With its first month in the history books, "The New 52: Futures End" #5 inches the event's plots forward ever so slightly with the latest chapter from from the writing team of Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen. While DC's last weekly universe-spanning series "52" attempted to march in sync with something resembling real time, the events of "Futures End" don't seem to be given that much breathing room, as this issue's events take place close on the heels of the issues prior.
"Futures End" #5 opens on 'Techmas,' described as the third Wednesday in June, when Terrifitech unveils its latest product, the uSphere. Billed as a backup hard drive for the human brain, Michael Holt blends a Steve Jobs tech presentation with some Billy Mays boisterousness and pop star flair. When the cameras are off, Holt unclenches a bit, leaving readers to continue to guess about the mystery he is hiding. I may be reading into this a bit, but Holt's producer bears slightly more than a passing resemblance to Funky Flashman. Or Keith Giffen.
The rest of the issue remains fairly tight, though some of the previous issues' main characters are absent -- there's no Frankenstein or S.H.A.D.E., no Terry McGinnis Batman, no funerals for fallen Justice Leaguers. Grifter shows up, and King Faraday with him, leading to a check-in on Cadmus Island where O.M.A.C.-like are battling the Earth-2 version of Fury before Grifter's new partner, a little girl, changes things up. King Faraday and Grifter don't do much for me, but given their conflict with Fury, I am interested to see what other characters are found nearby.
Firestorm makes another appearance, and Ronnie Raymond shows more evidence in the case for him being the most prickly character since Hank Hall. After the pair finally split, we catch up with Jason Rusch's lost time and responsibilities. Turns out, Jason works with Dr. Yamazake, who has an axe to grind with the "superheroes" and looks to upstage Terrifitech's announcement. Stack the unrevealed mystery next to the identity of the little girl, the mystery Holt is hiding and the final page of this issue, and "The New 52: Futures End" #5 gives readers plenty to think about. The final page sent me looking in the direction of Shade, the Changing Man, though it could also signal the influence of Brainiac. Whatever the case, there's no denying the symbolism and significance behind that final image.
While Jesus Merino's art is reliable and clean, the issue does have some minor bobbles -- the mirror image of a crowd of people shown on camera as seen from their point of view shows an impossibly reversed hand, for example. This is an easy enough image to confuse, but it did take me out of the flow of the story a bit. Otherwise, this isn't the most ostentatious issue of the series, but Merino, Dan Green and coloring studio Hi-Fi do make the most of the bright, shiny moments, like Firestorm's appearance and the fight with the O.M.A.C.s.
While I am no more certain what to make of "Futures End" now in than I was when I finished reading its short tease in "Aquaman and the Others" #1, I am intrigued. The series hasn't hit fever-pitch, must-read levels yet, but the questions are enough to keep me dialed in, for now.