With Dark Nights: Death Metal officially over a new era for DC Comics is about to begin. To kick things off DC Comics has put all their ongoing series’ on a break for the first two months of 2021 to make room for an all new direction called Future State. With Future State, DC Comics is going to present us with a possible future for the DC Universe with new names assuming the roles of their iconic heroes. One of the DC icons that is getting a new person to wear their symbol is Batman. This won’t be the first time someone other than Bruce Wayne has worn the Batsymbol. We’ve seen Dick Grayson, Terry McGinnis, Damian Wayne, and Tim Drake all serve time as Batman in some form. How will this new Batman be presented in a future where Gotham City has been taken over by the mysterious and powerful Magistrate organization? Let’s find out with Future State: The Next Batman #1.
Writers: John Ridley (The Next Batman); Brandon Thomas (Outsiders); Paul Jenkins (Arkham Knights)
Artists: Nick Derington (The Next Batman); Sumit Kumar (Outsiders); Jack Herbert (Arkham Knights)
Inkers: Sumit Kumar (Outsiders); Raul Fernandez (Outsiders)
Colorists: Tamra Bonvillain (The Next Batman); Jordie Bellaire (Outsiders); Gabe Eltaeb (Arkham Knights)
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: Sometime in 2025, while the Magistrate control Gotham City with a strict “shoot on sight” order for anyone that is wearing a mask crime still exists. One criminal is cornered by the new Batman. Batman quickly takes the guy down and removes his mask so he isn’t killed when the police see him.
Right on time, two cops show up and shine a light on the new Batman. Before the cops can shoot him, Batman makes his escape, leaving the guy to only be arrested rather than be shot and killed.
Later, at the Fox residence Luke Fox finds his mom (Tanya Fox) hard at work making sure she can uphold the Peacekeepers contract with Gotham City against the ACLU’s latest challenge. Luke says that maybe the law isn’t that strong if it can’t stand up to the challenge. Tanya tells her son to visit his sister (Tam Fox) and tell that to her again afterwards. Luke says he was planning on visiting Tam and walks away.
Somewhere in the Little Santa Prisca Neighborhood in Gotham City, a gang known as the Bane-Litos recruit several kids to be part of their gang. While the younger kid is hesitant his older brother says they are in and are give both guns and Bane masks.
Over at a hospital Luke is shocked to find his brother (Tim Fox) at Tam’s bedside, who in a coma like state after relapsing. Luke calls out Tim for not being around earlier. Tim reminds Luke that he was sent away to the military and now goes by the name Jace. Luke says that he is still Tim, the screw up of the Fox Family. Luke tells Tim not to show his acting like he cares. Jace leaves, sarcastically saying it was good to see Luke as he walks away.
Luke then sits down next to Tam and apologizes to her if she ended up hearing any of that argument with their brother.
At a batting cage Gotham Police Department’s Detective Chubb meets up with her old partner, Whitaker. Detective Chubb asks Whitaker if he is the person rumored to be running around Gotham City helping criminals with their plans. Whitaker warns Detective Chubb to not stick her fingers in others business.
Elsewhere the Bane-Litos drive down Hype Gang territory in search of one of their soldiers. When they find a Hype Gang member the Bane-Litos leader tells the new kids to get ready shoot the guy. The kids fail to hit the Hype Gang member in an attempted drive-by shooting.
As the Hype Gang member gets into a shootout with the Bane-Litos, Batman shows up. Batman quickly causes the Bane-Litos to crash their car. He then knocks out the two lead Bane-Litos as he knew the other two were just kids, which he reprimands one of the Bane-Litos for dragging them into their gang.
Batman then corners the two kids who just joined the Bane-Litos in an alley. Batman convinces the kids to hand over their guns.
As that happens several Peacekeepers suddenly show up and begin shooting at Batman and the two Bane-Litos kids. Batman uses a smoke bomb to provide himself the opening to escape with the kids.
On a rooftop, Batman tells the two Bane-Litos kids that he is going to hand them over to children’s services and then their future will be their choices.
In another part of Gotham City two members of the Red Hood Gang are shown confronting someone in an alley. End of main story.
The Good: Future State: The Next Batman #1 does a fine job laying the groundwork for what will be the foundation for this series. With four issues in The Next Batman series, compared to most Future State comics that have two issues, John Ridley is taking the full opportunity to develop the new Batman so we understand his drive before going into who is behind the mask.
Having this room with The Next Batman #1 gave Ridley the chance to draw a lot of parallels to Batman: Year One. Both from a visual standpoint, thanks to Nick Derington’s wonderful artwork, and tone there is a new feeling of discovery with this new Batman. While the cape and cowl are similar there is a vibe to this Batman that he is still learning to accept his new role as the Dark Knight.
That comes across well with how this Batman slips up a bit in his inner monologue when he wonders how Bruce Wayne handled being the Dark Knight. Seeing him quickly reminding himself that he is now the one and only Batman gives us a good idea of where he is at. Having this Year One tone to it also works well in establishing the overall The Next Batman series as the beginning of Future State.
At the same time, Ridley makes sure that even though the new Batman is still getting used to his role as Gotham City’s Dark Knight that he is always fully confident in his abilities. Whenever there is action happening Batman comes across as an imposing force that you know the gangs that face him will be quickly defeated. This helps build confidence that this Batman will be able to take on the Magistrate, who we already know somehow took Bruce Wayne out of the equation.
Focusing on establishing the confidence in this Batman made the mystery of who is behind the cape and cowl work well for this first issue. Ridley does a good job positioning both Luke Fox and Tim Fox, who is going by the first name of Jace now, as candidates for the role of Batman. Both Luke and Jace are established with the motivation from their current family situation and past before The Next Batman #1 to become the new Dark Knight.
Speaking of the Fox Family, it was interesting to see how closely tied they were to everything going on with the Magistrate. We learn that whatever Bruce Wayne did to lead to the Magistrate gaining control of Gotham City has caused Tanya Fox to side with the new regime. Tanya working for the Magistrate creates greater questions as to what happened to lead to all of this and how Tam Fox current coma-like state factored into the current status quo.
In the middle of all this Ridley also does a good job in showing how crime is still prevalent in Gotham City even with the Magistrate’s regime. Seeing how there are gangs who have been inspired by Bane and Red Hood helps to further flesh out the history of this Gotham City. It helps build greater interest into learning more about what is going on as The Next Batman progresses.
As mentioned earlier, Nick Derington’s artwork throughout the main story of The Next Batman #1 was excellent. Derington brought out the full Batman: Year One vibe of this first issue with key visuals feeling like being pulled directly from that comic book. The artwork all helped set the tone that this is a new Gotham City and we are going to be discovering what the city is all about along with learning more about this new Batman. Which is made even more exciting thanks to how well he drew the action in this issue. It was all smooth and got over how skilled this new Batman is every time he was on screen.
Possibly outshining the main story of The Next Batman was Brandon Thomas and Sumit Kumar’s Outsiders back-up story. With the Outsiders story more directly dealing with the Magistrate forces we were able to get a better idea of how the regime is controlling Gotham City. Starting out with Duke Thomas helping people escape Gotham City got over how not everyone is on the Magistrates side like Tanya Fox. There are people that feel unsafe and want to escape Gotham City.
Establishing this fact made the role Duke Thomas has a vigilante who is helping people escape Gotham City a great evolution of his character. It helps create a unique story for Duke to have within the Future State status quo that does not require him to Batman. Duke is his own hero who knows what he can do best to help people against the Magistrate.
Katana’s role as not only being Duke’s back-up but a key rebel in the fight against the Magistrate so fascinating. Thomas makes great use of how Katana is one of the most badass fighters in the DC Universe to establish her as an absolute force. The way she just smoothly transitions from one move to the next is a spectacle. It gets over how she uses her impressive agility to her advantage in a fight against event powerful foes like Kaliber and the Magistrate.
The addition of a now energy based Black Lighting to this Outsiders story was an unexpected twist to end this back-up story on. The way Katana react it is clear that whatever happened to Black Lightning it caused him to disappear for a while until this appearance. The reason for Black Lightning suddenly appearing and how it relates to what is going on with the Magistrate will be interesting to see play out in The Next Batman #3, where the next Outsiders back-up story will take place.
The Bad: The main story in The Next Batman #1 was all about setting up this new Batman in the current status quo for Gotham City. Ridley saves the reveal of who that is for a later point. That may disappoint fans who want to learn who the Next Batman is. This is more of a problem with The Next Batman #1 with how both Ridley and DC Comics have already talked about who is in behind the cape and cowl. There is no mystery there if you have seen any of the marketing for DC’s Future State.
It was also odd that the main story of The Next Batman #1 only briefly touched on how the Magistrate are controlling Gotham City. Outside of the talk about Tanya Fox’s case there is no mention of the Magistrate. It makes it come across that the regime is unimportant to the story since the focus is on the gangs inspired by Bane and Red Hood. This is an odd choice since we do get multiple instances of the GCPD appearing but hardly any development from the Magistrate. This decision lowers the sense of danger with the whole “shoot on sight” for anyone wearing a mask that the Magistrate have instituted in Gotham City.
The Arkham Knights back-up story by Paul Jenkins also did not catch my interest as much as the main and Outsiders’ stories in The Next Batman #1. Seeing Anarky, Clayface, Copperhead, Doctor Phosphorous, Humpty Dumpty, Killer Croc, Mr. Zsasz, and Two-Face as Arkham Knights didn’t have the punch it intended to have. The way all these characters interacted did not come across as a evolution for how things have turned out in Gotham City in comparison to the way things were presented in both Batman and the Outsiders’ stories. It just never clicked even with how much time we spent seeing them all interact with each other.
Overall: Future State: The Next Batman #1 sets a solid foundation for this series to build on. John Ridley and Nick Derington worked together well to create world with many fascinating elements to build around the new Batman. The Outsiders back-up further elevated what was going on in Gotham City with how Duke Thomas, Katana, and Black Lightning factor into the greater story around the Magistrate.
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