Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Doomed’ ends, bustin’ out all over

The sprawling intertitle crossover “Doomed” wrapped up this week with the release of Superman: Doomed #2. It’s a 40-page installment produced by writers Greg Pak and Charles Soule and artists Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder Vicente Cifuentes, and Norm Rapmund (assisted ably by colorist Wil Quintana and letterer Taylor Esposito). However, it’s getting some attention due to the final page.

Yes, “Doomed” began as a sequel to an as-yet-unseen event -- the New 52 version of the monster’s first deadly battle with Superman -- but it’s ended, like many a crossover before it, as a tease for  the next big thing. Moreover, it’s joined by the only Futures End special one-shot without its own series (yet); namely, Futures End: Booster Gold.

Accordingly, today’s all about how everything might start to make sense, and how it doesn’t quite make sense for DC to go that way.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for the finale of “Doomed” and for Booster Gold.

* * *

Now that I think about it, “Doomed” finishes in what’s becoming a fairly standard way: Brainiac seeks ultimate power and at least comes very close to getting it before Superman drops him into some cosmic prison. If memory serves, it happened along those lines in 2001's “Our Worlds at War” and 10 years later in “The Black Ring” (although in the latter Luthor got dumped into the cosmic thingy). Here, Brainiac gains ultimate power and his ex-acolyte Lois Lane transfers it to Superman, who uses it to repair all the damage before dropping Brainiac into a black hole.

But wait, there’s more! Seems that this particular spatial anomaly was a sort of nexus of all realities, where Brainiac could see the various worlds of the Multiverse, including a prominent traditionally dressed Superman. Other shards of existence showed classic versions of the Justice Society, Captain Marvel, the New Teen Titans, Harley Quinn, OMAC, Earth-X and the Legion of Super-Heroes. (CBR’s roundup is pretty comprehensive.) The Booster Gold issue also finds everyone’s favorite failed footballer bouncing across parallel worlds, including Gotham By Gaslight, the 31st century, a 1980s version of the Legion, the original “Charlton Heroes” Earth-Four and Kamandi’s “Great Disaster” (possibly Earth-51).

Aside from being catnip for a particular set of DC lifers (who’s got two thumbs and loved the old Earth-One?), it also sets up Brainiac’s involvement in Futures End. See, Brainiac’s latest scheme for ultimate power depended on enslaving the minds of an entire planet, so in that respect Futures End is the more violent, cyborg-y execution of the same plan. (To be sure, it’s subtle at first, what with the blatant Apple pastiches, but eventually it turns grim and cyborg-y.) Harnessing those enslaved Earthlings’ minds will probably give Brainiac the power he needs to conquer the rest of reality; and he apparently will get some vital assistance from a Booster under duress.

This glimpse into the Multiverse -- or, I suppose, into a kaleidoscope of alternate timelines, but we’ll get to that -- also calls into question the final events of Flashpoint. You’ll remember from this well-reasoned, insomnia-curing post that Pandora wanted the Flash to knit together the Vertigo, WildStorm, and DC-superhero universes so that they’d be “stronger together.” Flashpoint’s central conceit was that it showed a horribly corrupted main-line DC-Earth, not an alternate dimension. However, the “Doomed” page shows Flashpoint’s timeline existing alongside what could easily be images of the unadulterated version -- specifically, Superman, the Titans, the Legion and Blue Beetle.

These need not be alternate timelines, however. Instead, rather than the main-line DC-Earth (“Earth-August,” but you knew that) being transformed into Flashpoint-Earth and then into the New 52's main Earth, “Doomed” suggests fairly strongly that both a Flashpoint-Earth and an Earth-August are still out there somewhere, bopping along like it was still summer 2011. In fact, the glimpse of the Justice Society includes an old-school Helena Wayne Huntress, who was part of both the original Earth-Two (merged as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths -- drink ‘cause I mentioned Crisis!) and its post-Infinite Crisis counterpart, Earth-2.

Man, I love talking about this stuff. I don’t care who knows it.

Anyway, if that’s the case, it could very well set up whatever post-Futures End event DC has in mind. Last week Vaneta Rogers connected an admirable number of dots related to Blood Moon, the discussed-in-hushed-whispers event allegedly set for next spring, concluding that “Blood Moon might not only serve as a crossover between Earth 2 and DC's Prime Earth, but ... with the pre-New 52 universe and other long-lost Earths -- something that would surely make DC fans’ heads explode.”

Yep, pretty much.

For that matter, there’s no guarantee that Futures End will feature our heroes -- that is, the New 52 characters -- victorious. As downbeat as the weekly has been (and the solicits for Earth 2: Worlds End don’t sound much happier), I wouldn’t be surprised if its final issue sees DC-Earth at Brainiac/Brother Eye’s mercy, with the Multiverse’s only hope coming from another set of superheroes who seem oddly familiar ...

* * *

So, we’re good, right? Next spring will see the return of Earth-August, the New 52 Earth will fade away as part of the larger Multiverse, and everyone gets a pony?

Yeah, I have my doubts too. I was skeptical when the Anti-Monitor showed up at the end of Forever Evil. That turned out to be a setup for “The Darkseid War,” one of next year’s Justice League arcs. I remain skeptical that DC would toss out all of the positive aspects of the New 52 -- and yes, there have been some -- thereby forcing its regular readers to unlearn and relearn what’s changed in the past three years. In fact, this is almost exactly the setup of Infinite Crisis, where a group of pre-revolution characters (Earth-Three’s Alex Luthor, Earth-Prime’s Superboy and Earth-Two’s Superman, the “original version”) sought to fix what they thought was a horribly broken superhero world. Specifically, Infinite Crisis turned Superboy-Prime into a walking commentary on fanboy culture, and ended with him delivering a fatal beatdown to the Earth-Two Supes. I don’t think DC will have the Earth-August Superman sacrifice himself to save the New 52 version -- they can’t possibly be tone-deaf enough to make the same mistake twice -- but I don’t see the New 52 going away anytime soon. As I said in May, expanding the in-universe timeline would be a nice outcome. Bringing back some form of the legacy structure (particularly the original Teen Titans) would be a pleasant surprise.

Still, there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate between now and the spring, with “Doomed” and the Booster Gold one-shot just now revealed as part of them.

* * *

It all reminds me -- everyone’s all het up about the upcoming COIE anniversary, but I must have missed all the talk about the 20th anniversary of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!. In July 1994, DC published a five-issue weekly miniseries that aimed to reconcile all of its post-Crisis reboots and relaunches. Besides killing a handful of original Justice Socialites, it featured a new version of Hawkman (naturally) and rebooted the Legion of Super-Heroes. However, it was followed by “Zero Month,” where every series got a “zero issue” to explain its stars’ origins for all those potential new readers. Out of “Zero Month” came one of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s best issues of Flash, a pretty good retelling of Batman’s origins, that peppy new Legion, and perhaps most famously, the first issue of James Robinson and company’s Starman.

At the risk of puffing it up too much, Starman was one of the highlights of ‘90s DC. It brought a very Vertigo-like sensibility to the main superhero line, giving readers a fairly innovative perspective on picking up a super-scientific gizmo and fighting crime. It could be overly precious at times, but it introduced readers to a memorable hero and supporting cast, and it redefined whole swaths of the Golden Age for new generations. Outside of legendary editor Archie Goodwin, I’m not sure anyone involved, from Robinson and artists Tony Harris on down, has done anything finer. I’ve thought about doing a retrospective post, but meanwhile I’ll just say you need to read it if you haven’t already.

That’s the real test of these big events -- not what details emerge from them, and certainly not their process; but what sort of storytelling environment they create. If Blood Moon restores Earth-August, I know it’ll make a lot of fans happy; but Earth-August had its own issues. If BM (unfortunate acronym, that) just fixes the New 52, that could turn out well too. Starman’s success didn’t necessarily come from Zero Hour, but the event created a good environment in which the new series could thrive. Whatever comes out of next spring needs to do the same.


And here is the Futures Index for this week’s Issue 21.

  • Story pages: 20
  • Team Arrow pages: arguably 20
  • Flashback pages: 15-ish

NOTES: Clearly this issue breaks with the familiar discrete-subplot structure to give us the clearest look yet at the events of the “Earth-2 War.” I’ve been a fan of artist Cully Hamner since his work on Green Lantern: Mosaic (speaking of ‘90s DC highlights) and I thought he was very effective showing the pathos of the Earth-2 survivors.

Of course, the issue also gives us some idea of how Earth 2: Worlds End will link up to this miniseries and whatever’s to come. The mention of the Earth-2 Green Lantern and Flash answers a question about their whereabouts in this series, and leaves open the possibility that they’re still alive somewhere. Certainly I expect their fates to be addressed more explicitly in E2:WE.

Again, if this were any other miniseries, Barda’s defiant words at the end of this issue would give me some hope that the Arrow Islanders could defeat Brother Eye’s Cadmus hordes. However, Futures End has been so relentlessly negative that I just expect them all to walk into a proverbial shredder. That’s just me looking forward to April, I guess. This was a good issue, even if it’s an anomaly.

NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Double defenestration! Union ... Jills? The Engineer’s on the move! And ... Shazam!

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