DC Comics’ “Futures End” weekly series had introduced a new masked superhero calling himself Superman, and recently revealed the identity of this mysterious character. For those who missed it and managed to stay away from spoilers over the past few weeks, writer Dan Jurgens gives good reason to buy “Futures End: Superman” #1 by wisely preserving this mystery for the first few pages. Artist Lee Weeks plays along and together the team rolls out the big reveal in a whole different and lower-key manner, and then go further still and explain just how this character came to adopt Superman’s mantle. This happens in the form of a discussion with Lois Lane, who appears to be one of the only DC characters who’s largely unchanged five years in the future.
For readers unfamiliar with the backdrop of “Futures End,” this comic still reads a cut above most stories featuring a new character filling the boots of an established hero. Jurgens has some experience with this kind of story, with Superman himself no less, going back a couple of decades to his involvement with the “Reign of the Supermen” event, and that practice serves this story well. The encore reveal gives way to a flashback sequence that provides not only a simple and plausible explanation for the switch, but also shows what might have been Big Blue’s last act before disappearing, as noted in the main “Futures End” title.
This segues into a distress call that puts the new Superman back into action, which gives readers a chance to see the character do his thing now with the full knowledge of who’s behind the mask. With this knowledge, this hero’s decidedly un-Superman like attitude is a logical characteristic that will have regular “Futures End” readers looking back at those issues wondering how they could have missed these clues. What also makes the story satisfying is that the revelation is not some heretofore unknown or obscure character; it’s instead someone well-known who would make for a perfectly reasonable replacement.
Weeks brings a dusty, grimier look to the Metropolis of the near future, in keeping with the general darker and dirtier look of the DC Universe overall seen in other “Futures End” comics. His masked Superman, with the alterations to the classic costume and concealing opaque helmet, looks heroic yet edgy and potentially unpredictable. The more familiar heroes and villains featured in flashback look no less imposing, and Weeks knows exactly when to insert a dynamic pose here and exploding truck there to keep the story lively. Weeks also composes a dynamic cover featuring both versions of Superman, with the lenticular enhancement switching between the two that appear as close to jumping off the cover as such a gimmick will allow.
Jurgens gives the story an oddly abrupt about-face in the last two pages, however, when nu-Supes suddenly decides he should take his old identity back, while Lois switches her own stance on whether Superman’s legacy should be carried on this way. Jurgens effectively pulls the rug out from under his own story; after establishing why this character should has adopted the role of Superman and proving him clumsily but heroically fit for it, he backpedals and resumes the old status-quo. The allure of the character remains even after the mystery has been explained, so there’s some disappointment that it doesn’t appear it will be carried any further.
Despite the last-minute undo, the issue remains a fun and unusual look at a familiar character in an unfamiliar role. “Futures End: Superman” #1 also advances the overall “Futures End” storyline, making it one of the better and more essential tie-ins to the event.