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Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 19: Futures End #20, Futures End: Justice League #1, and Avengers #35
Comparing Futures End and “Time Runs Out” seems natural. It’s a bit difficult after 20 issues (and numerous one-shots) of the former and only one issue of the latter. You would think, under those circumstances, the future of Futures End would feel more fleshed out and compelling than the brief glimpse we get of Marvel eight months from now. I didn’t find that to be true. Avengers #35 was far more engrossing in the future it presents, how it relates to the ‘present,’ and how well it defines the changes that have happened. It genuinely feels different and new, like the future is supposed to feel. Has Futures End ever felt that way?
Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 18: Futures End #19, Futures End: Action Comics #1, Futures End: Constantine #1, Futures End: Justice League United #1, Futures End: Infinity Man and the Forever People #1, and Futures End: World’s Finest #1
See, my problem is that I keep trying to find cohesion where there is none. Thematically, there are throughlines, perhaps, but they are often tenuous and, quite frankly, rely on me making small leaps to bring them all together. And that was when I was only writing about Futures End. Now that we have entered September and there’s the line-wide “Futures End” event, finding cohesion, even on a thematic level, is damn near impossible. We’re only in the second week and I’m not at all sure what DC intended with this month. Some titles hint at the events of the weekly series, most contradict part of them, and a few are focused enough to at least provide an issue for the monthly readers of the title to buy. If, you know, its issue this month is actually done by the regular creative team, which is iffy at best. Last year’s “Villain Month” line of books were at least willing to divorce themselves from the regular line, to do their own thing and, in a few rare cases, actually worry about the regular monthly readers. Hell, many titles had numerous one-shots under their banner, while a bunch of regular monthlies just skipped a month. There seemed to be plan there. This time around, I can’t see it.
Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 17: Futures End #18, Futures End: Green Arrow #1, Futures End: Aquaman #1, and Futures End: Earth 2 #1
The first issue of Futures End ended with the death of Green Arrow and, aside from the funeral in the second issue and the two parts of Firestorm dealing with the fallout of not being there to save him, it’s completely faded from the book. It wasn’t until last week when Emiko mentioned the death of her brother to Barda that it really returned in any way. It’s been the sleeper plot of the book, there from the beginning, but never spoken of. I’ve been waiting to address it, figuring that the release of Futures End: Green Arrow #1 would be a good chance if the series proper hadn’t already done so… and who knew that the timing of that one-shot and the weekly series would be so good?
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.”
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.