The title of this post should have read “Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 28: Futures End #29, New Avengers #26, and Avengers #38,” but Diamond shorted my shop on New Avengers #26, so it and Avengers #38 (which I haven’t read yet since it comes after New Avengers #26) will be discussed next week with Futures End #30 and New Avengers #27 (bet on it being a Hickman-heavy post). I don’t actually mind, because that means Futures End #29 gets all of my attention this week and it’s an issue I don’t mind digging into a little, being the first one-story issue of the series since issue 21’s spotlight on the Earth 2 folks and the build-up of Cadmus as something Green Arrow wants to take down. Here, we get an origin story for the new Firestorm.
Futures End #29 is actually a bit of a strange issue that pulls in a few directions. Part of it is Tim Drake’s return to superheroics in an effort to save the woman he loves. Part of it is the culmination of the Ronnie/Jason split over Firestorm. Part of it is the origin of the new Firestorm that comes out of both of those things. It’s actually done elegantly enough that it’s a satisfying conclusion (or semi-conclusion) to those plots despite it also being incredibly predictable. With images of a woman Firestorm popping up in teasers and Madison’s personal connections to both halves of the superhero, her becoming part of a new Firestorm seemed obvious, especially once Dr. Yamazake decided to test his teleportation system on her. What happens is as you would expect: the two parts of Firestorm get involved, there’s an accident, and she finds herself part of the new version of Firestorm, taking Ronnie’s place after he sacrifices himself trying to save her. Tim is left thinking that she and Jason also died in the accident after he watches over Ronnie’s final moments, leaving him both reaffirmed in his beliefs that a superhero life is one filled with nothing but misery and death, and full of self-loathing over his delay in jumping back into that life to save Madison. Given that we barely see the new Firestorm, don’t see the eventual reunion of Tim and Madison, and are given no indication of what happened to Dr. Yamazake (I think he will also be transformed somehow and will be the new Dr. Polaris), the story isn’t over... but a chapter of it is.
With the various plots of Futures End set to converge, that these ones have already provides a bit of hope that they can pull it off. The slow build to this issue where everything about it seemed inevitable is remarkable. The sprawling nature of Futures End and its weekly schedule allows for a slow build that sneaks up on you. The Tim Drake and Firestorm stories seemed separate aside from a few passing connections (connections similar to a lot of the connections between various plots: tenuous and seemingly unimportant) and a thematic similarity (superheroes who quit), but merged in such a way that they didn’t seem like they were one story until they had been for several weeks. And they stayed the course despite this issue being incredibly obvious ahead of time. Probably because the production schedule on this is so far in advance that there was no way to change it.
I prefer to ignore that and look at it as writers not shying away from being predictable in the face of making sense. This issue made sense. Who cares if you could see it coming? I’ve written about Raymond Chandler’s “Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story” quite a bit in the past and one of the things he emphasises is that, once the solution to the mystery is revealed, the reaction of the reader should be “Of course!” because the solution seems logical and reasonable given what they’ve read to that point. Far too often, comics writers will ignore that to avoid seeming predictable. Here, the mystery of Futures End is how these disparate stories all connect and we’ve been given one part of that answer. And it makes sense. It feels weird to praise that. It should be a neutral element in a story. “It makes sense” seems like the basic bar to clear. Yet, here we are, praising a comic for doing so.
Will it make sense when this (now combined) story begins to merge with the others? We’ve seen part of that already with Terry McGinnis wanting to seek out Tim Drake, while Batman lectured Ronnie and Jason about becoming Firestorm again. No doubt this new Firestorm will play a role in the fight against Brainiac. No doubt Tim Drake will continue his superhero life in one form or another. There are some inevitabilities in a story like this, but, by reaching this point, the four writers of Futures End have also opened up a few unknowns in how they’ll get there. They make me want to know what happens next with these characters. I hope they keep that up.