Boys, Toys, Electric Irons, and TVs 35: The New 52: Futures End #0-48, Futures End: Green Arrow #1, and Futures End: Superman #1

You know there’s something wrong when the series isn’t even 52 issues. The New 52: Futures End is 49 issues long and, taking into consideration any and all one-shots released in September 2014 under the “Futures End” banner, I’ve increased it to 51 issues. I thought long and hard and solicited opinions about any other inclusions into the official run of this comic and nothing else mattered. Hell, Futures End: Superman #1 barely matters. I tried my best to help DC out and make it an even 52. I couldn’t do it.

Now that it’s complete, it’s hard to understand what The New 52: Futures End was even about. I’ve reread the series and I don’t know. There’s one plot that extends throughout with lots of deviations and subplots that pay off across the spectrum of “Doesn’t pay off at all” to “Well, I guess Frankenstein died and that’s a conclusion of some sort, right?” with the main plot acting as the standard bearer of the former. When I finished my reread, I wasn’t even upset, I was just... empty. Empty and bewildered, wondering what it was all for and who in their right mind thought that this was a comic worth making...

I’m not one for speculation about behind-the-scenes motivations and editorial decisions, usually because of a blend of ignorance and apathy, but this sure does seem like a comic that was meddled with and altered as time went on until its final shape was not at all what anyone would have wanted at the outset. Because, if there was one strong, lasting impression I have from my reread, it’s that the first half of this comic is one full of potential and moments of interest, and the second half is the squandering of that potential and long stretches of meandering mediocrity. It’s baffling how much of this comic was meaningless filler that, yes, connected up to the small bits that actually mattered in the end, but only tangentially and could have been completely excised and altered with little to no effect on the main plot.

The only plot that mattered was Batman Beyond trying to destroy Brother Eye. And it only mattered in that it pretty much wiped out everything else that had happened and left us at the end of issue 48 where we were at the beginning of issue 0, but with different hopeless outlaw rebels struggling to destroy the evil computer who rules the world because that’s what evil computers do. Or, to quote Vince McMahon: “Why? Because fuck you. That’s why.” You could call that the mantra of The New 52: Futures End, sadly.

“Why? Because fuck you. That’s why.”

Every element of this series leads to the moment when Batman turns Brother Eye on again for reasons that are never really explained. Nor is it explained how Batman has access to Brother Eye in a flashdrive when we last saw it beam itself from Lois Lane’s phone to the corpse of future Brother Eye zombiefied Plastique that’s at Terrifitech. What does one have to do with another? And considering Brother Eye was last inactive on its satellite before being used by Cadmus as its operating system until it went rogue and took over Cadmus Island and was ultimately defeated (after it replaced the seemingly indestructible head of Power Girl with a electronic storage device for its primary CPU... which kind of makes her head a lot less indestructible) before escaping on Lois Lane’s cell phone only to beam itself into something that was decidedly not Batman’s flashdrive... and... well...

“Why? Because fuck you. That’s why.”

I could do this all day. All day.

The biggest complaint upon the release of the final issue of The New 52: Futures End is that it was now a 49-issue prologue to the new Batman Beyond comic. There was no end. It’s not even that most of the stuff the comic spent its time on amounted to nothing, it’s that, no, none of it amounted to anything other than “Hey, buy this other comic that’s coming out written by one of this comic’s four co-writers, because he just demonstrated that he can clearly write comics that are worth spending money on.” Oh wait...

If it seems like I keep going around in circles, it’s because I simply cannot wrap my head around the idea that people made these comics and are, theoretically, proud of them. They made these comics on purpose. Someone, somewhere, sat down and went “Yeah, let’s end this 49-issue weekly series exactly as it began to lead into a new monthly that’s coming out a few months later” and everyone else who heard that idea said “Sounds good!” It wasn’t even one of those endings where it’s ironic and bittersweet and clever in the way that, in the end, nothing changed. Nothing changed because they decided that nothing changed. When issue 47 ended, it was possible that Tim Drake had changed the future, for good or for bad. Issue 48 was just a big ol’ double middle finger to the readers that wasn’t glorious or funny or anything but baffling.

“Why? Because fuck you. That’s why.”

I’ve tried to make sense of it. Put it into a context of commentary upon the status quo of superhero comics, how nothing ever changes, so why should this book? Or that it’s actually a brilliant swerve, because those dystopian futures are always undone and this one wasn’t, so ha ha ha, boom! Or that all superhero stories are just preludes to the next superhero story... But, none of that rings true. One of the things I’m generally good at is taking superhero comics most people dismiss and finding something interesting in them, something that makes people go “That book almost sounds worth reading...” and, yeah, I could probably pull it off here, but it would be fake. It would be doing it just to do it and I don’t want to.

It feels stupid to be this personally put off by a comic. To be this personally offended. What did I expect, after all? It’s not like The New 52: Futures End was a brilliant series that didn’t stick the landing. It was a mediocre comic that kept me mostly because of its release schedule, the vague hope that Brian Azzarello’s voice would fucking assert itself at some point, and because, well, I already read it this far, so I’ve gotta see it through. But, still, I can’t help it.

My reread was an emotionally flat, empty experience because I knew it was all for nothing. There was a small glimmer of hope that I would see something that would make me see the larger structure and go, “Oh, shit, they actually pulled it off!” It wasn’t there. There was nothing. There was plot mechanics that looked like plot mechanics. Plots that existed solely to move pieces into place for the moment when Brother Eye could save the world by being a bigger computer system than Terrifitech and S.H.A.D.E.’s servers combined. Let me ask you this: if Brother Eye was an artificial intelligence that took over the world, why would Batman invent A.L.F.R.E.D.? Why did Green Arrow need a tracking device on Deathstroke to find Cadmus Island when mounting their invasion when Red Arrow (aka the guy sitting next to him in the boat) sent Lois Lane the exact coordinates for the island in the hopes of getting Tim Drake to join them? Why did 35-years-plus Frankenstein have Hawkman’s arm when he dies in the past under the impression that he has avoided the future he saw in a dream that’s actually prophecy of what we saw in issue 0 despite nothing Batman Beyond did having any impact at all on anything that Frankenstein had done to that point? Why did John Constantine just kind of disappear after issue 40? Why was Faraday, Fifty Sue, and the rest even in the comic after Brother Eye was defeated on Cadmus Island? Why did Cully Hamner only draw one issue? Why was Mr. Terrific in complete awe of Brainiac as he began to steal New York until he actually did it? Why was New York so prominent instead of Metropolis?

“Why? Because fuck you. That’s why.”

I thought that I would have more to say about this series and I probably do. I rarely touched on the art, but, as I said way back around issue four, it was mostly serviceable and forgettable, aside from any issue that Patrick Zircher drew. They didn’t have another artist that could have sold Superman punching out Brainiac in issue 44 (and the way it echoed through other versions/alternates) the way that Zircher nailed it. Whenever I saw his name on the cover, I knew that I was in for the best issue of this series that month.

Beyond that, I’m done with this comic. It’s not worth anything else. I cannot stress that enough. The three words that kept running through my head throughout this were “Piece of shit.” That’s my official review: “Piece of shit.” Four writers, three editors, however many other people above them and this is what we got.

“Why? Because fuck you. That’s why.”

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