Life in Gotham City is dramatically different in the era of Future State—and not in a good way! Following deadly events at Arkham Asylum (details to come soon), Mayor Christopher Nakano has instituted a new “no mask” policy across the city, aimed squarely at Batman, along with allies including Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl.
To enforce this policy and restore order, the mayor has enlisted the help of a shadowy organization known as the Magistrate, effectively handing the reins of law enforcement over to them. But how did we reach this state of affairs?
“It really is a logical extension of what we’ve seen going on with ‘The Joker War,'” explains John Ridley, writer of Future State: The Next Batman. “What happens when Gotham turns into a total battleground? When people start to think, ‘There are no good masks. They’re all a threat.’ Even the police are not equipped to handle them. When you have a city that decides to bring in a private security force, when they decide to turn law and order over to an outside entity, what does that mean? It’s a private army driven not by morality, not by law, but really one edict—that all masks are bad.”
There are also reports of a new figure with a startling resemblance to Batman who’s been sighted around the city. But the changes in Gotham demand a hero with unexpected resources.
“It’s really difficult to avoid technology and facial recognition,” says Ridley. “You have a Batman who has to operate in a space where the only advantage he can have is to be analog. When you start removing those digital tools, you’re like a caveman fighting computers. It really is rolling back Batman to being an individual who is so much about his wit, his guile, and his physical acumen. You definitely have to have a different strategy. You’re outmanned, you’re outgunned, and the only thing you can really do is go back to the original Batman—the shadows are your friend. Night is your ally. The city is your battleground.”
If there is a new Batman, what happened to the Dark Knight who protected the citizens of Gotham all these years?
“I think the Magistrate wants a lot of things that are all helped by Batman being dead,” says Mariko Tamaki, writer of Future State: Dark Detective. “You'd almost have to know who you were dealing with if you wanted to kill him. And you'd have to have some pretty hefty resources at your disposal.”
And if the Dark Knight we’ve known all these years is still with us in some way, what does he think of the new Batman in the skies above Gotham City?
“Bear in mind that Batman is many things, but he's not one to share his feelings all that readily,” says Tamaki. “You'll have to read issue #3 of Dark Detective to find out more!”
Of course, there’s no shortage of crimefighters in Gotham City, and no anti-mask regulation is likely to come between these heroes and their missions. As the city grows increasingly hostile, Nightwing is taking drastic measures to stay out of the clutches of the Magistrate.
“Nightwing is living in what is a pretty brutal and oppressive future,” says Andrew Constant, writer of Future State: Nightwing. “This makes it hard for a hero to find a place to call their own. He understands that no one wants to go near Arkham, especially due to certain horrific events there. Which makes its abandoned remains a perfect place for his headquarters.”
So, if Nightwing plans to follow in the footsteps of his former mentor and protect the people of Gotham, what’s his reaction to the new Batman going to be?
“To Nightwing, there’s just one Batman,” says Constant. “Anyone else attempting take up the mantle…well, there’s going to be some friction. Akin to tectonic plates shifting.”
The Magistrate’s impact in Gotham City isn’t limited to heroes, though. Some, like Harley Quinn, are being dragged into a new role.
“The Magistrate sees Harley as a key player in Gotham,” says Stephanie Phillips, writer of Future State: Harley Quinn. “Her knowledge of both the good and bad of Gotham’s streets makes her integral to helping bring in other masked figures. However, the Magistrate underestimates Harley, seeing her as a tool to help further their agenda and doesn’t realize that Harley is not one to go out without a fight.”
It sounds like the Magistrate is not above using villains for their own ends, and for an independent spirit like Harley, that has to hurt.
“I think we're really used to seeing Harley use a bat or mallet to smash her way out of situations, which oftentimes works really well for her,” Phillips adds. “In this instance, Harley can't physically fight her way out, so she will need to rely on her intelligence and cunning to manipulate the situation and find a new way to escape.”
Not all of Batman’s allies live in Gotham City, though. At the top of that list is Superman—how will he react to the presence of the Magistrate?
“In Future State, Superman has his first real look at Gotham after the arrival of the Magistrate,” says Gene Luen Yang, writer of Future State: Batman/Superman. “He's shocked. He doesn't like what he sees at all. The Magistrate goes against everything Superman holds dear.”
Could the changes in Gotham spell a change in the two heroes’ alliance?
“I think of Superman and Batman as uneasy friends,” Yang adds. “They respect and care for each other, but they’re also really, really different people. They share the same goals, but they have different methods for achieving those goals. Their friendship is built on what they hold in common, and usually that’s enough. In Future State, it isn't.”
It sounds like Future State may put a strain on all our heroes...but how they will handle that burden remains to be seen.