Clearly, DC’s PR department is learning. In previous Septembers, it’s sent out each of the event month books as review copies — yes, I own and have reach each and every one of the Villain’s Month books — with only a handful of exceptions that I’ve always put down to mailing errors instead of an attempt to prevent spoilers on a specific issue from coming out (After all, I’m not sure anyone was concerned about what happened in Resurrection Man #0).
This year, though, it’s different; with ten Futures End one-shots in stores, only half were sent to me as comps, meaning that if I want to know what happens in Action Comics, Aquaman, Batwing, Swamp Thing or Phantom Stranger, I’ll have to buy them myself. As far as the others go, though…
Detective Comics: Futures End #1: I’ve been disappointed with the Francis Manapul/Brian Buccellato Detective run to date following their Flash — it’s seemed visually conservative in comparison, with writing that’s just felt very rote and filled with tropes we’ve seen before — and that sense of familiarity runs all the way through this issue. After Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s whole “Zero Year” storyline, now we get to see Batman and the Riddler again, except they’re older! And neither is anywhere near as interesting! There’s an art change midway through the issue from Scott Hepburn to Cliff Richards that hurts things, as well; both of them are fine artists, but their styles are hardly similar and the switch makes no sense narratively. All told, this one feels like it was rushed and is fairly inessential — for those still following the core Futures End series, it is on the face of it, utterly inessential, in fact. Unless you’re a Batman completist, probably safe to avoid.
Earth-2: Futures End #1: This is a really strange issue, insofar as it appears to contradict things from the main Futures End series in terms of the portrayal of Mister Terrific — not a bad thing in and of itself — and exist more to set up the Earth-2: World’s End series more than anything else. It’s also somewhat narratively unclear, throwing a lot of things at the reader that, I presume, will be explored elsewhere but feel very, very crowded and unnecessary in the space of 20 pages here. It’s frustrating, ultimately, because there’re things here that feel as if they should be followed up on, or mentioned at least, in the central Futures End series (The question of who Terry Sloan is and what he’s up to, at least, feels as if it’s a bigger deal than most of the plot lines in that book; me, I’m also super-curious about Jimmy Olsen becoming Metron from Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle, but I suspect that’ll never be mentioned again), but never will be, because this was created after-the-fact and aside from what was invented for that series. It’s messy, it’s overly busy, but it’s not dull. File under “What is your tolerance level for inexplicable continuity porn?”
Grayson: Futures End #1: Continuing this series’ trend of being better than expected, this issue is kind of… really good…? And part of that is the fact that it’s pretty much got nothing to do with the gimmick of the month. Sure, it starts five years in the future of the current DCU, but each successive page of the story takes place earlier in the character’s timeline, so by the end of the story, we’ve gone all the way back to Dick in the circus before his parents were killed. What we’re left with instead, then, is an issue that begins with Dick’s death (spoilers!) and then proceeds to unpick the reasons for that death, drop hints about the future of the regular Grayson title and act as a one-off meditation on who Dick Grayson is. Like I said, it’s surprisingly great.
Green Arrow: Futures End #1: And here we have the one issue of the five I read that explicitly ties in to the main Futures End series — and does so in a massive way, retconning one of the plot points of that series and suggesting that the retcon is going to be revealed in a future issue. Does that make this issue a spoiler? Maybe so, maybe no, as Chris Claremont would’ve put it, but it definitely makes this issue unsatisfying in its own rights, which feels like a shame. It’s so balanced between Green Arrow continuity (As someone who doesn’t read the title, all of the discussion about the Outsiders made little sense to me and carried no weight) and Futures End continuity (Who is the new Green Arrow? What happened to Oliver Queen? Where is OMAC Island?) that I feel as if it’ll only really have any impact if you’ve been faithfully reading both titles — or, perhaps, if you’re Jeff Lemire and have been writing both.
Green Lantern: Futures End #1: And this is just… I don’t know. Actually, that’s not true; there’s a lot I like about this issue, and the way in which it acts as epilogue to both Robert Venditti’s current GL run and also Geoff Johns’, with a return for the Black Lanterns, Relic and Hal’s father, surprisingly. But, again, I’m not entirely sure if this was set-up for future stories or a strange standalone that requires readers to fill in a bunch of blanks — there’s a sense of incompleteness here, and not merely in the ending of the issue that feels far more like a cliffhanger than a conclusion. As with the Detective issue, there’s a sense that some more time and another couple of passes might have provided some more clarity of intent and storytelling, even if this issue doesn’t feel quite as unnecessary as the Batman one — just one that very much plays into its existing audience.
Based on this batch of issues, the Futures End branding on the event month feels like a mistake — only one of the issues is really connected to the series of the same name, yet I think it scares off those who might’ve been interested in the flash-forward gimmick but doesn’t follow the main series. Thematically, there’s not a lot connecting these issues to the Futures End event, either, which feels like a missed opportunity for all involved — there are larger themes of the definition of heroism, technological paranoia and global xenophobia to be played with, but for the most part, little of that makes it into the books so far. It’s not quite a missed opportunity yet, but I’m not sure how this month is going to turn out just yet.
Seems like a big mess of a September for DC again, then? Not that a mess is all bad, just mostly.
DC’s main line of comics this time of year seems to be going for an all-or-nothing kind of strategy. You would have to just buy every comic coming out to understand anything at all. A road map would be nice for readers, but I don’t think anyone involved gets paid enough to sort out a reading order for this event within an event.
Anyway thanks Graeme, for managing to make a little sense and a recommendation out of Futures End.
“I’m also super-curious about Jimmy Olsen becoming Metron from Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle…”
So, I’ve only read the Grayson and Green Arrow issues so far.
The Grayson issue was, like you said, just fantastic. I loved the way clues were layered throughout the story, things that you were left wondering about, that you got answered a couple pages later. I feel like I could read this in chronological order and it would probably would work out great.
The Green Arrow just made me feel…sad. I felt like it was leaving a lot of clues for where Lemire’s GA run was going to go, and now I’m not going to get to go those places, and then there was the Futures End stuff that was…eh? I dunno, I feel like it was a big fat mystery in the main Futures End story, and it’s a bit of a cheat that the answers are in here (though the Deathstroke showdown was pretty fun).
Very nice piece, sir. As I said elsewhere, don’t miss the Sholly Fisch Action Comics. And I’m super-curious to hear your opinion on the Soule/Saiz Swampy entry.