Jace Fox’s rise to become the new Batman in the DC Universe has not been an easy one. While Jace has embraced being the Dark Knight things haven’t gone easy for him as the Magistrate have set their sites on the new Batman. That has brought on a whole new set of problems for others living in Gotham City. In particular, we are seeing how Jace’s secret life as Batman is coming into conflict with the rest of the Fox Family, who have been helping the Magistrate with the “kill on sight” against anyone wearing a mask law instituted in Gotham City. Now that he is being hunted by the Magistrate how will Jace overcome the odds? Let’s find out with Future State: The Next Batman #3.
Writers: John Ridley (Future State: The Next Batman); Brandon Thomas (Future State: Outsiders); Paul Jenkins (Future State: Arkham Knights)
Artists: Laura Braga (Future State: The Next Batman); Nick Derington (Future State: The Next Batman); Sumit Kumar (Future State: Outsiders); Jack Herbert (Future State: Arkham Knights)
Inkers: Raul Fernandez (Future State: Outsiders); Sumit Kumar (Future State: Outsiders)
Colorists: Arif Prianto (Future State: The Next Batman); Jordie Bellaire (Future State: Outsiders); Gabe Eltaeb (Future State: Arkham Knights)
Story Rating: 8 Night Girl out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman (Jace Fox) defends the couple that killed Lou Jershefsky (an act of revenge after Lou Jershefsky killed the couple’s daughter) against Captain Stanz and Magistrate soldiers, drones, and Cybers. Batman is able to use some distraction tactics and his agility to quickly take out most of the Magistrate drones and Cybers surrounding him. After taking out the Magistrate soldiers Batman fights Captain Stanz in a one-on-one fight. Batman is able to quickly defeat Captain Stanz.
Batman then get ready to leave but the remaining Magistrate drone appears and destroys his motorcycle. Batman takes out the drone and then leads the couple away from the scene.
At the Magistrate headquarters Peacekeeper-01 calls out Captain Stanz for failing to kill the new Batman. Captain Stanz brings up how he heard that Peacekeeper-01 took out the original Batman (Bruce Wayne) after he lost the will to fight. This pisses Peacekeeper-01 off as Captain Stanz is the one who came back beaten and defeated. Peacekeeper-01 orders Captain Stanz for to redeploy his team and to not return until the new Batman is dead.
Captain Stanz meets up with his team to let them know they are redeploying. During the talk Captain Stanz says he wants to be the one to kill Batman this time.
Over at the GCPD headquarters Detective Adriana Chubb and Detective Mike Tellez go over the information they found about Jershefsky with Commissioner Renee Montoya. Detective Chubb says that the information they found gives her a bad feeling something else is going on. Commissioner Montoya reminds the two detectives that the Magistrate won’t hear any of it. She then warns them both that if they find themselves facing off against the new Batman that they are allowed to “shoot on sight.”
In an abandoned church Batman has the woman close the gunshot wound in his stomach with a flare. Batman then tells the couple to rest up for the next ten minutes as they will need to move soon.
At the Fox Family home, Tanya Fox calls out Lucius Fox using shareholder talk when supporting the Magistrate. Tanya brings up how Lucius continues to use the current “shoot on sight” law as a license to get kill happy. Lucius tells Tanya if she can’t do her job than to let the Peacekeepers do theirs. This pisses Tanya off and she storms out of the office.
In the living room Tanya runs into her youngest daughter (Tiffany Fox). Tiffany calls out her parents for being cool with private cops who have shoot on sight orders even though they taught them that isn’t right. Tanya reminds Tiffany that justice is never a vigilante.
Later Tiffany finds her brother Luke Fox training. Tiffany directly asks Luke if he is the new Batman since he previously kept being Batwing a secret from them. Luke denies being Batman. He then talks about how their dad never really recovered from being tortured by Punchline, their mom blames vigilantes for what happened to Tam, and Jace has his own baggage.
Tiffany admits to not knowing how to feel about the new Batman. Luke says that in his experience if someone is willing to protect Gotham City they are good people.
Back at the abandoned church Batman contacts Detective Chubbs. Batman tells her that he has the couple who killed Jershefsky and will turn them over to her if she agrees to give them a fair trial. Detective Chubbs agrees but warns Batman that she can’t promise she won’t shoot him on sight.
After the call ends the guy hits Batman with a led pipe on the side of his stomach that has the gunshot wound. The guy tells his wife that the police could possibly be lenient with their sentence if they are the ones to kill Batman. The guy then starts choking out Batman by wrapping wires around his neck. End of main story.
The Good: With each passing issue John Ridley and company have been able to refine the stories being tackled in Future State: The Next Batman is about. This third issue is the best showing of how much time has been put into all the sub-plots in this series have developed thus far. In turn, this helps the world of Gotham City we see Future State: The Next Batman #3 to come across as fully developed.
As we’ve moved forward with this series it is clear that The Next Batman isn’t about bringing an end or even introducing us to the Magistrate. Instead this series is about introducing us to Jace Fox as Batman and beginning his journey as the new Dark Knight. More than anything else this series reminds me a lot of reading comics like Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and Scott Snyder’s Batman: Year Zero.
We see that throughout The Next Batman #3 that like Bruce Wayne in his early beginnings Jace Fox still needs to refine his skills. Sure Jace has incredible skills that he has obtained through his military and other types of training. But the thing he is missing is the experience that comes with being a vigilante and the Batman. Because of the lack of experience in this role Jace is still prone to mistakes like how he lets his guard down multiple times in this issue.
This is where Ridley’s writing shines the most. He isn’t trying to make Jace the badass Batman who has a handle of everything right out of the gate. Ridley understands that is not the way to build Jace up as Batman. That is where using the current status quo with the Magistrate regime works best. We get to see how Jace is constantly learning to be better in both his fighting abilities and situational awareness.
The development of Jace is further strengthened by the sub-plot around his family dealing with the current “shoot on sight” law the Magistrate and GCPD are working with. I’m glad that Ridley is giving Tanya Fox much more depth in her position as the lawyer assigned to defend the law in the courts. While she doesn’t agree with specifics and how the law was set into place she is behind the idea of getting vigilantes off the streets. The conversations that she has with Lucius and Tiffany Fox work well in giving a clear understanding of her actions over the course of these three issues.
Ridley also does a good job using the Joker War to explain why Lucius Fox would possibly turn on Bruce and the Batman Family by supporting the Magistrate. Learning that he never truly recovered from the torture he went through at the hands of Punchline gives more weight to the events of Joker War. It helps further paint the picture of how the Magistrate were able to use the Joker War as a flashpoint to begin their rise in power.
Speaking of, it was interesting to learn more about how Peacekeeper-01 and Magistrate were possibly able to get the jump on Bruce Wayne before the current events in Future State. Learning that when Peacekeeper-01 hunted him down that Bruce was in a broken state mentally and physically does put into question what led to all these events that are occurring in Gotham City during Future State. Bringing these types of things up is a good way to flesh out this side of the direction since all of the Batman Family stories in Future State are all tied together.
The way both Peacekeeper-01 and Captain Stanz act in their appearance made Commissioner Renee Montoya, Detective Adriana Chubb, and Detective Mike Tellez roles even more interesting. While the GCPD are following the current laws, including the “kill on sight” law for dealing with vigilantes, they clearly aren’t fully behind it. We continue to see cracks in how the GCPD and others in Gotham City feel this isn’t the way for the city to move forward. Which further highlights the aggressive actions that the Magistrate are taking have already gone beyond crossing the line. It is now about who polices the police at this point when it comes to the Magistrate.
While the main story in The Next Batman #3 is getting better the back-up stories in this series are continuing to steal the show. It’s in these back-up stories, along with the other Batman Family titles, that we are really getting the full scope of what the Magistrate are doing. That is best shown the second and final part of the Future State: Outsiders story.
It’s in this Outsiders story we see how much not only Signal and Katana struggling against the threat of the Magistrate but the people of Gotham City as well. Brandon Thomas puts over how the Magistrate are an oppressive regime. They have used all the advances in technology in Gotham City as a mask for all he evil deeds they do.
Fleshing out the Magistrate regime helps make Signal, Katana, and Black Lightning’s journeys so fascinating to follow. Each of them steps up in their own way that feels that makes the ending even more satisfying. For the first time since Snyder’s run on Batman ended we not only get Duke Thomas stepping up but getting the payoff to his character arc that started with his introduction. That payoff leas to an extremely satisfying final page to the Outsider’s story with where Duke ends up.
The Arkham Knight back-up story that Paul Jenkins wrote did a good job in taking the first part and improving on where it faltered. While I wasn’t a fan of the first part of this back-up story Jenkins did a good job in using the foundation from that to make this second and final part of Arkham Knights story engaging. This story helped further strengthen the overall conflict with the Magistrate we are seeing played out in all the Batman Family Future State titles.
Laura Braga and Nick Derington deliver very good artwork throughout the main story. They did a good job at using the night time setting to deliver dynamic action sequences. The art really enhanced what Jace was doing as Batman as he both dominated and struggled in different aspects to what he is taking on.
The same goes for the Outsiders and Arkham Knights stories that Sumit Kumar and Jack Herbert drew. Kimar and Herbert brought more life to the conflict with the Magistrate. Kumar’s artwork for the Outsiders back-up story in particular hit all the right notes. The power shown in those final pages really got over the payoff to where we see Duke Thomas at the end.
The Bad: Unlike other Batman Family titles or even the back-ups for this series the main story in Future State: The Next Batman #3 continues to feel small. That does fall back on how we are only getting a look into how Jace Fox is beginning his career as Batman. Because of that the conflict with the Magistrate does not feel as big as it is portrayed in the back-up stories or other Batman Family titles.
That does cause some problems with the direction of the main story since the Fox Family is so closely tied to what the Magistrate are doing. Spending more time showing the full scope of Magistrate regime would help the story around Jace’s journey as Batman be stronger. But since that is not what we are getting the overall impact of this series does not hit in the same way other stories in Gotham City are during Future State.
Overall: The main story in Future State: The Next Batman has steadily improved with each passing issue. John Ridley has a firm handle on how he is developing Jace Fox at the start of his career as Batman. While the main story in The Next Batman #3 was solid it was the Outsiders and Arkham Knights back-up stories that steal the show. The conclusion in both back-ups and how they elevate the conflict with the Magistrate helps build greater interest in what is going on in Gotham City across all of the Batman Family Future State stories.
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