Review: Future State: Dark Detective trade paperback (DC Comics)

The Future State: The Next Batman collection was no slouch, but as far as Future State and Gotham are concerned, Future State: Dark Detective is the better book. That’s good among other reasons because all the ongoing writers for these characters are here, if also some of the artists, portending good things coming out of Future State.

If there’s really any bones to pick, it’s just that Future State’s continuity still seems rather piecemeal. It’s not that any story here necessarily contradicts any others, but one must take a fairly liberal view that one story takes place before/after/around another for it all to make sense. It rather feels as though I’m reading the tie-ins to an event comic without reading the event itself (which might very well be the case!); it feels there’s a site of connective tissue lacking, though maybe I’ll find it in one of the other collections before I’m done.

[Review contains spoilers]

Once again the book’s title story earns its spotlight. “Dark Detective” is a wonderfully moody future-set neon-noir tale as written by Mariko Tamaki, making me all the more excited for her Detective Comics debut. Further, Detective artist Dan Mora is here with her. Mora’s down-and-out Bruce Wayne with a five-o’clock shadow reminds strongly of Greg Capullo, and that imbues this whole thing with an air of Scott Snyder and Capullo’s Batman: Zero Year — a low tech, of-the-people Batman up against big odds. Altogether good stuff and I’m glad this isn’t the end (of sorts).

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

It’s frankly really hard to pick among the best stories in Dark Detective. Joshua Williamson offers about everything you could want from a Red Hood story, Jason Todd working in a moral gray space with all sides wanting his head, and artist Giannis Milonogiannis is a revelation with his anime-inspired figures. Future-set, non-continuity stories a la DC’s never-ending relaunches of Batman Beyond have usually been a pass for me, but I am much more excited about the upcoming Future State: Gotham series than I ever was before. More of Red Hood in a pickle, plus Milonogiannis drawing in near black-and-white, plus the highly unexpected character that I just saw will be appearing in that title later on? Sign me up!

And that’s not to overlook the “Catwoman,” “Harley Quinn,” and “Robin Eternal” stories, either. In “Catwoman,” Ram V teams with one of my consistently favorite artists, Otto Schmidt, on a train heist story with a few surprises. I think the tendency to try to pair Selina Kyle with groups of young “strays” is problematic, but I like what I’ve seen from Ram V so far, and I thought he did particularly well writing Selina and Bruce Wayne’s reunion. (Maybe a pity Schmidt won’t be drawing Ram V’s Catwoman, but I can’t really argue with Schmidt on DC vs. Vampires nor Fernando Blanco on Catwoman.)

New Harley Quinn writer Stephanie Phillips pens that character’s story, and again, no great concerns off the bat. It’s perhaps a little early to have a sense of Phillips' Harley Quinn “style,” but at least we have examples of Harley as both crack psychologist and master planner, and that’s a good start (and so far, seemingly less Borscht Belt than previous depictions). Harley and a Jonathan Crane trying to give up the Scarcrow mask make for interesting detective foils as the story goes on. (Apparently we’ll be seeing Simone Di Meo’s high animation style on DC vs. Vampires, too.)

Finally, I didn’t realize that Meghan Fitzmartin, who is chronicling Tim Drake’s important coming out in Batman: Urban Legends, started writing the character in Future State with “Robin Eternal.” At first I thought “Eternal” was just a clever play on the “Eternal” series of Bat-books a while back, but we see by the end that’s not the case. This story leans heavily on the events of James Tynion’s Detective Comics (plus a great flashback to Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying!), and so having Eddy Barrows draw it is a treat. That’s a unique virtue of comics, that across long periods of time and different writers, having just the same artist can make disparate stories feel a piece.

As might be obvious by now, the only story that didn’t quite work for me was the “Batman/Superman” tale. Even here, though I sometimes find Ben Oliver’s art too stiff and distorted, and Gene Luen Yang’s jokes don’t always land, this one wasn’t too-too problematic, simply not quite on the level of the others. If anything, and not wholly unexpected, I just found Yang’s banter between Batman and Superman a smidgen too cutesy, Superman cheery to the point of naivete and Batman calling Superman “Supes.” At the same time, Yang makes among the best points about this ill-defined Magistrate threat, with Batman noting that the people of Gotham willingly invited them in to the city after the events of the Joker War; in this way, the Magistrate aren’t your average invading villainous horde.

As mentioned, another place Dark Detective struggled was with its own continuity. Take for instance, most notably, that Bruce seems to fake his death before Peacekeeper 01 in “Dark Detective” before plotting his return, but in “Catwoman” he’s a prisoner on one of the Magistrate’s trains. I guess that could have happened somewhere in between the pages of “Dark Detective,” but equally it could read like a gaffe. “Robin Eternal” ends with Spoiler captured by the Magistrate, which sets up her appearance in Future State: The Next Batman’s “Batgirls,” but it hardly quite seems here Spoiler meant to get caught like “Batgirls” suggests. “Robin Eternal” also mentions Nightwing trapped and insane in Arkham; this too could have happened ahead of the “Future State: Nightwing” story, but if messages were getting across then you’d think that book’s writer would have alluded to it.



It’s in these ways I feel like there’s a step missing among the stories in Future State: Dark Detective, some tale of Nightwing forming the Resistance and on and on. Maybe these are in the contemporaneous Infinite Frontier #0, maybe in another Future State book, maybe Future State: Gotham will flash back to how everything got where it is. Or maybe the answers aren’t meant to come in this mini-event really just intended to be a buffer between one DC era and another. Either way, so far I’m entertained.

[Includes original covers, variant cover thumbnails, character designs, and cover sketches]


Post a Comment

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post