Batman is on the hunt for Heretic in BATMAN AND ROBIN: FUTURE’S END #1; and he’s not alone! Written by Ray Fawkes and art by Dustin Nguyen on pencils, Derek Fridolfs inks, and John Kalisz on color, this issue is one big brawl, and an interesting one.
Bruce is hunting a seemingly revived (or cloned, more likely) Heretic, and meanwhile, a very teenaged Robin, Duke (notably African American, and notably a character introduced in Zero Year over in Batman, Duke Thomas) is dealing with some shady cyborg operations. Bruce is in bad, very bad shape, with a frazzled Alfred keeping a tab on his vital signs. Something must have gone horribly wrong in these past five years for Bruce to be literally one stress-induced stroke away from neural failure.
Bruce engages Heretic, and meanwhile Duke begs to be kept in the loop and to come help. The Heretic is non responsive to Bruce’s pleas to see if he is indeed the same one that killed Damian. Alfred reminds him of the high possibility of clones, but Bruce is unmoving. This Heretic had previously murdered some Wayne Enterprise lawyers in broad daylight with cameras visible. Bruce asserts they can’t be League either; League would have never allowed such sloppiness. Basically Bruce is fueled by equal parts rage and retribution for Damian but also a heavy dose of “WHO ARE YOU?!”
Heretic throttles Bruce hard until Duke arrives, Alfred patching through coordinates without Bruce’s consent. He arrives just in time to help take Heretic out. They burn him; rendering it impossible to see what’s under the mask, but Bruce nevertheless takes a DNA sample.
Duke. Duke is awesome. I’m completely out of Zero Year loop but Duke is already an established character; it’s not too strange to assume that he will become the next numbered Robin. If Damian DOES come back, he most likely will be in no shape to be Robin again. DC seems to be building a lot of possible Robin candidates anyway. This storyline also fits really well into the current narrative so unlike a lot of FUTURE’S END flash forwards, this seems less AU and more, an actual flash forward? Should we watch for more Duke? Nguyen on Bat artwork is great as always though perpetual favorite colorist John Kalisz is a bit restrained this go around. The fact this book kept both inker and colorist from it’s current book’s creative team makes all the difference as it establishes a clear thematic continuity.
I really don’t have many qualms here. I don’t like them using someone else’s art for the flashbacks of Damian’s death. Nguyen couldn’t have redrawn that? Otherwise, I have nothing to say besides it being so short. Would a miniseries or a double issue do some of these FUTURE’S END issues more justice? Bruce is one tic away from death and his sanity is always questionable so even a supposed run down Bruce five years later, one about to snap and fall apart, is really no different from the Bruce we have now. To see it gets even worse is awful.
Solid issue; classic (as in not learning anything) Bruce being stubborn and Robin wanting to help. It’s slick and well drawn, better than most of these issues. Pick it up. We might be seeing more of Duke yet. I can’t give it 5 out of 5 because it’s so…vague. Is this really the future? Is any of this actually going to stick? Or is it all AU that won’t come to pass? We shall see.