Future State: Catwoman #1 Review: Train Heists Prove Ageless in a Rousing Return to Gotham's Underbelly

Future State Catwoman #1 Review - Cover
(Photo: DC Entertainment)

One thing that “Future State” does not lack is ambition. Each of its miniseries—most consisting only of two issues—attempts to present a vision of what DC Comics’ future may hold. Delivering a new status quo with major character updates, shifts in setting, and entirely new villains and conflicts is no small task. The weight of so much storytelling has tested writers and artists alike in finding the right approach to capture readers in a short story without leaving them confused. Future State: Catwoman #1 provides one of the most elegant approaches thus far, focusing on a single train heist and allowing that story to fill in the gaps for readers as the fast-paced action unfolds.

Focusing on a single adventure—not the most important event or climax of a larger concept—provides this story the space necessary to inform readers without overloading the slim 22-page issue with exposition. The first few pages introduce a train heist wherein Catwoman (along with some new allies) seek to free prisoners of Gotham City’s fascist police state. It does not expend time explaining how Gotham reached this dystopian juncture because the status quo can be taken as read. The facts of the case are clearly presented in dialogue and visual cues, just like an Elseworlds miniseries might offer them, allowing the focus to remain on the characters and story at hand. Mentions of The Magistrate and the disappearance of Batman provide context when necessary, but never slow down a plot with very little space to be told. The result is an issue that favors pacing over exposition, and it produces one of the best reading experiences in “Future State” thus far.

Artist Otto Schmidt makes this “show, not tell” approach to introducing a very different vision of Gotham possible with a careful eye for detail. His presentation of characters and the city provides clear details that invite readers to consider what this world is like. Minor details like the costuming of state actors and their prisoners quickly develops a compelling class dynamic and the design of Catwoman’s motorcycle and goggles reveals the advancement of technology. None of this needs to be explained—even Batman’s absence is embedded in graffiti rather than a paragraph of explanation.

Schmidt’s greatest contribution to the issue coincides with the premise as he details a high-speed train heist with all of the velocity it demands. Delivering a sense of momentum can be difficult in the static images of a comic book, but Schmidt excels at summoning speed lines and sleek designs that capture a true sense of speed. A palpable sense of excitement hums from this mag-lev train as it races along with passengers racing up and down its many cars—throwing punches and leaping aboard. Even removed from the context of “Future State,” Future State: Catwoman #1 is a thrilling example of action in comics engrossing purely for its presentation.

Future State: Catwoman #1 is one of the event’s best debuts so far because it dives directly into the story at hand. With very limited space it seizes upon the excitement of a train heist and uses that familiar plot to both introduce readers to this dystopian vision of Gotham and thrill them with a fast-paced adventure. It is the exceptional example of a superhero comic steeped in lore that can still show readers what it’s all about rather than telling them in unending narrative captions. Writer Ram V emphasizes action and natural dialogue, allowing artist Otto Schmidt to deliver a story that races along. Regardless of readers pre-existing knowledge, Catwoman #1 offers a perfect introductory point bound to thrill newcomers and die hard fans alike.

Published by DC Comics

On January 19, 2020

Written by Ram V

Art by Otto Schmidt

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Letter by Tom Napolitano

Cover by Liam Sharp