I’ve been making my way through all of the new Future State stories and while many have been enjoyable, most are marred by a surplus of exposition as they attempt to establish the world they take place in. Thankfully, Future State: Nightwing #1 features one of the better balances between character and world building even if it indulges in the same boilerplate, grimdark vision of a dystopian future. With solid art by the always welcome Nicola Scott and a well-paced script by Andrew Constant, Nightwing checks all of its boxes even if it doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the pack.
Depending on how many Future State titles you’re reading, the opening pages here are largely familiar. The Magistrate has taken over Gotham, everything looks neon, and armored police roam the city looking for any superheroes or superhero sympathizers. Do I wish this vision of the future didn’t feel so familiar? Sure, but what’s here works and makes Nightwing an easy to root for underdog. I like Constant’s script and its usage of Magistrate radio chatter as a form of narration. Seeing Nightwing patrol the city while disembodied voices track his every move lends credibility to the book’s (and Future State in general) surveillance state themes and sense of dread. It’s clear there’s no true freedom in this new Gotham, and the actions of superheroes are the only true form of resistance. The short hand in these first few pages work.
So what’s the book about? Nightwing is one of many heroes who operates in secret, fighting back against both random crime and the authoritarian Magistrate who have taken over Gotham City. Constant’s script joins Nightwing on a patrol where several Magistrate members attempt to trap him in a staged assault against random “civilians”. Right from the start it’s hard not to appreciate Scott’s impressive pencils, sense of scale, and movement within her simplistic page layouts. Ivan Plascencia’s colors also do a good job of embracing Gotham’s newfound neon color palette, opting for softer hues of pink and purple and avoiding a sense of garishness that can plague cyberpunk aesthetics.
There’s also a good sense of tension as the reader knows Nightwing is falling into a trap, but the actual action left me cold. Scott’s figures are gorgeous when static, but there’s a sluggish quality to the action beats. I think this is primarily because the choreography keeps Nightwing on the ground instead of letting him show off his acrobatic qualities. Scott’s Nightwing is a bit thicker, his suit more armored, and he’s got a chin strap for some reason. It’s a slightly different take on the character and even one of the Magistrate assassin’s comments that Nightwing is noticeably “grimdarker” than he was before. I don’t necessarily enjoy that type of characterization for Dick, his optimism is one of his defining traits, but the script doesn’t really show a darker side to him. He breaks an assassin’s femur on his way out of a scene, but that’s hardly jumping the shark for a character who routinely puts people in the hospital for lesser crimes. Constant’s script rides a line when it’d be better off choosing a lane.
Beyond my quibbles with making Dick “grimdark” but not really committing, the real problem with the issue is the Magistrate isn’t all that compelling of a presence. We get a peak into some high ranking officers or “peacekeepers” as they discuss their next move, but nothing about this organization is all that compelling. There’s a lot of talk about promotions earned through “enthusiasm and blood”, but we’ve been thrown into this world without any sense of build. There’s no personality to these villains, maybe that’s the point, but they don’t appear completely homogenous for that to be what Constant and Scott are going for. I like that they have cybernetic enhancements. I don’t like that this amounts to one guy who has a hand that can heat up, (who gets knocked out immediately), a woman with small knives, and a sniper with cool glasses. There’s room for improvement.
Even though the Magistrate isn’t interesting, there’s still glimmers of hope when Dick comes face to face with the new Batman. Their back and forth is fun and I love the idea of Dick having to work with a new person who has taken his father figure’s mantle instead of him. There’s a lot of ripe drama ready to be plucked, but I question whether Constant will have time to delve into it. One of the better scenes has Dick in the shower, working through what needs to be done while having flashbacks to his childhood with Bruce. This is the type of dramatic content the book needs more of. There’s so much history to these characters that often gets lost in these “elseworlds adjacent” future set plotlines so it’s good to see some semblance of continuity. The final moments set up an exciting next issue, but there’s the question of where’s the heart of the storyline. Dick is set up to be more aggressive, but his fall from his usually optimistic self doesn’t track since we didn’t get to witness it. On the other hand, wouldn’t it have been more compelling if his personality didn’t change but only the world around him did? There needs to be some sort of angle or else Future State: Nightwing must settle for being a fun enough diversion rather than a truly enlightening story.
- Nicola Scott on art duties is something you can’t pass up.
- You don’t mind a “darker” take on Dick Grayson.
- Future State compels you and you want to get the full picture of DCs latest initiative.
Future State: Nightwing #1 tells a familiar tale of a cyberpunk future taken over by a shadowy organization. However, there’s not much mystery or intrigue to be found. Constant’s script sets a good pace, delivering the requisite action and setting up a solid cliffhanger. It’s the in-between character moments that leave me cold. I don’t get much from this Nightwing. His optimism has been replaced by a neutered “grimdark” appearance that does little to change things up. While Nicola Scott turns in beautiful pencils greatly enhanced by Plascencia’s delicate colors, there’s a lack of personality to the fight choreography. The mechanics of a solid story are here, but the lack of a true point of view prevents Nightwing from separating itself from the rest of the pack.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.