Future State: Gotham #16 review

I take back what I said about this title feeling amateurish. You see, “amateur” comes from the Latin word “amator,” meaning one who loves (See, Mr. Pogoni? I was paying attention in Latin class). It’s meant to indicate someone who does something because they love it, as opposed to getting paid. That is not what’s being displayed here. This is just laziness. It is a repetitive, uninspired script coupled with artwork that feels like the bare minimum to be considered suitable to print.

The pacing of this entire issue is tiring. The story moves from one contrived fight sequence, to the next, and then back again. The entire time you can’t help but wonder why you should care about any of it. None of the participants act like real characters; they just do whatever is necessary to facilitate a fight to happen between people that should be allies. Nightwing is still fighting all of his friends and family because they don’t think it’s a good idea for him to be Batman by himself (this warrants violence). At no point during this fight does it ever feel like there are any stakes or tension. Imagine six pages of “you should accept help from your allies”, “no”. We’re told that taking the “Brane” drug (God, I hate that name so much) is supposed to make him incredibly smart, but it seems to make him act like a belligerent idiot instead. At the very least this is in line with everyone else in the story.

Then there’s Damian, who seems to want to kill everyone he sees using his magic fire powers. The premise of Damian’s character in this story was that he spent years in Hell looking for his father, and yet he is more than willing to kill his father because that would be a shocking thing for him to say. Sorry, I meant to say because he has Hell insanity or something. Culver didn’t care enough to have a consistent motivation so I won’t try to invent one. He is simply a plot device to be led around by the other characters and told to fight, which he more than happily obliges. The melodrama surrounding him being deceived into not knowing who the real Batman is completely lost in the half dozen other instances of nobody knowing who the real Batman is.

That’s the face you want for a dramatic reveal

Part of what makes the characters so irritating to read is their awful dialog. Just like last time, all of the speech feels incredibly unnatural because it primarily exists to set up one liners and “cool” moments. You get the impression that every sentence is meant to be this big, dramatic statement, but it falls flat every time. I think this is most noticeable in the scenes where Hush, Damian, and Jace have their verbal sparring about sin and redemption. It sure sounds like the kind of thing that could lead to some heavy moments, right? Well, no. It’s just a maniacal “Burn for your sins!” moment immediately followed by a bog-standard “I am more than my mistakes” triumph. It did, at the very least, give us one of the most hilariously strange panels I’ve seen.

Dick’s fight manages to consist of nothing but cliché one-liners. You’ve got classics like “What have you become?!” and dueling metaphors about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. However, Hush may have both of them beat, delivering lines that sound like a bad anime villain. During his fight with Jason (have you lost count at how many different fight combinations there are this issue? I have.) we see Hush toying with him, telling them how much he likes/respects Jason so he should join him. Of course when he refuses, Hush tells him how it’s a pity that he’ll just have to kill him. Oh, and the sentences broken up by page breaks and ellipses seemingly for an attempt at dramatic effect make a return. It’s the kind of writing you see from someone trying to imitate cool characters they remember from a TV show one time.

The art is not quite as bad as the writing, but it doesn’t do much to elevate it. Just as the dialog tries especially hard to be dramatic, only for it to fall on its face, so too does the art. Oftentimes what is supposed to be a serious panel comes across as unintentionally comedic. The opening page of the story shows a hallucination of when Jace hit a pedestrian as a teen, but the way everything is framed, coupled with the lack of context from being the opening almost makes it come across as a joke.

When the art isn’t trying and failing to be dramatic, it’s just not trying much at all. Last month I complained that very little effort was put into the backgrounds. Well Geoffo heard my critique and solved the problem by just not having any backgrounds at all. Almost every panel in the story is set against a completely empty void. The one time we do get a semi-detailed cityscape, it is used as an excuse to put off actually drawing the fight taking place by simply placing the speech bubbles on a building off in the distance. The innumerable fight scenes themselves often look rigid, giving the impression of action figures fighting rather than people. Whenever there’s a big, full page moment that is meant to be impressive then more work is put into the details, but it’s rare. It all feels like a rough draft.

Recommended if…

  • You want lots of fights between people dressed as Batman
  • Those fights don’t need to be well drawn
  • You enjoy stories where no one has any idea what is going on

Overall

DC recently announced that this series will be ending in October, and it seems that the series is content to simply spin its wheels while we wait for this to be over. All of the criticisms I laid out last month still apply, except they are only getting worse. Future State: Gotham #16 is a poorly drawn, plotted, and scripted comic that relies on cheap attempts at melodrama to cover up for a presentation that has seemingly had little effort put into it.

Score: 2/10


DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this issue for the purposes of this review.