Review: Future State - The Next Batman #3

"The Next Batman", "Outsiders", "Dawn"

Writers: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas & Paul Jenkins
Artists: Laura Braga, Sumit Kumar & Jack Herbert
Colour Artists: Arif Prianto, Jordie Bellaire & Gabe Eltaeb
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands & Rob Leigh

Review by Max Byrne

The third instalment of this wonderfully intriguing title works very well as a penultimate issue. With an ending that leaves all of us on the hook for the final chapter, due in two weeks time, it both enhances the narrative and sets the table for more. 

Whilst the story here is, at times, a slow burner, there's certainly enough of substance going on to drag the reader along for the ride. The title, and probably the Future State era as a whole, has been divisively received amongst critics, and I will freely admit that some of the titles have missed the mark. In my humble opinion, however, John Ridley has devised a compelling and authentic story here that deserves respect and a favourable review. 

So, as our new Caped Crusader, Tim "Jace" Fox has filled the bat-suit very well indeed. Less high-tech than his legendary predecessor, there's a wonderfully down and dirty quality to this hero. Where Bruce Wayne would likely treat a wound with an elaborate dressing, or rely on some built-in part of the suit to fix the problem, this Dark Knight lights a flare and drives it into the wound! This is a wise move from Ridley, as it helps to separate Jace from Bruce. This Batman is no mere facsimile; Jace is his own man, despite trying to do justice to the legacy of the role he now inhabits. Maybe he's also a bit more of a soft touch than Bruce, less embittered by years of toil. That lack of cynicism may prove to be his undoing, as the aforementioned ending certainly leaves him in tight spot!

Another point of intrigue is the tantalising conversation between the de facto villains, Stanz and Peacekeeper-01. The level of hate that Peacekeeper-01 has for Batman seems to be hinting at a past encounter. Could the man beneath the helmet be somebody we already know? A rogue from days of Batman past? I have my own theories on that, but let's just wait and see how things play out.

As always, the art on offer here is right out of the top drawer. Laura Braga draws characters that you just love to look at, full of expression and physicality. Her action scenes are superbly realised and have an authenticity to them that certainly makes me want to look at more of her work in the future, which, based on this evidence, is very bright indeed. The art works nicely in tandem with Ridley's story to create a living, breathing dystopia that doesn't feel forced, never jumps the shark, and very much feels like Gotham, albeit one a few years into the future.

As is the norm with this book, we get a healthy dose of bonus stories here, continuing the tales of some of the peripheral characters of the Bat-mythos. Hard to talk about without really jumping into spoiler territory, all I can say is that the likes of Black Lightning, Katana, The Signal and a nice selection of villains all get their time in the sun. Making a very welcome return to the spotlight is The Arkham Knight, and her appearances should be all the more frequent, in my opinion. I hope this is the catalyst to seeing more of her down the line.

Conclusion

All the pieces are now in place for a final issue that promises to be a real slobberknocker. I hope the pay off equals the set up, but I think we are in good hands. Personally I am hoping for revelations galore, with the seeds planted here coming into bloom.

I'm starting to root for Jace, and get behind his tenure in the cowl and cape. So much so, that I'm very glad that DC have announced that John Ridley will be continuing The Next Batman's adventures in a follow-up mini series, after this initial run comes to an end.

What say you DC Comics?

Images courtesy of DC Entertainment

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