Review: Future State- The Next Batman #1

Future State: Outsiders

Writer: Brandon Thomas

Penciller: Sumit Kumar

Inking: Sumit Kumar & Raul Fernadez

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

The second story in this 60+ page issue focuses on the remnants of the “Outsiders” who ironically operate “outside” neo-fascist Gotham. The story primarily follows Katana/Tatsuo Yamashiro. While we get a brief cameo of Duke Thomas/Signal, who smuggles political dissidents out of Gotham, this is one hundred percent a Katana story. Leaning heavily into the lone samurai on a “final crucible” motif, “Future State: Outsiders” invokes the kind of pathos you would expect from an old samurai movie, or even some of the more somber episodes of “Samurai Jack”.

Future State: Outsiders. Image credit DC Comics.

Almost non-stop action from the first page to the last, there is hardly a moment where Tatsuo isn’t a B.A.M.F. There is even one page in the book where she’s tearing through a layer to her objectives like a 2D rendition of the iconic elongated hallway fight from Netflix “Daredevil” or that staircase moment in the Thai martial arts film “The Protector”.

As cliché as the final boss battle was, with a dark and stormy night scenario and a just barely unbeatable antagonist, it ends with a surprising arrival of another Outsider member in a new form who has a foreboding message for our stoic heroine.

Future State: Outsiders. Image credit DC Comics.

As a one-shot, this was an enjoyable read. It’s action-packed, simple, short and enjoyable. It’s superficial fun, with a nice cliffhanger for the next installment in issue #3. Moreover, Sumit’s sketchy penciling and dynamic framing are worth mentioning here as well.

Future State: Arkham Knights

Writer: Paul Jenkins

Artist: Gabe Eltaeb

Colorist: Rob Leigh

Originally a red herring character in the Rocksteady game Batman: Arkham Knight (2015/ revealed to just be Jason Todd), the character and motif of the titular “Arkham Knight” was transplanted to the comics back in May 2019. Astrid Arkham, descendent of the infamous Arkham family, is a Gotham villain sympathizer and her own “anti-Batman” zealot. I say all this as the story is narrated primarily from her perspective.

Here, this relatively new character makes her return, leading a crusade against the Magistrate’s forces, waging a war on the very streets of Gotham. While comprised of a mish-mash of low/bottom-tier Arkham inmates (most notable ones are Two-Face, Clayface and Victor Zsasz), the Arkham Knights operate as guerilla freedom fighters or domestic terrorists, depending on your perspective. The summary of this introductory issue is a “simple” recruitment drive ending in another battle with the elite “peacekeepers”; one skirmish in a larger war and bigger game.

Future State: Arkham Knights. Image credit DC Comics.

While I have tangential knowledge of Astrid Arkham prior reading this issue, I felt she was a very fleshed out and complex character; accentuated by her interactions with her fellow soldiers and her inner monologue and expositions throughout. Sad to say I had a better feel of Astrid, empathizing with her motives and cause by the end of the book than I did with Tim and his ventures as Batman. Astrid seemed to be a better, more proactive “Batman” overall, in no small part helped by her “Bat-esque” armor.

Highly detailed, bombastic and colorful, Gabe and Rob do a phenomenal job with art and coloring respectively; making this story feel like a pedigree Batman book. They are even able to beautifully convey the quieter, somber moments in the book as well.

Final Thoughts

In totality, the overall quality of the stories in “Future State: The Next Batman” improves with every subsequent tale. This is a shame as the tent pole title “The Next Batman” should garner the lion’s share for attention and praise. While I think the other two artists would have been a better pick than Nick’s art style, Ridley’s script lacks that je ne sais quoi to make it an easy recommendation out of the gate. Instead, I’m left with reservations. While things may pick up in following issues, “The Next Batman” does not offer a compelling first impression.

For more on this futuristic dystopian Gotham, check out the concurrent titles Future State: Harley Quinn, Dark Detective, Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin Eternal.

Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics, or videogames. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.

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