Monday, May 12, 2014

My Future With Futures End Has Ended

This is something of a rant, so bear with me.

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.


Saranga said...

Future's End looks horrible. I will not be buying it.

Siskoid said...

Everyone's been doing such a good job explaining why FE's just awful awful stuff, I won't be doing my own piece. It would just be redundant.

You did a good job of it, Anj.

AndNowInStereo said...

Nothing against anyone who does like it, or the people who write and draw it who are all good elsewhere, but this really isn't for me.

And I really kinda want it to FAIL. I'd like its sales to be crushed under the weight of Marvel's Original Sin and DC's much better weekly Batman Eternal. I'd like it to bomb so hard that the top brass at DC realise they can't keep doing this all the time. I don't know if that'll happen, so to be honest I'm just going to ignore it.

At least Justice League United debuted at #11 in April and Harley Quinn is holding very well. There's got to be some hope that seeing more fun titles do well will encourage DC to balance the slate somewhat.

Anonymous said...

The 21st century is troubled. This problem demonstrably exists in primetime cophospitalandia and on hbOMG naked-in-one-scene-dead-in-the-next!

Heroes are criminals, criminals heroes, and everyone is just plain old bad.

And rather than being entranced by the artistry of their excuses, I'm actually just sick of bad.

Anonymous said...

Right on the money Anj. It's a shame DC can't see that they need more light hearted and fun books to balance out the gritty tone the New 52 has been thus fur. I'm not for weeklies anyway but the quality and pacing of the story is not for my tastes. This goes in my ignore pile for DC.

iopy said...

Thomas has the right idea. This is designed to appeal to a particular audience, and as mentioned the number of books DC produces for that segment of the readership has grown to dominate their product. I'm taking a pass on all that, I'm not the audience it's written for. JLU looks to be a good read, as is just about anything Soule sets his hand to. I'll stick with those.

Anj, you listed a number of books that are good, quality product. I agree, each of those is well worth looking at, and I'm already reading most of them. There's good stuff out there, as a long time DC reader I wish more of it was DC.

Martin Gray said...

I enjoyed the zero issue, thinking it was a dark aberration to kick things off. Reading the continuation, I despaired of the treatment of Ronnie, the whole Grifter business (I took it the whole family were meant to be Daemonites, not just the girl - if your interpretation is correct, that's unforgiveable) and the death of Ollie. Only Alfred provided a bit of relief.

Please don't let this be the tone for the entire series, though basic craft implies that this is the case.

Count Drunkula said...

Great post, Anj! Everything is on point and well articulated.

I read the FCBD issue... and NOTHING about it surprised me in the least. At the height of all the violence and soullessness and bastardized characters I thought, "Yeah, this seems like exactly where the New 52 world is heading."

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

On rereading it does seem that the family were all probably aliens. Even with that I think there are other ways to achieve this scene besides seeing 'people' shot up.

The fact that DC doesn't realize that a tentpole event like this should be accessible to a broad audience just reinforces the fact that they have a myopic view of fandom.

Anonymous said...

I didn't find it to be all that bad, and I will at least give it five issues until I decide for good to keep with it or not.

Jupiter's Legacy I am kind of surprised you like. It seems pretty dark and violent to me.

Jay said...

Guess I'll be the voice of dissent on this one; thus far I remain intrigued. Don't care that its dark because its a common apocalyptic future trope and I overall enjoy those. Especially in a case like this in which the consequences will not be exactly what we see because this future will not stay intact.

But I guess I'm less put off by the idea in general because I don't subscribe to the overall fact that the entire new DCU is dark. I've believed for some time that its a far more optimistic place than the pre-Flashpoint verse had turned into, and I stand by that. I'm getting my laughs and lightheartedness along with the drama, personally. So I don't feel as bombarded by a sense of bleakness that others feel.

Plus I wanna see if my theory that Masked Superman is the Eradicator and he's protecting Superman and Wonder Woman's child comes to fruition.

Siskoid said...

And you're entitled to like it, Jay. And I get your point about dystopic futures that need to be nipped in the bud. I'd just feel it was more warranted if the New52 hadn't already been born from such a dystopia less than 3 years ago. Or if a similar storyline hadn't just wrapped, you know, the one called Rotworld. Or if I couldn't already read this kind of dystopic take on DC heroes in Injustice, Earth2 or Justice League 3000. Or even if Marvel hadn't JUST done something exactly like it.

That is one tired trope.

Jay said...

Its definitely used more than its share, its impossible to argue that. No matter what medium, no matter what context, the Dark Future is pretty go-to indeed.

LJ-90 said...

Been saying this for a very long time, c'mon Anj, give Ultimate Spider-Man a shot, it's a really cool and amazing little book, swear you'll love it.

Anyway, yep, I don't read DC, unless it's Smallville, I just can't take what they have done to my heroes, (I feel the same way with the movies, everything just feels the same).

Jesus, I really hope they wise up and start giving good stories soon.

arw1985 said...

I read the free issue. It was okay, but it's not something that I see myself buying anytime soon. I'm just wondering if there are Trek fans that think that this is really reminiscent of the Borg. I definitely saw it. They even had their own catchphrase.

Anj said...

Thanks for continued discussion!

Jay, I am glad you like the book and have a theory! It just seems to me that so much of what we saw here was depictions of violence for their own sake. The Brother Eye takeover could have been shown as a mechanical cocoon, or injection - rather than the visceral dismemberment, etc. Please keep me informed on what is going on here.

I don't mind the deconstruction of super-heroes in Jupiters Legacy because I am not as deeply invested in those characters (even if they are built on DC archetypes). But I can only imagine how Black Canary fans feel about Dinah's head being on Frankenstein. Or how Wonder Woman fans feel about her (again) being a weapon of the villain. Remember her ape-face stint in Final Crisis?? I don't need to see deconstruction in DC. I need construction of these characters in this new universe.

As for Ultimate Spiderman ... is there a trade I can look for? I haven't read a Spiderman book in decades. The character/powers never grabbed me. But I am willing to learn!

Thanks again everyone!

Tom said...


I think you really nailed this on the head. Part of what is so frustrating (apart from being a Swamp Thing fan and seeing this exact story play out in RotWorld) is that all of the fans know that no matter what story line DC presents in these futuristic hellscapes, the iconic nature of the characters precludes any major revisions, a la the dystopian future we see in Future's End, or Flashpoint, or Final Crisis, or...

Wonder Woman is never going to be a brutal dictator at war with Aquaman, or a servant of the anti-life equation, or a vampire, or anything else besides Wonder Woman.

Likewise, Superman is never going to *be* Doomsday, or a Brother-Eyed Cyborg, etc. So, to where is this leading us? Are we going to have a richer, deeper character, as we are being promised in Red Daughter of Krypton?

We can all only hope.

Anonymous said...

there is a difference between shocking your audience, and appalling your audience...DC is no good at shocking us (since this is what the tenth dystopia future the Marvel or DC continuity must race to prevent?) but they are GREAT at appalling & alienating core fan groups. It works great like a sugar high over the short term....but it can't be good for business over time.


Anonymous said...

Pretty much agree. I have no problems with a dystopian future scenario. They can be fun. I just think it's a a well that DC has mined too much lately.

I am also sick of seeing Batman always surviving these things and being the one to have to save the day. It's as much a cliche now as having a dystopian future. Why couldn't Wonder Woman have been the one to survive and send Terry back in time? I get that Batman is their best selling property right now but they need to let their other characters get a chance to shine in these big events. Batman was a huge part of Flashpoint, was pretty much the only one not affected by Pandora's Box during Trinity War, and is the only member of the Justice League to escape in Forever Evil and is leading the charge against the Crime Syndicate. I'm a Batman fan but maybe it's time to let another character have a prominent role in these universe wide cross-overs.

LJ-90 said...

Hey Anj, (I'll be posting this comment in the most recent post too) about Ultimate Spider-Man, you could always start with the first trade "With Great Power..." but if Peter Parker has never grabbed you I would totally recommend to give the Miles Morales era a shot, it has the things you like, a new young hero trying to live up to the mantle of the one before him, people just trying to do the right thing, and it's funny and upbeat.
The first trade of the Miles era is "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol.1: Who Is Miles Morales?" Hopefully you'll find a copy and read it, and I really hope you'll like it, let me know how that went! :)

Anonymous said...

This comic hits the nail on the head (though the creepy character should be an editor, rather than a writer).

Erich said...

If you are looking for a good comic published byDC, try Adventures of Superman. No new 52 stuff and nothing dark. Just good Superman stories that you can share with your kids.

Jude Deluca said...

Well to be honest I won't be buying this series anyway. I've had a general distaste for event books ever since Brightest Day started, though I'd be lying if I said I hadn't bought a couple of tie-in Flashpoint issues out of curiosity, and I HAVE been buying the issue of Justice League Joe Prado has worked on (just those ones) even though they tie into Forever Evil because Joe's a friend and I like to support him.

At least I can say the only Villains Month issue I bought was Dial E.

That said, I'll most likely only glimpse at the issues in case there's one future tidbit that catches my eye, as my nature tends to go towards, but such depressing brutality on this scale? Yeah, I don't know.

My only general interest in this was Green Arrow's death. Because my feelings towards Oliver Queen have blossomed into a thriving and beautiful garden of seething, unforgiving hatred, and I have been enjoying the fact that he's dead in this book so, very, much.

Still not buying though.

Unknown said...

This review and the comments here reflect my opinions on what's been going on in DC's Earth-G (for Grimdark) so completely that I'm amazed. I hadn't realized that others felt as strongly as I do about this.

I tried to like what they're doing, I really did. Followed 8 or 9 titles for two full years after the reboot before giving up. I'd wondered if I've gotten too old for comics, but then I discovered titles like Captain Midnight, where the heroes are still actually heroic and not sociopathic. Right now, the only DC I'm reading is Batman '66 and that's depressing because I grew up watching the goldanged Superfriends on Saturday mornings and reading the annual JLA/JSA crossovers and All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc and I just flat know that comics can be better than they are now.

I just don't see any hope on the horizon for the DC characters that I grew up with and still love and admire. I wish I did.

I agree also with the concerns about Batman being overused. In my personal opinion, he's become DC's Wolverine and I'm as sick of him as I am Logan. Well, more that I'm sick of his current incarnation. I remember when he was called "The World's Greatest Detective." Now he's the World's Most Paranoid Vigilante. It's like the writers have become obsessed with that one single aspect of his personality and Flanderized him all to Hell and back such that there's nothing else left of him.

Ah, but I'm ranting now and I really shouldn't do that. It's not polite. So I'll stop here.

Anj said...

Thanks so much for the continued discussion. I am enjoying all these stories of how impassioned DC's fans are. We want something more special than this.

And I don't mind coherent and intelligent rants here at all. After all, I recognize that my post was a rant itself.