Futures End: Graeme Finishes Out DC’s Stunt Month

September 24, 2014

The final week of Futures End issues! Hold on! We’re almost finished…!

Booster Gold: Futures End #1: For the longtime DC reader, there’s a lot to unpack in Dan Jurgens’ return to the character he created, way back when we were all more innocent and had more hair in the 1980s. Admittedly, that’s my polite way of saying “As a standalone issue, and especially one that’s created as part of a stunt month set in the future of the DCU, this issue fails almost entirely,” but it sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it?

The problem is this: if you haven’t a basic grounding in DC history, then this issue is likely just going to be utterly confusing and nonsensical. Hell, I’ve been reading DC comics for three decades, and there’s a bunch about it that’s confusing to me (For those who didn’t read the Justice League International Annual from 2012, there’s one scene in particular that might make absolutely no sense, as opposed to the little sense it made to me having read it).

The gimmick of the issue is that Booster is being thrown throughout both time and the multiverse by a mysterious, unknown force (Spoilers: It’s Brainiac, which isn’t even made clear through the issue, but you can tell from the word balloons), with each new era/planet illustrated by a different artist. In theory, it’s a good idea, and with Steve Lightle drawing the Legion again, and Ron Frenz channelling his greatest Kirby for a trip to Kamandi’s time, it should work — but it doesn’t, because Jurgens’ writing isn’t coherent enough, focusing too much on Booster going “What is going on? I don’t understand?” before introducing an entirely second Booster who, apparently, comes from a parallel earth — which one, if either, belongs to the regular DC earth isn’t established — and then the issue ends with the other Booster telling the unseen Brainiac that he’ll give him access to Vanishing Point. Which hasn’t been introduced or established anywhere else in the issue, making it entirely weightless as a cliffhanger. For all newcomers know, the issue ends with Booster offering to lend the villain his favorite Primal Scream album.

It’s an entirely missed opportunity that doesn’t even have the lightness of tone that Booster’s solo series used to have — or, indeed, much of the personality of the character at all, with him reduced to a confused, powerless cypher in an attempt to introduce the multiverse and a villainous threat that doesn’t really get established at all. It’s a very pretty issue filled with cameos that might thrill older readers, but really? This is a bit of a disaster.

The Flash: Futures End #1: There’s something to be said for the way in which The Flash, regardless of who’s writing it, manages to use the stunt month books to set up or pay off long-running storylines in the regular title; last year’s Reverse Flash issue was an integral part of the storyline in the series at the time, and this issue ties into the ongoing Wally West/time-travel arc from the main book. Of course, as someone who isn’t reading the main book right now — blame it on Brett Booth’s art, which doesn’t work for me purely because of the faces, as arbitrary as that is — this makes the issue a little bit less of a draw than it otherwise would have been.

That said, it’s not bad in any sense. Writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen actually make the issue a good introduction to the ongoing storyline, and even though it’s clearly a middle issue — there’s definitely no resolution at the end of the story, instead a cliffhanger leading into next month’s issue — it’s something that could be picked up by a newcomer and understood, despite four different Flashes of different varieties showing up. What it doesn’t really do is add anything to the Futures End five years later gimmick, nor gain anything from it, either. It really does just feel like a regular issue of The Flash. So… points for consistency, perhaps, but I’m not sure those coming to the book hoping to see Future Flash would necessarily appreciate what they find here.

Harley Quinn: Futures End #1: And, to the surprise of no-one who’s been paying attention to the regular Harley Quinn book, this is pretty much a quiet triumph. Like the Flash issue, it’s as much a regular issue of the series as it is a “special issue,” but unlike the Flash issue, it’s also a pretty good little done-in-one that doesn’t require any further investment in the book.

It helps that it’s an issue that gets to bring in the Joker for the first time in the series, and does so in a way that both (a) features him with his face again, thankfully, and (b) restores some of the fun to the character instead of leaving him as the psychopath he’s become in recent years; this issue is really just a screwball comedy that just happens to feature Batman characters, and it’s so much better for it. “Fun” might be somewhat out of place in the otherwise grim Futures End event, but this issue demonstrates very well why more fun wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

Superman: Futures End #1: The second Dan Jurgens book of the week, and the second book where the art is great, and the writing less so. Although, it has to be said, the colors chosen by Dave McCaig for this issue are weirdly muted and feel at odds with both Lee Weeks’ art and the story being told. It’s not that it’s bad coloring, exactly — there are some lovely effects he chooses, and I’d like to see this approach used elsewhere — but it doesn’t necessarily fit the “Future Metropolis!” feel of the setting (Weeks’ art, though, is just flawless; I wish we could see more of him on a regular title somewhere).

As with the Booster Gold issue, this is less a standalone issue than something that ties in very specifically with an ongoing storyline, with Lois Lane talking to Billy Batson about why he took on the role of Superman (Spoilers!) and, accidentally, talking him out of keeping that role. It’s something that feels like an overextended scene from the main Futures End series, and arguably belongs there — especially if this means that the Masked Superman will never appear in that series again after receiving so much attention in earlier issues. It’s also something that underscores how gratuitous the Masked Superman plot line was to Futures End as a series, if its explanation and resolution can be farmed out to another book without too much effort.

More than anything, though, there’s a sense of this issue being… an advertisement, or a trailer, perhaps for something else. The main action scene is something that sets up a bunch of further questions that will, I assume, be answered in Futures End with a lack of subtlety that suggests that they are Important Questions tied in with the resolution of the series. But between that and the thinness of events in this issue itself, it feels as if this was created at the last minute to fill a gap in the publishing schedule, rather than having any reason to exist otherwise.

Even moreso than last year’s Villains’ Month, that’s been the overriding impression I’ve gotten from the Futures End month issues this month, sadly — the idea that it’s something people had to do instead of wanting to do, with only a few exceptions. Even without reading all of the issues, it’s been an oddly exhausting experience. Time to leave the future behind — well, aside from the main Futures End series, which I am reading and enjoying, moreso than many of these one shots — and come back to the present. How soon is now, anyway?


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One comment on “Futures End: Graeme Finishes Out DC’s Stunt Month

  1. I admit it, I enjoyed the blatant continuity porn of Booster’s issue, though your points are all eminently fair.

    I’d actually give the Superman book points for tying into FE weekly so tightly, finally answering a few questions about Not Wildfire Superman. I give Jurgens enough credit as a professional to believe he’ll reference stuff here in the weekly, such as what Superman did to end the Apokolips War (also referenced in the pretty poor Batman/Superman entry).

    Is this really the final week? It’s only been three weeks.