Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Action Comics Futures' End #1

I am not buying Futures End. I don't know what is happening in that maxi-series.

And so it would have been very easy for me to take this month off from DC Comics. The crossovers are a look 5 years from now and probably won't impact the current runs when this whole thing is over. I am picking and choosing which of these crossovers I am buying; I am not getting all my monthly books this month. Where the 'zero issue' origin month 2 years ago and the villains' crossovers last September had me sample new books, the Futures End month is doing the exact opposite.

All that said, there were a couple of things about the Futures End Action Comics #1 crossover which made me actually look forward to the issue.

For one, it was written by Sholly Fisch, whose work I have always loved. I thought his back-up stories in the Morrison Action Comics run were fantastic. And even his all ages work, Batman Brave and the Bold and even Scooby Doo truly appeal to all ages. Fisch on Superman is always a win.

But the cover also suggested that this issue was going to be a riff on the classic 'Sand Superman' story by Denny O'Neil in the seventies. And you should all know how much I love that story. The Sand Superman is my avatar!

And, not surprisingly, I  loved this issue. It is a story of hope and would have been at home in Adventures of Superman. And Pascal Alixe's art is wonderful here, sketchy and rough, perfect for a story starring someone made of sand. There is a whiff of Eddy Barrows here.

In fact, the only downside to the story is Superman himself ... but that is a product of Futures End, not Fisch.

 Five years from now, Clark Kent is bearded and working in Ethiopia, trying to plant crops in the sand.

It seems a fool's errand but Clark falls back on some Pa Kent wisdom, that you have to have hope and you need to keep moving forward helping people.

And yet .....

How can you hold on to hope and say you need to move forward if you have turned your back on humanity and are basically hiding in the desert. Do I want a Superman who isn't using his power to help? Who is basically retired from being a super-hero?

Meanwhile back in Metropolis, three troubled people are impacted by someone helping.

A depressed young woman tries to kill herself by jumping off a building only to discover she can suddenly fly.

A young man who owes the mob money suddenly finds he has super-strength, enough to overpower the goons who were going the thrash him.

 And a young boy stands up to his drunk father who was beating his wife. The boy finds he is suddenly invulnerable

Each of these people were granted one of Superman's powers when they needed it the most.

 And then each are visited by a creature of sand in the form of Superman. He used his sand to give them a smidgen of power which he then reclaims. But like the best Superman moments, there are lessons to be learned.

The woman needs to see the beauty of the world, the joy of life when her feet are on the ground.

I couldn't help but be reminded a bit of the famous scene in All-Star Superman #10 where he tells a similarly depressed young woman that she is stronger than she thinks she is.

 The young man learns that strength does not equal invulnerability. His hand mangled when he tries to punch a brick wall, the man learns his lesson the hard way.

And maybe he needs to know that he can't outpunch his problems.

And the boy's courage is a lesson for the mother. She cannot pretend to be invulnerable, to not feel, to not respond to the horrors her husband is inflicting. Will she stand up and protect her son as he stood up for her.


Ironically, all three end up in the same Emergency Room. The women are seeking help for their situations. The man is given the bad news his hand might never work the same again.

I like this little nod to everyday heroes like psychiatric social workers.

We don't necessarily learn the origin of this Sand Superman. It isn't from the explosion of a new power plant like from Superman #233.

A residue from a battle with Mr. Mxyzptlk?

Filling a role that is missing when Superman 'turned his back on the world'??

So Sand Superman? Hurray!
Superman turning his back on the world? Booo.

But the idea that the world needs Superman so much that it created a creature to fill that role is brilliant.

And the Sand Superman continues to dole out wisdom. This time it is to Superman himself.

He tells Superman something we know, something he shouldn't forget. His greatest power was to inspire people to reach their full potential. Inspiration!

And then the Sand Superman says something even more provocative. For every person he helped, he himself became stronger. Helping people improved him ... empowered him! We should all be helping each other.

In a final act, the Sand Superman scatters himself into the desert, making it fertile soil now. But will this sacrifice and will his speech move Superman to act, to become Superman again? I guess I won't know.

But this is a fantastic issue. It looks back at the history of the DCU, acknowledges a classic story, and updates it. And it treats Superman with the respect he deserves, reminding us all we should be more like Superman, fighting for what's right.

If only this sentiment was the norm, and not an imaginary story in the middle of a harshly dystopian universe.

Thanks again Sholly Fisch!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Nice one Anj, I love how you lay out the lessons learned. And fear not, Superman seems to be on the road back to superherodom in Futures End.

I wonder why he took the break?

And I wonder if Sholly, who doesn't seem to be on Twitter, knows how much we love his work?

LJ-90 said...

Hi Anj, loved the review, really, this is totally off topic, but, have you seen this news?

P,S: Did you managed to read Ultimate Spider-Man? :P

Anonymous said...

Scooby Doo Team Up # 6 dude...I ain't making this up..


Anj said...

Mart, I have contacted Fisch personally to let him know how much I love his work.

He knows.

Anj said...

And everyone ... I promise you ... I will cover the Supergirl show and Scooby Doo!

And yes, I am excited about both!

Anonymous said...

Here´s an announcement from deadline (confirmed by most outfits by now):
WB will pitch in the fall A NEW SUPERGIRL TV SERIES produced by Greg Berlanti (Arrow ) & Ali Adler ((along w/ GEOFF JOHNS !!!))...
The pilots will be furiously pitched to the four huge TV mega-networks as soon as the pilots can be aired...
The looooong walk in the desert seems over...
The looong way back will begin soon...
The illuminatis are over. The NWO is over. & SUPERGIRL reigns in the spring ´15.-

Jay said...

The one thing I like about this reused plot point from Kingdom Come is that, as opposed to KC Superman hasn't turned his back on the people just because he's mad at them. It appears he's mad at himself for some sort of abuse of his powers but is still dedicated to trying to help people. Regardless how wrong-headed deciding to not use his powers may be, to me its still better than shutting himself in his fortress and punishing the people.