Last time I checked in with the not-too-distant future world of Futures End, it was kind of a depressing morass of death and grimdark bleakness. Is there a silver lining in the middle of the big death-and-dismemberment cloud? Your Major Spoilers review of The New 52: Futures End #5 awaits!
THE NEW 52: FUTURES END #5
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Jeff Lemire/Dan Jurgens/Keith Giffen
Penciller: Jesus Merino
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously in The New 52 – Futures End: The DC Universe of 30-years-from-now is (was? Will have been?) a charnel house, with the remaining superhumans converted into brutal OMAC monsters that hunt down the rest of the population. In a desparate bid to save the future, Batman created a time-portal, only to die before he could use it. His protegé, Terry McGinnis (aka Batman Beyond) was able to take the leap backwards, but due to calibration issues, landed somewhat short of his goal: Five years into the future of the DC Universe. The heroes of this world are familiar (ish) but their status quo definitely is not, and the road to the hellish future is already paved with some sort of intentions…
IN THE FUTURE WORLD THAT’S COMING
The first four issues of this book have been a mixed bag for me. #1 was intriguing, but two was a pretty brutal mess. Things are looking up for the Future, though, as Frankenstein has returned from exile to team up with his old partner Amethyst and Ray Palmer to find out what happened to Stormwatch, while Ronnie Raymond has trapped his partner Jason Rusch in the Firestorm matrix to keep him from blaming Ronnie/Firestorm for the brutal death of Green Arrow. Lois Lane has been digging into the mysterious past of barman Cal Corcoran, while The Grifter has been taken by an alien masquerading as super-spy King Faraday. It’s like superhero Mad LIbs, in a way, and while there’s a lot of good stuff going on in Futures End, enough of it is still nebulous enough to be infuriating. As this issue opens, Mister Terrific makes an announcement of the newest technology toy, the uSphere, the item that he’s been protecting since the issue began. There’s a pretty strong implication that this is the thing that makes the future cyborg apocalypse possible, by the way. As for Firestorm, Jason Rusch finally gets freed after weeks trapped in the Matrix, and while he doesn’t make good on his threat to kill Ronnie, they angrily declare that they’ll never become the Nuclear Man again. As for Grifter, his injuries last issue have left him paralyzed and in the clutches of Martian King Faraday, who is preparing to ship him off to his island sanctuary, where strange events are afoot. John Constantine turns up in this issue, vomiting in a field in Kansas, where mysterious crop circles herald a threat from the cosmos with a very familiar three-linked-circles logo. You don’t have to be a (ahem) brainiac to figure out what that means…
ANOTHER WEEKLY AT $2.99 FOR 52 WEEKS
There is a LOT going on in this series, and five issues in, it’s frankly too much. Our active protagonists at this point are Firestorm, Frankenstein, Grifter, Lois Lane and Mr. Terrific, with Batman Beyond, Red Robin, Constantine and half a dozen others in play. It’s a very complex story at this point, and each issue to date has introduced at least one more thing that adds to the morass. This book is clearly designed to replicate the form and function of 52 a few years ago, and while it does have the structure down, it lacks the focus (and the strong characters at the center) that book had. Rotating art teams is a necessity that I understand on a weekly book, but the patchwork nature of the resulting visuals is not doing Futures End’s scattered narrative any favors. There are some real gems in here, but much of the story feels recycled and overly familiar. The “OMACS ATTACK!” plotline is super-tired at this point, having appeared as a cornerstone of both Infinite and Final Crisis in the last ten years, while the “jump into the future” plotline has already been done with One Year Later, after 52, which (as we already discussed) is another influence on the series. All in all, it seems that DC’s editorial POV is now locked in a cycle of “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!” and the creators are being forced to bend over backwards to make certain of that fact, doing everything in their power to create new shocking moments for characters who haven’t had the development to make the revelations particularly meaningful for the reader.
THE BOTTOM LINE: THINGS ARE LOOKING UP, BUT…
This issue is marginally more entertaining than the first or second issue, but I’m already wearying of the “Movie Trailer” approach to the ongoing story, and the cynical part of my brain keeps intoning that none of this will matter by the end anyway, as this universe will have to be reset even *IF* the plan is to jump the DC Universe forward in time. (The death of Green Arrow, one of their most visible properties, with a current hit TV show should prove that.) Moreover, following another 47 issues of the book with mean an investment of $150 dollars into that almost-certainly-going-to-be-retconned status quo, a prospect that I’m a little leery of. The story is developing in interesting ways (although a lot of stuff is in play, and hopefully the fun stuff won’t ALL go away), which means that The New 52: Futures End #5 is getting better, but it’s still not quite good enough to be must-read material, and the crazy-quilt creative process is not creating the synthesis that marked 52, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall. I’m not entirely out yet, but there’s a long way to go for this story to turn into the next big thing…