Overview: DC continues its looks at a possible DC Universe with its anthology led by a new guardian of Gotham City.
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 arrives at the scene of a murder and inspects the evidence before him. After reviewing video surveillance of the event, Batman is confronted by Magistrate foot soldiers looking to take him out. He disposes of his adversaries right as reinforces arrive. Batman doesn’t have the same amount of success, and as he makes his escape, he takes a bullet to his side. As he speeds off on his cycle, he calls a contact and asks for assistance in analyzing the video of the recent murder. As the call ends, he drops the phone to the ground, knowing that it is no longer useful.
At Gotham City Hall, Tanya Fox is meeting with Mayor Nakano. She is trying to convince the mayor that his anti-mask, shoot-on-sight law won’t stand up to a true legal challenge. The mayor wants to hear nothing about it and stresses that Tanya’s job is to ensure that the law passes muster. He questions her commitment to his plan for making Gotham City safer. She questions the need for the peacekeepers and their firepower. Nakano suggests that Tanya speaks to her husband since the Magistrate’s weaponry comes from Foxtech.
In an empty cargo container along the Gotham docks, Batman nurses his gunshot wound. He questions his ability to handle his war with the Magistrate. He reaches out to his contact who tells him that there’s no info on the murdered victim – named Jershefsky – from earlier. He does, however, know the location of the people responsible. The contact sends the coordinates to Tim, who takes off to find the murders.
At the scene of the earlier murder, GCPD comb over the evidence while Magistrate troops investigate Batman’s presence there. They offer no assistance to the police and promptly leave when they receive would of Batman’s whereabouts.
In another part of Gotham, the two responsible for the murder walk the dark streets, hooded and still carrying the murder weapons. They find themselves face-to-face with Batman; one quickly charges the Dark Knight. Batman quickly gains the advantage over the assailant before the other hooded person – a female – gives up and begs Batman to stop. They admit to killing Jershefsky. They accuse him of being a child predator who coaxed their daughter to meet with him, where he murdered her. After the police failed to bring any justice, they found someone on the dark web who would help them plan their next move; once it was done, they had to disappear for good. Batman had to understand what they were going through; they had to have justice for their daughter. But Batman was the last person they needed to worry about…
The Magistrate has arrived.
Analysis: Great improvement from the first issue. I understand that being limited to four issues (before the recently announced news of the digital-first series) limits the story a writer can tell. However, Ridley does move the story pretty well here. For the first time, we see Tim Fox as the man behind the cowl and with news of the digital-first mini-series, we will potentially see the events that lead to him picking up the mantle. The mini-series notwithstanding, Ridley goes to provide further hints as to what is going on with the Fox family. As in Future State: The Next Batman #1, where we see Tim and Luke go at in front of their unconscious sister, Ridley seems to show in the conversation between Mayor Nakano and the Fox matriarch, Tanya, that the family is not on the same page and maybe quite torn on where things are in Gotham City. It also seems that Tanya is taking it the hardest, with her daughter still in the hospital in a coma. She has an issue with the masks in Gotham, particularly Batman. The question that needs answering is if it is Bruce Wayne or her son.
Ridley also gives us more on Tim’s psyche. It’s clear, despite what we got in the first issue, that Tim is still second-guessing himself, and it makes me wonder how far into his tenure as Batman we actually are. We do know that upcoming issues that Tim and Jace will come face to face. To go along with the question of timing, as the person who covered Detective Comics prior to Future Sate, I can clearly say that I do not like Christopher Nakano. Despite the political novice title given to him at the end of Tomasi’s run, it’s clear that he has been fully entrenched in the political landscape of Gotham City and has become a typical politician. What event would lead him in this direction, giving birth to the Magistrate? Is it the same as the events that impacted the Fox family?
Laura Braga does a great job doing the main artwork for this issue. She has done a lot of work at DC, particularly in the DC Bombshells series (coincidentally, so does another artist in this issue). Honestly, there isn’t much difference in what we get from Braga and the work by Derington in issue #1 (Derington also provided the breakdowns for this chapter). There is good line work that is only exemplified by the colors from Arif Prianto.
Story #2: “Batgirls” by writer Vita Ayala and artist Aneke
Synopsis: A new inmate arrives at the Magistrate Detention Facility. To everyone’s surprise, the new resident is Cassandra Cain. The facility’s warden offers her a deal if she turns over details of the Resistance’s whereabouts. Cass doesn’t utter a word. Perhaps she’ll have a change of mind after one night with her new cellmate – Stephanie Brown. Cass isn’t happy to see her former partner – someone who is known to the Resistance as a traitor – and she lets that displeasure known with a punch. Stephanie attempts to chat with her old friend, but the former assassin is having none of it.
The next day in the rec area, Cassandra is looking for a fight, approaching several former adversaries to garner an adverse reaction. Unfortunately, they all pass on the chance before Cass realizes they’ve been forewarned by Steph to stay away. Cass finds Spoiler in the laundry room and the two former Batgirls come to blows. During the melee, Steph slips a device into Cass’s pocket right before they are both taken out by a Magistrate guard. They’re both placed in solitary confinement. Minutes later, lunch is served and Cass finds an earbud on her plate. She places it in her ear and finds Steph on the other end. She’s jamming surveillance with the device she placed in Cass’s pocket. Spoiler recites a passage from Book 5 of The Odyssey and Cass realizes that she and Steph are both on the same side. Steph explains how her own mission was given to her by Nightwing after Oracle went missing and how the person known by all as the traitor to the Resistance was actually still fighting on that side. Cass in turn explains why she allowed herself to get caught. There were rumors that Batman was still alive, likely under the detention center. Little did they know that it was Bruce beneath the detention center, but Barbara Gordon, unconscious and connected to wires and subconsciously relaying the message that Batman was alive. The two devise a plan. The next day, they spring their plan into action with Steph convincing the inmates – both heroes and villains – to distract the guards.
A prison riot is about to start.
Analysis: I was excited to review this book for two reasons. The first was looking at a new take on my favorite character. The second reason was to get my hands on this story. Those who follow TBU on Discord (if you’re not a part of the server, please join now) know how big of a fan I am not only of Cass as Batgirl, but also of Steph. I was also excited since I am a fan of Vita Ayala as well. After this chapter of the story, however, I find myself a little disappointed.
The plot of the story is a good concept – Cassandra and Stephanie on different undercover missions that appear to meet at a singular point. What doesn’t work for me, unfortunately, is how both Steph and particularly Cass are depicted in the story. For most of her history, Cass has been a silent assassin; a person of very few words. Even in the last run of the Outsiders, while more vocal, she was a person of very few words among allies. What we see in this story, however, is not Cassandra Cain, and I don’t feel there’s time in the last part coming in issue #4 to redeem the character from the aspect. I do hope that in the eventual Batgirls books (still waiting for that announcement, DC) that this is corrected because both Steph and Cass deserve it.
I am not familiar with Aneke’s artwork, seeing that most of her work at DC was along the lines of DC Bombshells and Gotham City Garage. What I can see in her work here, however, is pretty decent work. She does a nice job in aging up not just Steph and Cass, but all the known characters in the story, and the one panel of the captured Babs is truly beautiful with the red tones used (thanks to Trish Mulvihill’s colors).
Story #3: “Gotham City Sirens: Ladies’ Night Out” by writer Paula Sevenbergen and artist Emanuela Lupacchino
Synopsis: Outside of Dilton Luxury Tech, a protest is brewing. Inside, however, something more sinister is going on as Catwoman and Poison Ivy go through the trinkets and items throughout the building. They have a new partner with them, a domestic droid, penned Dee-Dee. She is distracted at the sight of another domestic droid that looks like she does. They’re startled by security alarms and know that it’s time to go. As they make their escape, Selina sees things getting out of hand below as the guards begin to go after the protestors with shock batons. She’s having none of it and springs into action, taking on the aggressive officers. Dee-Dee arrives in an unusual manner but does her part to assist before Ivy makes her presence known. They get the advantage of things before Magistrate cybers arrive, causing the Sirens to take their leave.
A while later, the three Sirens arrive at an above-ground, underground club for all masks in Gotham run by none other than Slam Bradley. After a few drinks, small talk, and some flirting, they reminiscence on the night they met Dee-Dee and how she became a part of the team. Dee-Dee leaves, however, after seeing news that her creator is getting married. She reveals to her new friends that her feelings for Dilton and how she now just feels like a used experiment. After talking things over, the three head out to the dance floor. But the fun doesn’t last. The cybers have arrived, guns a-blazing. They shoot several inside the club, including Selina.
Analysis: Let’s discuss the art first as it is the best thing about this story. I give credit to Emanuela Lupacchino for providing great pencils, but the colors from John Kalisz really make it work.
That being said everything else with this story is terrible. There is no true flow in the story, and it makes zero sense in what we have seen within Future State Gotham thus far. Sevenbergen seems to want to bring some levity to a Sirens’ story without having all of the members and fails. The story as a whole is uninteresting and is nothing like the Sirens of yore.
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.