The final issue of Future: State Gotham wraps up the story lines maybe as well as one could expect, but that isn’t saying much. The same problems that have plagued the series since this latest arc began continue through to the end. The plot continues to be chaotic nonsense, the characters are not well fleshed out, and the dialog sounds nothing like how people really speak. There is a last minute change in art style for the final issue, which is definitely an interesting editorial choice, though it’s debatable whether the new art is an improvement. However, if you’ve made it this far and are content to simply let it all wash over you, there’s at least a conclusion to everything set up, which is more than I can say for most series.
The big twist at the end of the last issue was that Damian is being possessed by the ghost of Joe Chill, looking to use him to kill Bruce Wayne. If you were hoping that this issue would give some explanation as to why that makes any sense, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. We’re given a small amount of exposition as to Chill’s logic, but it doesn’t help much. Apparently he regrets that his murder led to the creation of Batman and wants to correct his mistake. This still raises so many questions. How does Joe Chill even know about Batman? Did he learn all of his secrets while in Hell? Perhaps more importantly, why would he even care?
Joe Chill was just some random mugger looking to steal a pearl necklace. He does not have some absurd ideological commitment to crime as a concept, which Batman then ruined. It attempts to turn Chill into some ultimate nemesis for Batman (Lord knows he doesn’t have enough of those), but by vastly overstating his narrative role, it loses why Joe Chill works as a concept. He needs to be just some random criminal to motivate Bruce’s war on crime. There have been other stories that try to up Chill’s importance by making him a hired assassin or something, and those are bad too, but this takes it to a new, absurd level. It’s a poorly executed concept for the sake of drama, and its presence as a final boss to fight is completely contrived.
The entire premise of the story is completely absurd on its face, and it almost reaches the point of enjoyment from the sheer camp. You’ve got giant fights against zombie Talons, a 5-way battle between various Batmen based on a bunch of misunderstandings, and a maniacal Joe Chill brought back from the dead to kill Bruce Wayne using his son that he found wandering around Hell. The entire time characters are delivering quippy one liners and overdramatic threats. It’s all so ridiculous that I genuinely can’t tell if the creative team is intending for us to take it seriously or not. There’s a part of me that loves watching bad movies, and that’s the part of me that is left liking this series.
The other part of me is simply frustrated by the mountain of nonsense. Because it’s so dumb I cannot become emotionally invested in anything going on. There is no narrative tension, and when you strip away the silliness of the concepts, all that’s left is a poorly constructed story that hinges on coincidences and out of character decisions that don’t have any logic to them. If you want to get the most out of this book, just turn your brain off and accept everything as it happens.
The climactic, emotional moment of the series is meant to be when Dick pulls a Father Karras and sacrifices himself to destroy the ghost of Joe Chill. However, it completely fails for all of the reasons I listed earlier. We’re not emotionally invested in anything going on because none of it makes any sense. Not only that, but Dick as a character has been incredibly annoying this entire series, so seeing him gone is more likely to bring a sense of relief than a tear to one’s eye.
This scene also marks the transition from black and white art to full color. The intention seems to be that with the destruction of Chill, hope and brightness is returning to Gotham. This doesn’t work, however, because Chill wasn’t the antagonist of the series until last issue, or maybe arguably when Damian came back. Future State: Gotham has always been black and white. It’s been used as a stylistic choice, not one meant to signify that things are bad. There were plenty of moments of joy that were still shown in black and white in the beginning of the series, and Chill had nothing to do with any of that. It’s an attempt to retroactively insert a thematic meaning to the lack of coloring when there was none.
The new art style under Justin Greenwood is jarring to see suddenly show up in the final issue. Giannis Milonogiannis and Geoffo had been alternating art duties up until now, but there was always at least a consistent style. In terms of the quality of the art itself, it feels like a lateral move if anything. Greenwood seems to put more effort into his art compared to the sloppy and hastily drawn sketches of the last few issues. The lighting is done with more care, and the sense of physical space in the fight scenes feels more solid. However, the art is far more stylized in a way that I am not a fan of. The way faces are drawn feel like caricatures, and at times can look very strange.
Despite the fact that this story arc has stretched a single “what if a bunch of Batmen fought?” premise over 6 issues, the ending itself feels very rushed. It tries to remember that this series used to be about more than that and tie up all the loose ends that haven’t been mentioned in almost a year. Defeating Hush seems to have suddenly caused everyone in this dystopic, cyberpunk Gotham to like the good guys and turn on the bad guys. Almost all the societal problems are solved because Joe Chill’s ghost is gone, as is Hush’s army of zombie minions. Remember when this series was about Jason struggling to work within the totalitarian police force? I bet you wouldn’t think this is how that would be resolved.
Dennis Culver tries to use the ending as a sort of passing of the torch to Jace as the new Batman, but it just seems to come out of nowhere. Jace hasn’t done anything of importance for a long time in this series. He and Hunter Panic have felt like fifth (and sixth) wheels who are just tagging along to give brief comments on a story that has completely shifted focus away from them and towards the “traditional” bat family. Hunter Panic especially seems to be someone introduced to flesh out the Future State world, but then very quickly has absolutely nothing to do but also be there. When Jace reminds us that we “can’t forget” Hunter Panic, it almost feels like a joke from a sitcom, missing only the laugh track.
Once again the backup story is a reprint of a story from Batman: Black and White (2014) #6. This time it’s “Clay” by Cliff Chiang. Like last month it’s a great short story but I’m not going to give bonus points for reprinting an old comic. You can read Andrew’s review of that issue here, and if you want to see more by Cliff Chiang you should really checkout Catwoman: Lonely City. That series is phenomenal and the final issue comes out October 25th.
- You’ve come this far and want to see how it all ends
- You’re a fan of ridiculous “so bad it’s good” stories
- Some third reason
With Future State: Gotham #18, DC seems to have finally closed the book on the Future State setting that was at one point supposed to be the future of all DC Comics. It’s tough to imagine a more disappointing way for that editorial effort to be remembered. The series’ final arc is filled with characters whose decisions make no sense, stilted dialog meant only to deliver bad one-liners, inconsistent art at best, and an incoherent plot. This final issue can be entertaining to read if you just turn your brain off, but once you move past the absurdity of it all, all that’s left is the ending to a bad story.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this issue for the purposes of this review.