Patrick: In the first and second season finales of LOST, our heroes encounter a gigantic green bird that screeches “HURLEY” as it soars over them. Fans, because they are so damn clever, starting calling this thing the Hurley Bird. The thing was introduced as one of those “maybe we’ll pay this off later” sort of things, but they never really had any idea what they were doing with it. In retrospect, the creature’s second appearance served as an admission of this fact, and a cheeky way to dismiss the entire concept. What happens is that Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley and Michael are making their way across the island, when the Hurley Bird divebombs them (naturally howling “HURLEY” at the top of its bird lungs). Michael tries to shoot it, but Jack never loaded his weapon — that was the point of the scene: now Michael knows the others don’t trust him. But the notable part of the scene is that Hurley asks the audience surrogate question: “Did that bird just say my name?” Sawyer, acting as the voice of the creative team, sarcastically responds “Yeah, right before it crapped gold.” That translates to “who fucking cares?” And you know what? Fair play to LOST — I wouldn’t have wanted to halfheartedly explore some bullshit bird. Futures End 5 has that same dismissive attitude toward all of its real story points, making me believe that the writers care just as much about this bullshit as I do. It’s not a comforting feeling.
On that note, let’s start with Firestorm. Ronnie has kept Jason locked away in Firestorm Matrix for so long, the poor kid is starting to lose his connection to reality. That reality is supposedly pretty exciting: as we’re meeting up with Ronnie, he says “So that’s what a party at the Playboy Mansion is like. Talk about a wild night!” First of all, that’s the strangest thing about this future — the Playboy Mansion has relocated from Los Angeles to New York City. Second, that’s the worst kind of storytelling imaginable, literally telling and not showing at all. Think of how fucking funny it’d be to see Firestorm at a Playboy Mansion party. The dude’s basically on fire — can you imagine him trying to interact with Playboy Bunnies? Or swimming in the grotto? Why don’t we get to see that!? Instead we get that painfully unnatural piece of dialogue and an image of Ronnie zipping through the New York skyline.
When Ronnie decides that his buddy has had enough he releases them both from the Matrix. How he makes the determination that Jason isn’t going to turn on him is beyond me, because they’ve lost the ability to even communicate with each other. Anyway, Jason only takes a second to recover from three weeks of sensory deprivation and immediately launches back into the blame game. “You betrayed me!” “You were going to betray me!” “You betrayed [Ollie]!” It’s exhausting, and they’ve both such huge assholes that I just don’t care what either of them has to say. Jason makes his way back to school and laments the number of texts and voicemails he missed. Then Dr. Yamazake appears and my favorite / least favorite thing in the issue happens.
“I guess that explains it.” Holy shit, it’s like the story tellers don’t even care about the stories they’re telling. Is it a big deal that Ronnie held Jason captive for three weeks or isn’t it? After making the character articulate everything that was so horrible about the situation he was just in, it’s outrageous Yamazake would just be like “okay, that non-explanation is fine with me!”
It doesn’t help that the supporting material is particularly weak this week. Mr. Terrific’s tradeshow / press conference thing announcing the uSphere (that’s how I’ve decided it’s capitalized) doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of an actual product announcement. Especially after seeing Silicon Valley nail the same sort of thing in its last two episodes, it’s just disappointing that this story couldn’t crib any of the style from an Apple product announcement. And then there’s Grifter, who is bedridden in a neck brace, and then gagged for part of the issue! Then the other stories zip by without giving me much of an opportunity to make the connections I need to make any of this meaningful. Fury (I don’t read Earth-2, but she’s… some kind of Earth-2 character) escapes from… some kind of facility guarded by OMACs. But then she’s rescued by… and that’s it! I’ve surpassed my sarcastic ellipses quota, so I’ll have to stop describing things that happen in this issue.
I have yet to enjoy this series, but this was the first issue that made me suspect that everyone hates it. Where my Batman Beyond at? How many characters is Faraday going to collect before I get to know what he’s doing? And how does John Constantine figure into any of this? The answer just might be “Yeah, right before it crapped gold.”
Spencer: I’m having a hard time even remembering what this series is supposed to be about besides a bunch of angsty characters yelling at each other (I miss Batman Beyond too, Patrick, as he seems to be the only exception thus far — he and A.L.F.R.E.D. deserve a much better series). There’s just no emotion in any of these stories; characters do things and then more things happen and we’re never given any actual reason to care about any of these events or characters besides prior investment. Here’s a hint: prior investment only goes so far, and when a series features so many D-List characters who have all been salvaged from cancelled books, there’s even less prior investment to bank on. Moreover, as soon as this issue gets close to actually showing some legitimate emotion — specifically, with Jason while isolated within the Firestorm Matrix — it swerves into another plot entirely, playing off that entire scene like the writing team is scared of expressing a genuine emotion or something.
I have a hard time believing this book is even about superheroes. One of the series’ most heroic characters thus far (Grifter) essentially admits to being a serial killer, and Mr. Terrific, who seems to have good motives, is so slick and superficial that I’m always afraid he’s going to slip right out of the panel every time he appears. There’s no heart or soul to this book; it’s 20 pages a week of editorially dictated cynicism, and that’s far beyond my tolerance.
Drew: It’s funny — I honestly can’t tell if the reason this series is so comfortable utterly ignoring its own threads is because the writers think we care enough to hold on for several weeks, or because they think nobody cares at all, but this series is the absolute worst at building any sort of momentum. On a micro-level, we never spend more than a single scene with a character in a given issue, but on the macro level, we rarely spend two issues in a row with any given character…unless that character is Grifter. Actually, I’m starting to wonder if Grifter’s prominence in this series is actually meant as an acknowledgement of what a waste of money it is. You think you might be paying $2.99 for actual entertainment, but what you’re really getting is GRIFTED!
For all my ragging on Grifter, my biggest problem with this issue is Mr. Terrific, who is continues to be written less like the world’s smartest man, and more like the world’s biggest asshole. Smugness would be acceptable if he actually came off as even remotely intelligent, but this series has yet to paint him as anything other than a spokesman.
Frankly, the most interesting part of this issue is the fact that Jason grew a beard while in the Firestrom matrix. Is it like a physical space that his body actually occupies? Does his body age while he’s in there? Are his clothes three-weeks dirty? More inexplicably, Ronnie doesn’t have a beard. I’ll take the time here to admit that it’s entirely possible that Jason has had that beard since the start of this series, and also that I don’t care enough to check. Still: what’s the deal with the Firestorm matrix?
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?