Future State: Dark Detective #1 Review - Bruce Wayne Beyond?
There have been several attempts in recent years to bring Batman and by extension Bruce Wayne down to earth by removing his wealth and resources. This makes sense considering that Batman's status has been raised to the point where he is sometimes seen as being on the level of Superman and Wonder Woman even though he's basically just a rich guy with an amazing skill set.
Future State: Dark Detective #1 is the first comic I've read that seems to get what a "Grounded" Batman looks like. What's more surprising is that the story is set a few years in the future so the contrast between what we know of the character and the setting is a bit jarring but in a good way.
The story also gives the best rundown of what's happening in Future State: Gotham, at least from the books I've read so far. At some point in the near future, Bruce Wayne at the end of his rope and finances is shot and presumably killed by the Magistrates that have outlawed masked vigilantes and those associated with them.
Unbeknownst to the Magistrates Bruce survives the shooting and goes underground watching the news of his death and the occupation of Gotham play on the 24-hour news cycle. Bruce struggles with the new status quo and this comes to a head as he steps out of hiding to save some citizens being assaulted in the streets. Batman is dead and the Dark Detective is born.
Future State: Dark Detective #1 is a perfect Batman story. It also reminded me a lot of the recently released "The Last Ronin". We get a weathered version of the hero we know and love in a future setting and forced to come out of hiding to set things right.
The comic is also beautiful to look at. Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire really do a great job capturing Bruce's emotional state as well as making Gotham feel alive. Gotham gets updated with a futuristic touch but maintains the cities status as one of the principal characters of the story. The Dark Detective costume is also slick. It's rare to see a take on Batman that works without the cape but I really dug the costume in the brief moments we get to see it.
The mystery of how Batman got to this point seems to be an extension of what is happening in the main series post "Joker War". It also seems to be a natural path for the character without having everything spelled out to the reader. Dark Detective also retroactively makes "The Next Batman", and "Harley Quinn" better comics because it takes the time to lay out the status quo of Gotham and motivations from the perspective of the Magistrates.
The backup story featuring Grifter was also a nice addition to the comic. I haven't read a comic featuring the character in decades and forgot that Wildstorm was apart of the DC Universe now. The story is a lot of fun and also features Luke Fox (Batwing) as he recruits Cole Cash/Grifter to help him get out of Gotham. The two characters have great chemistry and Matthew Rosenberg injects some decent humor into the script which makes the segment a joy to read. Grifters also has an excellent pace and nice action setpieces which allows the comic to feel like a double feature instead of a comic with a meaningless backup story to pad the page count.
The main story and backup of Dark Detective justify the $5.99 cover price and I feel comfortable recommending it to anyone interested in what Future State is about. I believe that DC should have led with Dark Detective instead of "The Next Batman" because it does the job of worldbuilding that has been somewhat lacking elsewhere across the Future State landscape.