I rather liked last week’s issue. This week, I was less enamoured with Futures End. Despite the upgrade in art with the return of Patrick Zircher, this week’s issue felt like a transitional one more than anything. A bit of moving the pieces around the board into better positions. While not superficially as entertaining as other types of stories, the way that the various plots are intersecting and piling atop one another is thrilling in its own way. It’s also how I’ve begun to learn to read this type of weekly comic after a month and a half. Maybe.
Futures End, like 52 before it, is a sprawling series that’s more about the Nu52DCU than any one character, written and drawn by a large team of writers and artists. The main character here is the Nu52DCU, much like the DCU was the main character in 52. After all, there’s a reason why the actual title of this comic is The New 52: Futures End. It is the new 52 and it has to be viewed through a similar lens. It doesn’t have the same constraint that 52 imposed upon itself, limiting each week to telling the events of a week in the missing year of the DCU. We’re not six weeks into five years in the future; or, at least, not explicitly so. But, the ebb and flow of characters and events is similar.
It’s not quite based around taking four monthly comics and splicing them across four weekly issues where they all mash up against one another, but it’s not far off. You could, theoretically, take out the Mr. Terrific/Terry McGinnis scenes and create your own little monthly comic. Or a Firestorm one. Or a Red Robin one. Or a King Faraday black cloak series. Except, these comics would share scenes and constantly be in subtle crossovers. Take Firestorm: last issue, Ronnie and Jason split up and we saw Jason return to his life. This issue, we get two pages of Ronnie acting the drunken fool and getting his ass handed to him by a bartender (with ease). Say those two pages took place in a Firestorm comic, you wouldn’t even necessarily know that the bartender is the former Red Robin under a new name. Or, if this were a Tim Drake comic, you wouldn’t necessarily get that the rude college quarterback is one half of Firestorm. That intersection and the way that you could take parts of scenes and separate them out is fascinating.
One of the things that the Big Two count on and try to cultivate in readers is that sense of interconnectivity and how the events in Book A affect Book B. So, if you’re reading Book B, you’ll want (need) to read Book A. The (semi-) annual event from each company is this idea taken to the extreme, creating a new centre point of intersection and drawing as many books into that sphere of influence. Futures End (and 52 before it), is a similar concept, except done in a relatively ‘fair’ way. If you want that sense of interconnectivity and shared universe, you just need to buy this comic every week. You have no control over what characters will interact or if you’ll even care, but it’s there. Here, in one scene, we have Red Robin, Firestorm, Lois Lane, King Faraday, and Superman; in another, there’s Terry McGinnis, Mr. Terrific, and the trio of criminals. Or, SHADE using the Phantom Zone as a shortcut and finding itself contending with ghostly Parademons, Kryptonians, and Black Adam.
I called this issue a transitional issue, but that’s only because nothing much happens beyond different plots overlapping and beginning to intersect more strongly. The first month (aka the first issue) introduced all of the players and, now, we’re starting to see them collide and, there, will be where this series gets going.
I keep wanting to force this series into that monthly block – a monthly comic of 80 pages – and I’m not convinced that that’s the wrong approach. If this were the sixth issue of a monthly book, who would still be reading? But, halfway through issue two, this ain’t too bad. I’m not ‘there’ yet as far as figuring out what my expectations and approach to Futures End should be. I’m getting there. Maybe.