Review: FUTURE STATE: THE NEXT BATMAN #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas, Paul Jenkins
Artists: Nick Derington, Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez, Jack Herbert
Colours: Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Gabe Eltaeb
Letters: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Future State: The Next Batman #1: 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!
Over the years, DC has toyed with the idea of someone else succeeding Bruce Wayne in the role of Batman: Terry McGinnis, Jean-Paul Valley, Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, and others. So, the idea of a new Batman isn’t new in itself. But when the news that John Ridley was going to write a story with a new Batman caused quite a reaction. One reason was because it seemed likely that Ridley’s Batman would be a person of colour. The other reason was that it was supposed to be part of DC’s proposed “G5” relaunch, which implied that it would be presented as a permanent change.
However, as the relaunch evolved into Future State, it became clear that this story would happen in a future timeline, similar to Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond. But it was confirmed that the new Batman would indeed be a person of colour – namely Tim Fox, son of Lucius Fox. That’s why I was somewhat surprised upon reading Future State: The Next Batman #1 and reading that it was Luke Fox wearing the Batsuit, not Tim.
So, was this misdirection on DC’s part? Or is this going to be something along the lines of the Starman series? While Jack Knight was the star of the series, that series began with his brother David in the role of Starman. But David’s death led to Jack taking on the role. I so, I hope that doesn’t mean that Luke’s days are numbered.
There are a lot of other unanswered questions of what has happened between the present and the events of this story. How did Luke become Batman? Did Bruce pick him for the role or did he take it on himself? And what happened to Luke’s sister Tam? Also, I noticed that Lucius doesn’t appear in the story at all. I hope nothing bad happened to him.
I expect that many of these questions will be answered in the issues ahead as well as in Future State: Dark Detective. As I expect that series to explain why Bruce is no longer Batman, it’s quite possible it might also explain how the role passed to Luke.
There are also two backup stories in this issue. The first features the Outsiders, or at least three Outsiders: Katana, The Signal, and Black Lightning. In this future Gotham, the Outsiders have undergone some interesting changes. Katana is now wearing suit of armour that enhances her abilities and allows her to fly. I love that this armour has is patterned after that worn by samurai warriors. Also, her sword, Soultaker, appears technologically enhanced, giving it a glowing blade.
But the most shocking (no pun intended) change is that Jefferson Pierce has become living lightning. The recent Batman and the Outsiders showed Batman giving Black Lightning a major power boost. I wonder if Jefferson’s current state was an unforeseen consequence of that. I also wonder if he agrees with Tatsu that it’s a curse.
The second backup is the one I find most interesting, as it features the most drastic and unexpected change from the current day continuity. In a future where Gotham has been turned into a totalitarian state, many of the worst criminals have become a force for good. Astrid Arkham, has enlisted several former inmates of Arkham Asylum as her team of Arkham Knights. And together, the Knights serve as a resistance against the Magistrate’s tyrannical rule.
With some of the inmates, it’s not hard to believe they might fight on the side of good. Some of them have before, such as Two-Face and Clayface. And others are more misguided souls rather than evil, like Anarky. But villains like Zsasz are pure evil, so it’s somewhat surprising to see him fall in line with the others.
Astrid’s own motives are somewhat of a mystery. She shows herself to be somewhat of an idealist when she gives Croc a free choice between joining her team or not. She refuses to compel him to “swear fealty to our cause”. On the other hand, the fact that she keeps a monster like Zsasz on her team because of his effectiveness at killing their enemies shows she is also very pragmatic. It would be interesting to see which tendency wins out in a situation where her ideals conflict with her practical goals.
The only drawback I can see is that all of these stories raise a lot of interesting questions, but I don’t know if we’ll get to see them all answered. The Outsiders and Arkham Knights will only get one more chapter each in this mini, which seems only enough to only scratch the surface of any story potential these groups have.
On the other hand, the Next Batman story will appear in all four issues. Plus there are plans for more stories of featuring him in the near future. Perhaps if The Next Batman proves to be a hit, he might get an ongoing series of his own which might also feature the teams introduced in these backup stories.
Future State: The Next Batman #1 introduces a lot of intriguing ideas to the Batman mythos. Hopefully DC and Ridley will explore these ideas beyond the Future State event. But even if it doesn’t return, it won’t be quickly forgotten. However, I am certain that this historic miniseries will prove to be a hit with fans.