The ongoing "Futures End" weekly series has shown the DC Universe to be a kind of dark and dangerous place. Of course, Gotham was already dark and dangerous, so Brian Buccellato's "Detective Comics: Futures End" #1 fits right in, both within the scope of "Futures End" as well as with the present-day Gotham seen in nearly every issue of the Batman family of titles. Art trio Scott Hepburn, Cliff Richards, and Fabrizio Fiorentino all combine to make the city just as grey and moody as it ever was, and if nothing else capably show that, future or not, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Buccellato and the art team waste no time, bringing readers up to speed on the story within the first three pages, the second two of which are an attractively gritty double pager showing off Batman's future outfit and his too-cool Green Goblin-style glider, as rendered by Hepburn. Gotham is on the eve of observing its post-Zero Year (and likely tenth) anniversary, but over at Arkham, the inmates have literally taken over the impenetrable asylum.
This dilemma is what gives Buccellato a plausible excuse to team Batman up with none other than The Riddler, who designed Arkham's defenses and provides the only legitimate means of getting past them. With this basic idea, Buccellato not only scripts a tense and intriguing standalone story that turns longtime foes into temporary allies, but also ties this future story into recent storylines, not just "Zero Year" but also some of his own recent issues of "Detective Comics;" it's a "Futures End" tie-in, sure, but it sits just as comfortably next to current Batman comics.
As many writers do, Buccellato struggles with the obligatory riddles that he has to pepper the story with, and they end up sounding awkward and out-of-place. He wisely plays down this part of the character, though, focusing more on The Riddler's wit and personality, following the template used by Scott Snyder for the character over in "Zero Year." Having already established a perfectly legitimate reason for The Riddler to be in the story, Buccellato comes up with an even better one before the issue's over, which serves as the story's surprising, and even shocking, climax.
With this sudden turn of events and no denouement afterwards, Buccellato leaves behind a couple of questions about Batman's character: has Batman become deadlier, by allowing this shocking twist to happen? And was Batman's intent to stop the uprising, or something else all along? There's nothing terribly out-of-character here, but it's an implication that perhaps things have changed more in Batman's world than this single issue would have readers believe.
Hepburn's soggy, grimy Gotham is the perfect environment for an older, grizzlier Batman, and it's also a fitting backdrop that starkly contrasts The Riddler's own shiny, garish version of Trump Tower, with resplendent standard-issue purple and green DC villain colors. This style gives way to Fiorentino's smoother, more polished look once Dysfunctional Duo make their way towards Arkham. The change in style isn't too abrupt due to the shift in locale, but Fiorentino's characters look a little more awkward in certain panels. Richards fills in for one page in between and adequately transitions between the two other artists. Art-by-committee is often a risky and inconsistent endeavor, but the switch from the urban outdoors to the interior confines of Arkham help smooth out any artistic disparities.
Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson's detailed and dazzling cover looks even more impressive than Riddler HQ, taking full advantage of the lenticular cover gimmick used on all of this month's "Futures End" one-shots. When put into motion, the image alternates from a Batman solo shot to one with The Riddler at his side and back again, symbolizing their temporary allegiance in this issue. "Detective Comics: Futures End" #1 is one of this week's better tie-ins to the event, telling a future tale without having to really distance itself from the present.