Overview: DC’s possible future continues with its third installment of a future Gotham City protected by the Next Batman.
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 stands between the parents he captured for murder and Magistrate troops. He’s giving himself up and asks the troops to not hurt the couple. The troops, however, are ordered to kill everyone. Expecting this, Batman tosses a mini EMP device that takes out the Magistrate drones. He then takes out the Cybers before turning his attention to the Magistrate foot soldiers. He then makes his getaway with the couple in tow.
Back at Magistrate headquarters, Captain Stanz is trying to explain to Peacekeeper-01 how he and his team failed to take Batman down. Peacekeeper-01 berates the solider before ordering him and his team to get back out and to find Batman without failure. As the troop of private soldiers leaves, Stanz states that he wants to be the one to kill Batman himself. While this occurs, Commissioner Montoya is warning her detective to not agitate the Peacekeepers while they are attempting to solve the murder of Jershefsky. With regards to Batman, she reminds them that the mayor’s shoot-to-kill order applies to them as well if the Peacekeepers find them siding with a fugitive Caped Crusader.
At an abandoned church, Batman and the fugitive couple are settling in. They use a mini flare to cauterize the wound in Batman’s side. They notice the other scars on his body, which Jace claims he received from his previous life. Batman tells the couple that they need to move soon if they want to make it through the night. While this is going on, the Fox family appear to be at continued odds with each other. Tanya and Lucius argue over Wayne Enterprises role in supplying weaponry to the city and the Magistrate and how the shoot-to-kill order is making her job harder as she tries to defend the city in court. Lucius suggests that she step back and let someone else handle the case if she is unable to get the job done. Tiffany overhears the argument and questions her mother on why she’s ok with the shoot-on-sight law. Tanya attempts to explain to her daughter that the situation is different, but Tiffany wants nothing to do with it, leaving to find Luke. She finds him working out and questions whether or not he’s the new Batman. He ensures her that he isn’t. They discuss the issues going on with their family and Tif’s thought on the new Batman. Luke ensures her that if the new Batman is willing to do what he’s doing, he’s a good person.
Batman makes a call to Detective Chubb at the GCPD. He asked her for protection for the couple who killed Jershefsky. He wants protection for them until they’re able to go to trial, and he explains that there’s more to their story than just cold-blooded murder. He appeals to Chubb’s hatred of the Magistrate and the shoot-to-kill law. Chubb agrees to meet them for an exchange at city hall. Before Batman can round up the couple to go to city hall, Eric, the husband, attacks him. He wraps a cord around Jace’s neck and begins to choke him. Eric’s no longer worried about getting caught.
The Magistrate will give him a break for killing Batman.
Analysis: So, we get through the penultimate issue of John Ridley’s story, and the action continues to build. While some things seem clunky in its presentation, possibly due to some off-paneling and the cutting of the issues, there is still some good pacing that get us to the end.
One of the things I have really enjoyed about Ridley’s characterization of Tim/Jace is how in each issue, we have learned just a little more about the character and what makes him a different type of Batman than Bruce Wayne. As we know with Bruce’s history, Bruce’s scars come from his time as Batman. This isn’t the case for Fox, who revealed old scars from a previous life as his gunshot wound was being looked at. It’s safe to assume, based on Luke’s conversation with Tiffany, that there are mental scars as well that are affecting the entire family. Speaking of the Fox family, they’re clearly torn. Each issue has confirmed more and more that they are clearly at odds with each other over not just what’s going on in Gotham, but also what’s going on with Jace and Tam. Speaking of the unconscious Tam, I have developed a theory of how she ended up in the hospital unconscious, but I won’t reveal it as to not to potentially spoil the story. If we don’t get the answer in the final issue in two weeks, we should certainly get hints pointing to what we might see in the upcoming digital-first series.
It will also be interesting to see what happens with Detective Chubb. Clearly, she is sympathetic with the masked vigilantes of Gotham, especially Batman, and is not a fan of the Magistrate stranglehold on the city. Will some of her thoughts change if/when Jace arrives at city hall? Could she and Jace develop their own Jim Gordon/Bruce Wayne-type relationship? I would be ok if they did.
Laura Braga returns for issues #3 to provide art based on Nick Derington’s breakdowns. There is not much difference in opinion of the work done in issue #2 compared to this one. Together with colors from Arif Prianto, Braga’s visual storytelling is something to take joy in. She’s no Nick Derington, but she holds her own.
Story #2: “Outsiders” by writer Brandon Thomas and artist Sumit Kumar
Synopsis: As Duke Thomas – the Signal – speaks to the Gothamites he recently helped escaped from Gotham, explaining his mission to help save the city, Katana speaks with Black Lightning about his new form and its role in figuring how something wasn’t right with the people with Duke.
As he prepares to leave, Duke gives the safe house occupants some final instructions on remaining safe until their next leg of their escape begins with someone else. As he leaves, Duke reaches out to Katana, who has been waiting to hear from him. Something isn’t feeling right. Things that occurred on the bridge seemed a little too easy. Katana tells him of Jefferson’s warning about the Magistrate plant, prompting Duke to check the sensors of tracers he secretly slapped on the three refugees. One of them was gone. As he realizes what is happening, one of the three refugees – the young male – lands in front of him, equipped with upgrades from the Magistrate. They begin to battle. Back at Katana’s hideout, Tatsu and Jefferson are listening in and prepping to provide an assist. Before heading out, Jefferson transforms himself into an electrified blade.
On the Trigate Bridge, a chase is ensuing as the Outsiders attempt to capture the mole, Agent Cullen, who is now trying to make it back to Magistrate territory. Magistrate troops led by Kaliber are making their way to assist him. As they attempt to get away, Katana and Black Lightning, still in the form of the sword, catch them and destroy the getaway vehicle. As Tatsu staggers to her feet, she realizes that Kaliber has the Soultaker, preparing to break it. Black Lightning intercedes, flattening Kaliber with multiple lightning blasts.
After tying up the Magistrate goons, Duke heads towards the Gotham border. He knows someone who might be able to help Black Lightning. As he reaches the other side, Magistrate soldiers order him to stop. They draw their weapons. Little do they know that he’s not alone.
Analysis: As with the first issue of the series, this is the best story of the issue. Simply put, this is an Outsiders story that I want to read, even if it means continuing it in the Future State universe. There is so much to like about it, specifically with how the writer characterizes Duke Thomas. As someone who has hated the character from his incarnation, this is a Signal story I would be willing to pick up monthly. Thomas has done the best work of giving Duke an enjoyable voice, that others, including his creators, have struggled to do. This Duke Thomas is someone I am interested in seeing continue but also a backdrop into what made him this way.
As with the rest of Future State, there are a lot of gaping holes in the stories readers are seeing. These holes leave me wanting more of the story with this group to see the events that brought them from the end of the Bryan Hill’s run to where we are now with Future State. What happened between Jefferson and Tatsu and the budding relationship that they seemed to be generating at the end of the Hill run? If Agent Cullen is in fact Cullen Row, how did he get caught up with the Magistrate? What has happened to Jefferson to make him the way that he is now? From the dialogue, it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the Outsiders’ final battle with Ra’s al Ghul. And why is Duke Thomas so damn enjoyable? Of course, there is the sense of maturity that comes with age, but there seems to be something that has happened that helped mold this new Signal (for the record, I still hate that moniker).
I can’t say enough about how great Kumar’s art has been in these two chapters. I admit to being a novice when it comes to this anime/manga style, but Kumar’s work has made me a huge fan. He does great work in depicting the characters’ actions and emotions throughout the story. And while the colors bring life to the chapter (who can ever not like colors from Jordie Bellaire), I would not have an issue with reading this in black and white.
DC, please give us this team on the Outsiders (Thomas is doing an Outsiders story in the upcoming Urban Legends anthology in April).
Story #3: “Arkham Knight: Dawn” by writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jack Herbert
Synopsis: At the Gotham Shipyard, some goons working for the Penguin are quickly trying to load a shipment into the back of a truck before the Magistrate arrives. They’re too late, however, as drones and Cybers led by Peacekeeper-06 arrive, swiftly taking them out. Peacekeeper-06 allows one to leave, however, to send a message to the Penguin – without his teeth.
Beneath the former Wayne Manor, Astrid Arkham – the Arkham Knight – is plotting her next move with a group of followers. She scolds Zsasz for disrespecting her first lieutenant, Two-Face, who is providing details on their next mission. He warns of the new Peacekeeper responsible for Midtown (Peacekeeper-06 from issue #1) and the weapons she brought with her. The Knights are heading straight in her direction. Little do they know that Peacekeeper-01 knows this and has his team ready to protect the armory of weapons.
The battle ensues. As the two sides go back and forth, Dr. Phosphorus falls, his condition getting worse and more unbearable. Astrid once again promises to find the cure to save him. The knights make their way through the first line of Magistrate defenses and find themselves face-to-face with Peacekeeper-06 and more Magistrate troops. At this time, an aircraft approaches from behind the Magistrate troops. But this isn’t Magistrate reinforcements. It’s an aircraft stolen by the knights. As the Magistrate is distracted, Astrid and the others head inside the old Gotham police station and not the armory. This confuses everyone, including Peacekeeper-01, who is listening in from afar.
The knights make their way to the roof of the GCPD building, where the copter is waiting on them. There, they attach an old Bat-signal to cables before they begin to depart. Peacekeeper-06 and the Magistrate have arrived, however. To Astrid’s dismay, Peacekeeper-06 shoots Dr. Phosphorus. This infuriates the Arkham Knight, who jumps from the safety of the helicopter to attack Peacekeeper-06, driving her sword through the Magistrate soldier’s torso.
Back at the knights’ stronghold, Dr. Phosphorus lies in surgery. As this is going on, Astrid joins the rest of the knights on the roof of the manor, where they are standing by the signal light they have retrofitted to look like a sun. She flips the switch, shining the light above Gotham.
The sun has finally risen.
Analysis: Simply put, there is not enough great art from Jack Herbert that can save this story. After providing what I believed was a decent first chapter in the first issue, the second chapter falls completely flat and misses the mark of repeating what it did in the first issue. This was punctuated by the last page with the knights raising the “Sun Signal.” When writing such a controversial – check that – such a disliked character as Astrid Arkham, you really have to knock the story out of the park. Unfortunately, Jenkins’ script was a big swing-and-a-miss. Points from the first chapter didn’t gel with the second. The interactions between the supporting characters as a team were simply unbelievable. This can also be said of the mini-plots. The quality of this story simply destroys the decent work of the previous two stories.
As mentioned earlier, Herbert’s art, once again, is pretty decent work. The line work and shadows could tell an interesting story on their own. Unfortunately, the lack of dialogue completely takes away the work Herbert put it. This is truly disappointing considering how decent the art looks.
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.