Let’s get this out the way first: All of this week’s Futures End one shots suffer in comparison to another book on DC’s release schedule today — namely, The Multiversity: Society of Superheroes #1, which manages to do exactly what the Futures End books are meant to (Tell a more-or-less one-off story with alternate versions of familiar characters that also ties in with a larger narrative in such a way that doesn’t interrupt the standalone nature of the story at hand) with more style, humor and invention than anything that takes place five years later. If, as they say, you buy only one DC book this week, it should really be that one. If you plan to buy more, however…
Batman and Robin: Futures End #1: One of the problems with the Futures End one shots is the seeming lack of consistency; this is the third Batman book I’ve read this month, and there’s a certain inconsistency between them (especially Detective and the other two, which seem entirely disconnected; this at least shares a writer and vague thematic relationship with last week’s amazing Batman issue). Instead of really following up on what’s already been established in other issues, this issue acts as both a hint of things to come and payoff for earlier events in the larger Batman mythology (The new Robin introduced in this issue calls back to Scott Snyder’s Batman more than anything in this series, while the villain is directly from Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated).
The confusion of “Does this even relate to the other issues?” is, at best, a distraction from an issue that’s slight but perfectly serviceable. It’s tempting to think of the issue as a showcase for Dustin Nguyen’s art — certainly, the amount of silent panels would suggest as much — but it’s not his best work, with only some panels reaching heights of material he’s done elsewhere. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the issue, in terms of quality, but it feels very light and inconsequential, failing to resolve the larger plot it invents. A mis-step, then.
Batwoman: Futures End #1: Of course, even a mis-step is better than an outright mess, which is what this issue feels like. I don’t doubt that it’s something that will appeal to regular readers of the title, but for someone like me who dropped out early in the series and then only returned irregularly since, this issue was like a bad X-Men comic from the 1990s, with sibling conflicts, returns from the dead, vampires and heroes corrupted. Add in some flat, almost parodic dialogue (“Your bag of tricks is running low, sister,” struck me as very sub-Claremontian, to say the least) and what’s left is very much something that does not appeal to me in the slightest.
Justice League: Futures End #1: It’s difficult to know what to say about this issue, after multiple readings. Imagine a 1970s Gerry Conway Justice League of America issue where the Legion of Super-Heroes guest-starred, only the villain was Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, and that’s pretty much what’s on offer here. In some ways, it reads like the middle issue of a Morrison JLA issue, only slowed down some, with all that means (i.e., it’s full of a clash of familiar characters and ideas, but doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense despite seeming very attractive).
Add to that art by Jed Dougherty that feels off somehow — there’s a bit of Michael Golden in there at times, but the inks lack the crispness and three-dimensionality of his work, flattening things at times (He inks himself; I do wonder what he could look like with a Karl Story or the like finishing his work). All in all, it’s a comic that feels surprisingly off-kilter, but in an inviting way. In five years, the Justice League will be in one of those periods that will appeal to longtime fans but seem agonizingly dull and weird to everyone else, it seems.
Wonder Woman: Futures End #1/Superman Wonder Woman: Futures End #1: Finally, a two-parter from Charles Soule, Rags Morales and Bart Sears that manages a lot of nice tricks — in particular, a good shift at the start of the second issue that resets the status quo of the story in a surprising way — and, for once, uses Wonder Woman as the focal character of the series. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of ultimately undermining material from the Azzarello/Chiang run; the climax of the story is, literally, a rejection of one of the major developments from that run. There are also some awkward decisions made to service the story that, sure, make sense in light of other Futures End requirements but nonetheless seem ludicrous enough when reading to stop the reader short.
Again, there’s the problem of this not being a complete story — I suspect that it might be, were I paying more attention to the series as a whole — with a nemesis so undefined that the various actions they’re responsible for might as well be magic. While there’s a throughline of intent that tracks, the story’s focus means that what should be larger, more earned moments instead become weightless and unsatisfying. There’s an ambition to this story that’s impressive, but the execution is lacking.
Next week: The last of the Futures End reviews! The last time I’ll be running reviews on Wednesday, I hope!