentioned, there are two other stories on offer here, each by a different creative team but they all dovetail together nicely. We get here Outsiders and Arkham Knights, each depicting their own narrative but serving to work nicely as companion pieces to the main event. Utilising a variety of traditionally under-used characters is a nice touch, as they give great creations such as Katana, Dr. Phosphorus and Killer Croc some much deserved coverage. It's always a blast when DC reaches deeper into their treasure chest than the top layer, and gives these intriguing and complex characters their time in the sun.
"Future State" is off to a flying start. The table has been laid for one of the great Gotham City stories to be told here, moving through this and other titles. Ridley, and the rest of the creative talents, have me on the hook for more, and as the next couple of months unfold, the DC Universe is going to be brought to us in ways we never dreamt of, with beloved characters changed beyond recognition, understudies brought to the fore and allegiances changed. BRING. IT. ON.