Future State: Gotham is having a bit of an identity crisis, and I’m not just talking about the multiple Batmans (Batmen?) running around. When the series started out, it was mainly focused on Red Hood – I mean Peacekeeper Red – taking down renegade vigilantes as part of Gotham’s new police force. That was a straight-forward enough premise, but over time the series kept introducing new plot threads with different characters. I think the idea behind this was to make the story about the city itself and all the people who inhabit it. It’s not at all a bad concept, but it’s unable to commit to one approach or the other. What results is an overabundance of tenuously connected characters that sometimes need to find a justification for occupying the same comic. This issue, that justification is having them all fight.
Unless I’ve missed any, I believe we are now at five different Batmen running around future Gotham. The labyrinthian paths that we’ve taken to make it so that that’s possible borders on the ridiculous. I understand the idea that with Bruce gone there becomes a power vacuum to take on the mantle, but everyone here seems to have completely disparate causes for being Batman and they all just so happen to be taking place right now. It feels contrived. Battle for the Cowl also had multiple characters claiming to be the new Batman with Bruce gone; it wasn’t the best story, but at least there was a clear, central inciting incident that causes everyone to start fighting. When Batman (Dick Grayson) fights Batman (Jace Fox) here, it comes off as forced melodrama between characters that should really be talking through the issue. But no, there needs to be a manufactured conflict regardless of whether it makes sense.
The fight itself is nothing to write home about. Even looking past the complete lack of narrative investment, the fight choreography is very static and doesn’t have a sense of blocking. Milonogianis’ action sequences have been one of the series’ strengths in the past. He used manga-inspired line work to emphasize the movement on the page. However, here the fights come across as a series of poses that don’t always flow from one panel to the next. Part of that is due to the fact that the characters’ positions relative to one another and in the scene are not always firmly established, meaning that it’s not clear what’s all happening in the space.
Even outside of the various Bats-Man, the remaining characters just feel crammed in there. Jason, formerly the main character of the comic, shows up briefly in the beginning so that he can catch up with Batman (Jace) and Hunter Panic, and they can remind the reader of what’s going on with the plot. It’s a very weird conversation. Part of it is there just to remind you that the characters exist, and admittedly I had almost forgotten that Hunter Panic existed. Visually it’s odd as well. The characters have absolutely no emotion on their faces because everyone involved is wearing a full face mask. Usually characters like that will still be drawn so that the eyes of their mask emote (Spider-Man is probably the best example of this) but here is just stoic, expressionless faces.
The backup story is a reprinting of The Executive Game by Tim Seeley from Batman: Urban Legends #7, but without color. Jay already reviewed that story here, so I won’t spend too much time on it. What I will say is that it presents a very interesting contrast with how Damian is being handled in this story. Both instances portray Damian from Grant Morrison’s Batman #666 as a Batman from Hell. However, while Seeley uses his short story to build off the themes that Morrison established in their run by having Damian’s Hell be a metaphor for his failures and self-doubts, Dennis Culver takes a much more literal approach by having Damian’s time in Hell just make him crazy. I assume the backup was chosen because of the superficial connection between the two stories, but the comparison does not help the Future State: Gotham story.
- Five Batmen are better than one
- You like it when the heroes fight each other over a small disagreement
- All of the different plot lines in the series have been exciting for you
Future State: Gotham has struggled for a while to figure out what it wants to be about, and the seams are starting to show. We’ve got five different Batmen running around, and the circumstances that get them all in a position to inevitably fight feel manufactured. The characters from the other plot lines show up to remind the reader that they’re still here, but otherwise seem to be waiting for something to do. This issue’s main goal is mostly to set up for the big battle for the future cowl, so hopefully that payoff will be worth all this.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.