The heir to the mantle of the Bat in the far future gets a bit lost in his own book in Future State: The Next Batman #1. Written by Oscar-winner John Ridley and provided a clean, visually engrossing look by Nick Derington and Tamra Bonvillain, The Next Batman finds us transported to a new, but still familiar Gotham.
Written by John Ridley
Drawn by Nick Derington
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
The Magistrate has the city in a chokehold, gunning down people who wear masks on sight to further their draconian and violent crackdown on superheroes. But Gotham is still the city of the Bat as a new Batman, one with closer ties to the infrastructure of the city than he wants to admit, has taken flight - attempting to keep the people living and working on the streets safe from the Magistrate's rules.
As an idea, The Next Batman is really solid. Without the trappings of a Bruce Wayne type or explicit member of the Bat-family, Ridley is allowed enough story space to explore a new Batman's mindset, operating procedure, and ethos which he is allowed to throughout a few sequences. The artwork as well really shows out here, providing the first wave of Future State an instantly impressive-looking effort that sets it apart thanks to the specific cleanliness of Derington's lines and the Bruce Timm-inspired colors of Bonvillain.
However, the issue being first the opening of a prestige limited series and then reformatted as a part of Future State absolutely shows through as you read. Thanks to the front-loaded exposition surrounding this new future and the state of the GCPD, Ridley's script somewhat loses focus in and around the new Batman. Some of the stuff does work, fortunately. In particular, a subplot surrounding two brothers being swept up into a Bane-themed gang in order to survive dovetails nicely into a stirring, highly kinetic sequence in which the new Batman saves them from the Magistrate's forces with nothing but two smoke bombs and his grappling hook.
Unfortunately, however, the sheer amount of exposition Ridley churns through in between the action sequences absolutely hamper the title's energy. Charged with not only fully explaining the Magistrate, the new maskless Gotham, and the daily lives of our main characters, Ridley's script is weighted down heavily by the trappings of the line. Which makes the good parts of the issue somewhat hard to enjoy as the issue seems to get to a start, only to then stop abruptly to explain some other arm of the narrative. It makes for a frustrating read, even despite the drive of the artwork and the keen action of the new Batman's version of the 'war on crime'.
Though backed by some serious star power both in and out of comics community, Future State: The Next Batman #1 doesn't shine quite as brightly as one would expect. The potential is very much there, that said. The artwork is tremendous and Ridley has some good ideas here, scaffolded to a fun new flavor and voice for Batman. We can only hope that the next issue, with the foundation fully set, Future State: The Next Batman gets to the level we expected it to be at with the opening.
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