Most of DC Comics’ “Futures End” one-shots have been standalone stories, and readers don’t have any reason to believe Jeff Lemire and Jed Dougherty’s “Justice League: Futures End” #1 is any different until they get to the fourth page of the issue and are told that this is the second of two part story; continuing from last week’s “Justice League United: Futures End” #1. (Not helping matters is that this issue was actually solicited as the first part of the story arc.)
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter, because by moving events ahead five years, all of this month’s “Futures End” issues essentially drop readers into the middle of a story anyway. Lemire does an admirable enough job of explaining the plot along the way, and is friendly to latecomers by working in the names of unfamiliar characters and alluding to the nature of their powers. Once these updates are provided, though, Lemire doesn’t really provide much else; Captain Atom makes repeated demands of the League to remove a planetary shield that’s keeping him on Mars, and the League repeatedly refuses.
That’s right; Captain Atom is once again vilified, at odds with the good guys, and way too one-dimensional to be all that interesting here. He’s also dispatched in a somewhat familiar manner. Amongst these elements of stories past is a future story that doesn’t really have any kind of real hook; there are a couple of potentially exciting new characters mix with a lot of familiar and largely unchanged existing ones. The backdrop of an off-planet prison for superhumans is an interesting one, though, and is a kind of refreshing change from the darker and drearier planet Earth seen in other “Futures End” storylines.
Dougherty does a respectable job with new and old characters alike; standbys like Grodd and Martian Manhunter both look imposing, while newer heroes like Equinox and Stormguard look right at home with the future Justice League. Dougherty does better in tight quarters, though; his characters from a distance often look stiff and awkward. Inker Gabe Eltaeb brings a clean, tight look to the pages, although his biggest shortcomings are some weak renderings of characters’ faces. Mike McKone and Eltaeb’s 3D cover, with the lenticular image switching between the current JLA lineup and the one featured in this comic, is a strong portrait view of both teams and would have benefitted from being sized to fit the entire cover, rather than just as an inset.
“Justice League: Futures End” #1 is a pretty middle-of-the-road effort, best serving completionists and those who bought the first part of the story, but is a decent enough story that JLA fans can also enjoy.