DC Comics' July Highlights: "Batgirl," "Nightwing" and a "New Super-Man"
I can’t say if I’ve yet to do a post where I directly and honestly state what I think about Futures End. Usually, I hone in on an idea or an approach and run with it, more interested in the exercise than what I actually think as a reader. It makes for a more interesting run of posts (for me, at least), but does build up a wall of sorts. Here we are at issue 14 and you have no idea if I like this comic or not. My posts tend to lean towards exploring the flaws of the book, but that’s no indication of my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the comic. Flaws are more appealing to me. I like picking things apart and seeing what’s beneath the seeming misstep. This week, I think I’ll try something different: a direct, honest exploration of my thoughts on Futures End #14.
Futures End #14 is my least favourite issue of the series. The shift in focus to the Earth 2 subplots has left me completely cold. I normally like alternate realities and even I must admit that there is potential here. However, there are two things that make me react poorly to the Earth 2 stuff:
The first is that the war with Earth 2 is something that’s already happened. It informs the world of five years hence, but isn’t the focus. Or, I guess I’d argue, shouldn’t be the focus. That’s a little presumptuous on my part, I’ll grant you. These parts, when used sparingly, can hit strongly. The reveal of the Cadmus Island jail of Earth 2 superhumans was a good reveal. The class differences between inhabitants of this world and Earth 2 adds a weird dystopian tinge to this future. Even the idea that people from Earth 2 are considered ‘aliens’ is intriguing. These all make for nice touches to pepper the comic with, to have pop up around the edges, and inform how things have changed in five years. Pushing the Earth 2 stuff to the forefront feels… unnecessary. Unwanted. After all, there are two other comics (and an upcoming weekly series) to explore Earth 2 and its issues.
Which is my second problem with the Earth 2 subplots: Futures End doesn’t exist on its own. It never did, really, especially given the big month-long event next month. It’s the Nu52DCU five years in the future, so it could never stand apart from everything. It did have the potential to stand on its own merits as a glimpse into the future where it would tell its own stories with, hopefully, subtle moments of referencing what’s going on in the present when there’s a chance. But, with the Earth 2 universe getting its own weekly series, it’s disappointing to find out that Futures End doesn’t stand so far apart as I had hoped.
That the Lois Lane subplot has now been subsumed (I guess) by the Earth 2 stuff means combining two subplots I’ve yet to enjoy into one. The Lois subplot hasn’t cohered in any meaningful way. It has also acted as a reminder that DC writers seem to equate ‘thoughtlessly pushy’ with ‘great journalist.’ Her confrontation of Tim Drake still baffles me. It was clumsy and obvious and… this is the greatest journalist in the Nu52DCU? Her little quest spurred on by the package with objects has been aimless and a fairly good signifier of the larger aimlessness of the series. Of the way it tosses out disparate threads with the idea that they will probably all connect back together at some point. Here, it’s a weird green triangular object that glows and shows Lois scenes from Earth 2… for some reason… That’s the big ending of the issue and I believe I muttered “That’s it?”
The only non-Earth 2 plot shown in this issue is the Terry McGinnis Batman not dying at the hands of the trio of criminals he’s joined to break into Terrifitech. It’s nice to see a Batman that stumbles around like an idiot, unable to accomplish anything. He’s completely passive in this scene and that lends it a certain energy. That I still don’t care about the criminals (to the point of not remembering any of theirs names; sorry, that’s a lie: the woman is named Plastique, I believe) drags the scene down quite a bit. They’ve established why Batman needs them enough that it’s not a total loss as the two men look to kill Batman, considering him a liability, while Plastique saves him. The implied reason for her doing so is not to help their break-in attempt, but because he had her future cyborg self in his shopping cart a half dozen issues ago and she wants to know how that’s possible and what it means. The symmetry of her being the ‘person’ he kills in the first issue and, now, saving him is nice.
I’ve yet to find a way into discussing the art of Futures End, because I’ve mostly disliked it. It’s boring in that DC house style way where it just looks unattractive and isn’t at all interesting to write about. Maybe that will change or I’ll figure out a way to do it – or simply stop being so lazy. However, most of the art in this issue showed me what happened and left absolutely no lasting impression. It was all clear and utterly forgettable.
In a larger view, I have grown a little more… discontent with Futures End. The shift towards the Earth 2 subject matter aside, it is a comic that feels like it’s purposefully fumbling around, hoping that people will stick around with the mere promise that, sometime, it will get good and reveal its purpose. It’s somewhat frustrating in that regard. Issues don’t feel complete as they can only address a fraction of the numerous plots that they have begun. When was the last time we saw John Constantine, for example? Futures End often seems like a never-ending tease. It’s actually a form of storytelling that I find personally interesting. The balance of advancing the plots without actually doing anything meaningful just grabs me, for some reason. I guess I’m a sucker.
Next week, I will return to the regular rhetorical games where what I actually think may or may not be present in the post at all.
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