Overview: In Future State: The Next Batman #4, DC’s look at a futuristic Gotham City under the protection of a new Batman concludes.
Editor’s Note: Due to the anthology nature of this collection, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each short story, rather than breaking up the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: “The Next Batman” by writer John Ridley and artist Laura Braga
Synopsis: Batman is being strangled from behind by Eric. Eric moves in closer for leverage, but this allows Batman to slash his arm with a gauntlet, freeing Batman from the hold. Eric explains that he attacked Batman because he wanted to protect his wife, Sara. He begs Batman to tell the GCPD that it was he who murdered Jershefsky. They prepare to leave for City Hall to meet with Detective Chubb. Before departing, Batman hands them each a device to use in case the Peacekeepers get past him.
There are thirty-two blocks between the abandoned church and City Hall. It doesn’t take long, however, before the Magistrate catches up with them and begins firing. As they come around for a second volley of gunfire, Batman instructs Sara to throw the device he gave her – magnetic discs – at the cycles chasing them. She does, causing the motorcycles to collide with one another.
Thirteen more blocks…
More Magistrate troops arrive. This time, they’re led by Captain Stanz. Batman concludes that they’re not going to make it. Eric opens the door to the car and, before jumping out, reminds Batman that he was responsible for the murder, not his wife. Eric lands on the ground in the path of Stanz’s vehicle. Stanz orders the driver to run him over. As the Magistrate reaches Eric, he sets off the charge, blowing himself up with the vehicle. Batman swerves out of the way of a pedestrian and crashes into another vehicle. As he and Sara exit the car, Batman is approached by Tanya – his mother. She goes to pull a gun on him, causing Jace to make a tough decision. He throws a batarang, striking Tanya in the shoulder. Batman’s then attacked by Stanz, who has survived the blast from Eric’s charge. The two battle before Stanz pulls a knife on Batman. Batman, however, wrestles the knife from him, stabbing him in the shoulder with it. He begins to beat the downed trooper before he is stopped by Sara. They take off.
They arrive at City Hall, where they meet Detective Chubb and her partner, who takes Sara into custody. Before leaving, Chubb shoots Batman in his armor, ensuring that she has done her job as an officer.
At Gotham Hospital, the Fox family is waiting outside Tanya’s hospital room when Jace arrives. Luke ridicules his brother for not being there before their dad has Jace go see his mother. In Tanya’s room, Jace tries to comfort his mother, who is ridiculing Batman’s – Jace’s – actions. Jace ensures her that there will be time to discuss it later. Now they need to worry about being a family again.
Analysis: What a major letdown. After starting slowly in the first installment in January, Ridley had succeeded in building things up with Jace as Batman. With the way the story was built, one would expect a great conclusion. Instead, readers are left with unanswered questions and no finish to the story. I have had many issues with the stories in Future State, my biggest one being the number of holes it leaves from one story to the next. This continues in this final installment. While the final “battle” occurs between Batman and Captain Stanz, that is probably the only story that ends. We don’t know the finale of what happens to Sara now that Eric is dead. We don’t know if the murder of Jershefsky is justified. We don’t know if Chubb’s former partner is the rumored ex-cop helping people pull off jobs. The only thing we do know is that we will be getting a fill of the Fox family in Second Son. This, unfortunately, only serves as a prelude and answers little in what readers have read in the last four issues. I would assume this is done due to the shortened Future State replacing the longer-planned 5G we were originally supposed to get.
Personally, I am not pleased with the interactions Ridley gave us between Tim and Tanya. We know from throughout the mini and even prior to it that the Fox family is a torn group right now. Having Jace hit his mom with a Batarang only adds fuel to the fire; something I’m not sure is needed to move the story along. This was added with Jace playing things off as if the healing is truly going to happen despite how things turned out while he was in the cowl. It just doesn’t move the story anywhere that it already isn’t.
All is not truly lost on this story as the action we did receive was rather good. It’s good that Ridley established a clear nemesis in the Magistrate Captain Stanz. If the Future State universe continues for Jace after Second Son finishes, it’s pretty certain that we have not heard the last of the Magistrate captain, and I am ok with the idea of this. And nothing new needs to be said about the artwork team that I haven’t said covering the previous issues. While it isn’t Nick Derington (disappointed he only penciled one issue), Laura Braga held her own. That’s to be commended.
Story #2: “Batgirls, Part 2” by writer Vita Ayala and artist Aneke
Synopsis: Underneath the Magistrate Detention Center, Cass uses an implanted key generator to get access to a secluded area of the facility while Steph and the other inmates continue their riot. The guards get an upper hand thanks to shock cuffs, but Cass disables them from below, allowing the battle to continue. While the fight goes on, Cass makes her way to her final destination, where she doesn’t find Batman, as was planned, but a sedated Barbara Gordon, connected to wires. Cass frees her and they go to make their escape, taking out more Magistrate guards while doing it. The Magistrate guards have regained control of the riot, as they make their move on the primary instigator – Steph. Before they can do their worst, a loud sound startles the Batgirls. Oracle has returned to speak for the people of Gotham and the Resistance, who has arrived to provide an assist to the inmates.
Back at the Resistance’s base, Babs and Dick reconnect and recollect on recent events. As they kiss, Cass and Steph have their own recollections of how things have turned out for them and their new teammates from the now closed detention center. As they watch the former inmates build a new camp, they hug as the sun rises, bringing on a new beginning.
Analysis: Titanium-tipped fingernails? Implanted key-generating interfaces? No, just no. In my last review of this story, I predicted that I didn’t think that Ayala could fix all of the concerns I had with the first chapter, particularly with the voice she gave Cass. Unfortunately, I was right. In fact, in many ways, Ayala did worse. One must wonder how much research she did into Cass’s history. The voice and characterization we received in these two chapters in no way represents the character fans of Cassandra have loved all of these years. While it was nice to see Babs get in on some action (after being sedated for I don’t know how long, with wires connected to her), Cassandra Cain fans know she would have had no issue dispensing of the Magistrate troops on her own in no time.
The issues with voice aren’t limited to Cass. I understand that we are in the future, but it is not so far in the future that Cassandra completely forgets who she is. The same can be said of Steph as well. The highlight of this chapter, of course, was the return of Oracle and Babs reuniting with Dick. Despite this, however, it couldn’t save a bad story from itself. I still want to see a Batgirls series. I can’t, on the other hand, support the idea of Ayala penning the script.
I would have no issue seeing Aneke with some more work at DC. She has shown to me in these two chapters that she has some decent artistic skill.
Story #3: “Gotham City Sirens: Ladies’ Night Out Part II” by writer Paula Sevenbergen and artist Emanuela Lupacchino
Synopsis: The Sirens arrive at one of Poison Ivy’s hideouts, on a farm outside of Gotham, where she uses her skills to remove the bullet from Selina’s shoulder. After removing the bullet, Dee-Dee heads out to rest (because androids can do that) while Selina falls asleep courtesy of a secret Ivy elixir. The next morning, Catwoman is awakened by one of Ivy’s plant-based pets, who she shoos off after it scares her. She heads to the barn where she finds Dee-Dee, who wants to experience “sleeping in the hay.” Dee-Dee is examining a shovel with blood on it, but before she can question it, the two are interrupted by Ivy, who informs them that Dee-Dee’s creator, Dilton, had put a bounty on them. They decide to lay low.
Later on, the trio is relaxing in a small pond where Dee-Dee reveals how her creator implanted her with the memories of a dying young girl in her. This startles Selina and Ivy. As they turn the conversation to Bruce and Selina’s on and off relationship, the GCPD arrives, looking to take them in. Ivy calls for Rover, the plant monster that scared Selina earlier, who promptly attacks and eats the officers. Knowing their hideaway is no longer a secret, the Sirens take off. They’re eventually chased by Magistrate drones and Cybers, guns a-blazing. As they catch up, the Cybers – somehow recognizing Dee-Dee as one of them – cease firing, allowing the Sirens to escape death. They’re suddenly approached by Dilton, who is looking to take Dee-Dee home. Dee-Dee refuses to leave, instead, removing the memory chip from her head and giving it to Selina. The chip was also the key to the Cybers not firing on her, and with the chip no longer implanted, Dee-Dee is destroyed.
The Sirens give the memory chip to the Resistance, who uses it to learn more about Magistrate technology. They also use the chip to take down Dilton for violating human rights.
Analysis: When I sat to type my analysis of this story, I first looked at my previous review to see what I thought of part 1. It’s unfortunate, but expected, that my thoughts on this story’s conclusion are no better. The same clunkiness, lack of flow, and lack of good storytelling just make this a bad story. Of the backup stories, Sirens is clearly the worse. For such a good title from back in the day, it is such a disservice to the characters who made Gotham City Sirens a fun read. When reviewing part one of the story, I found the art as the only thing positive. I’m not certain I can this time. Nothing has changed from part one to two from Lupacchino. However, the more I look at it, the more I think that Lupacchino’s style doesn’t fit the story as scripted by Sevenbergen, which is unfortunate. It appears childish in some instances, particularly in that Selina can’t seem to take off her cat ears. Why not? We know she’s Catwoman. Lupacchino is a much better artist than that.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue either through Comixology or Amazon.