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FUTURE STATE: THE NEXT BATMAN #1 Review

Neil reviews DC Comics FUTURE STATE: THE NEXT BATMAN #1. The book is in stores and on digital now. Neil calls it “a gritty and insightful window” in to future Gotham.

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Future State: The Next Batman #1 (DC Comics)

Future State: The Next Batman #1 is available to purchase now on digital and in print from DC Comics. The issue features stories by Paul Jenkins, Ken Kristensen, John Ridley and Brandon Thomas.

Artwork across the three stories comes from Nick Derington, Jack Herbert and Sumit Kumar on pencils, inkers also include Raul Fernandez and Travel Foreman. Colours are by Jordie Bellaire, Tamra Bonvillain and Gabe Eltaeb.

Cover art is by Ladrönn.

Synopsis

Gotham City has always been dangerous-but now, it’s downright deadly! Following the tragedy of “A-Day,” the mayor allowed the private law enforcement group known as the Magistrate to take over policing so-called mask crime-and that has given rise to a new Dark Knight! What is this mysterious crime fighter’s connection to former Batman weaponeer Lucius Fox? The fight for justice has never been this dangerous! 
Then, in an new tale of the Outsiders, everything in Gotham City may be under the thumb of the Magistrate-but even members of that totalitarian force know that the outskirts of town are protected by the sword of Katana! 
Plus, ride with the Arkham Knights on their quest for freedom. Arkham Asylum has been decommissioned, and the Magistrate rules the land with an iron fist and zero tolerance. Now it’s time for the lunatics to take back their town! Follow Croc, Two-Face, Phosphorus, Zsasz, Clayface, and Astrid Arkham as the Arkham Knights raise holy hell on the occupiers of Gotham!

Review

DC Future State: The Next Batman #1 is a three-in-one gift. The book doesn’t solely focus on this mysterious new Batman, it also have not one but two backup stories featuring The Outsiders and Arkham Knights.

All three stories complement each other in fleshing out the current status quo in Gotham in their own ways. But, like me, I’m sure you came here to find out about this new Batman everyone is talking about…

Much like Harley Quinn #1 which I reviewed yesterday, The Next Batman is a smaller scale story than I had anticipated. Having read a number of DC’s Future State stories at this point it’s clear that rather than using this two-month stopgap to present bombastically huge stories DC is instead refocussing and repositioning itself in a changing market.

Despite the titular “future” this book opens up in a very old-school Batman moment. We learn a little more about The Magistrate – I mentioned them in my Harley review – and now know they are a private security force. This force has outlawed masks in Gotham meaning the Bat-family has been sidelined. So rather than being out in the open, Batman is once again forced to work in the shadows.

The opening scene is a simple Bat-versus-petty-criminal scene. It’s perfectly effective. It’s classic Batman only this isn’t “our” Batman. This is someone new. All we learn in this issue is that the new person under the cowl has a close connection to Lucius Fox. Writer John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) and artist Nick Derington (Doom Patrol) do a wonderful job of providing a couple of different directions in which the story can do without revealing too much right out of the gate.

The Batman story is brilliantly pulpy thanks to the combination of Derington’s pencils and Tamra Bonvillain’s colours. The pairing have created a shadowy version of Gotham which is never devoid of colour or depth.

Despite being run as a police state there’s still a murky underworld to Gotham and the story splits time between the kinetic Batman action and giving us a window in to the lives of the city’s inhabitants. There’s a personal story for this new Batman – whichever member of the Fox family it might be – and some insight in to the inner workings of GCPD. Former cop Whitaker and his former-partner Chubb begin to open up more of Gotham’s inner workings in an true intriguing manner.

Both backup stories serve to widen out the landscape of the book. Brandon Thomas’ Outsiders story featuring some beautiful artwork from Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez and Jordie Bellaire. Whilst the story is more straightforwards it’s certainly the most visually stunning of the three. It’s gritty, it’s grainy and I’m here for every panel.

The final story, written by Paul Jenkins with art from Jack Herbert, is the loudest of the three. It takes a group of Gotham’s most notorious and brings them together to form an unlikely team. It’s a cautionary tale of how Gotham’s least-finest would react to living under an police state. Think Suicide Squad without the bombs to keep them in line. There are some stunning action set pieces amongst glimpses of character here. It rounds out the anthology with further intrigue and awesome.

Verdict

Future State: The Next Batman #1 offers a gritty and insightful window in to a Gotham under the rule of The Magistrate. An intriguing character mystery for The Dark Knight alone is enough to bring me back for more.


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