September has been the Futures' End crossover month for DC Comics and so far it has been something of a mixed bag. Action Comics and Green Arrow were great. Supergirl was very good, if a little flawed.
For me it seems like when the stories are simply looking at a possible future, they tend to be character driven and strong. When they lean too much on the happenings of the Futures' End mini-series, they don't shine quite as much. Of course, I am not getting Futures' End and that may be while they feel flat. Maybe without knowing the main story, these issues don't resonate.
Batman/Superman Futures End #1 falls into this latter group. This is a future that seems tightly tied to the Futures End main book. There has been a falling out between Batman and Superman already. Superman has 'left humanity' to farm in the desert. And Batman is left licking his wounds and wondering what the world would be like if Superman was still around.
This is basically a Batman book. Superman appears in one panel. And writer Greg Pak does a good job of showing us Bruce's inner thoughts about Clark. There is anger about Superman's leaving. But also disappointment. Pak does such a good job writing Superman and making him a beacon of inspiration for others. Here we see that his goodness may have rubbed off a little on Bruce, if only that Bruce recognizes he isn't that symbol of hope.
The are is done by Jack Herbert and Cliff Richards. There thin lined, shaded look is crisp and works well here.
Now it is my own fault, but I really don't know what has happened prior to this story that leads to the dystopia of the world 5 years hence. It sounds like there was an interplanetary war (maybe Earth 2?) and somehow this main DC Earth was victorious. But part of that victory led to Superman isolating himself. It also led to Bruce being significantly injured and unable to act as the Batman.
Here we see Bruce seething as Clark's name is read as one of the dead. He knows Superman isn't dead. That instead he has abandoned mankind. He knows Superman could help here ... but won't.
The world is celebrating this victory, united and pulling together. But Bruce knows it will all fall apart soon. The world needs Superman.
We learn that the act which drove Superman into hiding was done by Bruce himself. Batman did something to end the war which Clark found so objectionable that it broke up the friendship. Here was see Batman remembering that time period. He did 'what Superman couldn't'; he had different boundaries than Superman and did what 'had to be done'. The result is Superman attacking Batman and then retreating.
What could incense Superman so greatly? Did it kill a huge amount of people?
I know I don't want a killer Batman. I know I don't want a sulking Superman.
And so Batman begins cleaning up his world. Using a robot suit, he picks up the rubble of the Batcave. Bruce talks how Superman could clean it all up in seconds. But I think he is talking about more than the cave. Superman could clean up the world ... if he was only around. If Batman hadn't driven him away.
And so I think there is this self-loathing here by Batman. The world needs Superman and the hope and goodness he brings. But he isn't around because of Bruce.
But we also know Batman is stubborn. He won't apologize for what he did. He won't apologize to Clark.
So the world keeps careening on.
But then a bigger threat happens. Metallo, who had been imprisoned on Venus (!!) has broken free. More than ever, acutely, the world need Superman.
Batman swallows his pride and heads to the Fortress to try to convince Superman to come back. But Kal isn't there. Instead Stee let's Batman know that Bruce isn't welcome.
Now, more than just the act Batman did, the word trust is thrown in. Whatever Batman did, it was ugly on multiple levels.
This is Batman though. He gets into a new robot suit, designed by Hiro the Toyman. And he somehow uses massive amounts of Kryptonite energy to short out Metallo, defeating him.
Of course Batman wins. He has been unstoppable for the last 15 years or so in comics.
But it isn't a clean victory. Batman was pummeled. Those injuries we saw in the beginning of the issue are worsened. He is paralyzed.
And then the rather poignant ending. Alfred talks to Bruce about a letter he found, a letter Bruce wrote to Clark but never gave him. It must have been an apology.
Paralyzed, stuck in his hospital, realizing even more that the world needs Superman, Bruce calls for Clark.
But we see he never comes.
Whatever Bruce did, that rift is a chasm, that wound is deep. Superman isn't coming back. And Bruce is alone.
The issue ends with a great line. This world got the hero it deserves ... Batman, paranoid, willing to cross some lines, and hurting.
It seems that the current comic world has put Batman up on a pedestal. It has made him all-powerful and uber-cool. It has made him him look brilliant while making Superman look naive and moronic. This is the first comic I have seen in a while to show that a world where Batman is the inspiration is going to be a a dark place.
For that reason only, I have to applaud this book. Too bad the undercurrent of why this happens is that Superman has gone into hiding, something I don't think Superman would do.