Writer: John Ridley
Artist: Laura Braga
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Publisher: DC Comics
Picking up right where we left off, our nascent Dark Knight winds up the shepherd for the murdering couple from the previous issue, not after quickly dispensing with a dogged, well-equipped, yet ultimately inept “anti-Batman” task force. In addition, while the estranged Fox family gets some more screen time, I feel that this sub-plot is just arrested in its development, as nothing really has changed or been revealed beyond what we already know and expect. This holds true for the snippets with the generic Peacekeeper 01 and the GCPD. And by the end of the issue, our inexperienced Batman/Jace Fox’s conscientious decision to hand over the killers to the less zealous GCPD quickly bites him back; leading to a cliffhanger that you could have spotted a mile away.
The underlining themes and concepts of “justice” and “vigilantism” in a society where those ideas are treated as absolutes and extremist are lightly touched on; leaving little time to really delve into those heavy philosophies. And what I’ve found over the other “Future State” books is that those that have no backup stories fair far better than their crammed peers. “The Next Batman” shouldering two backups has proven detrimental to the main story. Had the superfluous backups been omitted, or kept in a separate one-shot, the various elements and aspects highlighted could have been given the much needed time to cultivate and mature, instead of feeling like John is rushing or condensing an hour and a half movie into thirty minutes.
I’m just not invested in any of the characters thus far, which is a shame. Three issues in and for me, Jace Fox/Next Batman has not coalesced as yet; and maybe that will come with time as most, if not all, of the “Future State” characters and events are being woven into canon in the DCU proper. My earlier comparisons to Jace as the personality-deprived “Protagonist” in “Tenet” still remains valid.
Thankfully, artist Laura Braga, assisted by colorist Arif Prianto, returns to maintain the high quality art from the previous issue. Even in dialog-heavy scenes the quality of detail and vibrancy isn’t slacking.
As for the backups that conclude the stories started in #1, the Outsiders shifts to Duke Thomas/Signal and his empowerment monologue, which dominates the issue in textboxes and seems tonally incompatible with the somber moments between Jefferson (Black Lightning) and Tatsuo (Katana). As a consolation, Sumit, Raul, and Jordie get the chance to flex their muscles in articulating a showdown on the Gotham City bridge near the end. The fact we’re essentially where the story started and there are no new surprises kind of robs some of the nuances from the whole endeavor.
With regards to the Arkham Knight backup, Astrid’s big assault goes as well as can be expected; which in this instance is a good thing. These hardened super-criminals rallying together for a pseudo-heroic cause like valiant soldiers is endearing. Everyone seems so well fleshed out and their group dynamic so organic that you buy them functioning as a guerrilla unit, akin to something you’d find from Suicide Squad or Secret Six. It’s easy to see I’m a sucker for underdog villain stories, with a battle well-fought scenario. Of course, the show stealers are Astrid herself and the forlorn Dr. Phosphorus. And without giving away spoilers, whether or not the final page reveal was worth it all will depend on your interpretation.
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.