Future State: The Next Batman #1 (March 2021)

The Next Batman

Writer: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas, Paul Jenkins, Art: Nick Derington, Sumit Kumar, Jack Herbert, Inks: Raul Fernandez Colours: Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Gabe Eltaeb

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 crimefighter’s connection to former Batman weaponeer Lucius Fox? The fight for justice has never been this dangerous!

Then, in a 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!

DCCOMICS.COM official solicitation

Finally, the long rumoured John Ridley (Oscar winner for ’12 Years A Slave’) run on Batman sees print.  Originally conceived as the next evolution of the character and to take place in the main ‘Batman’ title, it is now a two month event before the actual next DC reboot.

The rumour was, but never confirmed, that DC were going to age up all their main characters and replace them with new, younger heroes who were going to take on the legacies.  Due to a corporate takeover and an internal power struggle this never happened but a fair amount of work had been produced.  This work is now being released over a two month period and being prompted as ‘Future State’, a possible future in the DC Universe’s multiverse.

When Ridley was announced as writer it was revealed that he was going to introduce a Black Batman. This, of course, was picked up by the mainstream press and social media who assumed the Bruce Wayne was going to have his race changed. This is what probably lead to DC advertising that Tim Fox, son of Lucius, was the Batman a couple of months before the book’s release.

Unfortunately for the book, Ridley writes it as the next Batman’s identity being a mystery. The reader is clearly meant to think it is Luke Fox, Tim’s brother, as that would be the obvious answer. Luke has already be the costumed vigilante Batwing and the Fox family are now in control of the Wayne fortune. Early in the issue, Luke’s mother even says she doesn’t want him becoming the next Bruce Wayne. Already knowing who Batman is going to be takes something away from the storytelling.

The set-up for ‘Future State’ in Gotham is that Bruce Wayne is dead and there is now a paramilitary group, lead by The Magistrate, policing the streets with a shoot to kill policy for anyone wearing a mask and it doesn’t matter whether they are a hero or a villain. How Gotham has come to be in this situation is not revealed. The new Batman’s M.O. is the same as the old one’s, he is the protector the city and is not going to let anyone die. The story starts with him saving a masked rapist and ends with him rescuing to teen gang members.

Ridley writes an effective Batman story but is hamstrung by his secrets already being revealed and a reboot that was dead on arrival. It would have been more interesting if this had played out in the main Bat title as previous stories had been setting it up to.

Nick Derington’s art on the issue is amazing and is reminiscent of Frank Quitely and the late Darwyn Cooke’s work on the character. His Batman has a clean and classic look to it and, again, it’s a shame that this isn’t in ‘Batman’.

This book doesn’t reinvent the wheel but is good Batman.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Outsiders

The second story in the book is an ‘Outsiders’ tale written by Brandon Thomas. This is to literal as the Outsiders are now a team that work outsider Gotham, which has had it’s exits block by The Magistrate, and Black Lightning is actual black lightning. Katana now wears a horrible mech-suit, has a jet pack and is having an ongoing conversation with her dead husband’s spirit that is trapped in her sword.

The story’s one saving grace is a great double page spread, by Sumit Kumar, of Katana fighting room to room and floor to floor to get to villain in his bunker.

Unnecessary.

⭐⭐

Arkham Knights – Chapter One: Rise

The last story in the book is by Paul Jenkins. The Arkham Knight, inspired by the video game and recently introduced to comics in the ‘Detective Comics’ arc by Peter Tomasi. is Astrid Arkham, heir to the asylum, and member of a radical Sun cult. She is leading the inmates of Arkham Asylum to take back the wastelands of Gotham from The Magistrate.

Another uninteresting attempt to portray villains as anti-heroes.

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