DC Future State: The Next Batman Collected Edition
DC, pb, £25.20
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
The DC timeline has been shattered after the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal, and glimpses into a dark possible Future State are visible. This is a future where Gotham City is under martial law, ‘protected’ by a private security service known as the Magistrate with Peacekeepers enforcing the law. Batman is dead, and the Magistrate has declared war on all masked heroes, including the next Batman. Unfortunately, the Peacekeepers don’t distinguish between a superhero mask and a bandana, meaning non-heroes are caught up in a war they aren’t equipped to fight. So it is more important than ever for the heroes to take a stand, even if it costs them their lives.
After Dark Nights: Death Metal, DC has released a collection of limited series showing up a possible futuristic timeline where Gotham City is under the Peacekeepers’ control and is even more dangerous for ordinary people than before. This book has The Next Batman, Nightwing, Batgirls, Outsiders, Gotham City Sirens, and Arkham Knights in one edition. The stories combine to show how Gotham’s most notable characters, whether a hero or one-time villain, is working against the Peacekeepers.
The title of the collection implies it is all about Jace Fox, who has taken the mantel of Batman now Bruce Wayne is presumed dead. This is certainly the case for the first two collections, but after those, the stories focus on other well-known Gothamites continuing Bruce Wayne’s Batman’s legacy.
Batgirls stood out for me because it takes place in the Magistrate Detention Facility, which holds all the captured criminals and heroes prisoner. Cassandra Cain gets herself arrested as she believes the answer to Bruce Wayne’s location is there. There is a fight sequence between Cassandra and Stephanie Brown, another one-time Batfamily member, which is a stunning piece of art. Focusing on the two women, the sequence bursts with energy and violence while still keeping character movement and motivation clear. Batgirls also stands out because of colour usage. As the action takes place in a prison, everyone is dressed in orange, from Raven and Beast Boy to Joker and Harley Quinn. It is only 2 chapters long, so it is also quite a snappy story with lots of information conveyed efficiently.
Outsiders contained another fantastic piece of art. Outsiders follows Katana smuggling innocents out of Gotham. A double-page spread is split into five levels, one for each floor of a building Katana is fighting through. The glowing light of her sword and shouting soldiers track her movement through the floors, capturing her grace and fluidity.
It is best to think of The Next Batman as a group of short stories themed around a futuristic Gotham. Some of the stories will work for you, and others won’t. For me, Gotham City Sirens didn’t live up to the gravitas of the other stories. While some readers might enjoy the lighter storyline, I could have done without it.
As a single collection, The Next Batman is a fascinating look at a future where the heroes are as unwelcome as the villains, but their sense of justice won’t let them hide in the shadows.