For anyone not reading "New 52: Futures End," it pays to know up front that "Earth 2: Futures End" #1 by Daniel H. Wilson, Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira does not take place on Earth 2, lest any regular readers of "Earth 2" be confused. If that appropriately confusing disclaimer doesn't enlighten things a bit before opening this comic, though, there's not a lot inside that will dispel much of the subsequent uncertainty afterwards, either. Wilson's plot is relatively simple, but he and Barrows manage to bog it down with some odd pacing and ambiguous transitions from one scene to the next.
It's five years later in the DC Universe, and Terry Sloan wants to take Michael Holt out of the picture and procure a powerful Apokolips weapon from Terrifitech; that's simple enough. The first half of the issue, though, is largely a series of awkwardly connected one-page sequences where it's not always immediately clear whether there even is a transition or not. An early example is when Holt and his companion are seen leaving Terrifitech, a scene that Barrows frames by avoiding the characters' faces, save for one panel where Ferreira puzzlingly drapes them in shadow, planting a sense of mystery and implying that these are not the pair just seen on the previous page. Repeated lapses like this evoke the same feeling that one gets after hanging up the phone, only to have the same person immediately call back.
With these quick, choppy sequences, Wilson in turn evokes the feeling of running full speed up an escalator that's going the other way; there's a lot of energy put forth to go a very short distance. Sloan has a clever idea to sideline Holt, and it even works, but Holt hardly spends any time dealing with this conflict, because Wilson quickly delivers a shamefully contrived, all-too-convenient, and somewhat hackneyed resolution that enables Holt to return to the story way to easily for his showdown with Sloan. The scenario would have been a lot more palatable if Sloan's method just hadn't worked on Holt in the first place, and would have taken about as many pages to tell.
To be fair, Wilson also delivers a couple of surprises regarding Sloan within the course of the issue, which help salvage this standalone story somewhat and give it some relevance that can potentially drive future storylines. But even this is hampered somewhat by the artists; in a story where the ability to tell specific characters apart is more important than usual, the art team is inconsistent at times with facial likenesses. The final battle is further convoluted by some muddled inking that hinders the panel-to-panel transition. Wilson caps it all off with a brief but rather over-sentimental and ultimately unnecessary exchange.
Ironically, some of the more obvious elements are needlessly hammered home by Wilson; Holt's momentary disadvantage is easily summed up by Wilson with a narrative caption stating, "No phone, no money," but for whatever reason Wilson figures that readers need to read it again on the very next page.
As a whole, "Earth 2: Futures End" is a mildly-enjoyable if patience-pushing experience, highlighted by a couple of moderate bombshells and an attractive lenticular cover that combines two nice illustrations featuring Red Tornado by Giuseppe Camuncoli and colorist Pete Pantazis. While not a tremendous story, it's not a wretched one, either; but perhaps most importantly, it's definitely not mandatory.