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Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 12: Futures End #13

No one likes Futures End. That’s what I see/read/hear across the internet. As we enter what would be the second year of any other comic, that seems important. I haven’t checked the sales charts because… I don’t care. I’d rather create a fictional reader that has been reading Futures End and doesn’t care for what it has been getting every week yet continues. This reader isn’t me, because I’ve been enjoying Futures End, possibly for none of the intended reasons. So, really, I’m the wrong guy to try and write about why this fictional reader isn’t liking Futures End. But, what the hell…

Futures End #13 illustrates one of the main contradictions of the series: new things constantly happen, but nothing feels like it’s going anywhere. Things that happen this issue include: the Wound Duck is robbed at gunpoint; Mr. Terrific struggles with publically claiming that the new Batman is an alien when he knows that’s not the case; Grifter and Fifty Sue break into the building on Cadmus Island where they house the Earth 2 superhumans and go to a subbasement where they have non-superhuman residents of Earth 2 held prisoner; Tim Drake beats up the Wounded Duck robber along with another criminal, retrieving his girlfriend’s necklace; Terry McGinnis is betrayed by the trio of criminals he recently befriended to break into Terrifitech because they consider him a liability after the alien accusation; Big Barda and Emiko expand on what happened with Earth 2 only to be tricked into a trap by Fifty Sue and Deathstroke who are there to capture (and I presume, if necessary, kill) Barda. That seems like a decent amount of things happening in a comic, I guess. Six scenes over 20 pages. Is that good?

Digging deeper, not a lot of this felt like actual progress for the characters. The Tim Drake stuff felt clichéd and obvious. The Mr. Terrific scene worked into the overarching themes of the book, but fell flat given that his plan seems wonky and all of the self-justifications about playing on the worst instincts of people ignore the fact that Terry could just change clothes and never put on his Batman costume again. Cadmus imprisoning non-superhumans isn’t a big revelation because he already know that they’re very sketchy/quasi-evil and further proof does little to strengthen that perception, especially given that we don’t know who these non-superhuman people are or what they are being used for. Somehow, there isn’t a compelling reason to find out. Terry McGinnis being betrayed is actually entertaining as he’s the Batman and should know better, but throughout this series, he’s shown himself to be a shitty Batman, so no surprises there. The Barda stuff is… informative, but couldn’t I just wait for that Earth 2 weekly if I wanted to know more about the war and the Earth 2 exodus?

This is, of course, a specific reading of the comic with a predetermined bias/argument. However, it’s a hard one to refute, because it all adds up to the same problem that Futures End has had since the beginning: there’s no clear point to any of this. There are two end points that seem somewhat apparent: preventing the Brother Eye future and something to do with Brainiac. However, we’re had 13 issues and little to no progress has been made on either front. The comic seems stuck in perpetual setup mode where the groundwork is continually laid and no payoffs come. I could point to minor instances of ‘payoffs,’ but they feel minor and inconsequential. Just more steps in setting things up.

All of this feels like old criticisms. But, that’s the point, isn’t it? Futures End is being produced so far in the future that it’s fallen prey to an issue that’s struck numerous cable dramas where entire seasons are produced prior to the first episode airing. Everything is created in a vacuum so course corrections aren’t possible. It’s not that writers should be willing to cater to reactions over the needs of the story, but it’s obvious that the slow burn isn’t working here. Even last issue’s final pages where we see the Joker and Batman in the Brother Eye future barely made a blip, because no one cares. It was just another tease without context or explanation or recognisable purpose.

Maybe it will make a grand tapestry as everything built in these issues comes together in a stunning climax. But, given what the fictional reader and all like it are grumbling about, I’m going to be the only one there to see it. And when I say how great it is, no one will believe me because I wrote about Futures End every week. I can only imagine how much everyone is looking forward to September right about now. Good thing there’s 3D covers.

5 Comments

Patrick Maloney

July 31, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I have actually been liking Futures End, not as much as Batman Eternal, but definitely in my top five series I’m reading right now. I especially like the parallels between the stuff happening at Cadmus and the future peek we got in #12. You can practically tell that they are trying to say that the Earth 2 imprisonments is as bad as what Brother Eye has in store. Anyway, I’ve really been enjoying your posts about thus series, I actually look forward to them each week.

I still look back at BRIGHTEST DAY as a well-done weekly (or bi-weekly, anyway). Not that the story’s execution didn’t have its flaws–it was overly violent–but I think we had an overall sense that all the sub-plots were going somewhere. I thought BRIGHTEST DAY’s #0 issue was an ideal setup comic: the readers followed the eyes of Deadpool as he got a quick overview of each of the story’s cast members, and we got a short 4-or-so page story of each of them that setup what each character’s problems would be. Aquaman was reconciling with Mera; J’onn was trying to rebuild Mars; the Hawks were dealing with a fear of being separated again; etc. We got hints that each character had some kind of Black Lantern curse they’d have to resolve. And we knew that all of the characters were tied to the White Lantern, so each of their sub-stories were going to *somehow* culminate in the larger mystery of what the Lantern wanted.

I think FUTURES END could have greatly benefited from that kind of #0 issue. Really, the Free Comic Book Day issue only dealt with Terry’s plot in a meaningful way. It would have been helpful if, like BRIGHTEST DAY’s #0 issue, it had focused on one character (like Terry) and given a quick preview of why the individual storylines of Firestorm, Frankenstein, Grifter, yadda yadda, are important. Don’t spoil the story, just hint.

I would like to think that there were clues back in the #0 issue. If you go back and read it, you do see mention of some of our core cast: Firestorm is mentioned as being captured; Amethyst is there with Grifter; and Frankenstein’s got Hawkman’s arm, which ended up being fulfilled in issue #9. So, ok, there’s hints of where the story was going in that #0 issue. However, it wasn’t clear at the time. It’s still not clear now.

You’re right, Chad–I’m sure the grand unification of Futures End will be clear by the end. It’s just not clear now, and there are means of doing that in a comic which could have been done here but weren’t.

What was remarkable about 52 is that it actually DID allow the writers to ignore the strict guidelines they were working under and just tell the story that they wanted to tell and it worked out really well, with 52 just getting better and better as it went along.

On the one hand, it is the second year for the comic. On the other, it is the first issue of the mini-series. (Yes, I remember the days when a mini-series was four issues. Get off my lawn.) But if it remains set-up for another thirteen issues, we have a problem.

(I am not reading FE, because I cannot bring myself to endure yet another dystopia at the moment. But my kids are enjoying it, to the point of spending their allowance on issues. So DC is doing something right.)

Future’s End is tolerable. And that’s about all I can say about it. It’s not BAD by any means, but it just kind of exists.

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