[13 May 2014]
DC, apparently not content to publish just one weekly series with the recently launched Batman: Eternal, last week kicked off The New 52: Futures End. This series introduces the Batman of the future, Terry McGinnis, into New 52 continuity and offers readers a glimpse at a potential timeline, five years from now. Although this is the first issue, it should be noted that the Free Comic Book Day #0 edition serves as a prologue which isn’t entirely necessary to diving into the series, but certainly makes it clear what is being fought to prevent. An army of cyborgs, known collectively as “Brother Eye,” have eradicated the former Justice League, in many cases reanimating them as half machine soldiers, and it’s pretty much game over.
This issue picks up immediately where #0 took off. Terry has time traveled thirty years into his past as a last ditch effort to try and prevent a Matrix-like dystopian future from ever happening. This is a familiar plot for anyone who’s ever seen a Terminator movie. It’s basically X-Men: Days of Future Past, DC style. That’s not to say the writers can’t do something original with the setup, but as far as sci-fi scenarios go, this is well-trodden ground.
Having said that, Batman Beyond is a personal favorite, and that alone was enough to draw this reader in. There was an episode of the animated Justice League Unlimited where a handful of Leaguers were transported to Batman Beyond’s time, so it’s cool to see the tables turned where this Batman finds himself out of his element. Bruce had warned Terry to steer clear of the present day Batman, or he would intercept his mission, so it’s inevitable that they will eventually cross paths, an encounter I look forward to. Through some exposition-laden dialogue, we discover that, naturally, there was a convenient storytelling glitch that sends Terry back well after he was meant to arrive there, further complicating the mission.
Other than Batman, the action here revolves around second stringers such as Grifter and Firestorm. It remains to be seen if the remainder of the series will focus on other B and C-listers, similar to the 52 weekly series from a few years back. What this issue does make perfectly clear is that it’s not afraid to kill major characters off. That’s to be expected since: 1. We’ve already seen what becomes of these heroes post-apocalypse and 2. Assuming Batman succeeds in his mission, this potential future will cease to exist anyway. We’re just one issue in (technically two), but this does bring into question the lasting impact of this series.
The issue concludes with a major death, a trend comic book fans are no stranger to. As hard as it is for death to stick in comics generally, it comes across as even less so here. I don’t even think it would technically count as a spoiler if I listed all the characters that died in this issue because this is more-or-less an Elseworlds tale. A “What If…?” We know these characters aren’t really dead and even if they are, they’ll be revived in one way or another. One of these characters has even died before and been resurrected. You know death is becoming increasingly meaningless in comics when a character dies multiple deaths, but I guess at this rate, the odds are good that they’ve been visited by the reaper at least once before.
The team of writers here includes DC regulars, Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire. Also in line with the 52 weekly series, all four writers are credited with each issue, so while I can’t comment on their individual contributions to Futures End, time will tell how they jive as a team as the series progresses. The art by Patrick Zircher is eye catching and lets you know right off the bat that this is set in the DC universe, sticking with its house style. If the rotating artists to follow can stay consistent with this, the series will be in good shape art-wise. My only complaint is three times where I noticed recycled art. I’m not sure if this copy-and-paste method is a stylistic choice in a couple of these instances where the object is meant to be static but the following panel is a tighter shot as if the “camera” has pushed in, but to me, it always comes off as lazy. I get deadlines, and I’m sure the average reader doesn’t notice this innocent shortcut, but while the art in this issue is great and doesn’t come off as rushed, it’s a minor pet peeve of mine. Of course, that’s by no means a reason not to give this series a try.
The great thing about weekly series is unlike your average monthly, where you may be three or four months in before you decide if it’s worth it to stick around, you can pretty safely say after the first month if you’re onboard for the ride or not. While it may not be the most original series ever conceived, if you’re a fan of time travel mixed with superheroes, it’s at least worth a fair shot.