Amateurish. That’s really the best word that I can use to describe this. Future State: Gotham has never been the top title that DC put out, but since the beginning of the “Batmen at War” arc, it’s seen a significant drop in quality. Part of this is due to the fact that it rests on two gimmicks: having a bunch of Batmen at the same time, and finding ways to have the heroes fight each other. The former has been done before, and the latter is such a tired cliché that you really need to bring something special to the table to make it worth people’s time. Instead, this issue brings awkward dialog and sloppy linework.
In order for this premise to work, all of the different Batmen need a reason to fight each other. Last issue managed to get Dick Batman to fight Jace Batman by having Dick act completely unreasonable and out of character so that he’d physically attack Jace for operating as Batman. Well if it worked once, the story might as well do it a few more times.
First up we’ve got Jason, who upon discovering Bruce has returned, immediately assumes that it’s Hush and decides to attack him instead of trying to figure out what’s going on. Next up there’s Dick. All the other members of the bat family (his closest friends and allies, may I remind you) suggest that it’s not good for him to try to do everything alone. He disagrees and thinks that a better idea would be, you guessed it, getting into a giant fight with all of them. Finally there’s Damian. He actually *does* meet Hush pretending to be Bruce, but because it would create the most drama, Damian fully believes him and buys into his plan to hunt down all the other Batmen. This one is a bit more understandable because he’s supposedly driven mad by his time in Hell, but it still relies on nobody acting rationally.
Plots that hinge on a series of big misunderstandings that no one takes the time to talk through are bad enough when it’s a sitcom episode. Here it’s worse because we’re supposed to take the events seriously and be invested in these characters. It’s hard to become invested when there is no expectation that their character traits will amount to anything. Instead of looking at the characters and thinking about what they might do next based on their predefined personalities, you just wait for them to do whatever nonsense is necessary to create melodrama. It’s an exercise in frustration more than anything else.
At no point does the dialog in this issue feel natural. Characters are far too busy setting up one liners or surprise twists for that. Take for example the moment when Hush is trying to manipulate the confused Damian into killing the other Batmen.
No one talks like that, and especially not with those bizarrely long pauses. The only reason Hush is doing it here is to give the reader a shock when they turn the page from the left panel to the right panel on the next page. This comic is filled with lines like that. There’s also the constant “cool” lines. What I mean by that is that every character needs to have at least three or four moments where they get to smirk, look up at the reader from shadow, and deliver something that sounds really serious and dark. Imagine Will Arnett’s Lego Batman but played completely straight. Maybe that’s another Batman that can show up later.
The dialog is bad, and the art is no better. Aside from a few big scenes that are meant to be really impressive (but rarely are), all of the characters appear hastily drawn. Just a lot of quick and dirty linework to get the general idea of the characters, and then call it a day.
Take a look at the background characters here (not gonna talk about whatever is going on with Dick’s nostrils at the end there). It doesn’t even look like Milonogiannis finished drawing some of them. These aren’t just random extras; they’re active participants in the conversation, which means that the reader is going to be looking right at them. The backgrounds look really rough as well. They’re just vague rectangles with haphazard lines drawn on them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with publishing a comic with no color, but when you do that then you need to be aware that the linework is going to have to pick up all of the slack. Without that, it just looks like they tried to save some money by cutting as many corners as possible.
Part of the supposed justification for the full cost is the included backup story. Well that is yet again a reprint of a story they previously published in Batman: Urban Legends #7. You can read Jay’s review of “Hunter… or Hunted” here.
- You want to see a bunch of people dressed as Batman fight each other, no matter what
- All of the future versions of the Bat family in one place sounds neat
- Characters aren’t important
Future State: Gotham #15 feels like a rushed, sloppy story that puts little effort into its plot, dialog, or art. I know the creative team is capable of putting out better material than this, because the series wasn’t always like this. The issue is comprised primarily of characters spouting obligatory one liners as lead-ins to poorly drawn fights and nonsensical shock twists. The sooner this poorly conceived arc ends, the better.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.