So far, Future State: Dark Detective has been a mixed bag. The main Bruce Wayne story has some outstanding moments, but also hinges on a couple of strange writing decisions, including a glaring plot hole (when everyone assumes that Bruce is dead because they found a body in the river that vaguely resembles him). That said, it’s still been quite entertaining, and with the conclusion to the Grifter story also being in this issue, I’ve been optimistic about this one. So, without further ado, let’s have a look!
I like the story so far, but I don’t think it lives up to its potential. There are a few reasons for this. For starters, there is definitely more plot development happening in this chapter, which I appreciate, seeing as the previous chapter didn’t have much plot development at all. I also think the pacing is fine, as I keep wanting to find out what happens on the next page. The mystery of the Magistrate and what they’re doing in Gotham is coming together quite nicely as well, as we keep finding out more answers to questions, and so it really feels like Bruce is making progress.
However, as much as I enjoy the story itself, I don’t always enjoy the way the story is being told. Tamaki shows most of Bruce’s thought process as he figures out the central mystery, and I like the idea of this a lot. Of course it’s nothing new to Batman comics; there are plenty of past stories that also rely on Bruce’s inner monologue. Seeing how he pieces everything together is fun, and it allows us to relate to our hero more. While that’s all well and good, I do think that this stuff is overwritten in this issue. At times, Tamaki seems to be beating around the bush, perhaps in an attempt to make Bruce’s inner monologue more interesting, whereas a more to-the-point style of writing probably would’ve worked better. Then there are quite a few lines that could’ve been made much more concise, if only to make them easier on the eye. But, really, what bothers me the most is the sheer amount of information that’s being explained via captions. At times it turns into an exposition dump. The occasional bit of exposition is fine, but if there’s one thing in comics that I resist hard, it’s an exposition dump.
Furthermore, Noah—Bruce’s conspiracy-nut roommate—makes another appearance. While this character’s actions are connected to the main plot, I do think that some of his shenanigans seem kind of random, to an extent that they nearly get in the way of Bruce’s detective quest. It would have been nice if Noah’s part would’ve been integrated more smoothly into the story. Another point of criticism about Noah is that the character still isn’t fleshed out at all. The only thing that we know about him is that he’s a conspiracy nut, and that’s it. Therefore, the character remains one-dimensional, and one-dimensional characters just aren’t that interesting.
Last but not least, in terms of criticism, Bruce runs into Jace in this issue while both are in their Bat-suits. For a moment I thought that Tamaki would make these two fight each other in an alley, and it had me worried because forcing heroes to fight each other has become such a standard approach that it’s become stale and boring. If this is to be done, writers need to put an interesting spin on that old concept to make it work—failing to do so just results in lazy, lackluster writing. Fortunately, Tamaki does not have these Batmen fight, but I still think the scene ends up being lackluster. See, these characters meet and…well, that’s it. They meet, tell each other not to go out at night dressed like this, and immediately go their separate ways. Perhaps this is meant as a setup for a second encounter, but even as a setup it doesn’t quite work because literally nothing happens here at all. To me, this is just a wasted opportunity.
The art is, as expected, excellent. The consistency that both Mora and Bellaire bring to this book is fantastic. Especially their rendition of Gotham City is as vibrant and gritty and big as ever. At times the backgrounds can even be overwhelming to a point that it feels like this city could swallow you whole. I suppose that, for some, this can be a negative because there’s so much visual input on the page that you’re not sure what to focus on, but I like it because it makes the city feel like a real place that you can get lost in.
The combination of Mora’s pencils, inks and page layouts and Bellaire’s layered color-work is, if you ask me, the big selling point of this book. The aesthetics of this comic are unique—not because other Future State titles aren’t trying similar stuff, but because this is the most detailed and carefully-crafted art in perhaps all of the Future State comics.
I hope that Mora and Bellaire will stay on Detective Comics for a long while after Future State wraps up. Their artwork raises the bar for this title—and for Batman comics in general. If you’re just here for the art, then look no further, because this is where it’s at, folks!
Okay, I love the Grifter story. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s still really damn good. The dialogue is crisp and, like the previous chapter, there are plenty of comedic beats that are timed so well that it’s all just a lot of fun! The character interactions are great too. Every character is distinct and truly has their own place in the story. Not all characters have a fully fleshed-out arc, but that’s okay because our main character—Grifter—definitely does, and his development affects both the plot and the other characters as well. It’s always satisfying when a story is as solid and entertaining as this one, especially when it starts off with a simple and straight-forward premise and never tries to do more than it set out to do. This means that the story has a clear focus that’s expertly executed by the creative team.
The art throughout is excellent, but the fight scenes are outstanding. The characters’ positions make sense and continuity is maintained; Di Giandomenico makes them look like competent fighters (save for the occasional oddly-positioned arm or leg); the sequence of panels lines up well, making the fight scenes easy to follow; and there’s a good pacing to the fight scenes as well: they take just the right amount of time. There are a few minor flaws here and there, for example when Grifter punches Huntress in the face but technically and anatomically shouldn’t have been able to because Huntress’ shoulder would have been in the way. In this instance, Grifter could’ve easily jabbed her in the side instead. These aren’t glaring errors, though, because they are few and far between, and the overall fight sequences still look great.
There’s a nice rhythm to the story as well. The fight scenes are either intensely physical, like when Grifter and Huntress duke it out, or they are over-the-top and explosive, like when Grifter and the others are escaping from the cops. This is where Di Giandomenico really shows off his artistic prowess and it pays off. But in between these big moments, there are also quiet character moments that always push the story forward. This is very much in line with the previous chapter, and I like seeing this kind of consistency from both the writer and the artist.
Ironically, precisely what I commented on above—that superheroes are often forced to fight each other—happens at the start of this chapter. It’s still not my favorite thing, but here it’s also not the worst. Grifter and Huntress fighting each other before teaming up makes sense in context, so I do think the creative team gets away with it. That said, I would’ve much preferred a more unique and more interesting angle—having them fight first is just too easy (even if I love the fight itself).
A more serious point of criticism: toward the end one of the heroes betrays the others. I don’t like this moment that much because, even though a reason is given, it seems forced to me. I don’t think these actions come naturally to this specific character. More context and insight into the character’s actions might have helped the scene significantly. That said, this does do great stuff for Grifter’s character arc, as it pushes him to finally save someone, not for money but because he wants to be a good guy. As such, the story gets tied up nicely, and the fact that Grifter’s defeat at the end is a victory in disguise for him is a solid note to end on.
- You can’t get enough of Mora and Bellaire’s beautiful artwork.
- You’ve been waiting for Dark Detective’s plot to pick up.
- You enjoyed the previous Grifter chapter and want to see how it concludes.
Overall: This is another good Dark Detective issue. The art is excellent throughout the whole book, and both stories are well worth a read. The main feature still has some issues with regards to how the story is being told, but Grifter’s tale is solid and offers a very satisfying read. All things considered, I definitely recommend this issue!
Total score: 8.5/10
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.