“New 52: Futures End” #13 serves as the three month marker for the series, but it’s a dubious distinction that marks the failings of this title more so than its accomplishments. Series writers Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, and Keith Giffen are running the comic equivalent of a relay race while juggling multiple flaming batons; the mere fact that they’ve been able to coordinate over half a dozen disparate story arcs at all for this long, and at this pace, is deserving of some praise. The five arcs addressed in this issue, though, don’t really provide much in the way of progress, and after thirteen issues they remain largely unconnected, for the most part. Artist Patrick Zircher provides a clean and attractive look throughout, but that’s pretty much the only element that these storylines have in common.
While the target audience is clearly those who have been around every week for the past three months, the biggest failure of this issue is each storyline’s sheer impenetrability. The writers make absolutely no attempt to explain what’s come before, and don’t even try to welcome more casual readers. With several different storylines being lobbed at readers at a dizzying weekly frequency, even the most faithful readers are challenged to remember every single story element without the benefit of any recaps or reminders. Perhaps a little extra effort on the part of readers isn’t much to ask for, but then neither are some convenient storytelling basics to help meet them halfway.
Identifying the characters, most of whom aren’t even in costume, would be a great start. That’s Cole Cash, aka Grifter, imprisoned on Cadmus Island. The annoying, snarky and super-strong little girl keeping him there has the cutesy name of Fifty Sue. And the dark-haired bearded guy working as a bartender may or may not be Tim Drake; Lois Lane thinks he is, but there’s only a puzzlingly veiled allusion to that allegation in this particular issue to give his appearance here any relevance. Nowhere are any of these names mentioned, and the lack of such simple clarifications is a glaring editorial lapse that gives the issue a kind of standoffish, unwelcome feel.
Coupled with such a decentralized group of stories with no real focus up to this point, the writers provide readers little reason to care about the events of this issue, or to anticipate future ones. After an intriguing enough start, the series no longer presents the DC Universe five years from now as all that scary or interesting a place; here, it’s more of a stagnant one that this issue makes no case for readers to want to experience.
Michael Holt, who is referred to by name several times, ironically is visually identifiable. But the conversations he has with his so-called uSphere, the next generation of his floating T-Sphere that spouts lines like “Is there something troubling you, Michael?” sound like a chat between David Hasselhoff and K.I.T.T. on an episode of “Knight Rider.” Annoyances like these don’t exactly help “New 52: Futures End” #13, either. This issue just spins its wheels while being too disconnected and inaccessible and is anything but a selling point for the series.