Future State: Batman – Dark Detective

Future State: Batman – Dark Detective
Future State Batman Dark Detective review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 978-1-77951-071-6
  • Release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781779510716
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Anthology, Superhero

Over six collections, Future State looks into a possible near future for the DC universe. You might not believe a further descent into hell is possible, but The Dark Detective spotlights a number of heroes operating in a version of Gotham that’s grimmer and deadlier than the current one. Batman is being proclaimed as dead, which isn’t the case, but Bruce Wayne no longer has access to his fortune, and operating as Batman is considerably hampered in a Gotham patrolled by multiple drones and an armoured private police force with complete freedom to shoot masked vigilantes on sight. They’re controlled by a mysterious presence called the Magistrate, and he and his forces plague everyone featured in this collection.

At four chapters the title story doubles the length of everything that follows, and it’s very good indeed. Mariko Tamaki focusses on Wayne struggling to put the pieces together via technological connections, while Dan Mora’s future, in conjunction with colourist Jordie Bellaire, is a miasma of neon reflected in the puddles, with well considered silhouettes. His Wayne is haunted and his Batman a complicated, but practical modification of the traditional design. This is a suspenseful thriller from start to finish.

Batman also teams with Superman as Gene Luen Yang cleverly repurposes the idea of some hokey old villains, with the False Face serum let loose on Gotham, but that’s just concealing someone deadlier. The contrast between the two stars is well written, but it takes three artists over two chapters to draw the story, with Ben Oliver’s people good, yet his pages look better for Scott McDaniel’s layouts.

Astonishing art characterises this collection, yet even though that’s the case, Otto Schmidt (sample art right) is a standout on Ram V’s dark Catwoman story about the Magistrate transporting people to “reformation camps”. Schmidt straddles cartooning with a loose reality, and delivers strong, distinctive people. V’s plot is an impossible mission, but full comprehension depends on knowing who a couple of people are.

Joshua Williamson and Giannis Milogiannis take a look a Red Hood’s relationship with Ravager and with the Magistrate. There’s a complication that’s rather too random, but the ideas are interesting. The same applies to Stephanie Phillips looking at Harley Quinn. Simone di Meo’s art merges completely with Tamra Bonvillain’s colours and as individual panels it looks great, but as storytelling it fails. Phillips reconfigures what we believe Harley can do, and applies the same consideration to Dr. Jonathan Crane, more commonly known as the Scarecrow, but not now.

Tim Drake as Robin from Megan Fitzmartin closes the collection, with Eddy Barrows a proven superhero talent. It’s the weakest story, though, with the pacing off, and Robin almost a guest star in his own story.

While a good selection overall, a problem is highlighted by combining so many stories by different creators in the single volume. It’s obvious no-one is keeping track of characters editorially, a problem doubled if you’re also picking up Future State: The Next Batman. Bruce Wayne is dead. Oh, he’s not and Professor Pyg wasn’t captured and Spoiler’s teaming with Robin, not in jail. Cross-referencing characters isn’t difficult, yet DC can’t be bothered.