BATMAN AND ROBIN: FUTURES END #1
Author: Bobby Barrett (Follow @BATBOBBY)
September 17, 2014

SYNOPSIS: Bruce continues to feel the fallout from his extreme new crime fighting methods — is he ready to face the might of Heretic?

Futures are ending all over the DC Universe this month! (or something like that) So for our now annual month-long break from our regularly scheduled comics, we're getting a glimpse into what may be the not-too-distant future of our favorite characters. This is an interesting concept, especially for a character like Batman, who stars in multiple titles each month. Do the creators attempt to keep a united continuity across the board, or does each team go to town doing their own thing?

Thankfully, the answer seems to lean toward the former, even though each of The Dark Knight-featuring issues this month have focused on their own individual stories, they seem to share a similar visual aesthetic and status quo.

It's worth noting that this issue of the particular comic book is the first New 52 issue of BATMAN AND ROBIN not written by Peter J. Tomasi. This is probably a good thing, as the writer is busy crafting his epic "Robin Rises" saga, which will resume next month, and being left to focus on his title's magnum opus could only benefit that story's quality. Minor downside is that Tomasi had nothing to do with this "Futures End" issue and therefore, it likely has very little to do with the actual future of the BATMAN AND ROBIN saga.


BATMAN AND ROBIN: FUTURES END #1 Cover

That's not to say it doesn't offer some serious continuity ties and a solid read. Ray Fawkes steps into the writer's chair, a writer who has worked very closely with Scott Snyder on various fill-in issues such as this one, as well as on the weekly BATMAN ETERNAL. Fawkes delivers a one-off Batman and Robin tale that directly follows up on Grant Morrison's BATMAN, INCORPORATED as well as the "Zero Year" saga in Snyder's BATMAN.

The lowdown: Duke Thomas - who helped out a fledgling Batman as a young boy during "Zero Year" - is now Robin, having trained himself to be like The Dark Knight ever since their encounter in that story. In this world of "five years from now," he has spent two years as part of the Bat Family. Our story opens up with Robin being sent all over Gotham on petty missions by a grizzled, bearded Alfred. Robin is well aware that something is up, that Batman is in the middle of something major and likely needs help. "Penny One," however, is under strict orders NOT to get the young protégé involved.

That's because our older, beaten down Batman is battling a foe that looks and fights just like The Heretic - the artificially grown clone of Damian Wayne who was responsible for murdering the young boy years ago. Bruce Wayne of course watched The Heretic die with his own eyes, and is hell-bent on discovering the true identity and nature of this creature. This might be a problem though, as this Heretic is strong and fierce as ever, and as readers saw in last week's BATMAN: FUTURES END issue (also penned by Fawkes), our future Bruce is physically barely holding it together (seriously, his suit is doing all the holding). This could be a fight Batman won't survive without help…

This is certainly a one-off issue, and seeing how done-in-one stories in this day in age are few and far between, it does come across as refreshing. Truth be told, I've been reading most of the Batman-related "Futures End" issues, even those whose monthlies I haven't been keeping up on, and they've all offered something unique and fun despite their largely depressing dystopian backdrop.

Each of the three main Bat-books has done their best to offer a standalone take on an archetypical Batman story. DETECTIVE COMICS gave us a sort of crime thriller, with Batman teaming up with one of his enemies to infiltrate and stop a crisis before it's too late. BATMAN gave us a larger-than-life superhero story that fed into the overall mythical, "eternal" nature of The Dark Knight. BATMAN AND ROBIN does its best to deliver a classic (who'd have guessed it?) "Batman and Robin" tale, as Batman engages in a battle he deems too dangerous for his partner, only to have that partner be the one who gets him out of it alive. Story-wise, I'd call it the weakest of the three, but still successful in what it set out to accomplish.

Fan favorite artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs provide guest pencils and inks (respectively), and are certainly a welcome addition. Seems crazy that this is the very first issue of BATMAN AND ROBIN to involve these guys, since Dustin is among the best at drawing Damian-Robin. The art here is crazy solid even if not as inspired as some of the works these two are known for. I'd almost suspect that this issue was a relatively last-minute assignment for the artists, and that they did their best with the limited time they were given.

There's definitely stuff to gawk at, though: particularly Future-Batman's suit, which has previously resembled the one Christian Bale wore in latter two Nolan films, now looking remarkably like the armored Bat-suit drawn by Frank Miller in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. It's all in the dimensions, and Dustin goes for bigger and bulkier…and it works. There's also a nice homage to Frank Quietly's Batman and Robin double-punch that should please longtime fans of this series.

At the end of the day, it can be a pain for those heavily invested in our monthly comics to take a month-long break from our regularly scheduled stories every September, but I'd say with very little hesitation that "Futures End" month has been the most enjoyable of these annual diversions. The evolution of the New 52 can be clearly seen, as the writers are feeling quite comfortable with their characters, and the bold changes are made without the hint of self-consciousness found in earlier publications. While BATMAN AND ROBIN's contribution might not rise to the top of the pile, it's certainly no slouch, and should do fine to hold fans over until "Robin Rises" continues next month. - Bobby Barrett

GRADE: B

Bobby Barrett is a lifelong Batman enthusiast living in Fresno, California, with his wife and several cats.
He enjoys reading, writing, acting, and playing very loud rock music.


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