Future State: Catwoman #1 is one of the best books to come out of DC’s latest initiative. Ram V’s script is perfectly paced and engaging. The world building is more nuanced than most other Future State books and Otto Schmidt’s art delivers the goods when it comes to both spectacle and delicate character moments. Even if you’re not fully invested in Future State, this issue is worth checking out for any fan of Selina Kyle or high stakes heists.

My main issue with some other Future State books is how quickly they expect readers to engage with the new status quo of the DC Universe. We see heroes act differently than they used to in a drastically changed world without really explaining how anything came about. While V’s script doesn’t get into the nuts and bolts of the new world order, it does give a more grounded look at how Gotham’s new ruler, the Magistrate, operates and how it affects the average citizen. The first page immediately sets the tone and atmosphere. It’s an icy new world, there are flying ships with searchlights abound, and several citizens await a coming train, keeping warm the best they can. This is texture and you have both V’s script and Schmidt’s art to thank for it. I’ve noticed V’s scripts let their artists set the atmosphere in the opening pages without a surplus of dialogue weighing it down. This remains true here as most of the dialogue comes from the Magistrate oppressors as they look over the huddled masses of Gotham’s populace. The body language goes hand in hand with the script here too as the Magistrate leaders stand tall and proud while their nearby prisoners stand hunched over, defeated in a perfect blend of show and tell.

Credit: Otto Schmidt, Tom Napolitano

What also helps this book feel more alive and relevant is that it operates more as a continuation of V’s current Catwoman run as Selina and her army of “strays” are still around. Here, Selina still looks and talks like her former self, only her adversaries are now the Magistrate instead of the mobsters and hit men she faces in the main Catwoman series. Out of all the Future State titles, this definitely works as the most natural progression between the past and this new status quo. As for the Magistrate, I still don’t really have a good idea of what they’re truly meant to be, but V and Schmidt humanize them ever so slightly. We see a few lower ranking members work on tablets, mundanely going about the business of oppression. One armed guard, who holds several teenagers in captivity, even shows a little bit of personality with an “Aw come on, kid!” when a stray asks to use the bathroom. That small sense of humanity is quickly wiped away when the stray attempts to open a door to let Selina board the train they’re on. Overall, V’s script and Schmidt’s great character work makes the Magistrate feel more fleshed out and human as even the captain of the train is stressed out that a higher ranking member is giving him a performance evaluation.

Credit: Otto Schmidt, Tom Napolitano

Where the book also shines is in V’s pacing. There’s a great two page spread where Selina and her allies go over the plan to commandeer a train full of prisoners. The composition allows Schmidt to establish a sense of place, while also allowing V to dump some quick exposition. I’m not opposed to wordy scripts, but whenever V has a couple pages with a lot of dialogue he always seems to follow it up with a few pages of slick action where the artist then takes over. This holds true here as the next three pages are light on the talking and heavy on Schmidt drawing a fantastic sequence where Selina jumps from her motorcycle and onto the train itself using some new technology. What also makes the issue read like a thrill ride is how V puts a countdown timer on some pages. It’s a routine ticking clock device, but it does deliver a sense of pace even if it’s arbitrary in practice. Tom Napolitano’s letters also do a great job of upping the tension by using a smaller font for the stray inside the train as they quietly plan to open a door to let Selina inside. The lettered sound effects also look great as Selina’s motorcycle zips off a ramp and toward the train, which flies into a tunnel with a stretched out “fsszzhhhmmm”.

Credit: Otto Schmidt, Tom Napolitano

Things get a little more straight forward once Selina boards the train, but the book still hums along nicely as Selina goes car to car, fighting guards and freeing prisoners along the way. Schmidt pulls off some nice panels here, particularly one where he tracks Selina’s movement down a red-tinged hallway as she takes out several guards. Schmidt’s colors are great here too as the intense action takes place in these red lit hallways in nice contrast to the otherwise icy palette that dominates every other page. There’s even a nice surprise appearance from a DC villain that Selina sets free in exchange for their help taking out the guards. It’s hard to not get pulled into the story as we see the Magistrate captain freak out as Selina tears her way through the train with no one able to stop her.

Credit: Otto Schmidt, Tom Napolitano

Spoiler
The last page appearance of Bruce himself also makes this book feel like one of the more important entries of Future State. I’m not surprised Bruce is alive despite other books claiming he was killed. However, actually seeing him appear, in Catwoman of all places, is an added bonus to an issue that didn’t need him to be worth reading.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been reading Ram V’s Catwoman.
  • A high stakes train heist plot is enough to get your interest.
  • You’ve been a fan of Future State since this book gives one of the better renditions of the new world order.

Overall

Future State: Catwoman is my favorite of all the Future State titles so far. Not only does it deliver one of the better depictions of life in Gotham under the Magistrate’s rule, but it feels wholly connected to Ram V’s regular Catwoman run. Otto Schmidt’s fantastic art is worth the price of admission alone, but a few surprise character appearances and a well-paced script from Ram V make this a must read. It’s impressive work from a team that has carved out an engaging storyline within the somewhat murky and uneven Future State era.

Score: 9.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.