Warning: this article contains spoilers for Future State: The Next Batman #4
At the core of Bruce Wayne’s Batman is his backstory. The tragedy which struck the young Wayne irrevocably cleft his identity, and changed the future of Gotham City forever. What would the universe of DC Comics be—the “DC” standing for “Detective Comics”—without one its greatest champions. Ever since putting on the costume, his nights have been consumed with the desire to strike fear into the hearts of the city’s criminals and dispense corrective beatings as he sees fit. Not to say that Wayne’s Batman is a thug, but his personal circumstances allow him to engage with his work with less compunction and consideration for the wellbeing of those closest to him. After all, both facets of the world’s greatest detective are shielded by the Wayne family’s enormous wealth, with few of the restrictions which often come with familial power. Bruce Wayne has no parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins or any other commensurate relationship (other than with an old and infallible butler named Alfred).
The same cannot be said for Future State’s Tim “Jace” Fox, the latest hero to don the mantle of Batman in writer John Ridley and artists Nick Derington and Laura Braga’s Future State: The Next Batman series. As if trying to protect Gotham while contending with the Magistrate’s goons wasn’t a herculean enough task on its own. Not only does Jace have to navigate the complex legacy of being a member of the Bat-family without a mentor, but there’s his family to contend with as well. In an ironic turn of events, the two people who love Jace the most, are also the two people who—unknowingly—want to see him dead the most: his parents.
Tanya and Lucius Fox are staunch supporters of the Magistrate’s shoot on sight policy when it comes to mask-wearing vigilantes. Tanya, for her part, is doing all that is necessary to make sure the law legitimizing this extreme course of action remains intact, while her husband Lucius works at what remains of Wayne Enterprises—now Foxtech— to keep the Peacekeepers lethally equipped. In Future State: The Next Batman #4, her resolve is tested when she comes face to face with the man she blames for what happened to her daughter. Tanya’s zeal is potent enough to have her pull a gun on the caped crusader in public, surrounded by innocent bystanders. Had she been quicker on the draw than Batman and his shurikens, she would have undoubtedly pulled the trigger.
According Jace’s own mother, any mask—especially the Batman—has no redeeming qualities, and must be stopped “by any means.” In this case, it means enabling a private authoritarian force armed to the teeth with advanced military-grade weaponry. This deep-seated hatred for the crimefighter and his ilk stems from the events which led to her daughter Tamara being in a vegetative state. Though the exact details of what happened have yet to be revealed, what readers do know is that it involved: Tam relapsing and Batman. With enemies surrounding him on all sides, and some so close they don’t even realize it, Jace Fox’s turn as Batman is certainly a stark contrast to Bruce Wayne’s.
No longer enjoying the same kind of friendly relationship his predecessor had with the Gotham City Police Department, John Ridley’s Batman is more interested in pursuing a conscientious and restorative form of justice. Perhaps his dedication to the cape and cowl goes beyond a need for channeling fear and anger towards Gotham’s criminal element and more towards a need for healing and redemption. It’s still too early to tell, but thankfully this story won’t end with Future State.