We are at the home stretch when it comes to Future State: The Next Batman series. Thus far The Next Batman has played out more as an origin story for Jace Fox as the new Dark Knight. We have seen how Jace Fox is doing what he can be to the Batman that Gotham City needs as the Magistrate’s grip on the city only grows. That has grown complicated as we learn the close ties between the Magistrate and Fox Family. Now that we are at the end for the Future State: The Next Batman series how will John Ridley wrap things up for Jace Fox’s first adventure as the Dark Knight? Let’s find out with Future State: The Next Batman #4.
Writers: John Ridley (Future State: The Next Batman); Vita Ayala (Future State: Batgirls); Paula Sevenbergen (Future State: Gotham City Sirens)
Artists: Laura Braga and Nick Derington (Future State: The Next Batman); Aneke (Future State: Batgirls); Emanuela Lupacchino (Future State: Gotham City Sirens)
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger (Future State: Gotham City Sirens)
Colorists: Arif Prianto (Future State: The Next Batman); Trish Mulvihill (Future State: Batgirls); John Kalisz (Future State: Gotham City Sirens)
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman (Jace Fox) breaks free from Eric’s attempt to strangle him. Sara gets Eric to back down from trying to kill Batman again. Eric then admits that he was the one who killed Jershefsky but Sara doesn’t want him to take the fall alone. Batman says he still has to take them in.
Before getting them in a vehicle Batman gives Eric and Sara each a micro-coulomb charge in case they run into the Peacekeepers. Batman then drives Eric and Sara to City Hall to turn them into the GCPD.
On the way to City Hall the Peacekeepers show up riding bikes and try to run Batman off the road. Batman is able to do some quick evasive driving to cause the Peacekeepers chasing them to crash.
As more Peacekeepers show up driving armored vehicles Eric decides to sacrifice himself by jumping out of the car. Eric then uses the micro-coulomb charge Batman gave him to cause an explosion that kills the Peacekeepers and himself.
Batman suddenly drives right into an area where there is heavy traffic. This forces him to stop the car and try to make it to City Hall on foot with Sara.
Tanya Fox happens to be stuck in traffic when she notices Batman. She immediately attempts to shoot Batman. Batman sees this and knocks her down by throwing a batarang at Tanya’s shoulder.
The Magistrate’s Captain Stanz suddenly shows up ready to kill Batman. Batman is able to counter all of Captain Stanz attacks. Batman’s rage over how the Magistrate got his mom involved in this causes him to lose control and starts reigning punches on Captain Stanz. Sara ends up stopping Batman from killing Captain Stanz.
At City Hall, Batman turns Sara over to Detective Adriana Chubb and Detective Mike Tellez. As Detective Tellez takes Sara in Detective Chubb’s shoots Batman, after learning his costume is bullet proof though the impact of the bullets still hurts him. Detective Chubb says that was a warning to not use her phone number as freely as he did during this case.
Later, Jace shows up at the hospital to check up on his mom. As soon as he arrives Luke Fox calls Jace out for not getting to the hospital sooner. During all this Luke refuses to call his brother Jace, still going by “Tim.” Lucius stops his kids from arguing and tells Jace to go see his mom.
Tiffany Fox tells Luke that maybe they all need to work on getting their acts straight.
Inside Tanya’s hospital room Jace checks up on his mom. Tanya does not hide the fact that she still blames Batman for everything that happened and that they have to stop him. Conflicted, Jace tells his mom that right now they should just work on being a family. End of story.
The Good: At this point I’ve adjusted my expectations of what we were going to get when all was said and done with the main story in Future State: The Next Batman #4. This was never meant to tell an epic saga of how Jace Fox as Batman was able to defeat the Magistrate and reclaim Gotham City for the people. That is a story for another time, as Future State: Justice League #1 stated. Future State: The Next Batman #4 was all about wrapping up the first time Jace suits up as Batman and what that means for Gotham City. In that John Ridley does nail what Jace’s journey in this series was about.
As with previous issues, Ridley does a particularly good job splitting the focus between Jace Fox’s inner monologue and his actions as Batman. Through this we get to see the duality of the character as Jace is still getting used to being Batman. There is still doubt because of the legend that Bruce Wayne made Batman to. At the same time, we still see how there is a sense of confidence in the actions Jace takes that show he has a potential to be a great Batman.
Reading the way Jace is portrayed honestly reminded me a lot of Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond. Both characters are stepping into the shoes of being Batman without the same training or experience as the rest of the Batman Family. But even than its the actions and drive that show why Jace, like Terry before him, is the right person to be the Batman that is needed with what Gotham City has turned into under the Magistrate’s control.
The fight with Captain Stanz of the Magistrate also worked to put over how Jace is a force to be wrecking with as Batman. The Magistrate need to take the new Batman as seriously as Bruce. And in defeating Captain Stanz, Ridley is able to further establish why Jace’s Batman will be as heavily targeted as he appears to be in other Future State Batman Family titles.
Jace’s actions as Batman also played in well with the internal conflict he has whenever we see him interact with his family. While Jace knows he is doing the right thing in being Batman the close connection the Fox Family has with the Magistrate makes this an even more personal conflict. Both in the argument with his brother, Luke Fox, and talk with mom, Tanya Fox, you can tell how hard it is on him.
Since The Next Batman was about establishing Jace as the new Dark Knight the additions of GCPD Detectives Adriana Chubb and Mike Tellez was well handled. Both detectives add to how the current situation with the Magistrate controlling Gotham City is a multi-layered conflict. Detective Chubb shooting Batman as a warning shot was a good way of showing how Jace’s relationship with the GCPD won’t be a smooth one. Jace will need to be smarter with how he works with his allies while avoiding placing them in a tough stop as the Magistrate narrow their focus on him the longer he is Batman.
The artwork by Laura Braga and Nick Derington did a good job in putting over what we saw take place throughout the main story in The Next Batman #4. Splitting up the work with Derington handling the breakdowns while Braga handled the rest worked well to create a consistent look for the entire issue. You really got the sense that with each passing page that Batman was running against the clock to make it to City Hall in time. Arif Prianto also did a good job showing how Batman’s switch was flipped when he started to think of his mom with the panels going from their normal color palette to completely red.
All of that said, the second part of the Future State: Batgirls story stole the show in The Next Batman #4. Vita Ayala and Aneke did a fantastic job with the story around Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Barbara Gordon putting over the conflict with the Magistrate better than just about any Future State story. You really do feel the weight of how long the war with the Magistrate has gone on with how Cassandra, Stephanie, and Barbara are portrayed. This has not been easy on any of them but even then they have not lost their heroic spirits throughout this time.
It all helps to show that even without Bruce Wayne around that the Batman Family have been able to step up. That is best shown with how Stephanie Brown was completely ready to sacrifice herself in order to give Cassandra Cain the opening to get Barbara Gordon to safety. Her determination works well to show how that ends up inspiring the other prisoners, which included Black Lightning, to cause a riot.
This character development for Stephanie paid off well with the final scene between her and Cassandra. Both Stephanie and Cassandra have gone through so much by this point that this mission to save Barbara helped bring them closer together as sisters. It further drives home how they have both stepped up to be Batgirl in their own ways.
Ayala also does a great job presenting the jail break of Barbara as a major turning point in the war against the Magistrate. What I particularly enjoyed about the way Ayala wrote Barbara in this was how she is really the other half of the leadership the Batman Family Resistance need. By this point Dick Grayson has proven himself the front-line leader of the Resistance, but Barbara is just as important in this cause. She brings more of the knowledge of how the Magistrate took over that is vital to turn things around. There reunion at the end of the Batgirls story solidifies how both Dick and Barbara will be sharing leadership duties for the Resistance.
What was great about how Ayala puts over Barbara’s role is that it was all show rather than tell. The speech Barbara makes as Oracle the match that truly lights the fire to the Batman Family Resistance being what can overcome the Magistrate. Mixing in how the Batman Family as a whole take responsibility for letting their own egos allowing something like the repressive regime the Magistrate are to rise-up and take over was nicely addressed. It added to how the Batman Family are now focused more than ever to be the symbols of hope that Gotham City need.
The surprise reveal that Barbara found hints that Bruce Wayne is alive and active somewhere was an unexpected development. Up to this point we have been led to believe that everyone, including the Batman Family, thinks that Bruce is dead. The fact that both Barbara and Dick have been searching for Bruce makes the events over in Dark Detective even more important. Because we also learn that the Magistrate possibly know this fact as well. This is game changing knowledge that adds a whole new layer to how important the ending of Dark Detective will turn out to be in the grand scheme of Gotham City’s direction under Future State.
The Gotham City Sirens back-up story by Paula Sevenbergen and Emanuela Lupacchino was a good change of pace from the direction the rest of the Future State Batman Family stories have gone. This story leaned on more of the fun adventure side as we saw Catwoman and Poison Ivy on an adventure together with Dee-Dee. The characters were all written well with the connections to the Magistrate conflict kept the story part of the greater saga we see take place in all the Batman books.
The Bad: The one part in the main story of The Next Batman #4 that does not work is the portrayal of Luke Fox. While there is a tease of a great conflict between Jace and Luke that is never fully cleared up in any of the issues of The Next Batman. Luke just comes across as an asshole just to add another form of conflict to the story. Diving deeper into Luke’s anger with his brother and why he refuses to call him Jace, sticking with his previous name of “Tim,” just did not work as intended.
This speaks to how underdeveloped the Fox Family side of The Next Batman came across. There are a lot of teasers for why Tanya, Lucius, and Luke come across the way they do with their feelings for vigilantes. But they are all half-steps as we don’t get the full story of why they blame the Batman Family for what happened to Tam Fox and other events. It all made the dialogue from these characters to not come across as developed as Jace’s voice was.
Overall: John Ridley, Laura Braga, and Nick Derington did a good job completing the ‘Year One’ tone that was taken with Jace Fox rise as the new Batman. A strong foundation was built to create even more engaging stories with Jace in and out of the Batman cowl. The back-up stories for The Next Batman #4 added further value to this series. Vita Ayala and Aneke’s Batgirls story did a fantastic job creating greater intrigue for the conflict between the Batman Family Resistance and Magistrate. The developments in that story made me even more excited to read all the Future State Batman Family titles together in one sitting.
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