This has been a year of considering the same things over and over again. I first did it with my in-depth examination of Age of Ultron #10. Now, I’ve fallen into that habit here every week, examining the same ideas again and again and again as they pop every week in Futures End and Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers titles. I’ve been doing it elsewhere in my life as well. It’s rewarding to continually find new things in the same. But, I want to try something different this week: a close reading of Futures End #26, where we’ll go scene-by-scene and see what’s there. Maybe I’ll just wind up repeating the same old ideas anyway. Who knows.
Scene #1: Bruce Wayne Arrives in New York
My initial thought is that I find it distracting that the Nu52DCU has real world American cities. The old DCU probably did as well. But, in an America with Gotham City and Metropolis, having New York City seems... redundant? The analogous cities of the DCU was always part of its charm; the way that they all lined up with a real world city. By using real world cities, DC loses something while not actually replicating the real world charm that Marvel has always had. But, moving away from that a little, shouldn’t Mr. Terrific be based in California? It seems strange for the Nu52DCU’s Steve Jobs to be based out of New York City, for some reason. He should be off on the coast with his meditation and martial arts and weird concepts that being a technology mogul/inventor is the same thing as being a superhero. By placing Terrific in New York, it seems like they’re trying to add another dimension to his relationship with Batman with Terrific representing the ‘real’ and Batman representing the ‘fake.’
Mr. Terrific has no secret identity and uses his genius/wealth to make the world better in tangible ways (in his view). His approach to superheroics isn’t your typical ‘put on a costume and hit criminals’ approach: he thinks inventing the uSphere is an act of superheroism. He lives in a real city and takes on the ‘real problems’ of the world. Batman is a false identity, he wears a mask, and he uses his genius/wealth to find new ways to hit criminals in the face. He thinks solving petty street crimes and dealing with the same half-dozen crazy people over and over again is what being a superhero is. Except, he wouldn’t identify himself as a superhero. He lives in an entirely fictional city, unconcerned usually with the problems that exist outside of it.
We have the progressive modern superhero that reflects our world and the regressive traditional superhero that lives in an insular world of his own. They created Brother Eye together and are now looking at odds, both five years from now and 35 years from now. This scene is another step in the war between the two that’s been sitting under the surface of this entire series (I could probably break down every element of this series into a Batman/Mr. Terrific dichotomy). It’s nothing but sarcasm and a sense that the only thing holding these two back is a weird sense of manners. It would be unseemly to get into a big fight on a tarmac, so they’ll deal with their shit later. I didn’t want this scene to end, because it’s the entire series in one conflict.
Scene #2: Dr. Yamazake Fires Jason
I haven’t addressed this subplot too much, because it’s been a bit too cartoonish for my taste. Yamazake is clearly another version of Mr. Terrific meant to remind us that equating technology with superheroics is misguided. Here, we have a man obsessed with both his hatred of superheroes and the idea that all technology is automatically good, unconcerned with the obvious negative downsides. But, that’s science, isn’t it? Progress will happen and the actual practical realities are to be sorted out after the technology has been set free into the world. While Yamazake is correct in that teleportation technology could be used to save lives, he has a giant blind spot, ignoring that it will probably just be used to blown people up. I’m actually a little convinced that, over the past few decades, teleportation technology has been invented and perfected and, then, destroyed by various inventors when they realise that it would just be the most effective weapon ever invented.
The irony of Yamazake firing Jason for being one half of the superhero-formerly-known-as-Firestorm is that Jason has been nothing but helpful and, obviously, isn’t Firestorm anymore. Yamazake is just a paranoid obsessive that doesn’t realise that he’s going too fast and being a terrible scientist in the process. It’s hard to care too much because he’s such a cartoon bad guy. Instead of echoing the problems we’re supposed to naturally have with Mr. Terrific’s choices, he throws them in our face, and that actually makes Terrific seem more reasonable by comparison. He may be misguided and has already put into play something that will doom the world, but at least he’s not batshit crazy like Yamazake.
Scene #3: Batman Beyond Wants Red Robin
If Yamazake is cartoon Terrific, Terry McGinnis is incompetent Batman. He’s been Batman’s stand-in for the series to this point in the Batman/Terrific conflict. He’s been less than effective, to the point where, when he succeeds, all he does is give Terrific two more soldiers and make the conflict with Batman more overt despite that being the exact opposite of his desired goals. He’s been trying to act in secret and save the world without anyone noticing. His story is one of failure. Maybe he will be interesting now that he wants to recruit Tim Drake and the real Batman has arrived on the scene.
Scene #4: The Truth about Fifty Sue
If this scene winds up being 52 issues (which is uncertain based on comments made about its length), we are at the halfway mark now. The obsession with the number 52 on DC’s part has always seemed a little silly to me. I guess any number would seem silly and arbitrary. 52 was selected because they wanted to do a weekly series that last a year. 52 weeks. That suddenly became the number that defines DC to the point where we now have a character named Fifty Sue, a creation of Cadmus used 52 DNA samples. She is god. She’s also an anomaly, because she seems like she would be part of the Mr. Terrific side of things: science run away with itself. An attempt to create a better superhuman to serve humanity that has went horribly awry. Yet, Fifty Sue finds herself in conflict with Brother Eye and, I imagine, will also play an important role against Brainiac. Ostensibly, she seems like Mr. Terrific, but she places herself on the side of Batman. She even views herself as part of a Batman relationship, equating Deathstroke with the hero and herself as his Robin. However, here, she is shown the betrayal of her Dark Knight who chooses to side with Brother Eye. Deathstroke is clearly another Mr. Terrific: always progressive, always willing to let go of what was and is for what could be. What Fifty Sue possibly represents (and Tim Drake has already shown a bit of) is a third way, outside of the Batman/Terrific binary relationship. Drake’s choice was to simply not play the game; to walk away. Fifty Sue may yet flip the chess board over and yell “Chinese checkers!”
Scene #4: Batman Tells It Like It Is
Just as Terry McGinnis will attempt to pull Tim Drake back into the binary conflict that exists between Batman and Mr. Terrific, Batman tries here with Firestorm. Yet, it’s not a pitch to be on his side, it’s a revelation of a truth we’ve known for a while: Green Arrow isn’t dead. Firestorm didn’t fail to save him; Firestorm succeeded in making Green Arrow’s plan work. I found the hint of disdain in Batman’s voice for Green Arrow interesting because he seems to be on Batman’s side of the hidden conflict. Except, of course, that Green Arrow represents a different type of ‘real world’ idea of a superhero: the activist progressive. Batman would be xenophobic, wanting to keep all Earth 2 citizens out of his city. What Batman exposes is that the Green Arrow/Cadmus conflict is really just two factions of Mr. Terrific’s group fighting over how best to proceed with its efforts to transform the planet.
It’s rather entertaining to watch Batman verbally scold Jason and Ronnie like this. Personal shit doesn’t matter to him. He hates everyone he works with, but does that stop him? No. Batman is the high school football coach that tells you to walk it off after you get a concussion. He also looks to be the catalyst for the reunion we’ve known would be coming for a while. However, the previews for what’s coming in this book shows a female Firestorm. Perhaps the teleportation attempt of Yamazake will go wrong, placing Maddie into the mix somehow? She has a friendship with both Jason and Ronnie, so her being part of a slightly different Firestorm would make sense, especially if the duo charge to her rescue...
Every issue brings this title increasingly into focus. And, as this issue shows, Batman makes everything better.