Batman may have gone through the five stages of grief, but no one can ever truly get past losing a child -- not even Batman. That's the focus of this FUTURES END tie-in: the fact that Batman is still haunted by the loss of his son and he will never be able to get proper closure. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. "Do I really need to see even more of Batman acting broody and emotional over the loss of his son?" Thankfully, writer Ray Fawkes' script isn't heavy-handed with this and our look at Batman's feelings is primarily displayed through his actions, not his dialogue. When he comes face-to-face with a being that could possibly be the Heretic, the beast that killed his son, he'll do everything he can to get answers and to make sure the latest Robin doesn't go anywhere near the murderer.
Some of you may think Batman acts foolishly in this and the tactical genius should attempt to solve the dispute with his equipment, not his fists. After all, Batman had major trouble with Heretic even when he was in his prime. While I do partially agree, I think the point of Bruce pushing himself physically does a better job supporting the bigger picture and shows the lengths he'll go in this situation. He'd be willing to die before seeing another Robin fall at the Heretic's hands and he's not going to let his son's killer slip away. Even though this is a stand alone story, it honestly left me wanting to see more of Batman and Robin in this timeline -- something not many of the tie-ins have accomplished.
Much of this issue is dedicated to a brawl between Batman and "the Heretic," and artist Dustin Nguyen, inker Derek Fridolfs, and colorist John Kalisz do an awesome job presenting most of the battle. Their Batman is stocky and gruff; you can tell the years haven't been kind to him but he's holding on to his ways and he's far too stubborn to quit. It draws some parallels to how Frank Miller handled Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and it's a fitting look for the character, especially in this scenario. Meanwhile, the new Robin is the polar opposite of the Dark Knight. He's slick, bright and high tech. His best years are by no means behind him and he enthusiastically leaps into these battles. It's a nice contrast between the teammates and we don't even need the exposition to get a handle on how they're feeling in this futuristic world.
Honestly, Damian's death and the aftermath was a pretty emotional ride for me. We all knew Robin would die (I guess it's okay to spoil stuff in advance if it leads to more sales?), but it was still done well and, I know not everyone agrees, but I really appreciated all of the follow-up. While this does a fine job presenting the fact Batman will never let go of such an event, the emotional connection just wasn't there for me. We see glimpses of Damian's death and we know what's driving Batman, but the issue just never struck me on an emotional level.
The brawl is totally engaging and had me anxious to see how it'll conclude, but the panel that shows how it's resolved felt very static. It's almost as if they're holding that position for the artist to bring them to life and, unlike the rest of the fight, you can't appreciate the speed and force in the moment. It's not the biggest deal around, but considering it's supposed to be the move that ends the fight, it would have been appreciated if it packed a little more impact and intensity.
BATMAN AND ROBIN: FUTURES END #1 doesn't feel like a mandatory or even important read, but it's still a very satisfying and engrossing one. The look at Batman and Robin in the future left me legitimately interested in seeing more and the artwork impressed. The potential return of the Heretic offered a subtle insight into Batman and served as a good way to give us a little bit of focus on Alfred and the new Robin, too. Plus, there's a pretty brutal fight, and honestly, who doesn't love watching Batman refuse to back down, even when the odds are stacked against him? It may not be that compelling or emotional, but it's an adventure that's good for your eyes and it's most certainly entertaining.