The end is finally here. After several Batman Family series have dealt with the conflict with the Magistrate the final issue of Dark Detective will be concluding this major Future State story. There has been so much going into this as to how the Magistrate’s control of Gotham City has been so unshakable. Given all of Gotham City’s development during Future State can Dark Detective provide a satisfying conclusion to the Batman Family’s conflict with the Magistrate? Let’s find out with Future State: Dark Detective #4.
Writers: Mariko Tamaki (Future State: Dark Detective); Joshua Williamson (Future State: Red Hood)
Artists: Dan Mora (Future State: Dark Detective); Giannis Milonogiannis (Future State: Red Hood)
Colorists: Jordie Bellaire (Future State: Dark Detective and Future State: Red Hood)
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Inside the Magistrate’s headquarters Peacekeeper-01 listens to a presentation, which Hannah Harris is a part of, about how the surveillance capacity of their drones has increased, and the cloaking tech is near perfect. Peacekeeper-01 is not happy that the tech hasn’t been perfected yet and wants reports on all damaged and missing drones immediately.
After the meeting Hannah gets a call from her dad (Noah Riley) about “Jeff Mark” (the fake name Bruce Wayne is using) is doing something on the roof of their apartment complex.
On the roof Bruce finishes adjusting the antenna with a signal deregulator to put his plans into motion. Once done he goes back to his basement to finish up the last of his preparations.
Hannah storms into the apartment and demands to know what “Jeff” did to her dad. Bruce apologizes and knocks Hannah out. Bruce then puts Hannah and Noah in a van.
A little later, after Bruce is gone, the Magistrates drones arrive at the apartment to find nothing. They destroy the building and Peacekeeper-01 orders the drones to find Bruce.
Elsewhere, Hannah comes to in an unknown bunker where Bruce reveals he is Bruce Wayne to her. He then asks Hannah what she was doing working for the Magistrate. Hannah reveals that she has been spying on the Magistrate this whole time to gain recordings that she will release to the public to show what they are really doing. Hannah talks about how the Magistrates true goal is not to take out any form of vigilantes but to make sure any form of justice outside of them is wiped out so Gotham City can be under their complete control.
While Hannah wants to go to her media contact with everything she has on the Magistrate, Bruce tells Hannah to stay in the bunker, promising they won’t find her there. Bruce then leaves before Hannah can protest.
Later Bruce as Batman has finished his preparations and finds his window to strike at the Magistrate even as they know he is alive. As he goes about getting into the Magistrate headquarters, Bruce can’t help but think how he helped make Gotham City vulnerable as Magistrate used the darkness to control the city.
Pushing past this thought Batman makes his way into the Magistrate’s headquarters just as an explosion is set off. Batman finds Hannah working on getting the information she needs. After Hannah gets what she needs Batman leads her out.
Before they get out of the building Peacekeeper-01 tackles Batman from behind, knowing it is Bruce behind the cowl. Batman tells Hannah to keep running as time ticks down on another planted bomb in the building. Peacekeeper-01 says he will save the city with the power he now has is something no one can stop.
In another part of the building Hannah rushes out but is confronted by Magistrate’s Cybers. Hannah quickly swallows the drive she downloaded all the information about the Magistrate in.
At the same time Batman and Peacekeeper-01 continue to have a back-and-forth fight. Even though Peacekeeper-01 believes he can kill Bruce again Batman states he never killed him. Batman goes on to say that he is burning everything the Magistrate have to the ground.
As another explosion goes off, destroying the Magistrate headquarters, Hannah realizes the Batman who helped her was Bruce Wayne. End of issue.
The Good: When it comes to the main story in Future State: Dark Detective #4 it is tough to fully get behind how it ends. On one hand Dark Detective #4 is the most tightly written issue that does its best to maximize the narrative of how the Magistrate control Gotham City. But on the other hand, there are plot elements that don’t feel as complete with how things end up reaching the ending that we got.
By far, this was the best written Bruce Wayne we have gotten in the Dark Detective series. While we’ve seen Bruce take in what the current situation is in Gotham City we haven’t seen to much action. Here we finally get full on Batman as he is combining his detective and combat ability to get the job done.
A big part of that is how there is great sense of urgency to Bruce finally acting as Batman. The Magistrate zeroing in on his location made Bruce realize that this war is not something he can take his time with. Even if he is returning to form the Magistrate have spent so much time obtaining power and control in Gotham City that Bruce can really do nothing but try to catch up. Because of that Tamaki shows us what Bruce can do when he has to be much more resourceful than he ever was. That includes adjusting his plan so that he can be at least a step ahead when the Magistrate final tracked him down.
Making this rush to stop the Magistrate work even better is the fact that this all made Bruce realize that it wasn’t the companies that helped this regime takeover. Rather, it was Bruce’s own use of fear and darkness as Batman that weakened the perception of the city and the people living there. Which backs up how in previous issues Bruce discovered how the Magistrate used the events of Joker War and A-Day to rise to power. Bruce having his own realization of his role in this added fuel to his mission now as he became even more narrow focused on using the window he had that night to take down the Magistrate.
The opening of Dark Detective #4 was a good set up for how Peacekeeper-01 has grown completely power hungry in maintaining the Magistrate regime. Bruce’s recent actions in taking some of the Magistrate drones just further pushed Peacekeeper-01 to the edge from a villain who felt in complete control to someone who as soon as he sensed any imperfection he goes in to deep-end.
Which all led in well into how we saw the fight between Batman and Peacekeeper-01 go down. Peacekeeper-01 was no longer in unstoppable terminator mode like he was in the flashback when he almost killed Bruce Wayne the first time. Instead this was a completely deranged person who was fighting angry as he viewed Batman as someone who was trying to ruin all of his perfect planning.
This fight was really where Tamaki’s writing shined as she works well to put over Batman and Peacekeeper-01 as two fighters who would do anything to stop the other. This was not just a simple hero vs villain fight. Both were fighting for what the fate of Gotham City was. Which is why ending the fight with a massive explosion did work for what the entire struggle was in this arc, even if it made the story come across as incomplete.
Tamaki also does a good job in using Hannah Harris actions as an extension for how the people in Gotham City feel. While we’ve seen the public live like nothing is wrong we’ve seen many instances in Dark Detective and other Batman Family Future State titles that is all a façade for the truth. As Hannah tells Bruce, there are many people that are tired living under surveillance 24/7 and those that are ignorant to this fact would also hate this. Keeping Hannah separate from the Batman Family Resistance also worked to show that there wasn’t just one set of characters in Gotham City who were trying to take down the Magistrate.
Through all of this Dan Mora once again knocked it out of the park with his stunning artwork throughout the main story in Future State: Dark Detective #4. The way he draws different characters and their wide range of emotions helps drive home the importance in the dialogue Tamaki wrote for them. The action we got at the end with the fight between Batman and Peacekeeper-01 worked to tell a story of what was driving each character through way they were each fighting. But what I was even more impressed by was how Mora created such a great atmosphere for the story between how he drew the city to have a Neo Gotham aesthetic and the explosions going off in the Magistrate’s headquarters to sell the sense of urgency in the big fight.
And once again Joshua Williamson’s Red Hood Future State story was a strong contender for being actually better than the main story in Dark Detective #4. Williamson captures how conflicted Jason Todd is as he is working for the Magistrate. Even as he is getting the job done to hunt down White Rabbit you get a sense not everything we are seeing with Jason is as it seems.
This makes the big reveal that Jason is in fact working with an unknown person to infiltrate the Magistrate even more compelling. We finally get more of a reason why even as Jason has joined the Magistrate he hasn’t been acting the way the Peacekeepers have been as authoritarian soldiers. Not revealing that the person Jason is working with is Nightwing, Oracle, or another Batman Family member was a nice touch. It keeps up the narrative that more work needs to be done to take down the Magistrate as one piece of information isn’t enough to take down the regime.
The reveal also works well with how Jason interactions with Rose Wilson had a down to Earth tone to them. The way they compliment one another worked incredibly well. Even as they were arguing Jason and Rose were able to quickly come up with ways to get each other out of the corner they were both placed in. From Jason rushing them out of the exploding building to Rose using the bounty on Jason so that the drones don’t kill them, the chemistry between the pair really shined. Which all makes me want to see Williamson and other writers continue to develop the relationship between Jason and Rose as they clearly make each other better.
The Red Hood back-up also worked to further paint the full picture of how corrupt the Magistrate are. Because as we learn in this story the reason the Magistrate are actually taking out Batman Rogues Gallery is because during their rise to power they were working with the villains. But now that they have no need for villains they worked with like White Rabbit the Magistrate are sending all the Peacekeepers to eliminate them. This backs up the stories in Future State: Harley Quinn and other Batman Family back-up stories that the Magistrate were corrupt from the beginning as they care for nothing other than having power.
The artwork by Giannis Milonogiannis won’t be for everyone but worked with the tone of the story in the Red Hood back-up. Milonogiannis artwork was at its best when characters were moving. Whether it was in the action or walking, Milonogiannis captured a fun tone that complimented the bleaker tone that we have seen in other Batman Family stories during Future State.
The Bad: While Future State: Dark Detective #4 was easily the best issue of this series, in terms of the main story involving Bruce Wayne, it was not perfect. One of the bigger problems that Dark Detective #4 had was that we never really got a firm idea of what Bruce Wayne’s plan to take down the Magistrate was. From his inner monologue it seems like Bruce’s plan was more fully throughout to reveal what the Magistrate really were doing to the public.
But rather than that be his plan Batman suddenly turns into a terrorist and just bombs the Magistrate headquarters. There is not much an explanation as to how this would reveal to the public all of the Magistrate’s secrets. The dots just do not connect as to how this would put an end to the Magistrate who have been established to have more than just the one headquarters that Batman bombed.
What hurts this plan by Batman even more is the fact that we end the story with the bombing. There is no picture painted as to how this impacts Gotham City. It just sort of ends on an explosion and that is it. The entire thing just felt like a giant cliffhanger for a mid-season finale that won’t be directly followed up on because the TV show was canceled rather than returning.
It was also odd that for how big of a deal Tamaki made of Jace Fox’s Batman appearance in the previous issue that we never saw a follow-up in any sort of way to that meeting. There was zero mention of Jace’s Batman or the rest of the Batman Family Resistance. Which is odd because just mentioning the Batman Family Resistance during the meeting Peacekeeper-01 would’ve helped give further depth to why he was rushing his plan for complete control of Gotham City. Even a one line mention of the resistance or Jace’s Batman being active would’ve strengthened why Peacekeeper-01 was so on edge as Bruce’s reappearance add to all of that.
The sudden appearance of Hannah at the Magistrate headquarters in the second half of the story was also oddly done. Hannah just sort of appeared running in without explanation how she got out of the bunker Bruce left her in. The way her part ended up playing out made it feel like there was content in the script cut out that would’ve explained why Hannah needed to be in the building at that very moment. It was all just odd timing.
Overall: Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora saved the best for last as Future State: Dark Detective #4 delivered the most compelling reading experience for Bruce Wayne’s actions against the Magistrate. Joshua Williamson and Giannis Milonogiannis’ Red Hood back-up story further strengthened the content we got in this issue by showing us where Jason Todd and Rose Wilson are at this point in Future State. In many ways the Red Hood story stole the thunder from the main story in Dark Detective #4. Overall, this issue just further drove home how the Batman Family stories were some of the best content delivered by the Future State direction.
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