The New 52: Futures End 1

futures end 1Today, Patrick leads a discussion on The New 52: Futures End 1, originally released May 7th, 2014.

Patrick: Guys, I want to start this off by apologizing for the typo in the header: it’s “Futures End” and not “Future’s End.” That’s my bad, not Shelby’s. I want to keep it there for posterity and because it speaks to the general confusion regarding this title. The full name is “The New 52: Futures End.” As a weird consequence of that name, it’s the only series that takes place in the New 52 that doesn’t bear this logo on its cover:

The New 52

If Batman Eternal is about Batman losing control of Gotham, then certainly Futures End is about the superheroes losing control of the universe. Unfortunately, that also feels an awful lot like the creators losing control of the New 52.

The issue is broken up into four discrete, some might even say disparate, stories. In the first, Terry McGinnis realizes he’s jumped back too late in time to stop the invention of Brother Eye. In the second, Stormwatch is targeted by an artificial intelligence that handily dispatches of them before setting its sights on Earth. In the third, Grifter hunts down and murders… something… in the disguise of a little girl. Is it an alien? A mutant? A robot? Finally, Ronnie and Jason bicker over their responsibilities as Firestorm before eventually answering a call for help from Green Arrow. By the time they arrive on the scene, Ollie is already dead.

That’s a body count: Stormwatch (plus Hawkman) and Green Arrow, all blown up or crushed by issue’s end. And that’s not to mention the cyborg Terry bought back from the future or the family Grifter gunned down. I had expected a grim opening chapter, but this thing is relentless. The only piece which seems committed to this level of darkness is the Grifter piece, which paints the character as a methodical and ruthless, almost akin to Rorschach. Like Rorschach, it also turns out that his paranoia is justified – that turn at the end of the story where we see the little girl do something terrifying reveals that this lunatic is our hero.

Grifter is nuts

In fact, Patrick Zircher is careful to keep Grifter off-panel for the entire first page of his story, so we’re only able to see the effects of his violence. He’s a movie monster, or a slasher villain. Setting him up as the one person actively doing something to quiet this as-of-yet-undefined threat goes a long way toward establishing the enormity of what our heroes are up against. It’s certainly more effective than hitting the self-destruct button on Stormwatch’s ship or murdering Green Arrow off-panel.

I’ve got my theories as to what unifies these four stories (Brother Eye), but the storytellers don’t seem particularly concerned with making the connection explicit. The very fact that we start the series with Batman Beyond suggests that the team specifically wants readers to be ill-aligned in the world before introducing complications. I mean, take a look at the rest of our heroes: Stormwatch, Grifter, Firestorm. They’re all obscure corners of the DC Universe, and both Stormwatch and Grifter are recent additions to the main DCU. Consider how Marvel’s Age of Ultron, a series similarly interested in killing-off heroes, began: with Hawkeye rescuing Spider-Man. I am significantly less familiar with ALL of the characters in Futures End #1 than I am with either Hawkeye or Spider-Man. The experience is disorienting and discomforting.

You could argue that this is the point. While Ultron traded in emotional clarity, this series is off to a muddy-as-fuck start. Part of that is due to the fact that so many different plates start spinning in this one issue, all with a mathematically precise number of pages allotted for each plate. My fear, after the first issue, is that the form is going to dictate this story for its entire run, giving us 51 more thematically inconsistent issues. But there are some good ideas in here — in addition to Grifter’s inspired characterization, Terry is a delight and I can’t wait to see him interacting with present-day superheroes. What do you guys think?

Drew: Whew. I read this issue specifically to write a response here, and completely forgot that I had read it when I actually sat down to write, about five hours later. That doesn’t bode well for this series, which seems utterly determined to stymie any emotional investment in these characters. Patrick already pointed out the strictly C-list heroes featured — none really a draw on their own — but what really amazes me is how little we’re given to care about. Part of that is how overstuffed this issue is (which I’ll get to in a moment), but another piece is how these stories are deployed.

That Stormwatch scene is 6 pages — as long as any other scene in the issue — but ends with the apparent death of every character in it. That kind of real-estate might be justifiable on a hero anybody cares about, but honestly, I had forgotten most of these guys were alive in the first place. A series depicting the demise of the DC Universe could have just as easily never mentioned Stormwatch (as many already haven’t), which would have freed up some valuable space to make us care about Grifter. Because let’s be honest: who gives a shit about Grifter? Clearly not this issue, which gives us the helpful introduction to the character by establishing that he…does whatever the hell it is that Grifter does. That “what” or “why that is” is never made clear feels less like a failure and more like an acknowledgement that nobody could possibly care enough about what a Grifter is to even bother trying to explain it.

That leaves two scenes — half of the whole issue — as dead weight, making me wonder why this issue didn’t bother to tighten its focus at all. Either of the other scenes could have benefitted from more space, which would have made the issue as a whole stronger. Patrick already cited the strength of Terry’s scene, but I actually enjoyed the Firestorm stuff, too. I’m sure the antagonistic relationship between Jason and Ronnie gets old after a while (shouldn’t they be better at this by now?), but it’s charming enough here, and builds up to a decent lesson/reveal.

Of course, that the reveal is the most exciting part of the issue sets an unfortunate precedent for this series. I can very easily see this becoming the series where I care more about the corpses than the protagonists. Like, I think I’ll always find myself wondering “why not Grifter?” You know, unless they figure out a way to kill off Stormwatch again. Nobody cares about Stormwatch, either.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?


38 comments on “The New 52: Futures End 1

  1. Wait, seriously, it’s “Futures End,” like a statement? As in, “Yes, futures do, in fact, end”? That’s really dumb. Like, it’s just straight-up less linguistically interesting — instead of two nouns, one possessing the other (“it’s not just the end, but the future’s end”/”it’s not just the future, but the end of the future”) we get a noun and a verb, sitting DOA in a boneheaded declarative statement. DUMB.

    • Let’s ruin real titles by turning them into lame declarative statements. I’ll start:

      Enders Game
      Sophies Choose
      Rosemarys Baby (Their Children)
      Carlitos Weigh
      Jedis Return
      Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
      Monsters Ball
      Winters Bone

        • That actually makes me think of the name of the first game in the Dark Souls series, which is “Demon’s Souls” – which is so confusing to unpack, and literally means the same thing as “Demon Souls.”

        • This reminds me of the old jazz standard “Come Sunday.” We played an arrangement of it in high school jazz band, and I kept referring to it as “Come Sundae” just to gross out my friends.

        • I think “Alices Adventure in Wonderland” illustrates exactly why this construction is so boring: it takes a singular, interesting event and makes it sound like an everyday occurrence. “Of course Alices Adventure in Wonderland. What else is new?”

    • One of the reasons I like reading you guys is how freaking different we read things. I completely can’t stand some of the stuff you guys love and I really, really like some stuff that you guys hate.

      This is one of those cases. Even the naming of it, I sort of like. I imagined originally it WAS the possessive. The end of the future. I thought, “Okay.” But this implication that various characters futures are ending to me sounds cool.

      Anyway – I loved this comic. I liked how dark it was. As someone who read New 52 Stormwatch and liked it, I liked this portrayal of them. Even as they died. Maybe. And as someone who really, really wanted to like Grifter, I loved this story. It was the best New 52 Grifter story by a mile and a half.

      I don’t understand half of what’s going on, I don’t know anything about Batman Beyond or Firehead, I was surprised at the blow up of Stormwatch, but I’m guessing there’s going to be more time travel and even though this seems like a story I’ve read before, I’m excited as crap for next week’s issue.

      Definitely not Futures End’s end for me.

      • I’ll echo that I think Grifter’s story was the strongest. The way the story is told (almost like Grifter is the villain of the piece) indicates to me that the writer understands the darkness of the piece and is excited to use it. I’ll totally hold myself to task for not caring about Stormwatch and Fire Storm because I’ve never really bought into them in the past, but I also feel the same way about Grifter, and this gave me a version of the character that I can hang my hat on.

        Actually, those poor Stormwatchers never stood a chance in my heart, did they? No one can make 7 characters interesting in 6 pages (especially when one of them is Hawkman).

      • I think there are certainly going to be a lot of fans like you who do enjoy the book based on the intensity and violence it brings but the problem is there is not much in this book for readers who are not as into that.

        Glad though that there is a dissenting opinion on the issue. It is great to hear some thoughts on issues from a different angle and headspace.

    • Also, worth pointing out that the actual title is “The New 52: Futures End.” Maybe that’s a glimmer of hope for people that want to see the New 52 burn up at some point in the future?

      • Or maybe they’re self-conscious about what universe this is taking place in because nobody cares about any of the protagonists in the New 52. “Doesn’t Batman Beyond exist in the DCAU?” “Aren’t Stormwatch and Grifter Wildstorm properties?” This preemptively answers any of those questions (even if they’ve already been settled elsewhere).

  2. I am with Patrick and Drew. This was like a study in how not to write the opening of a story. I really like Batman Beyond I have seen the whole series and read every comic in that universe. I think that the DC Batman Beyond Universe is one of the best titles they have right now.

    That said I liked no part of this book. I read the Starlin end of Stormwatch and still could not care about this section of the issue. I agree with Drew that spending so much of the page count on story telling that goes nowhere or that could have gotten it’s point across in a page or two seems like an odd choice.

    Grifter sucks. He sucked in the 90s. He sucked in the new 52 reboot and he sucks here brought back once again. I don’t understand why DC feels the need to keep pulling this guy back. He is like good story telling poison. His section was just dumb as well.

    The firestorm story was fine they seemed to show us that he is sort of a tool. So if you like your super heroes to be very super in power but not terribly heroic I guess he is the guys for you. This section was fine I guess. Better then the storm watch and Grifter parts.

    The Batman Beyond parts where way too short and barely moved things along. Also the tone being changed to fit the new 52 from the show is a bit jarring and makes his sequences less enjoyable for me. Beyond was always good about being able to get heavy without being gratuitous or pandering. Looks like the latter two are about to get folded in hard.

    This issue managed to show a lot of beings killed and failed to make me understand what the story is really going to be about, who all the players are, where they fit in, and why I should get behind them. I read this issue before the Free Comic Book Day issue zero which made it way more confusing. After going back and reading that it sets up the threat a lot more (with ridiculous amounts of gratuity and over the top violence.) I feel like you need to have read the zero to get a bearing on this story. Also the pacing of this issue was nonexistent. There was no sense of build and release or any real tension with panel payouts. It just felt like all violence turned to 11 and full steam ahead. This issue one does not work well as a first issue to an event.

    Contrast this with the Original Sin which while not amazing did a pretty flawless job of setting up the series. A sort of text book example of how to start and frame your event. Also the violent scene in Original scene had a huge impact because it was contrasted with a lighter very sweet intro that set up the beginning of the book.

    • I guess I could maybe deal with how dark the material is, but Paul strikes a totally excellent point about the parts he’s interested in being too short and not providing enough information about what this story is going to be. With the issue divided up the way it is, I’m not sure why we didn’t just get four new monthly series under the “Futures End” banner. Five pages is not enough for us even to get invested in the stories that we do care about, but, if after 4 weeks we realize that there IS enough Batman Beyond to hang our collective emotions on, then what do we do? Continue to pick up the series to read the five pages a week we do like?

      • I straight-up don’t understand why they split it up like this. If this issue successfully deployed one of these stories, establishing what the series might be like, what the problems might be, or at least hooking us into the story beyond “hey, somebody I recognize is dead,” would anyone have wondered where Grifter was? NOPE. Getting us to care 25% about four different stories (which would be generous, but let’s go with it) is very different from getting us to care 100% about one story. The latter makes me want to come back, the former makes me want my money back.

    • My guess on Stormwatch: They’re not dead. This was an intro to them but they got themselves into Null Space or something. I didn’t mind seeing them, I thought they showed Midnighter’s fondness for Apollo and vice versa well, I thought it showed how cocky they were and how they were so easily ripped apart by something that was greater than them. I am betting we’ll see them back somehow, someway.

      I’m not sure I get behind your argument on Grifter. The Grifter part sucks because Grifter sucks? Maybe, I guess. Perhaps my only reading the New 52 Grifter helped me enjoy it more, because I liked parts of modern Grifter.

      Firehead: Yep, he seems to be half-dick. I’ve never read anything with him in it.

      I also don’t think a fair criticism of a comic is, “I read issue one BEFORE issue zero and that made it more confusing. Well, ok. Reading the second chapter before the first chapter will be confusing, I guess. The zero issue did set this up and reading issue one without it could be a problem I suppose.

      And yes, it’s dark. The world seems to be ending. It’s DC’s Age of Ultron (which mostly sucked). I think this is a much more promising start.

      I’m also guessing many of the pacing issues are due to it being weekly. I feel the same way in Batman Eternal where I’m seeing disparate stories that I can’t quite piece together, but I’m enjoying it because while it’s serialized, it’s rapidly serialized and coming at me so fast.

      I can see how one wouldn’t like this. It’s dark, it’s confusing, characters we barely know are dying and there doesn’t seem to be a good sense of pace or timing (although I think that’s fair considering it’s a lost in time story). I liked it and can’t wait for the next one. If you don’t get it, I’ll tell you how it is!

      • I do think it’s fair to suggest that issue one shouldn’t be the second chapter of a story. You want to do a zero issue? Great! Give us a prologue or something. Treating #1 like it’s actually #2 is asking for confusion, and “sorry, you should have started with the #0, which is really the #1” is a crummy explanation.

        As for the pacing, I’m not convinced that “it comes out more often” excuses lumpiness. Couldn’t it come out often AND be well-paced? Like, what do we learn in this issue? Stormwatch blew up, and Green Arrow died. So what are Grifter and Terry doing here? Terry is still exactly where we left him after #0, and Grifter is shown just doing his Grifter thing. Both could have been omitted without losing anything. Or, both should have been omitted to make this issue stronger.

        Denny O’Neil said that you should arrive at a scene as late as possible, and leave as early as possible — show us the good stuff, then get the heck out of there — which I think can fairly be applied to story lines as well. Give us Grifter when something important is happening to him, but no sooner. Same with Terry. As of right now, the reason we’re following these characters in particular isn’t clear, so the “let’s catch up with Grifter” scene is totally superfluous. Even the multi-threadiest of multi-threaded series can put any number of threads on the back-burner if others need the spotlight, and I’m just not sure why these two were given screen time here.

        • Sorry, I realize that may have come across as an attack. I certainly don’t begrudge you liking this issue, Kaif, I just personally wish it was better.

        • No worries, I don’t take anything you guys say as an attack. This is a friendly open forum and I always feel free to disagree and offer counterpoints and am always willing to read yours.

          You know, I’m not up to a huge discussion on it right now (I need to get out of school and into a beer), but you offer an interesting perspective on the numbering. Would you have felt different about this if this were issue 2 and issue 1 were whatever was included in the zero issue from FCBD? Should issue 1, due to its numbering alone, been more welcoming? Hell, issue 0 wasn’t welcoming, either, I guess.

          Also, I didn’t like the pacing of Batwoman 7-12 when they split it up into 6 different stories each comic, with each story only getting about 3 or 4 pages each month. This I guess is a bit of the same, except it’s really hard to get any sense of timing from these since they’re completely isolated. Maybe my inherent fondness of these characters and really liking Apollo and Midnighter made me enjoy it a bit more (and made me hope they survived).

          In the end, I found it a cool (if dark) intro to time traveling Batman Beyond and his Canceled Comic Comrades. Others found it needlessly dark and rushed with no emotion. I’m still looking forward to next week when Mr. Terrific steps into play!

          (and really, you will never offend me with a disagreement. Attack at will. My comic guy makes fun of me for liking some of the crap I buy.)

        • Yeah, I can see fondness for a character going a long way to excusing an otherwise useless appearance (I wouldn’t mind just seeing Batman doing Batman stuff). Still, I think this issue would have only benefitted from losing one or two of these scenes. We certainly wouldn’t lose anything — especially since it’s not like they come together in any kind of coherent way in this issue.

      • I personally would love to see OMAC, Amethyst, Terry Batman, and Mister Terrific all working together as a team to take out this threat. I thought both OMAC and Amethyst were great books and would like to see DC keep pushing this characters. They also seem pretty bent though on utilizing characters that just don’t really have interesting underpinnings and would probably be better off being ignored.

        Using this event storyline to prop up a lot of the characters that got cancelled seems like a good idea to me. I do think they need to do a stronger job of showing us the readers why we missed out the first time and should be digging these people. That they are fumbling on.

        I fully agree with Kaif that Stormwatch is supposed to be super heavy hitters and there is no way they were just taken out. This seems like it would be a pretty big disservice to those characters and their fans.

        Also I agree that Age of Ultron was age of poop-tron. Marvel was not really able to craft a good story around this premise either or rather Bendis wasn’t. Here is hoping that DC can pull this off much better.

  3. I was totally planning to write a few paragraphs for this review, but Patrick and Drew pretty much covered everything I wanted to say about this issue already.

    The only section that was really enjoyable to read was Batman Beyond and A.L.F.R.E.D. They have a great banter and I didn’t even mind that nothing happened.

    I think Stormwatch is obviously still alive, but that scene served so little purpose. All I got out of it was that Appolo and Midnighter are a couple, which I already knew, and that the team is powerful, but that’s it. No reason why we should like these characters or care about them or be upset to see them die. This scene is the ultimate Worf Effect: Have a character take out the strongest member of the team in order to establish how badass they are. This scene screams STORMWATCH IS THE STRONGEST BUT THIS NEW THREAT TOOK THEM OUT LOOK HOW DANGEROUS IT IS! It was about the worst way to go about establishing that.

    I still think Grifter’s kinda dumb, and I know nothing about who he is or his personality or anything, but I do think the idea of a grifter being the only one who can see through the aliens’ disguise — an intergalactic grift — is clever.

    I love the Jason and Ronnie combination as Firestorm in concept, but nobody seems to be able to make it work. They were obnoxious. This is five years in the future but they still act like teenagers, and not particularly fun ones at that.

  4. One thing I find interesting about this title is how — beyond Terry — it seems to be starring the characters from the first and second wave New 52 books that were cancelled and/or considered failures: Firestorm, Grifter, Stormwatch, Hawkman, Mr. Terrific, Amethyst, Blue Beetle, etc. etc.

    I admire DC putting these guys into the spotlight (well, some of them anyway), but DC also seems to be assuming a familiarity with these characters that most of the audience probably doesn’t have — who even read Stormwatch or Grifter? That Stormwatch scene doesn’t do much if you know nothing about the team.

    • DC definitely is using this to drum up some excitement for some of the New 52 that fell flat. I hope they do get some interest and restart some of these titles. I found a lot of them more interesting than the 17th Batbook, the 10th Superman, and 107th Justice League title.

  5. Correction the series is running 47 issues as all the weeklies end in March.

    and basically half of this was crap (grifter, Firestorm) and the other half was pretty decent (beyond, stormwatch). As I’ve heard, each writer gets about 5-6 pages of script per issue, with azzarello handling the beyond stuff, lemire on anything tangentially frankenstein and SHADE related, Giffen on Grifter, and Jurgens on Firestorm.

    • I was not paying attention to that news when it came out, but wowee, is that loaded. The weeklies are all scheduled to end the same time DC’s offices move cross country. New 52’s days might be numbered…

      • Nah, ten bucks says it’s all just building to a Crisis-like team-up with Earth-2 to mark that month’s 30th anniversary of COIE and Futures End and Worlds End are basically playing the same role as Countdown did. Debooting their reboot would be a financially disastrous decision coming out of nowhere since the reboot itself has been very profitable overall.

  6. I can’t understand the general apathy towards Stormwatch. Granted that only their first six Paul Cornell issues were very interesting in the New 52 so far… but I can’t imagine the prospect of Azzarello and Lemire returning them to importance for DC wouldn’t be exciting for any fans of the Warren Ellis or Mark Millar runs. Plus the most exciting member of the Earth-2 cast, the Lois Lane version of Red Tornado, is solicited. I’m so excited at the choice of characters. This book is a fair answer to my complaint that a Batman weekly is a massive waste of initiative considering his obvious over saturation. To me this book shows promise of being the New 52’s most rewarding experience for hardcore followers.

  7. Oh yeah, and you just know the eventual Grifter/Constantine interactions in this book will be interesting 🙂

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