REVIEW: “Future State: Dark Detective,” Issue #4

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Future State Dark Detective #4 - But Why Tho?Future State: Dark Detective #4 is published by DC Comics. Written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Dan Mora. Colours by Jordie Bellaire and letters by Aditya Bidikar. There is a second story after the main one,  written by Josh Williamson and the artist is Giannis Milonogiannis. The colours are by Bellaire and the letter is Troy Peteri. This is the finale to the series. 

Gotham has been taken over by the Magistrate, a private organization that has eliminated crime within the city and holds it under constant surveillance. The other vigilantes in the city are dead or imprisoned, some even working for the Magistrate. Bruce Wayne is in hiding, believed dead. He has slowly been building intelligence on his enemy, led by Peacekeeper 01. But with no allies and little tech, he is running out of options.

In this issue, Bruce is out of options. His hideout has been discovered, forcing him to take his roommate and teammate out of there to keep them safe. With nowhere else to go, he must use what resources he has left and attack the Magistrate at its core, Wayne Tower. Planting bombs inside the building and with help from an ally, Batman returns home.

In the backup story, Red Hood was working alongside the Magistrate to bring in other vigilantes. He located someone using his old helmet, discovering that someone was using it to control whoever wore it. But his actions in tracking down whoever was behind it resulted in a bounty being put on his head by his employers.

In the main story, he continues to hunt down whoever has been controlling those under the Red Hood. But when he discovers its owner, things go from bad to worse.

The plot of both stories individually are really good. The main story is an intense, energetic final chapter to an arc full of suspense. There is a real sense of Bruce not having any other option than to go forwards. It moves at a fluctuating pace. The setup is slow, as Batman packs up his apartment and deals with protecting his housemate and his daughter. But once he enters the headquarters of the Magistrate it becomes a heart-pumping final showdown. With the main character being pushed back it feels like a great release of energy. What is frustrating is that there are still many of the plot threads that aren’t properly cleared up, or not to a satisfactory level. Cliffhanger endings are fine, but there does appear to be much of the story that hasn’t been clarified or explored as much as it could be. Batman’s story continues in Detective Comics #1034, so these threads may unravel further within that series. 

The second story has the pacing of a traditional superhero story. It features investigation, conflict, and team-ups that are nicely wrapped within the two issues. But after that, there are many more questions that need to be answered as Red Hood’s story continues. 

The aspect that hurts the chapters of Future State: Dark Detective #4 are each other. Both stories are fantastic, but they have the potential to confuse readers. The tales are long enough, so they aren’t siphoning space from one another. However, it is difficult to understand the timelines within each one. Bruce’s story finishes and states that it will be picked up within the aforementioned comic. But Red Hood’s arc just mentions “to be continued,” without a suggestion of where that will be.  Through research, I discovered that it continues in Future State: Gotham, a comic to be released in May. This is not clear at all within the issue itself. Furthermore, one appears to be in front of the other in terms of events. This may confuse those reading, detracting from the book as a whole.

Bruce is characterized brilliantly by Tamaki. With so much of what makes him Batman or Brue Wayne gone, his identity rests on his actions. And many of those bear his signature. His refusal to give up, even when backed into a corner, is something he has always been known for. But an even more important one is making sure that the people that have helped him are taken care of. 

When reading the main comic, one can’t help but draw similarities to Judge Dredd. With the use of technology, a fascist regime controlling the city. The Peacekeepers feel like homages to the Judges. Batman initially seems like a perfect ally to that system. He acknowledges to himself that he is partially responsible for the Magistrate taking over. The equipment they use comes from Wayne Enterprises, used by Batman to patrol the city for years. But the hero isn’t as absolute as these new controllers, as if they are an even more extreme version of himself.

The art in both halves of Future State: Dark Detective #4 is fantastic. Mora’s dealt with this version of Gotham superbly throughout the four issues. The artist merges the gothic architecture that the city has been known for with a new, technological aspect. It really feels like a combination of Gotham City and Mega-City One. 

Mora’s designs of characters are nothing short of epic. His scratchy style works amazingly for Bruce’s tired, bearded face. The Batman suit looks worn but still inspires awe when you see it. In contrast, the Peacekeeper armours have a terrifying aura to them.

The showdown between Batman and Peacekeeper 01 is chaotic, vicious, and explosive. The one area that it falters in is the double-page spread that is used as a finale. While it is visceral and well-drawn, the panel placement makes it incredibly difficult to decipher a chronological order.

The fight scenes in the second story have much better choreography. Milonogiannis utilizes space often within the pages, with the figures within them looking very small. But this allows the objects around them to be seen clearly, the fights easy to follow. The clean style this artist uses works wonders on the costumes of each character involved as well.

Bellaire has been one of the best colourists in the industry for a long time, and this comic is another example of why. So much of the city’s atmosphere is generated by the colours. The high-tech screens illuminate so many of the shadows, suggesting that the tactics Batman uses may not work as well because he does not have as many places to hide.

The variation of colours used is stunning and fills both stories with life. The smoke has a purple tinge to it, standing out against the darkness. But each scene has a different shade attributed to the lighting, constantly changing and looking different on every page. The comic feels unique because it looks unique. Some of the landscape shots are jaw-dropping in their beauty, mostly because of the colours involved in them.

Bellaire brilliantly transitions between the stories whilst also making sure both have a different colour palette, diversifying the chapters.

The letters for the word balloons are readable. However, there may be an overabundance of caption boxes. While Bidikar isn’t responsible for dialogue, it could be argued that the placing of the black and white captions is overwhelming for some readers.

Future State: Dark Detective #4 is frustrating. The stories within have been fantastic. It truly has felt like the world of Judge Dredd has infiltrated Batman’s life. Tamaki has generated interesting moral quandaries and used themes that are fascinating. But the ending leaves a bad taste in the mouth because it doesn’t feel final.  Perhaps the readers could have benefitted from an extra issue, as the sudden stop is jarring. Red Hood’s part of the issue is also great but may belong within its own series. The art is superb, in particular the stunning colours from Bellaire, but one can’t help but be confused as to how the series concludes.

Future State: Dark Detective #4 is available where comics are sold.

Future State: Dark Detective #4
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TL;DR

Future State: Dark Detective #4 is frustrating. The stories within have been fantastic. It truly has felt like the world of Judge Dredd has infiltrated Batman’s life. Tamaki has generated interesting moral quandaries and used themes that are fascinating. But the ending leaves a bad taste in the mouth because it doesn’t feel final.  Perhaps the readers could have benefitted from an extra issue, as the sudden stop is jarring. Red Hood’s part of the issue is also great but may belong within its own series. The art is superb, in particular the stunning colours from Bellaire, but one can’t help but be confused as to how the series concludes.