Review: Future State - The Next Batman #2
“The Next Batman”, “Batgirls”, “Rise”
Writers: John Ridley, Vita Ayala & Paula Sevenbergen
Artists: Nick Derington, Laura Braga, Aneke, Rob Haynes & Emanuela Luppachino
Colour Artists: Arif Prianto, Trish Mulvihill & John Kalisz
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands & Becca Carey
This sophomore effort for The Next Batman had the opportunity to expand upon the extremely solid foundations built by issue #1. The debut offering did a masterful job of establishing the status quo of this futuristic setting, and also managing to cram a lot of world building within its pages. So, imagine my surprise when this issue took a more streamlined approach that made the content tighter and more concentrated.
Did it work? In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin, "Oh Hell Yeah!"
Whilst the true identity of the new Caped Crusader wasn't revealed in the aforementioned debut, DC had already let the proverbial cat out of the bag by announcing that a certain Mr. Fox would be donning the cowl. Interestingly though, whilst all roads certainly pointed towards Lucius being the anointed one, Ridley has pulled off a neat bit of bait and switch here by putting his less heralded brother Tim, AKA "Jace", in the batsuit. I've always been a fan of writers who choose to take the road less travelled, and give the reader a surprise or two.
The choice is not only bold, it's a very good one. Jace is every inch a worthy Dark Knight, with this issue showcasing exactly what he has to offer, in terms of his hand to hand prowess. Whilst we, as readers, get to know the character more as the story moves on, it must be said that he's being showcased in the right way. Tough, durable yet crucially fallible, this is an iteration that we can get behind. This is no mere Bruce Wayne clone, this Batman lacks the borderline unbeatable prowess of Bruce, which adds a sense of peril to the proceedings that can sometimes be missing from the usual Bat-Stories. His empathy for a grieving couple's rage helps to humanise the character, and allows readers to identify with him more easily.
A change of main artist this time out, with the wonderful Nick Derington taking more of a back seat to allow the talents of Laura Braga to do the heavy lifting. Hats off to Laura, as this is really artwork from out of the top drawer. Her figures are bold and stoic, her scenes of hand to hand combat are highly kinetic and vibrant, and her facial features convey emotion and the inner thoughts of the characters. I'm a fan of this art, and look forward to seeing much more of her work in the near future (state).
As with the previous issue, we get a couple of bonus stories here, which vary from killer to filler. Batgirls is a highly enjoyable, prison-set tale featuring Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. Double crosses and hidden plots are the order of the day here and the pay off promises to be something very special.
Gotham City Sirens is a bit more disposable offering, featuring Poison Ivy and Catwoman. A bit too wacky for my tastes, it does however offer up a very welcome cameo from Slam Bradley, an under-utilised character that certainly elevates the material. It's worth a read, but a bit too throwaway for my sensibilities.
The Next Batman #2 is well worth an investment, offering a main story that is due to build even more over the final two issues. I'm a fan of the new central character, and his collision course with The Magistrate is coming to the boil, and I can't wait to see where it leads.