Future State: Gotham #1

In the not-so-distant Future State, Gotham has changed. An oppressive figure known as the Magistrate has banned all vigilantes from active duty. Of course, none of Gotham’s crime fighters actually stopped, so now the Magistrate is cracking down on these criminal scum. And who better to bring in the Bat-family than the Red Hood, mercenary for hire?

This book has been on my radar since it was announced, mostly because I saw the words “Batman” and “family” in the solicit and my Nightwing senses started tingling, but also because Jason’s story in Future State had intrigued me. The questions of why Jason is working for some shadowy figure, who his benefactor is in the first place, and if he and Rose would turn out okay were enough to draw me in. I hope we get some answers here, but most importantly, I’m excited to see what ramifications those answers have on the Bat-family and Gotham in general.

 

Joshua Williamson and Dennis Culver have teamed up to bring us this futuristic insight into Gotham City, and things are bleak. Crime runs rampant, despite the militant Peacekeepers patrolling the streets, and it’s not just petty thugs. This issue opens with Arnold Wesker and a recently upgraded Scarface wreaking havoc on Gotham, and it’s a doozy of an opening panel. It was the first thing that lessened my doubts about the monochromatic presentation. I’m still not 100% on the art style here, but I will admit it grows on me the more I look at it. Giannis Milonogiannis’s work here really reminds me of a manga, with the action lines, expert shading, and fantastic background work.

IS THAT A SCARFACE MECHA???? HELL YEAH!!!!!

This splash is fantastic. It’s dynamic and gives you a sense of the sheer size of Mecha-Scarface, as well as the danger he poses (seriously, look at the size of those bullets), and Troy Peteri’s lettering is ABSOLUTELY on point for the big guy. Seriously, this seems to be a running theme with the books I’m covering, but I LOVE to see letterers having a blast.

After a sizable amount of collateral damage, Jason is approached by one of the Magistrate’s Peacekeepers, who reminds Jason that his job is now to hunt down vigilantes, not fight super-criminals. The two of them get into it, before being interrupted by a strange humming sound. A large explosion decimates the streets of Gotham, and Peacekeeper and Red Hood have to get out of the blast radius. The writers use this opportunity to show that Jason, while on an opposing side to Nightwing and the rest of the Bat-fam, still cares about people and wants to help.

The rest of the issue goes by in a bit of a blur of setup, Jason’s status with the Peacekeepers, as well as his place in the chain of command, is solidified, and we see that his mysterious employer is connected to other “people” (spooky). There’s also a scene where we’re shown that the public is coming over to the Magistrate’s side, and it’s just… one of the most awkwardly heavy-handed ways I think it could have been done.

Like, come on, man. Maybe this is a way of showcasing how dystopian this future is, some kind of Two Minute Hate callback or something, or maybe we’ll see that the Magistrate has been brainwashing the public in some way, but a mob marching through the streets with signs that say “BATMAN MUST DIE” is maybe a tad much, even if the town does blame him for the explosion, which, why would they ever —

Oh. That. Well, uh, yeah, I guess. Not many people who would blow a giant bat symbol into the heart of downtown Gotham. The reason I wanted to call attention to this panel is how much it sells me on Milonogiannis’ artwork. The efficiency at communicating not just the size of both Gotham and the crater, but how devastating the blast was on the landscape is incredible. It’s one of the rare moments in comics where I was able to sit back and appreciate just how MASSIVE Gotham City is. I was also forced to sit and contemplate just how much damage this explosion did. That was a GIANT chunk of the city, with God knows how many people caught in the fallout. This new Batman seems pretty dangerous, if you ask me. Someone should bring that guy in.

Recommended if…

  • You’re a big Red Hood fan and are looking for something to satisfy your craving.
  • Gritty mystery thrillers excite you.
  • Future State pulled you in and you want to see more of it.

Overall

This is a fine book. It didn’t excite me as much as I hoped it did, there was a lot of setup and not a lot of payoff (I know it’s issue #1, but there’s still such a thing as too much setup at once), and it really requires you to have read other Future State books before this. Obviously, the people who are most likely to pick this book up are people who have been keeping up with Future State since the beginning, but I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re going to write a series, it should be able to stand on its own legs without outside reading. It really feels like the writers assumed that people who read this book would already have context, and so they skipped out on a lot of exposition. The art is also fine. The style is good, and the action is dynamic, but something about it feels lackluster to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a very color-oriented person, and black and white images are hard for me to parse sometimes, but this book wasn’t as easy on the eyes as I’d hoped. Still, the art is not bad by any means, and the book is definitely worth the $3.99 price point if you’re interested in the story or are a big Red Hood fan. Otherwise, maybe this book isn’t for you.

Score: 5/10


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