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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.
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.
Two weeks and three issues in, what is Futures End about? We know that Brother Eye needs to be stopped before taking over the world, but, given that Batman (Beyond) only appears on one page this week, it doesn’t seem like that’s what this series is actually about. It may be about alien invaders. It may be about Mr. Terrific doing his best Rock impression. It may be about living in the shadow of a devastating war. It may be about Superman wearing a cooler Nu52 outfit than John Romita, Jr. is stuck drawing come June. Or, it may be about the preservation of the status quo. Just like every other superhero comic.
Five years ago, I wrote on this very site: “‘Will I ever reread those?’ I think to myself, looking at the four volumes of 52 and I just can’t say. It’s certainly possible, especially if I feel like doing one trade each week for a month’s worth of Reread Reviews (which actually isn’t a bad idea), but… if I don’t think I’ll ever reread them, why do I keep them? Although, based on my experience of trading comics as a kid, I know that if I do ever get rid of them, sometime in the following ten years, I’ll have a strong urge to reread them and then where will I be?”