Review: Future State: Gotham Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)


Future State Gotham Vol. 1 seems the kind of risk DC Comics wouldn’t usually take; I’m not sure what’s driving it, but I’m glad it’s here. Can another future-set Bat-series survive when so many Batman Beyond titles have come and go? And in black-and-white, no less? I don’t know, but what a wild ride for now.

[Review contains spoilers]

I was impressed with DC’s commitment to black-and-white such to even reprint the original Red Hood Future State stories from Future State: Batman: Dark Detective in black-and-white. I’ve found DC’s insistence on reprinting the already-collected Future State stories tedious, but here there’s a value-add in making the stories feel of a piece, rather than if you had to go back and read those stories in color before these. The black-and-white, of course, goes hand-in-hand with Giannis Milonogiannis' manga-infused style; this is essentially — at least to my memory — DC’s first open-ended manga series.

Which is gutsy on DC’s part — things outside DC’s usual publishing schema often come at glacial pace — though also befuddling. This series already has challenges by existing outside DC’s mainstream continuity — and let’s face it, “Future State” was enjoyable but I don’t think there was a big cry for it to continue — and then they further complicate that by making Future State: Gotham black-and-white and manga-styled, like nothing else on DC’s stands. That’s a lot stacked against Future State: Gotham, and I can’t help but root for it.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Notably that while Gotham is really Red Hood Jason Todd’s title, there’s plenty space given over to other members of the Bat-family — Nightwing and Next Batman Jace Fox, for two. No one really asked for this, but writers Joshua Williamson and Dennis Culver do some work tying Future State’s disparate threads together — Future State: The Next Batman’s “Outsiders” and “Arkham Knights,” for instance, and Dark Detective’s “Robin Eternal.”

In this, Gotham feels a bit like a Bat-family title; we’re not lacking for those right now, but neither do we have one that’s an ensemble Bat-family team book quite like this one. Possibly that’s a feature that could give Gotham some staying power despite the odds stacked against it. “Future State,” as a concept, was most cohesive when it came to the Batman titles and less so among DC’s other “families,” and even with the Bat-titles it was hit-or-miss, and Williamson and Culver show devotion to their craft in trying to make a continuity out of all the parts.

And that’s not to overlook an entire issue without Jason Todd at all, devoted to Harley Quinn, Punchline, and “Hunter Panic,” by Culver and guest artist Nikola Cizmesija. It’s not like there aren’t other places to read a Harley Quinn comic (even a Harley Quinn vs. Punchline comic), but the Gotham aesthetic makes a difference.

I’d sooner have bet we’d never see Mother Panic or a derivative thereof again than that we would and I’m still not sure how DC managed to do it, using a Young Animal character outside the auspices of Young Animal (and without credit to Jody Houser and company, either). Maybe the fact of different character, different name, same costume is the key. Either way, I do hope that’s not the last we see of Hunter Panic — Mother Panic being perhaps my favorite of the Young Animal series — and that “Jodi Edwards” (named after Violet Paige’s creators) is given at some point to know more about the armor she wears.

Gotham’s issue titles themselves are a cute gimmick, every one a play on a major Batman event — “Death by the Family,” “Officers Down,” “Punchline: Fugitive.” I couldn’t say if that’s Williamson’s or Culver’s influence (it doesn’t jibe with what I’ve seen from Williamson, but I haven’t read that much Culver), but suggests the team having fun and goes to the book’s overall speed lines zaniness. Given the mystery of DC taking a risk on Gotham’s disconnectedness, I do wonder if Williamson’s presence suggests Gotham may be more tied in to the whole of the DC Universe than it seems (though, I acknowledge, Williamson’s presence may carry over from his work on the original Future State Red Hood story, and I don’t see his name on later issues of this title).

I continue to be convinced that my qualms with Williamson’s Flash run were the product of a bad fit (whether that’s Williamson’s bad fit with the title or my bad fit as an audience member, you can decide), as I had no such out-of-character concerns here. Granted Williamson benefits from the Bat-characters not nearly being the same people as they are in the present, but a win is a win. It was only toward the very end that I thought the dialogue got a little clumsy, a “Naw, man” and “Hell, yeah” from the Next Batman that felt goofy (but among all the characters, Next Batman at this point is the least well-defined in total). The final idea of Jason as a Jim Gordon-type figure to Jace’s Batman (despite that Jason is hardly a shoe leather detective in this situation) is an intriguing one.



Future State Gotham Vol. 1, a not-insubstantial trade, collects up to issue #7; current solicitations have Future State: Gotham at issue #16. Again, being outside the main DCU timeline, I’d be surprised if Gotham makes it past issue #25, given the fates of Batman Beyond and Legion of Super-Heroes series behind it. But, Joshua Williamson and Dennis Culver’s Future State: Gotham is the most mainstream-leaning future-set Batman title I’ve ever seen, and if DC can run a black-and-white title all the way to issue #100, I’d be happy to go with it.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs]

Comments ( 4 )

  1. Great review as always and I totally agree. I didn't know what to expect from this book, but I really enjoyed it! You make a really good point about Joshua Williamson on the Flash. Perhaps he was always thrown off due to the fact that he had to spend a lot of his run trying fix what was broken by other writers......

    I can't help but think that DC just doesn't know how to market their books. You would think that something like this could be marketed to the Manga fans, and perhaps gain some traction there. As it stands, this book seems to have faded into the background (and it doesn't deserve that). Perhaps they should have made this digest sized and aimed at the manga market.....retitling it as well.....

    I know that I will be following this title if it continues!

    1. Agreed, I thought this was a good candidate for digest size. Maybe one day.

  2. While I enjoyed much of Future State, I felt it lacked a central narrative with a definite conclusion. The closest thing it had to that was the Magistrate storyline that ran in the Batman-related books, so I'm glad this series not only continues it, but also fills some of its blanks.

    A recent issue even featured black-and-white versions of a few pages from the Dark Detective and Catwoman minis while revealing what happened in-between, which I found pretty neat. I have no idea how long this series will run for, but I hope it has a satisfying ending.

    1. >> A recent issue even featured black-and-white versions of a few pages from the Dark Detective and Catwoman minis

      Oh, cool, I'm looking forward to seeing that. Indeed I was impressed with how Williamson made a cohesive whole out of what was not necessarily a bunch of cohesive books. I wonder if he could cameo like Jon Kent or Yara Flor and make those line up with this, too.


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