Bruce Wayne is wounded and on the run through a neon-soaked Gotham. The Magistrate’s heavy, Peacekeeper-01, is in pursuit. This is just the start of the breakneck Future State: Dark Detective #1 from Eisner Award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki (Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass) and artist Dan Mora (Go Go Power Rangers, Once & Future).
It’s not quite the Neo-Gotham of Batman Beyond, but the themes and aesthetic of that show, and cyberpunk fiction in general, are a clear influence for Tamaki and Mora. There’s a conspiracy brewing just under the surface of Dark Detective, weaving together the Magistrate, the government and Wayne Enterprises.
This first chapter grabs your attention and never lets go, and it does so not only through Mora’s thrilling visuals, but a sense of vulnerability that permeates every page. Tamaki has taken away Batman’s safety net. Gunshots are harder to bounce back from, punches have heft, the pursuit is labored. For the first time in a long time, Bruce doesn’t know what to do. “So what now, dead man?” He thinks to himself as he enters an alley where a mugging is taking place.
Coming on the heels of recent status quo shifts in Batman and Detective Comics, Bruce Wayne is at an all-time low. He has no resources and very few allies left in Gotham. His alter-ego might be “dead”, but Bruce is still Batman at heart. Gotham is broken and he needs to find a way to fix it.
The showstopper here is Jordie Bellaire’s color work. Bellaire transforms Mora’s expressive and detailed art into a magnificent light show. (The two previously worked together on the gorgeous Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although Bellaire was the writer.) Every page could be the splash page in Dark Detective, whether it’s the outskirts of Gotham in a rainstorm, or Bruce Wayne’s face illuminated by pink-purple neon like Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049. Or maybe it’s this issue’s final set piece, a low-tech Batman being chased by Magistrate drones through a flashy, Technicolor Gotham.
Bruce Wayne isn’t the only one being hunted down in Future State: Dark Detective #1. This issue features part one of Grifters, a backup story written by Matthew Rosenberg (Uncanny X-Men) and illustrated by Carmine Di Giandomenico (The Flash).
Cole Cash retired his Grifter persona when the Magistrate took over Gotham, but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a bit of trouble. When he’s arrested by GCPD, Cole crosses paths with Luke Fox, whose father had hired Grifter in the pages of Batman. The two escape by the skin of their teeth in a funny and brilliantly choreographed action sequence. Rosenberg has Cole and Luke trading barbs while Di Giandomenico’s camera and sequencing allow for a sense of comedic timing reminiscent of a great buddy-action film.
Di Giandomenico’s style has grown significantly since his work on The Flash. There’s much more depth and dynamism in terms of camera and character this time around. Action scenes mirror the personalities he and Rosenberg have crafted for the characters. And when Cole and Luke get a second to breathe, so do we, but know it’s just that, a second. Action will pop off at a moment’s notice.
Paired with colorist Antonio Fabela, Grifters’ art has an urgency to it. It’s dusk at the beginning of the story, and night falls as each page progresses. And night in Gotham comes with plenty of surprises.
With both Dark Detective and Grifters, there isn’t a more exciting package out of DC’s Future State line than Future State: Dark Detective #1. Even with its darker tone, this issue doesn’t forget the fun of superhero comics.
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