Four issues in and I still can’t tell how I feel about this book. In the beginning, I saw a lot of things that I liked, but there were a lot of things that made me think “well, on the other hand…” Then there started to be more and more hands, until there were just too many. An unnatural amount of hands, even, both good and bad. These hands filled my vision, obscuring natural light and leaving me blind and stranded in darkness, grasping around for any sense of direction in regards to this book. And then finally, after what felt like eons of wandering in the dark, I found it. The one tiny kernel of truth I needed about Future State: Gotham:

I need this book to decide what it’s going to be about. Let me explain.

When’s the Punchline?

When I heard the title Future State: Gotham, I was expecting a series about the state of Gotham as a whole in the future. Shocker, I know. Then the first issue comes out, and it’s about Jason Todd. Okay, that’s cool. I like Jason. I was interested by his whole Future State deal of hunting down the Bat-family as a Mask hunter. Then the book only kind of half focused on him, instead opting to spend the other half on the rest of the Bat-family doing a lot of nothing. Also fine, the series is just starting, gotta set things up, I get it. We’re established in a kind of half-Jason and Jace, half-Bat-fam plot. I can dig it. I’m vibing, even.

Then I opened issue #4.

Why this is called part four of Hunt the Batman boggles my mind. The only tangentially related thing to the main plot so far is the appearance of the Bat-crater in two panels. We don’t see heads nor tails of any characters that have appeared so far, which is fine and cool, I get that maybe Dennis Culver wanted to take a break from the main plot to introduce Hunter Panic, the new mask hunter in town, or show us how Harley and Punchline are doing, or set up that ungodly reveal on the last page (I’ll get to that, believe me). What bothers me is that this is included as a part of the main storyline, explicitly listed as Part Four? Maybe I’m jumping the gun, maybe it’s stuff that I can’t see yet, but this issue was such a wild departure from the plot that I can’t possibly think of a reason to force that tagline on there.

Okay. Rant over. I think. So how was the actual issue? Well, in short:

S’fine. S’okay. Nothin’ special.

It’s a pretty generic Harley vs Punchline story, with what amounts to a cameo from Hunter Panic, an original character making her debut in this book. And it ends pretty much how you’d expect, Harley and Punchline argue over the Joker, there is a drawn out (but very well illustrated thanks to Giannis Milogiannis, the GOAT) fight scene between Harley and some goons, Harley kicks Punchline’s ass, etc. etc. What this whole issue really feels like, however, is buildup to the last page. I am NOT excited about the last page. I’m putting it in spoiler tags in case you want to spare yourself from reading this, but I will warn you that it’s looking to be MAJOR SPOILERS!!! DO NOT CLICK UNLESS YOU ARE OKAY WITH THIS!!!

Spoiler

WHY. WHY DOES THE JOKER HAVE TO BE IN EVERY. SINGLE. STORY??? I cannot stress enough the sheer disappointment and audible sigh that escaped from my body when I read this page. This story already has at least two big villains, the Magistrate and Warmonger. WE DO NOT NEED THE JOKER. I get that we all saw Return of the Joker when we were younger and thought the premise of a new Batman fighting the Joker was the coolest thing we’d ever seen, and it was, but I personally am EXTREMELY tired of seeing him in every single big event we get. Decide for yourself if this excites you or not, and I’m willing to be happily surprised, but right now I am DREADING watching this play out.

I like the main plot of this book. Jason and Jace have amazing chemistry and are fun to watch bicker and banter. I want more of that. I’m intrigued by the Magistrate stuff with Bruce and the rest of the Bat-family. There was none of this here. If you wanted to introduce a new character or show us Harley and Punchline, you could have done that in relation to the stuff with Warmonger or the Peacekeepers. We didn’t need this issue. Again, I’m willing (and hoping) to be proven wrong, but this was such a nothing book.

Batman: Black and Why, Part Four

The Black and White story this issue is The Bottom Line by Michael Golden, and it’s… fine. It’s definitely my least favorite of the backup stories so far. It’s essentially one long action scene where Joker goons realize the bag they’ve been fighting Batman over has been a bomb the whole time, Batman does a cheesy “He’s using you to get to me” thing, and we all go home. The art, done by Jason Pearson, is clearly the star of the show here. The art is absolutely fantastic, it feels so alive and animated, and wouldn’t look out of place on a screen.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve been following the book so far and just want to read the next issue.
  • Harley and/or Punchline are your jam.
  • ???

Overall

This issue didn’t need to be what it was. At the very least, it wasn’t made clear that it did. I hope we see something come of this, but I’m scared this book is just going to become another vehicle for  [REDACTED: SEE SPOILER TAG] to take over. I want more Jason and Jace, they’re the star power in this book, and their interactions are genuinely good and interesting to read.

Score: 3/10


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