By Gavin Rehfeldt. Futures End is DC Comics’ major event this season, and during September it is interrupting DC’s monthly titles to take a peek at potential events five years in the future, where things sure are different: in Futures End: Batman And Robin #1, we find Batman facing off against a figure that looks exactly like the creature that killed Damian way back in Batman, Incorporated # 8, the Heretic. Meanwhile across town we have a new Robin – a now-grown up version of the young boy, Duke, who Batman connected with in Zero Year –  who is assigned missions via transmissions by an older Alfred Pennyworth.

These missions serve as calculated distractions to prevent Robin from joining Batman in an epically personal clash: Batman rightfully fears that his new Robin could die at the hands of a possible clone of the being that killed his son, so Pennyworth conspires to keep Duke as far from the action as possible. What’s happening here is an overreaching statement of grief of what might happen for Batman under the Futures End banner, on the back of what’s transpired under the current Robin Rises crossover.

Presently in Batman And Robin, readers want to know what’s going to happen to Batman once he lands on Apokolips. Will he retrieve Damian’s body and somehow resurrect him? This is the storyline of interest Futures End: Batman And Robin #1 should have pointed towards. Instead, writer Ray Fawkes puts regular readers in the uncomfortable position of considering why Batman has accepted Damian’s passing – did Fawkes just disregard this entire storyarc? – or is this just a potential Futures End storyline that just happens to include Damian because, well, his name is part of the book’s title.

And while we’re at it, Batman looks straight out of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns with his beefy and battered visage. Why, if it’s only 5 years in the future, does he look like it’s 50? Batman has been represented as fairly youthful in the New52, and this unconvincing leap isn’t doing any favors for this misguided one-shot, a simplistic and somewhat tacky attempt to exploit the Batman’s perpetual mourning of his dead son, Damian.

What makes matters worse is that most of this story’s fighting is often silent fighting – The Heretic’s speaks only once. This version of the character is denied the presence he once had by Fawkes removing his strangely childish inflections. Why bring this character back and not give him proper credence? By the end of the issue there is nothing to determine who Heretic ultimately is. He might be a new clone of Damian – since the original clone is, of course, dead. For all we know, he could be the, I don’t know, Bane or something… there’s just no stake in this battle, and the lack of payoff only further underlines its pointlessness.

It’s worthwhile to note that Damian could have been in this issue. If Robin Rises had seen his resurrection, Damian would be here in five years. If Robin Rises found Batman to have failed in his resurrection, well, this is a potential future story, after all. Instead it feels more like fan fiction, an Elseworlds tale. Instead, it immediately reads like it isn’t canon. However you choose to look at it – and whatever the outcome of Robin Rises will be – a more properly thought-out approach was necessary. (And we wouldn’t have to remove the book’s future-jock Robin; Damian could have simply moved on from the sidekick life. Who knows?)

There is truly not much to recommend in this issue. However, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs make beautiful art and should be praised for continuing to be fantastic collaborators, especially after their recent work on Li’l Gotham, which made the strongest statement about the worth of Damian Wayne after Grant Morrison left the Bat-books. Li’l Gotham is the “event” book one should read alongside Peter Tomasi’s Robin Rises arc because it depicts the love between Damian and Bruce convincingly and with warmth, which is far more demonstrative than Batman And Robin‘s continually exaggerated upset concerning the tragedy of Damian Wayne.

(I did like the new villain Modbod and her mannequin robot henchman, who look just like robots in Björk’s All Is Full Of Love video.)

DC Comics/$3.99

Written by Ray Fawkes.

Art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs.

Colored by John Kalisz.

4 out of 10