Two weeks and three issues in, what is Futures End about? We know that Brother Eye needs to be stopped before taking over the world, but, given that Batman (Beyond) only appears on one page this week, it doesn’t seem like that’s what this series is actually about. It may be about alien invaders. It may be about Mr. Terrific doing his best Rock impression. It may be about living in the shadow of a devastating war. It may be about Superman wearing a cooler Nu52 outfit than John Romita, Jr. is stuck drawing come June. Or, it may be about the preservation of the status quo. Just like every other superhero comic.
There are two things that superhero comics rail against: death and sex. This issue is explicitly about the hatred of the former, implicitly about the hatred of the latter. While superficially claiming to be about life, what these comics are really about is stasis, about preserving everything as it is. The obvious way of doing that is trying to prevent as much death as possible and, making it worth increasingly less and less each time it happens. Death is an end and superhero comics hate endings. But, sex is a beginning (potentially and symbolically) and that’s almost as bad. Sex represents another type of change, another type of breach to the status quo that can be just as damaging as death.
Sex is the first step to the death of the superhero, actually. Sex is one of the first rites of passage into adulthood when superheroes exist in a world of adolescence, maybe even childhood. No character exemplifies this better than Spider-Man, a character that has come to represent the never-ending teenagedom of superhero comics. It’s one thing when his sexual urges are buried beneath the surface, bursting to get out, and having to find an outlet in punching elderly men in the face; it’s quite another when he’s fucking his supermodel/soap actress wife and she’s soon to be expecting their first child. How do you reconcile the life of a superhero with the responsibilities of a family? “With great power comes great responsibility” indeed.
Sex is birth – and, in superhero stories, birth and death are the exact same thing. Superman is born from the death of Krypton and his adopted father (and mother sometimes); Batman is born from the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents; Spider-Man is born from the death of Uncle Ben. Death destroys the existing status quo and, depending on your view, in those cases, births a better one. But, given that superheroes are driven to keep things as they are, that means that they must prevent both death and birth.
Thus, at the funeral of Oliver Queen, led by Arsenal, the heroes turn on Firestorm for failing to prevent the death of Queen. However, Raymond also faces an inner assault from Jason, his partner in superheroing, who continues to rail against him, because the reason why he shut off his phone and never received the call for help was because he was having sex. In one moment of passion, Raymond semi-purposefully embraces both sex and death. The only way it could be worse was if he fucked someone to death. Literally.
The glimmer of hope that keeps me hanging on is not that Firestorm is the Booster Gold of this weekly book, but that the potential of this sure-to-be-noncanonical future is that he will be able to transcend, to show that this obsession with the preservation of the status quo is a fool’s task. Given that Batman is here from the future to literally destroy his status quo, that seems likely. What we see of Mr. Terrific put him in this category as well. He doesn’t play the game like other heroes, he turned down the Justice League, and seems to be focused on changing the world rather than preserving it. That he and Batman are in direct conflict means that someone’s future is going to end. Throw in the one-man-alien-murder-machine that is Grifter and these are your heroes now.
Kill the future, stay drunk, and keep fucking.
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