If I had use a word to describe this issue, it would be “padded.” The story at the heart of the issue is genuinely enjoyable, but only about half of the pages are actually about that.
A not insignificant amount of this issue is from other stories. Not just recapping, but lifting entire pages from other comics directly. I have a lot of problems with this as a writing technique. If nothing else it’s very jarring to read. The opening segment has little if any context, so you have almost no idea what’s going on. The fight scene between Bruce and Peacekeeper-01 is so sudden and out of place that I genuinely thought the pages were out of order somehow. This is primarily due to the fact that the fight scene was not written to be the first scene in an issue; it was written to be the climax to a lot of set up that’s absent here.
Another problem with doing this is the art. The pencilwork from the pages of Future State: Dark Detective and Future State: Catwoman is well done, but very clearly was made with the intention of having color. Future State: Gotham has a very deliberate art style by Geoffo that relies on linework and shading to highlight action and motion and most of the time it works (though sometimes it can be unclear what exactly you’re looking at.) It’s a style reminiscent of a lot of manga. However when you take art that is drawn with the intention of being colored and just remove the color, what’s left is an image that looks incomplete and muddled, especially in action scenes.
The Future State: Catwoman excerpt flows into the story much better than the Future State: Dark Detective pages. Talia and Nightwing’s conversation sets up the scene, and the art is at least comprehensible without color. It’s overall an exciting heist scene, which is what I thought over a year ago when I read it the first time. However it’s not seamless. Otto Schmidt’s art is very different from Geoffo’s which doesn’t help the visual transition, and it still has a number of story elements that lack the context provided by the original comic. A complaint I’ve had with this series is that it sometimes expects you to know what’s going on in all the other Future State titles, but this is not the way to solve that problem. At best it creates a disjointed story on both a visual and narrative level, and at worst it comes across as lazy.
Nightwing’s subplot follows up on the previous issues by telling Talia where to go next. Using the mind-enhancing drug “brane,” (a name which I dislike immensely) he is able to use psychic powers to locate both Bruce and Damian. These psychic abilities feel like a plot contrivance more than anything else. The drug is derived from the same venom Bane uses but just enhances mental abilities instead of physical ones. That makes sense, but the story has not set up any clues for even the world’s greatest detective to use to figure out where Bruce and Damian are. Instead of taking the time to build up that mystery and following through, Dick just knows what the plot needs him to know via
Other than acting as a plot device for the main story, Dick gets to have a brief but inconsequential fight scene with some classic rogues gallery villains. Hush continues to work in the shadows and has gathered up the criminals as part of his plan, but as soon as he does so Dick-as-Batman shows up and easily beats them up. It’s over as soon as it starts. The main narrative purpose I can figure from this encounter is to show off how much brane is making him a better fighter. The villains comment on how he seems hyper-aware of his surroundings, but it isn’t noticeably different than the kind of kung-fu fighting we see from bat characters on a regular basis.
The main focus of the story, even if it takes a long time to get around to it, is Bruce and Talia’s adventure to find Damian. This part is a lot of fun. It’s a Indiana Jones-esque adventure as they dive deep into what I can only describe as Damian’s lair. It reminds me a lot of the globe-trotting stories that were in Denny O’Neil’s original Demon Saga from the 70s, which is appropriate. The mystic elements of what they find there also fit in really well with Damian’s character. As half al-Ghul, he has always had a connection to the more arcane side of the DC universe.
- You don’t mind reading reprinted pages of other comics but without color
- You’ve been waiting to see Bruce Wayne return to Future State
- Damian’s family drama is an aspect to Batman that you enjoy
The new direction Future State: Gotham is taking with this issue is interesting, but it stumbles out of the gate. Too many pages are devoted to reprinting older comics, which harms the overall narrative and artistic flow. Once the main plot is able to finally begin, it’s filled with enough intrigue and adventure to get you hooked for what comes next. The comic would benefit immensely from actually focusing on that part of the story. Some of the problems here may be out of an obligation to tie into the interconnected nature of all Future State titles, but the fact remains that it harms what is presented.
DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.