DC Comic’s new publishing initiative of adding back-up stories and raising the cover price comes to Detective Comics for the Future State debacle in the form of Future State: Dark Detective. This time, the mediocre writing talents of Mariko Tamaki get the proper Bruce Wayne/Batman story while the superior writing talents of Mathew Rosenberg get the mediocre character of Grifter to work with. Both stories run the full twenty-two pages of a modern comic book for the cover price of $5.99, but one delivers an action-packed narrative while the other drifts along, drowning in a meandering monologue.
Dark Detective follows the story of Bruce Wayne after the events that led the public to believe that the Batman had been killed. Shot in a fight with The Magistrate, Batman makes his way to a back-alley doctor who stitches him up just enough to keep him from dying. Bruce emerges to find that Gotham City has now been told that the Batman died at the hands of The Magistrate and Bruce Wayne died sometime later. Of course, Bruce happens to find that crime is still a problem in Gotham, even with facial recognition drones and a militarized private police force, so he pieces together the remains of his Batsuit and what appears to be scraps of armor from The Magistrate’s Peacekeepers and sets out to retrain and retake Gotham City.
At the very basic level, Tamaki gets Bruce Wayne and his commitment to Gotham City correct. Tom King never quite seemed to understand Bruce’s undying fealty to a city that openly seemed to despise him, so the writer gets points for structuring that part of the story correctly (though to be fair, that could’ve easily been the story outline given by editorial). The problem is that she borrows heavily from the Tom King book of “make the character drone on endlessly in a pointless monologue that accomplishes nothing other than to make a 50-year-old man sound like an emo-teen.” There’s a moment where Bruce is confronted by a Blade Runner inspired version of Gotham City, with its high towers covered in bright lights and holographic imagery, and he has to run away with his head hung low in a full sprint towards a dark alley to escape the noise and the lights and the commotion, as if the New York City/Chicago inspired Gotham City of old was never lit up or noisy. This scene plays out on a full splash page of art to give it some sort of falsely enhanced gravitas, but in reality, just wastes a page on what should’ve been a panel on the bottom of the preceding page, at best.
The art is from Dan Mora with colors by Jordie Bellaire, and it is beautiful to look at. Mora is able to make each character stand out and provides a wide range of expressions, making the story work at times when it shouldn’t. It elevates the story beyond the script in many places, which is good because there’s not a whole lot of meat on the bones of this story. However, there are a few puzzling issues plaguing the story and I wish there was a better explanation given as to what was happening. For instance, there’s a flashback sequence of Bruce getting shot by Peacekeeper-01, the head of The Magistrate’s police force, which is what lead to the stories of his death. He’s in his Batsuit pants, t-shirt, and leather jacket. When we see the next flashback of him getting operated on, he’s in jeans with kneepads and wearing his cowl to protect his identity. Did he change clothes to get a lifesaving operation from a back-alley doctor? If so, why change out of half a Batsuit to half a Batsuit? Is this an artist error or did the script specifically call for this? Someone get Cinema Sins on the line because I need to know how many points this kind of mistake is worth.
The back-up story has a completely different problem. Grifter is not a Bat-family character and has no business being in this comic (but I guess Jim Lee has a mortgage too, so we’re getting Wildstorm characters shoe-horned into the DC Universe these days). I really don’t care for Grifter – it’s not that I hate the character, but much like Marvel’s Winter Soldier, I just don’t have much of a reason to care about the guy. The only thing that makes Winter Soldier enjoyable is his buddy-cop team-ups with The Falcon, and Matthew Rosenberg must’ve been reading my diary again because this Grifter story is a buddy-cop styled team-up with (former) Batwing, Luke Fox.
Grifter is in an illegal high stakes card game when approached by two plainclothes police officers who out his real identity to everyone in the underground casino when he refuses to leave to talk to them. In the ensuing battle, the fight spills onto the street where The Magistrate is waiting to arrest Cole and take him away for being a masked vigilante. This is where he meets Luke Fox who is also locked-up in the paddy-wagon, even though he hasn’t been Batwing for a long time. Luke offers Cole a lot of money to help get him out of Gotham City, and the hijinks begin. The story is just a downright fun action spectacle in the vein of an explosion laden popcorn flick. This is mini-series I’d add to my regular list of pulls at the local comic shop, even though it has Grifter in it.
Carmine Di Giandomenico and Antonio Fabela provide that artwork, and it’s some of the best looking in any comic book on the shelves from any company publishing comics today. Di Giandomenico puts so much detail into every panel that you often find yourself looking at all the people and objects packed into each page. He’s an artist from the same school as Ethan Van Sciver, so every poker chip, every windowpane, and every car headlight is drawn in and detailed. Fabela not only adds the proper colors to make things pop and come alive in the action, but the texture and depth is added when it needs to be. I’ve marveled over Di Giandomenico’s work before, and this story is another great work from him.
So once again, the mix of stories from DC in these expanded issues are a mixed bag of quality. The art is top notch in both stories, and I can see how many people might not care about how shallow the feature story is because the art is so good, but I just can’t let something that bad go without commenting on it because it is costing you money to read it. The $5.99 price tag is essentially getting you two comics for the price of two comics (drawing the line at $2.99), but I’d honestly rather pay the modern standard of $3.99 for the stand alone tale by Matthew Rosenberg, because he knows how to put a good story together.
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