THIS WEEK: Batman #101 lays out what readers can expect from the Dark Knight next year, amid the same week that the publisher announced the exciting linewide event, Future State. Plus, Justice League’s Doom Metal story arc is a fun Dark Nights: Death Metal tie-in.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Guillem March
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Before this week’s digital advanced review copies arrived from DC Comics, the publisher announced Future State, an exciting line-wide event that as its name implies envisions the state of the DC Universe’s future. Myself and the other members of the DC Comics review team here at The Beat teamed-up to analyze the event, specifically looking at the 10 things we’re most excited about. I didn’t get into this in the piece, but the headlining books for me were those within the Bat-Family, which will see John Ridley, Nick Derington and Laura Braga teaming up for the main Batman title (The Next Batman), while Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora do a four-issue stint on Detective Comics (Dark Detective).
These creative teams are pure fire, and to make the books more enticing, the storylines teased are bolder and more intriguing than anything we’ve seen in the main Batman comic since the Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo run, which delivered us Court of Owls, an idea so good it felt like it had been part of the Bat-mythos for decades. In the main Batman title within Future State, we stand to get a future in which Batman is Black, fighting against a privatized police force. Meanwhile, in Dark Detective we see Bruce Wayne on the run from the same forces. It’s all very exciting, and it’s all to be carried out by some of the most intriguing creators to come to DC Comics in years. Sign me up for that, no question.
All of that is a (very) long route to talking about Batman #101, subtitled From the Ashes of The Joker War…A New Day. And that’s a subtitle that couldn’t be more fitting. This is a book that fills in epilogue from The Joker War (a plodding mixed bag of a story that ultimately had a strong finish), before transitioning to what the future is going to look like for Batman. What we get in this comic is hints of a lo-fi Batman, no longer armed with an infinite fortune and living in a paired down brownstone in a bad neighbor (which as far as I’m concerned is still a fantastical situation, given current real estate prices in major American cities, but I digress…).
This is a promising take on Batman, one that creates new storytelling opportunities by limiting the hero rather than sticking with the seemingly-omnipotent powers of tech and preparation that have essentially been part of the status quo for Batman for more than two decades. And Tynion’s work in this issue is tantalizing enough, especially the scene in which Lucius Fox basically gives us the state of this lo-fi Batman, laying it out by telling Bruce things like, in this new reality if the Batmobile breaks, you’ll have to fix it yourself.
Also working in favor of what’s to come in this issue is the integration of long-time WildStorm character Grifter, who shows up as Fox’s bodyguard. Tynion’s strength as a writer in his Gotham work has long been incorporating favorite elements from the past, which he did with great success in his run on Detective Comics, basically centering the thing around Tim Drake in a way that made readers of a certain age (my age!) high five each other in virtual spaces. If he’s going to do more of that, I’m all for it, even if I still suspect Tynion’s Batman storytelling peaked during that run of Detective.
Ultimately, it’s hard to evaluate Batman #101, which is such a direct line to the title’s future, and it’s hard to do so because of the looming nature of Future State, with the unanswered questions about how the titles will fit into the publisher’s plans moving forward. There’s online chatter about how Future State being a contained one-off event means none of it will count, and I don’t see that being the case, not with the strength of the creators and the ideas involved, even if some of it is so clearly repurposed material from the nebulous and now-scuttled plans for 5G. Basically, I had trouble getting excited about the future Tynion foreshadowed this week while I was still riding the wave of sexy story announcement hype from the news of the Future State Batman comics.
Personally, I feel like a wait-and-see approach is called for, and that’s what I’d also recommend doing with this issue. Is it vital reading? No, I don’t think so. It’s more of a set of loose hints at something that has great potential, but you’ll have plenty of time to get onboard when the dust clears and Future State has settled.
- I’m absolutely loving what Josh Williamson, Robson Rocha, and the rest of the team are doing with the current Doom Metal story arc in Justice League, which as the name suggests is a Dark Nights: Death Metal tie-in. I’m a mark for any story involving Lex Luthor, and this one is extra fun because it’s serving up an odd mix of DC characters, including classic Teen Titans like Nightwing and Starfire, alongside Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, and deep benchers like Detective Chip. Really, it’s a mega event tie-in story done right, celebrating the bombast of these things while moving ahead minor plot points and filling in details.
- Aquaman #64 is another fantastic issue in that run on the character. I’m going to severely miss Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work on this book, which has just been rock solid start to finish. The build to the finale here is no exception.
- The last title I really enjoyed this week was Catwoman #26. Ram V. is perhaps the most exciting new writer to come to DC in years, and he’s working here with artist Fernando Blanco, whose work on the book has been stellar. What I like most about what the two are doing is that it feels complex and fresh for Catwoman. Part of the developments in Batman #101 were that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle were pausing their romance for a year, and this comic suggests that that time will be worth following, rather than just leaving the character paused and treading water, which is kind of how it felt during the Tom King Batman run.
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