Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
The future is about the new. The unfamiliar and strange soon seems commonplace and just like everything else you already knew. That concept seems to be driving the plotting of Futures End as new threads and characters are introduced only to be folded into existing plots that fold into other existing plots and, soon, seven plots become two while eight more have cropped up to compress into three while another five pop up and merge to leave only one big story that concludes with Mr. Terrific killing the planet. Remember when Cadmus Island and Fifty Sue were new? Now they’re just another part of Grifter’s plot, while has ties to Superman’s plot and Lois Lane’s plot, which have ties to Tim Drake’s plot, which just had Terry McGinnis and the criminal trio walk into his bar a couple of weeks after one half of Firestorm got thrown out on his ass a week before Superman lectured the other half and…
The speed at which the plots and characters in Futures End reproduce and, then, merge is astonishing. It’s like the new stuff is food for the old as these large, lumbering plot blobs ooze forward, slowly absorbing everything in sight. Two weeks in row, we’ve had a new character grace the cover. Two weeks in row, said new character is still nameless and fairly mysterious. This week, a giant orange She-Hulk broke another new character out of prison and we’re supposed to care because Tim Drake’s girlfriend almost died and Superman was there. That scene was barely an introduction to anything and, yet, give it a few weeks and it will seem normal and slightly mundane. I’m already bored of Fifty Sue.
It’s the illusion of progress. Things happen, things change, but to what end? Are we anywhere closer to an answer to the question that’s plagued Futures End since its first issue: what is Futures End about? I can’t hone in on an answer that draws everything together, especially when, every week, something completely new and unexpected is added to the mix. Who is Ethan Boyer and what the fuck does he have to do with anything? Here, he’s an anonymous criminal that’s broken out of prison and Superman calls a psycho. How does that fit into anything we’ve seen thus far? Is he the new Lex Luthor? Is that why Superman is right there to stop the breakout? Will he work for Cadmus? Or act as an opposite number to Mr. Terrific perhaps? Or as a pawn of Brainiac? Or an ally of John Constantine? And few of those are mutually exclusive paths for this character to take. What does it all mean?
I want to call every issue of Futures End a ‘transition’ issue, because each one seems like it’s moving pieces into place for something down the road. Few comics read like blatant plot maps quite the way that this one does. So many characters are mysteries with only sparse appearances that there is no such thing as character motivation – that we can see, at least. That’s not a complaint, by the way. It’s genuinely fascinating to read a comic that works this way: where everything could be meaningful and so little has proven meaningful thus far. It’s a neat trick.
You think you’re on a conveyor belt moving you along; you’re on a treadmill. Keep running towards that promise that never comes. It’s the future.
[Scheduling note: I will be on vacation next week, so I won’t be getting my weekly comics and there will be no new post. I will return in two weeks to discuss Futures End issues 10 and 11.]
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