I have been on the fence about getting the mega-weekly DC Comics event Futures End. A weekly comic has to be fantastic for me to commit the cash (learned my lesson with Countdown). And after living through Flashpoint just 3 years ago, I didn't think I would be ready for another dystopia that needs to be averted.
But then I heard the names of the creators involved, creators whose work I have very much enjoyed recently. For writers, we have Brian (Wonder Woman) Azzarello, Jeff (JLU, Green Arrow) Lemire, Dan (Superman) Jurgens, and Keith (Legion of Super-heroes) Giffen. Those are some heavyweights in my book. And for artists we have Ryan Sook, Patch Zircher, Ethan Van Sciver, and Aaron Lopresti. Those are some of my favorite artists.
So I decided I would give Futures End a shot. DC would get me to look at the FCBD zero issue and the first issue of the ongoing. That is 2 issues to set the table and grab me. After all, supposedly this leads to the Five Years Later event and maybe will have more of an impact than the plodding, nonsensical, and apparently meaningless Forever Evil.
Now I'll be honest and I don't think I have hidden it here. I am sick of the grim dark bleak DC Universe these days. The whole line of comics is painted with the same brush. So maybe I was setting myself up; maybe there was very little chance I would like this book.
The Free Comic Book Day sets the tone. In the future, Brother Eye has annihilated humanity, converting everyone into bladed horrific monsters. That includes this Shelob-like Wonder Woman.
On the third page of the issue, Captain Cold has his hands cut off.
The Flash strikes back and seems to have a victory. But then Frankenstein shows up with the head of Black Canary sutured to his chest. He uses the head to kill the flash, flaying him with her sonic scream. (I guess Barry forgot he can outrace sound waves pretty easily.)
Of course ... I mean OF COURSE ... Batman has somehow survived this whole thing, training Terry McGinnis as Batman Beyond and setting up a last ditch plan to go back in time and stop this whole thing from happening. For me, I am sick of Batman always ... I mean ALWAYS ... being the last guy standing. He is becoming a caricature of himself, so powerful that he seems invulnerable.
Well, almost invulnerable. The Brother Eye drones track him down, rip off his arm (man DC loves dismemberment these days), essentially killing him. Suddenly it is Terry who needs to go back in time and stop things.
And then, a somewhat expected twist. The past Batman might like this future. I mean between Tower of Babel, The Omac Project, and countless other paranoia-fueled arcs, Batman is all for complete order even if it means betraying his friends.
Okay ... so let's cover my complaints.
First, that is a lot of gruesome business in a free comic book that might have been grabbed by anyone. I mean, the cover has Batman Beyond on it, the animated show on the Hub. Maybe some parent, entering a comic store for the first time gave this to their kid.
Second, there is something called pacing. If the second page is hands being ripped off, the seventh page is a head sutured to someone's chest, and the second to last page is an eviscerated and de-armed Batman ... well then where do you go? What can top this opening chapter?What horror show will we see?
Third, this is Free Comic Book Day, a chance to showcase your characters! Instead we get the characters portrayed as killing cyborgs. If this was my introduction to the DCU, I would probably not come back.
But let's take a step back. After my initial disappointment I reassessed. After all, this was supposed to be bleak right? This is the terrible future we are hoping not to get to. So maybe they made it over the top to really paint how dire the picture is.
I took a deep breath and decided to grab the first issue as planned.
It turns out that Terry McGinnis didn't make it all the way back to the past at a point where he could stop things. Instead he is five years in the future of the current DCU. Brother Eye is already intrenched although there aren't killing cyborgs yet.
So maybe this is sort of dystopia-lite?
In the middle of the book there is a scene that basically ended any chance that I would continue to buy this book.
Grifter enters a suburban house and goes about systematically killing a family. The father, the mother, the older sister ... all gunned down on the staircase.
Now it turns out the young girl racing up the stairs is an alien in our midst. And maybe that being deserved to be hunted ... maybe even killed.
But this family, unaware? They deserved better.
And the truth is this scene could have been written a million different ways where these innocents survive. Maybe Grifter knocks them out. Or shoots them in the knees. Or simply runs by them. There could be some drama seeing these people realize their daughter has been replaced.
Instead, DC hits the lowest common denominator.
See, part of the problem here is I can't identify with any of the 'heroes' in this book. I can't pretend I want to be like Grifter.
In fact, the one person I identified with was this guy. I am a suburban dad with a family.
But things keep getting darker.
Ronnie Raymond doesn't want to be a hero but is forced into duty by Jason Rusch. The issue ends with a dead Green Arrow, skewered by construction rebar.
I can talk about pacing again. How do you keep this pace of non-stop death and broken bodies?
But let's talk about other stuff.
Now the truth is DC probably doesn't think I am an important demographic. They aren't marketing to suburban dads. But I do know they probably want my kids' dollars. They are being raised in a comic book house. But they don't read any DC books. None seem right.
And maybe someone is going to call me a hypocrite because I have been talking up Lemire's Green Arrow. And in the issue that came out as the same day as this one there is dismemberment and death. Hands get cut off. People get perforated with arrows. It is dark. But on a book set in the dark alleys of a city fighting organized crime (albeit with a little mystical wrinkle), that makes sense.
I am no hypocrite. What I am is someone who likes different things and different tones. Dark and grimy on a street level book like Green Arrow makes sense. Dark and grimy in a universe-wide, superhero mega-story. It just doesn't work. I don't want that here. In a world where people can destroy moons, a dark book can be overwhelmingly lurid. I want to see my heroes striving for good. (Honestly, I can only imagine what Crisis On Infinite Earths would look like today ... with all those deaths ...) I can't read 52 issues of this ... of dead super-heroes, of slacker heroes, of families being gunned down in their living room.
It is exactly why I can watch horror movies, and action movies, and dramas, and comedies and like them all. Because I like variety. And right now there is little variety in the DC Universe. Everything is cynical, jaded, sad.
And so I look at DC's dwindling sales and wonder when they will wise up ... if ever.
And I look at my pull list and the books I read from Marvel - All-New Xmen, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, New Avengers, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer. And I look at the indies I collect - Atomic Robo, Fatale, Flash Gordon, Ghost, Jupiter's Legacy, Rachel Rising, Satellite Sam. Look at the variation there. Fun books, lighthearted books, noir, horror, serious superhero stuff ... a whole palette of genres.
But I am done with Futures End. I get enough of this stuff everywhere else in the DCU.