Reviewer’s End: Batman

Future’s End keeps going! I’m just finishing off reviews for all the copies DC sent me for week 2 – I’ll be looking at every single issue released by the company this month, as each of their books heads five years into the future for a gimmick month.

Last book of week 2, for me? Batman.

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Batman’s future isn’t looking particularly bright – after smashing up his body for five years, he’s basically completely broken. An awesomely bearded Alfred spends his time pumping Bruce full of drugs and locking him into increasingly elaborate and mechanical Batman suits just to keep his boss in one piece. It’s a premise that’s been seen before, but perhaps never to quite this degree of complete collapse? Fawkes has a really interesting fatalistic approach to the character and premise of Batman, and that’s really what keeps this issue surging along, much like the protagonist himself.

Essentially a heist story of sorts, the issue follows Batman as he pushes through successive levels of Lex Luthor’s security system in an attempt to go liberate ‘something’ from inside the vault. What that something is becomes clear at the end, and leaves the issue in an unexpected – but canny – position. Nothing will ever come from the final page, but it does seem like a really ‘Batman’ ideal. Fawkes, it has to be said, has really considered what the mindset of the character would be in a futuristic no-win situation such as the one he starts the issue in, and builds to the final page in a really clever manner.

The cleverness of the issue (Fawkes did the Riddler issue last year too, didn’t he? That was great as well) is matched by much-needed levity. Luthor, being Luthor, has pre-recorded himself as the security system – and so taunts the unseen invader at each new level of the vault, whittling down who might be breaking in until coming to the final conclusion – yeah, you’re Batman. That running joke really lifts the tone of the story, and helps the sagging middle section from ‘just’ becoming a series of explosions and escapes.

Artist Aco has a style quite similar to someone like Alex Maleev, where you see each cut and bruise on every character’s face. That makes his art a good fit for the tone of this story, and he quickly hits a synergy with Fawkes and manages a tone vastly different from the one established by the regular Snyder/Capullo creative team. This feels like a faded, wrinkled version of Capullo’s Bruce Wayne, wrecked and tired, and Fco Plascencia does a wonderful job in changing style. As one of the only members of the typical creative team to be hands-on with the issue (the letters come from the team of Dezi Sienty and Carlos M. Mangual – Sienty has worked on Batman before but I BELIEVE the typical letterer is Taylor Esposito?), Plascencia has to handle the complete shift in style brought by Fawkes/Aco – as won’t be a surprise to anybody who read Zero Year, Plascencia absolutely nails it.

Not bothering to offer outside context, but instead shutting us into a small-world and forcing us to view things through Batman, the issue is the most successful of the month thus far. It’s got a focus and intent that the other books have struggled to bring, and Fawkes mercifully knows how to contain a whole, satisfying story within the page count.

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