Future State: The Next Batman #1 Review - Does It Offer Anything Besides Diverse Batman?
DC Future State is upon us. I'm not sure what to expect from this series or the overall event but I know one of the biggest talking points was that we'd see a "Black" Batman. After reading the issue I wasn't all that impressed. John Ridley doesn't really give us enough to go on and I'm not quite sure why the series exists after the first installment.
The Next Batman #1 is actually three stories in one comic. The overall plot seems to be that in Gotham "Masks" are outlawed. Bruce Wayne is MIA or causing trouble elsewhere and a few other vigilantes are operating as a resistance.
The issue doesn't give much away regarding how Luke Fox gets the cowl and without context, the segment featuring Luke reads like a standard Batman story in a slightly futuristic setting. Yes, there are some hints about an inflection point in the past but nothing concrete is provided. Sadly without the hype about the Batman race swap this a pretty ho-hum first appearance. The series may come together but that's where we stand after the first outing.
What manages to save the comic are the backup stories. They add readability and more world-building regarding the overall happenings in Gotham. All of the segments are pretty standard but they add scale and bang for the $7.99 you're paying for in this book.
The first Backup features Outsiders "Katana" and "The Signal". It shows just how fascist Gotham has become. This is the strongest of the three segments and the one I'm most interested in going forward. Not a big fan of Katana's costume design but everything else is exciting and I generally liked the energy of Sumit Kumar's art style.
The second backup story features a group of former Batman Rogues banded together as a team of heroes designated "Arkham Knights". This is the most far-fetched Future State story I've read so far and the one that resonated with me the least. The art in the segment is the strongest but the Idea of Two-Face and Victor Zsasz as costumed heroes is a bit much. The Next Batman is billed as a 4 issue series so I'm sure by the end we'll have a complete and respectable story for these characters we just aren't there yet.
I appreciate the format and the increased page count but I'm not a fan of the price point in this instance. I think The Next Batman may have benefited from the Dawn of X/Hickman style of storytelling where text and graphic elements are used to do the heavy lifting regarding world-building. There is enough content to justify the price point but I also think the price could have been dialed down and some of this could have been explained in a few blurbs.
I also feel that the "Future State" setting may have benefited by having a launch issue that established the status quo a bit better. I've also read Future State Harley Quinn and it does give part of the Gotham story but it feels like we're dropped in the middle of a story and not in a good way. When events like these became the norm with stories like "The Age of Apocalypse" or "Onslaught" there used to be an Alpha and Omega issue to open and close things out. I thought the opening chapter would be "Generations Shattered" but that story seems to be standalone and doesn't really foreshadow anything that we see here.
If you're willing to invest in this story The Next Batman may turn into something great but as it stands it's too early to say. I do like that DC is experimenting with different story concepts and trying something different. I just think the editorial may have fumbled the rollout of this event.