I’ve had a lot of less-than-positive things to say about Futures End and DC’s theme month supposedly tied to it lately. The month was a flop, from my perspective, rarely enhancing the weekly series, often contradicting it, and, most likely, offering little for most regular readers of titles aside from a disruption (hell, I buy Wonder Woman every month, but skipped it this month... even while buying many Futures End one-shots... and Futures End being co-written by the writer of Wonder Woman, but he didn’t write the Futures End: Wonder Woman issue... wow, how did DC manage that scenario?). However, I’ve got to say, this week, I was fairly pleased with the Futures End comics that I got. Let’s shove Futures End: Aquaman and the Others #1 aside, because it functions as a conclusion to the story started three weeks ago in Futures End: Aquaman #1 and was, at best, a neutral book and, at worst, a complete waste of my time and money. The other three comics, though, are pretty much what I had hoped for this month.
Futures End #21 is the most focused issue yet, sticking with one single plot, set of characters, and location. Sure, it’s a lot of exposition, but it’s a cohesive issue that tells its own story, adds in details about the world around it, and sets up what’s coming next. It’s the first issue of the series that hasn’t felt randomly thrown together. It also delivered some much needed backstory after 20 weeks of teasing things out. Large infodumps may be inelegant, but they’re very useful. I’d rather get an issue like this than watch the writers keep dancing around, dropping little hints, and not really tell us anything. We received a nice bit of backstory about how some of the Earth 2 people arrived, a broader version of how and why Green Arrow faked his death to prepare for war on Cadmus, how Brother Eye was damaged, how Brother Eye came under the thumb of Cadmus (for a while), and put everything in the perfect place for a big Arrow/Cadmus war. Hell, we even saw that it was Red Arrow that saved Tim Drake, not Arsenal. Plus, it was all drawn by Cully Hamner, so it’s also one of the better looking issues of the series.
Now, Futures End isn’t exclusively about the Arrow/Cadmus fight, or the Earth 2 refugees, or any one thing, but pretending like it was for a week is definitely helpful. As was shunting a lot of the Superman/Shazam stuff over to Futures End: Superman #1 where we learn how Billy Batson took to wearing the S and see how he decides to give it up and return to being Shazam. I think the issue is a bit too kind to Lois Lane and her decision to expose Shazam as Superman, particularly, when doing so, does prompt one of Shazam’s old villains to come to Metropolis to draw him out in a conflict. But, like this week’s issue of Futures End, it’s nice to see an entire issue devoted to one single plot rather than a measly few pages. Best of all, this didn’t read like a bunch of stray moment from Futures End cobbled together to make a full-length issue...
Which is something that Futures End: Booster Gold #1 felt like to a degree. The structure of the issue, with Booster moving through time and the multiverse, lends itself to a choppy, start-and-stop style of pacing that could have easily been chopped up and inserted into random issues of Futures End. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how this plot was originally intended to be revealed (the shifting art styles play into that, to a degree). After all, we’re over 20 weeks into the story and Booster Gold is the final person on the initial promo image to appear – and he’s still yet to appear in the weekly series. This issue easily could have been spread out over the past couple of months, teasing more Brainiac and adding yet another plot waiting to converge and make sense. Introducing it this way is a stronger approach given that it gets to the point (to a degree) quicker. It’s not a great read by any stretch, but it would have been worse spread out over issues of the weekly series.
I’m sure next week will be a return to the regular mishmash Futures End issues where everything seems thrown together at random. It was nice to have a week where three of the series’ plots were given entire issues to breathe and show that, maybe, there’s better stuff here than what we’re seeing. After all, it’s hard to get too bowled over by four pages here and five pages there and three pages three, all spread out over five weeks of issues. This week, it was like the standard issue of Futures End was broken apart into three comics and expanded out.
If only the whole month had been like that.