Issue #3 once again shows how quickly the overall quality can shift in DC’s new publishing format that combines a 22-page feature story with two 20-page back-up stories. While the feature that should be drawing me in has left me underwhelmed, again, the two back-ups have proven that there are much better stories to tell in the DC Universe, even if the execution isn’t perfect.

John Ridley’s Next Batman is still not the Batman we want or need. Besides the fact that we still have nothing to connect our protagonist to the real Batman, a problem that should’ve been fixed in the very first issue, the story progresses at a snail’s pace of expanded storytelling that plagues the modern comic book industry. The entire story, which should be the reason we want to pay the majority of the $7.99 cover price, feels like it would cover about 10 minutes of a tv episode. Beyond that, the story ends with yet another cliffhanger leaving us to wonder if this new Caped Crusader will perish in his first published story arc (which obviously, he won’t, and it’s sad that this is the only kind of hook Ridley could think to use to try to draw us back for the next issue).

I’m also still trying to figure out what’s going on with The Magistrate and the armored military police force patrolling Gotham City. Their job is to enforce a “kill all masks” law that is aimed at removing vigilantes who hide their identities behind masks, all while wearing body armor and masked helmets that hide their identity. So far, only one “peacekeeper” has been shown without his helmet on in public and it seems to be only so that we can pick him out of the crowd. Otherwise, we essentially have a story of guys in masks enforcing a “kill all masks” law against other guys in masks. Luckily this isn’t a film or Cinema Sins would be tallying up the points.

The art team of Laura Braga, Nick Derington, and Arif Prianto have returned from last issue and I still think that they are a good fit for the story. I just wish that the story gave us more motivation for our protagonist or did a better job of explaining how he’s able to pull off the signature Batman moves that Bruce spent decades training for. I wasn’t 100% sold on this new version of Batman before this issue, and this new chapter does nothing more to change my opinion.

The first back-up story returns to The Outsiders from issue #1. Knowing that Duke Thomas, aka The Signal, has a group of Gotham City refugees in hiding that has been infiltrated by a spy loyal to The Magistrate, Black Lightning once again makes contact with Katana in an attempt to warn Duke before it’s too late. Even though this story has two less pages than our feature story per issue, and two less issues to tell the story in, it does a much better job of explaining Katana, her sword and its powers, Black Lightning, his powers and how they’ve changed since we last saw him, and The Signal, his powers and his role to the people of Gotham City. I know more about these three characters by this story alone than I know about the Next Batman from the twenty-six extra pages of story afforded to that character.

Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez, and Jordie Bellaire handle the art duties, and I still think they are my favorite team on any of the five stories contained in the Future State: The Next Batman comics. Some of the best art in any of the stories revolves around Black Lightning and his electricity effects, especially when interacting with Katana’s haunted sword. The frantic artwork, glowing energy effects, and use of shadow and light make these pages fun to look at. If this team were to spin off an Outsiders comic book in the coming months, I would definitely pick it up.

Paul Jenkin’s Arkham Knights finishes out the issue, and I think this chapter was certainly stronger than the last. The basic idea of using the inmates of Arkham Asylum to form a makeshift superhero team still seems like a terrible idea, but at least the mission this time around had enough twists and turns to not only keep it interesting, but also make the outcome less obvious until the end. While I’m not sure I’d buy this as a stand-alone series, it’s still head and shoulders above either back-up story in the last issue.

The artwork from Jack Herbert and Gabe Eltaeb is stunning and I think after they spent the last chapter getting used to the characters and concepts of this Future State gang, they found their rhythm in this chapter and were able to concentrate on the action. There’s a fair amount of story packed in these twenty pages and both the linework and the colors work to make it feel bold and alive.

Now that the Outsiders and Arkham Knights stories have concluded, I don’t see any reason to continue the series. Yes, it’s just one more issue, but that issue costs $7.99 and will contain two back-up stories that I consider to be pure garbage. While I might look elsewhere for some spoilers just for the sake of knowing how Tim Fox’s story wraps up, I still have some issues of Future State: The Dark Detective to read, and I’m not looking forward to it.