Writers Ray Fawkes and Scott Snyder foresee a Bat that's broken but not beaten in "Batman: Futures End" #1, drawn in gritty detail by Aco. It doesn't seemingly play along with Batman's future shown elsewhere, such as last week's "Detective Comics: Futures End" #1, but independent of all else, it's an inviting and intense look at a Batman that's more driven than ever, even at the possible expense of his own life. It's also an unusual one, as rarely -- if ever -- has a quest for self-preservation been a focal point of Bruce Wayne's war on crime in Gotham.
Fawkes and Snyder successfully balance Bruce's inward and outward focus; his extreme efforts to fix his body and extend his own life are perfectly understandable to anyone who possesses the basic human instinct of survival, but are in support of his career-long mission statement, rather than selfishness. It's a quest that the writers use to push Batman into some unfamiliar territory, and into conflict with a couple of somewhat surprising foes usually not associated with the Dark Knight. These surprises are what give the story's simple plot a little more traction than it might have had otherwise, the conclusion of which provides an interesting new dynamic for the legend of the Bat five years from now.
The writers and Aco provide an interesting but fleeting peek at the Bat-family, and also provide some vague but curious insight regarding how Batman got to the point. It's a cheap gimmick that almost every creator involved with a future storyline employs at some point, but it's also an effective one that helps hold reader interest. Especially interesting is the future look for Alfred, who readers can only assume really became enthralled with Bryan Cranston's character in "Breaking Bad."
Aco takes a very meticulous approach, cramming a lot of lines and background into most panels, giving the entire story a fittingly cramped and claustrophobic look, intentionally or otherwise symbolizing Bruce's own mortality closing in on him. Bruce and Alfred's base of operations (which may or may not be the Batcave) is packed with monitors and medical equipment; a far cry from the cavernous Batcave readers know so well. The laboratory that Batman later gains entry to is large yet similarly confined. All of the characters and technology involved have a hardened, aged look; clearly life has not been easy for the participants and they've all beaten up their machinery pretty good over the past five years.
"Batman: Futures End" #1 succeeds the same way some of the better "Elseworlds" comics did back in the day; readers get an intriguing look at mostly familiar characters in an environment that is definitely not so familiar.