DC seems to have quite a grand pan ahead with Future State and the resulting fallout afterward, which has already been revealed. Future State is supposed to be a takeover event that lasts a few months and tells of a (dark?) future of the DC Universe. The plan is for basically everything to be different again after the two months. There are many new titles, writers, and artists being moved around and injected here and there.
All that I know is from the promotional splash poster and what I’ve read in this book. There looks to be a few Batmen in the new world we’re entering after the fallout of Death Metal, along with a lot of other unrecognizable or variant looking characters. I’m a little excited because of more alternate Batman, but it’s also a bit worrisome because it’s different. I definitely had to check out The Next Batman, which helps kick things off this week for Future State.
The issue is oversized and includes stories for The Next Batman, Outsiders, and Arkham Knights. The price for the title is $7.99. It seems that DC is working with fewer titles overall, but still packing stories and content into some the issues that are coming out. The main story is an average full-length comic, while the backup stories each get about half an issue. All the stories are to be continued, but it doesn’t look like they all will continue in the next comic. I also noticed the paper on the pages feels different. It’s less glossy and has more of a paper or newspaper feel. It didn’t really affect my enjoyment or impression of the comic either way, but I did notice it.
Future State’s basic story here is a future DC where the Magistrate’s organized private military force now rules Gotham with an iron fist. Masks of any kind, including heroes wearing them, are outlawed with a shoot on sight order. It seems like everything has changed a bit with gangs such as the Bane-litos(seemingly unconnected to Bane) all dressed in Bane masks fighting turf wars and recruiting teens to their cause. There is still a Batman watching over Gotham, but he is wanted by both the police and the Magistrate’s forces.
The thing that stands out the most in the comic is also what I liked best about it. The pages and panels with Batman are beautiful. The art is fun and not too drastic one way or another. It definitely portrays a comic book version of Batman, not overly dark or realistic. It is very moody, though, with cinematic panel layouts that are excellent. I found myself enjoying watching Batman be Batman. Just taking a moment to see him dropping into an alley, jumping off a rooftop, or perching on a gargoyle really helped cement this is Batman now, no matter who’s under the mask. The colors are also unique and really make Batman’s scenes stand out. They aren’t as dark as you would expect, with some pink and purple backgrounds making the action stand out.
The same panel layout style and bold color don’t carry over into the scenes without Batman, though. This seems like it is done on purpose to show the exciting and extreme world of Batman compared to the man underneath’s everyday life. The problem I found, though, was those scenes without Batman felt a little dull. While I won’t spoil who the Next Batman is, I will say that his life outside of the mask is a lot different from what we’ve seen in the past with Bruce Wayne. We immediately meet his family and are thrust into the family drama. It didn’t work well for me so far, but it’s still new.
I did enjoy the writing for the Batman scenes as well. Nothing stood out of the ordinary and was what you’d expect from Batman doing his job on the streets. Although we don’t learn too much about him, he seems to have the same values as the previous Batman, is similarly skilled and just as likable. It looks like the family situation will come into play quickly, though, and likely make life as Batman more complicated. The title may become more like a Spider-Man comic where he is always juggling life, protecting his identity, and trying to save the city simultaneously with minimal support.
The second story takes place between the outside fringes and the locked-down Gotham and illegal trips inside it. We see Katana with a cool new suit, including a jetpack, and The Signal facing off against the Magistrate’s forces. They seem to be leading a renegade band just outside of Gotham and trying to aid good people still inside.
I really enjoyed the art in this story as well. It’s more cartoonish and a bit darker, but the style works and stands out. Katana especially is shown in a fresh light here. Her new design is exciting, and she is practically standing alone as an action hero. I haven’t read too much into her in the past, but this was a fun episode. There is a detailed 2-page action spread of Katana breaking into a facility and going through the guards on each floor. It is a treat that has a bit of a Kill Bill feel to it.
Although we don’t know too much about the Outsiders’ current status, mission, or members, the story is intriguing and only left me wanting more. I like Katana as a leader and main focus. There is a great surprise appearance from another DC character, and we’re left wondering exactly what’s going on with them. We don’t know who’s on what side and who’s alive, dead, or changed in this new Future State. In a way, that’s good as we get to experience fresh perspectives and surprises. Still, we’re also kind of quickly moving blindly through this DC universe.
The final story is Arkham Knights. It shows us what has become of the usual inmates of Arkham Asylum. They are now led by Astrid Arkham, the female armored Arkham Knight. She is very militant and has a vision that she continually strives towards and preaches about. She is followed by uniformed Batman villains such as Mr. Dent, Mr. Dumpty, and Mr. Clay. They have coordinated objectives and missions that they execute against The Magistrate and their Captains called Peacekeepers.
This story stood out the least to me. I love the Batman villains, but seeing them as a severe militant rebel force was no fun. In only 20 pages, I got tired of Astrid’s preaching. This felt almost something like a 90’s X-Force comic, but more preachy, more political, and more strictly focused. The art isn’t bad, though it is more realistic and darker. It also felt a little cramped with all the villains together in many panels.
The most fascinating aspect of this team is that their base is in the former Wayne Manor. Where are the former occupants? Do they have access to the Batcave? I do not have any interest in this story otherwise or this format for Batman’s villains. I can see where they will play a part in overthrowing the Magistrate’s military rule over Gotham. Still, it’s not very fun to watch.
Overall this comic felt worth the time and money. I enjoyed seeing the new Batman take care of business in a fresh but familiar way with a unique visual style. I liked catching up on where some of Gotham’s classic players are and how they are adapting. I would like to learn more about the Future State without reading a lot of other titles. I also don’t know if I want to wait for every other issue to follow up on the backup stories. Maybe there’s too much going on and changing all at once for this to work efficiently. I really don’t know anything about what’s going on except the snippets I read on these pages. I did get to see some entertaining action and some gratifying victories. However, the bigger picture, character development, and end goals are still out of sight.