I beg you, dear reader, to not skim over the author credits in this review. Azzarello. Lemire. Jurgens. Giffen. A master of noir, the macabre, cape and cowl, and team action. I want you to let those names and their respective bibliographies soak into your brainpan.
And now, I want you to forget it. All of it. Forget amazing runs on Batman, Animal Man, Justice League, Superman, and 100 Bullets. Why? Because Futures End doesn’t read like it even strolled adjacent to the parks where any of those celebrated authors lived. Instead, we get another chapter that advances banal plots that all lead towards the next editorial status quo to deal with in the next publishing quarter (or year, or what-have-you). If you don’t care to stick around to read the maple-syrup-thick snark I’m about to lay out on this waste of thought and talent, then take these words and call it a day: Futures End is a passionless money suck, and is yet-another-symptom in the ever-ailing world of big-comic event-driven fiction.
To sum up the issue itself is to merely check off the minor plot points that continue the threads of the litany of plots. In the Phantom Zone, Agent Frankenstein fights Black Adam. He wins, but loses a limb. I guess we should care about that, but the guy is literally sewn together bits already. Losing one bit doesn’t really lend itself to intense dramatic action, does it? Elsewhere, Deathstroke and Hit Girl (or whatever her name is – which doesn’t matter because she’s clearly being presented like Hit Girl) discuss adding Grifter to their team. Grifter is told this, and basically seems fine with it. Oh the melancholy! Then there’s Firestorm, who visits a memorial celebrating the loss of life he had a hand in creating. Joy! And we cap off the book with a skirmish in the park – Terry McGinness (Batman Beyond, don’t cha know) and Mr. Terrific fight while the Key and some ne’er-do-wells discuss being bad.
Time for a bit of a digression, kiddos. You see, not that long ago, there was this weekly book called 52. It was penned by a fantastic foursome of their day. To be fair, all four men are still incredible. Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Greg Rucka. Each man basically took a single story set inside the ever-shifting DCU, and over the course of 52 issues laid it out in tandem with the other three.
Over the course of that year-in-comics, there were certainly issues akin to Futures End where really there was more moving of chess pieces than there was definitive action and progress. But by and large, each issue was worth the read. Each issue contributed a very dissimilar set of heroes and villains that ultimately came together to showcase the richly detailed universe that houses half of the most recognizable licensed characters in all of creation… and then placed them dutifully on the shelf, and played with the want-nots, has-beens, and forgotten ones instead. It was the best of times.
Futures End #7 is the worst of times. As I alluded to above, the book just reads as passionless plot. I take that opinion to heart, as I myself am amidst the writing process on something of similar direction. In the era of writing for the trade, the middle chapters fall prey to only existing as means to the eventual end. Because they serve so many masters, they end up feeling hollow. Things happen. Stuff moves forward. But when you cram an issue with no fewer than five plot lines, and literally nothing gets resolved, or any twists are revealed… the trade becomes an end not worth waiting for. At least, not when the scripting and pacing do not take into account that every issue could stand to be a jumping on point. FE #7 not only craps on that concept, it revels in it.
Allow me to admit it straight up: I haven’t read a single panel of any previous issue of Futures End. Outside the pithy knowledge I have that this is some kind of epic that has to do with robotic evil duplicates from an alternate timeline or dimension, and at some point Luthor will run the Justice League… I know nothing. Picking up the seventh issue is of course complete reader-suicide. I don’t know why Frankenstein is in the Phantom Zone. I don’t know why Ronnie Raymond is to blame for whatever tragedy befell his kin. I don’t have the slightest clue what Terrifitech is, or why Batman Beyond is trying to blend in as a bum (who apparently drops fifty dollar bills because… the Internet?). But I digress. Simply put: I shouldn’t have to know any of those six-issue long backstories to enjoy a good comic.
If it’s the absolute I believe in now – having been a weekly reviewer for nearly three and a half years (and a fan and reader for two decades) – it’s that Erik Larsen was right. Every comic stands to be someone’s jumping on point. And it’s issues like this one that lend me to believe why comic books continue to ebb and flow but never seem to be more than a niche medium clinging to life in between the blockbuster movie adaptations. Stories like 52 actually attempted to prove that comic books still had sway – and that Alan Moore isn’t just a crazy loon in a castle. By making a book that used the continuity and novel-length girth of plots, DC proved that a comic book need not be a cartoon or mega-plex people pleaser. Futures End instead returns to the roots (and not that Jack Kirby / Steve Ditko / Stan Lee kind) of the industry; kitchy low-brow action stories that only target those who want a punch, kick, and an occasional tit. Sorry, we’re better than this.
When the credit-roll on your book reads like a who’s-who of modern top talent.. when your art team delivers admirable visuals to the script… when you have literally an entire universe of characters – including the top-shelf ones – at your disposal… when you have the carte blanche to create with compatriots that each in their own right could handle the book by themselves, you are not allowed to phone in an issue. Hell, you’re not allowed to phone in one panel. For fuck’s sake, you’re not even allowed to trip up over a single Rao-damned word balloon.
Future’s End is indicted on all counts. This was a lazy chapter in a lazy crossover that feels more by-the-numbers than seat-of-your-pants. It aspires to do nothing other than advance plot at a snails pace – sans style, sans grace. For shame, DC. For shame Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, and Keith Giffen.