The first issue of Future State: Dark Detective was a solid set-up issue. It didn’t blow me out of the water as it was largely a comic book that was about setting the stage for what Future State: Dark Detective will be about. Much like all other Batman Family titles under the Future State banner, with Dark Detective we are seeing how Bruce Wayne is tackling the Magistrate regime that has taken over Gotham City. But whereas the other Batman Family titles are already in the thick of it with this conflict, Dark Detective, at least the first issue, acted as the flashpoint. With Dark Detective #1 we start to learn why everyone believes Bruce Wayne is dead and that the Magistrate eliminated the original Batman when their regime started. With the stage now set on that what will Bruce Wayne do next without any of his resources in a world that believes he is dead? Let’s find out Future State: Dark Detective #1.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki (Future State: Dark Detective); Joshua Williamson (Future State: Red Hood)
Artist: Dan Mora (Future State: Dark Detective); Giannis Milonogiannis (Future State: Red Hood)
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire (Future State: Dark Detective and Red Hood)
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At a Magistrate warehouse some guys try to steal equipment but are stopped by Magistrate’s robot security called Cybers. Batman (Bruce Wayne) appears from the shadows and starts fighting the Cybers.
As he fights the Cybers’ Bruce remembers when Peacekeeper-01 ambushed him in an alley. While suffering from his gunshot wound Bruce is able to get some distance between him and Peacekeeper-01 by using his grapple gun. Bruce is able to make it to a pier and throws down some batarangs on the ground as Peacekeeper-01 closes in. Peacekeeper-01 shoots Bruce, forcing him to jump into the water.
Peacekeeper-01 spots a body in the water and relentlessly fires his gun believing it to be Bruce. It turns out to be a John Doe body that Bruce randomly finds in the water to confuse Peacekeeper-01. Suddenly the batarangs that Bruce threw down earlier explode and send Peacekeeper-01 flying.
Bruce uses the explosion to make his full escape while making Peacekeeper-01 believe he is dead.
In the present Batman defeats the Magistrate’s Cybers and salvages the robot for parts he needs.
Bruce later goes into the one apartment complex in Gotham City that didn’t need identification or bio-scans to get into. Bruce was able to convince the landlord of the complex to give him a place because the guy, named Noah, hates technology and uses the name “Jeff” to avoid alerting anyone that Bruce Wayne is alive.
In the basement Bruce has set up a hideout where he has connected the dots on the three companies that have helped armed Peacekeeper-01 and the Magistrate regime are PlexiTech, DraftTech, and Neo Corp. Bruce uses the information that he has gathered to further investigate the Magistrate’s rise to power.
Outside Bruce notices Hannah, Noah’s daughter, arguing with a kid trying to take a picture of the apartment complex. Hannah reveals she works for a powerful company and gets the kid to back down from taking the picture.
Bruce tries to talk to Hannah but Hannah just takes off.
Later Batman rides the bike he was able to convince Noah to give him in exchange for fixing Noah’s TV. Batman investigates Carl Bennington, the CEO of PlexiTech, as he has the contract to create the Magistrate’s armor and ballistics. Batman thinks how PlexiTech, DraftTech, and Neo Corp did not exist before the Joker War.
Before he can get inside PlexiTech’s headquarters the alarms go off after detecting Batman’s presences. A large number of Magistrate drones immediately swarm Batman. Batman immediately speeds off in his bike.
As the drones chase the bike through the city Batman is shown on a rooftop. Bruce reveals that from the parts he took from the Cybers he was able to figure out that the Magistrate have been using surveillance technology he and Lucius Fox were testing before Joker War.
Back in his hideout basement, Bruce begins to piece together that the Magistrate used this in-development surveillance tech to figure out who he was and how Peacekeeper-01 got the jump on him. Bruce suddenly hears Noah scream out “They’re bleep watching us.”
Bruce goes upstairs to Noah freaking out that the Magistrate used his TV to spy on them. Bruce realizes that the Magistrate has eyes everywhere in Gotham City. End of main story.
The Good: Much like the first issue, Future State: Dark Detective #2 has a lot of cool top-level ideas. The new world order in Gotham City with the Magistrate has given Bruce Wayne a challenge that truly feels difficult to overcome. But when we get into the smaller details of how the story is being presented does not fully work, partly because of what we’ve seen in other Batman Family titles in the Future State direction.
What has become of Gotham City has been one of the most fascinating aspects of Future State. As we see with Future State: Dark Detective #2, Gotham City has become the DC Universe’s version of Blade Runner. The entire vibe that we get presented with from how characters act to the way technology is used keeps you on your toes.
This speaks to the ideas that Mariko Tamaki explores with how the Magistrate have used connections to all the major companies in Gotham City to make themselves an unstoppable regime. Adding in three of the major companies, PlexiTech, DraftTech, and Neo Corp, were not a thing until after the events of ‘Joker War’ was a great way to connect this continuity to a recent major event a large portion of fans picking up the Batman Family Future State titles read. This further opens our thinking of how Future State is a direction that the Batman Family were all heading towards because of how impactful events like ‘Joker War’ and ‘City of Bane’ were to Gotham City.
It is a cool way to retroactively give added weight to what we saw go on in Tom King and James Tynion’s big Batman stories without relying on readers knowing those details. Tamaki provides all the information that you need to know to give you a firm idea of how PlexiTech, DraftTech, and Neo Corp used big events in Gotham City to help the Magistrate gain control. At the same, for fans who have been keeping up with recent Batman events the references Tamaki drops will feel extra rewarding because we do have that context.
In establishing these three companies that rose up in the aftermath of ‘Joker War’ Tamaki brought things back to how Wayne Enterprise is connected to the Magistrate’s regime. Seeing Bruce Wayne figure out through analyzing the Cybers tech to figure out the Magistrate are using surveillance technology he and Lucius Fox were developing pre-Joker War was a cool twist. It further paints the picture that something happened before Magistrate’s takeover that drove a wedge between Bruce and Lucius.
This development also spotlights how Bruce has taken great care to not let the technology he develops for his mission as Batman get out to the rest of the world. But because Bruce has developed so much advance tech there was always a danger it would get out to the rest of the world in some way. The fact that the Magistrate are using some of this technology intended for Batman’s exclusive use shows the ramification of starting development on such technology. Bringing attention to these consequences adds a new layer of interest to the Magistrate’s regime being connected to the way the entire Batman Family operate.
Speaking of which, it was interesting to see how Jason Todd was used as someone working within the Magistrate system. The Red Hood back-up was actually a refreshing change of pace from everything going on with the rest of the Batman Family. Both from the way Joshua Williamson writes the dynamic between Jason Todd and Rose Wilson to the different art style implemented by Giannis Milonogiannis, it was fun back-up story to read.
All of that said, where Future State: Dark Detective #2 really shines is from the artwork by Dan Mora. This entire issue is stunning as the world of Gotham City that is going into the Neo Gotham/Blade Runner aesthetic looks so good. Mora does a great job in showing how this new direction for Gotham City has only further spotlighted the class system across the city. From the high tech shown in the central part of the city to the dirty slums, Gotham City has a whole new life that you just want to learn more about. That is thanks Mora’s phenomenal artwork.
The Bad: Once you get past the ideas of how the Magistrate regime took over Gotham City, Future State: Dark Detective #2 makes a lot of odd character choices. For one, there continues to be a disconnect with how Tamaki and Mora try to present the idea of Bruce Wayne being believed to be dead. While that is reiterated multiple times in this issue we continue to wonder why anyone would believe that to be the case. Bruce makes no effort other than going by a new first name, “Jeff,” to hide still being alive.
We once again see him openly walking around a city where he was by far the most recognizable person. Nothing about his appearance changes outside of some stubble on his face. This is where it would’ve been good if Tamaki had Bruce go old-school by using his background in creating disguises to go under his Matches Malone gimmick or something. It would’ve added to how Bruce is being forced to not rely on new technology to combat the Magistrate.
This is a minor nitpick in comparison to the terrible way Future State: Dark Detective #2 explained why Peacekeeper-01 would put out the message that Bruce Wayne and Batman was dead. The fact that in his escape Bruce would find a random John Doe body in the river was a major eye rolling moment. The convenient placement of this random body just makes Peacekeeper-01 and the Magistrate idiotic for not actually confirming Bruce’s death. This goes against how the Magistrate and Peacekeeper-01 have been presented as a powerful organization that eliminate all opposition.
For Peacekeeper-01 to not even analyze the John Doe body and realize that Bruce is still around makes them look like fools. Bruce is by far the most dangerous person they can let still be alive. Maybe we will get an explanation that this was part of their plan to flush Bruce out of hiding but that does not undo how terribly convenient this development was. This further spotlights the question as to why anyone in Gotham City or the Batman Family members would believe Bruce Wayne is dead.
While Bruce has been able to connect the dots on the companies helping the Magistrate when Future State: Dark Detective #2 is done it does not feel like we are not any further along in the story than when we started. The pacing of overall story is still heavily reliant on the aesthetic of this new Gotham City to push it forward. Bruce’s inner monologue does make it feel like we are nowhere near the end even though we are halfway into this four-part story. The pacing will need to pick up in the final two issues of Future State: Dark Detective to make the mystery behind the Magistrate feel worth all the set-up we have gotten.
What adds to how off the way Bruce is approaching this conflict with the Magistrate is that we don’t get a clear idea of when Future State: Dark Detective is taking place compared to other Batman Family titles. Even though it is the same Magistrate controlled Gotham City it feels empty when it comes to Bruce being the only one dealing with the Magistrate regime. Which is odd since we see in Next Batman, Nightwing, Harley Quinn, and other Batman Family Future State stories that there is a resistance movement against Magistrate
This once again goes back to one of my biggest complaints with Future State being that we are not given a time period for when each book is taking place. This is especially bad for the Batman Family titles that are all taking place in this Magistrate controlled Gotham City. Little things like saying the present-day scenes in Future State: Dark Detective are taking place seven years into the future would add context to this point in the timeline. That would help add context as to why no one would recognize Bruce because he has been MIA for so long everyone forgot what he looks like. But since we are once again given the vague “Then” and “Now” tags for the present and flashback scenes it feels like the events in Future State: Dark Detective are happening in a matter of days.
While I enjoyed Milonogiannis unique art style for the back-up story the artwork looked much better when characters were fully masked up. When it came to character’s actually faces it all looked flat. Which is odd since Milonogiannis does some good detail work when everyone is in their full costume with masks. The details not being there for characters actual faces detracted from what was being said in the moments when the masks were off.
Overall: Future State: Dark Detective #2 presents a lot of interesting ideas behind how the Magistrate rise was tied to big Batman events like ‘City of Bane’ and ‘Joker War.’ While those ties continue to keep you invested in what Bruce Wayne is doing by the end of this issue we are not any further along in this story than when we started. Luckily we got Dan Mora’s phenomenal artwork to always keep us engaged in the world that we are dropped into with Future State: Dark Detective #2.
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