Outlandish and adrenaline-fueled, Future State: Gotham #15 is manga-inspired entertainment. From the issue’s narrative to its artwork, Japanese influence bleeds through every facet of the story. The absurdity of several plot points is this issue’s greatest strength, as each evokes fond memories of my favorite manga and anime. Unfortunately, the sheer number of narrative threads limits character exploration in favor of driving to the next plot point.
“How many damn Batmen are there?!”
Boasting not one, not two, but five heroes claiming to be Batman, Future State: Gotham #15 features the largest roster of individuals fighting for the mantle of the Bat since Battle for the Cowl. In this issue, not only do we have a drug-addled Dick Grayson doing his best Highlander impression, but also Jace Fox, the Next Batman. Additionally, Hush, now donning Bruce Wayne’s face, has tricked fresh-from-Hell Batman 666, aka Damian Wayne, into destroying all the “imposter” Batmen in Gotham. Amidst all this, the recently freed Bruce Wayne seeks to find Damian with Talia’s help.
If it sounds like a lot is going on in this issue, it’s because there is. In fact, there are so many moving parts to Future State: Gotham #15 that it’s hard not to hear the late Ron Popeil shout, “but wait, there’s more,” every time a new plot point is introduced. Thankfully, Culver unapologetically leans into the sheer absurdity of some of these threads as he weaves the narrative for this book. It’s a move that is fondly reminiscent of many of my favorite manga and anime.
For instance, Dick Grayson becoming a drug-addicted, prophetic iteration of Batman proclaiming that he is “the one” is entirely ridiculous. This development feels like a drastic departure for the character and feels ripped from the pages of a manga. However, the beauty of comics is that anything is possible, especially when the creators are not bound to the confines of continuity and how things “should be.” Perhaps that’s why multiverses of madness are all the rage right now. Ultimately, it’s a fun thought exercise to consider Grayson going down such an absurd path to defeat the entire Bat-Family.
Unfortunately, due to the number of plot points Culver is trying to balance in this issue, it isn’t easy to explore characters while driving each plot forward. As a result, Future State: Gotham #15’s action-packed story lacks depth as the reader is whisked from event to event. I know I’ll probably catch some flak for this, but when I was in elementary and middle school, I didn’t necessarily watch Dragonball Z for its character development, but rather the 50 episodes of screaming followed by twenty minutes of epic, sometimes repetitive, battles. All joking aside, the issue’s prolific fights without sufficient character development does hinder the story.
Thankfully, Culver provides some development for Damian as we witness his trials in Hell searching for his father. It’s an interesting take on Batman 666 as we learn how the former Robin gained supernatural abilities that he uses to strike fear into the superstitious and cowardly lot. Additionally, Damian’s descent into madness also explains how Hush easily tricked him into joining his cause. However, I do wish that we had more time with this portion of the story as Culver yadda-yadda-yaddas over what is the most interesting conflict in the story.
Additionally, one of the neatest aspects of Future State: Gotham #15 and “Batmen at War” has been the series’ callbacks to Grant Morrison’s run with the character. With the past few issues and Damian’s involvement in the series, Culver has done a great job blending Grant Morrison’s absurd mythology with these Japanese influences. I’m excited to see how these elements are explored in further issues.
“For the last time, no.”
One of the most divisive elements of Future State: Gotham #15 may be Giannis Milonogiannis’ artwork. Evoking manga artists, Milonogiannis’ artwork alternates from great to less detail. This is reminiscent of those moments when anime characters become ultra-cartoony during light-hearted moments or extremely detailed to enhance a sequence’s drama. Milonogiannis does a great job implementing the Japanese-influence visuals. However, it may not be for the average reader. It is important to note that Giannis does an excellent job conveying each action sequence, with my favorite being the opening salvo between Bruce and Jason.
Outlandish and adrenaline-fueled, Future State: Gotham #15 is manga-inspired fun. From the issue’s absurd narrative with Nightwing and Damian to Milonogiannis’ artwork, Japanese influence bleeds through every facet of the story. Culver’s work with Damian is a highlight of this issue as it explains how he became Batman 666. Unfortunately, the sheer number of narrative threads limits the necessary character exploration that would give this story depth.
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