Chad Nevett, Author at Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources
We are still reading post-The Authority superhero comics almost exclusively. While Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA kicked off the Blockbuster Widescreen Era of superhero comics, the Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch/Paul Neary/Laura DePuy The Authority took that sensibility and added on a subtle question of morality and heroism that remains unresolved. Granted, that question wasn’t introduced there, but it was popularised – it became an integral part of the superhero comic language after that point, floating to the surface now and then only to be smacked down because of the terrible implications. Here, it has risen again and shows itself in very different ways in Futures End #17 and Avengers #34. Basically, how far must a superhero go to save the world? How far before they stop being a hero and become a villain? Is there even a line?
We don’t know what happened to Earth 2 yet. The word ‘refugee’ has been thrown around and we know that there is no contact with that parallel world anymore. Is the path between universes simply blocked? Is the world dead? Destroyed? If so, who destroyed it? The Justice League? Superman? Darkseid? Was its destruction malicious? Self-sacrifice? Pure survival on the part of the Nu52DCU Earth? Are there really heroes in Futures End? DC has always been oddly comfortable with killing worlds, whether their heroes were complicit in the act or not. “Worlds will live, worlds will die” was the tagline after all (more like “A world will live, all other worlds will die” by the end, eh?). It wouldn’t surprise me to know that Earth 2 is in fact destroyed and that it was already revealed in Futures End in such an offhand manner that I didn’t notice enough to remember.
So, what’s the deal with Superman? We’re rushing towards the big reveal of why Superman wears a mask now and why his personality seems to have changed, and it’s apparently none of the reasons people previously thought. His conversation with Lois here is one of the longer ones he’s had in the series – and one of the most revealing.
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.
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…
And, now, a story…
Futures End is a comic about the future, structured in a way that evokes the future, yet it seems unable to escape the past. Part of that is the nature of a story set five years in the future. A surprising amount of it will unavoidably be devoted to what happened between now and five years from now. So much of that is implicit in the storytelling where simply telling the stories of these characters reveals the past. That’s not quite what’s happening here. While this comic is about the future, it’s also about the inescapable past and how the future is not just built on the foundation of the past, it’s continually defined by it.
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…
It’s hard to escape the big themes of Futures End. I spent the first month or so of these series of posts going over and over them again. I’ve tried to shift away from them in recent weeks, but… there isn’t much else is there? It’s all ‘What does being a superhero mean?’ and ‘Technology kills humanity.’ The slow circle of this seems to be drawing towards the true model of superheroism in the Nu52DCU: Superman. After all, it seems that he’s Cyborg Superman in five years.
We turn our attention now to Batman. Terry McGinnis, the Batman from Batman Beyond has been folded into the Nu52DCU as the future trainee of Bruce Wayne in a world ruled by Brother Eye. Traveling to the past to prevent this future, McGinnis has proven utterly and completely ineffectual at this task. To put it bluntly: he’s shit. Welcome to “Batman Beyond Year One.”
Last Sunday, I finished reading Cerebus. I bought all 16 phonebooks collecting the series last year (I already had the zero issue and World Tour book from backing the digital High Society Kickstarter, so no gaps there either) and, prompted by Andrew Hickey deciding to write about the series over at Mindless Ones, I dove in. Two months later, give or take, I have finished and have spent the last week thinking about the series, wondering if I have anything to say about it. I believe I do.
I rather liked last week’s issue. This week, I was less enamoured with Futures End. Despite the upgrade in art with the return of Patrick Zircher, this week’s issue felt like a transitional one more than anything. A bit of moving the pieces around the board into better positions. While not superficially as entertaining as other types of stories, the way that the various plots are intersecting and piling atop one another is thrilling in its own way. It’s also how I’ve begun to learn to read this type of weekly comic after a month and a half. Maybe.
What being a ‘superhero’ means continues to crop up in Futures End. It’s beginning to look like a longform meditation on the concept, what it means in the Nu52DCU and beyond. The fifth issue opens with Mr. Terrific acting like his definition of a superhero: announcing a new piece of technology. In this case, the uSphere: a floating globe that’s “your brain’s backup.” The announcement is a big media event with an over-the-top speech by Mr. Terrific that’s long on rhetorical flourishes and short on substance. “And that, my friends, is how to be a super-hero,” he says after, removing the sunglasses he was wearing during the announcement, a reversal of Clark Kent removing his glasses to assume the identity of Superman. For Mr. Terrific, being a superhero is being a successful technology magnate. We are living in the shadow of Wildcats Version 3.0 clearly.
A full cycle is complete. One month. Four weeks. This is the quintuple-size debut of Futures End and… where are we? What have we learned? What have we gained as people? How has this weekly dose of the Nu52DCU five years in the future enriched our lives? Has it really been just a month? It feels like more/less. I don’t know anymore… I just don’t know…
In the first issue of Futures End, Green Arrow was killed and Firestorm didn’t help save him, because the controlling half of the superhero, Ronnie, turned off his phone to have sex, meaning the passive half of the superhero, Jason, had to run around and find him, wasting too much time in the process to be of any help. In the second issue, Jason continued to berate Ronnie at the funeral of Green Arrow even as Arsenal irrationally blamed Firestorm for the death of someone he took no role in killing. In the third issue, Ronnie has, apparently, not stopped being Firestorm since that time, basically holding Jason hostage. This is the most interesting plot in Futures End. This is what I love about this comic.