Monday, February 1, 2021

Review: Future State Batman/Superman #1

Future State Batman/Superman #1 came out last week and I have to admit I was looking forward to this one.

For one, Gene Luen Yang is the writer here. He is also going to be the writer on the main Batman/Superman book in the coming months. I liked Yang's work on New Super-Man and The Terrifics so I was interested in seeing what he would handle the World's Finest duo. Yang picks up what Joshua Williamson has done so well in the main title, contrasting the two heroes but showing why they work well together and are friends.

Next, Ben Oliver is on art and I love seeing anything Oliver does. No doubt his work is meticulous and clean. I love his Superman. So big draw.

And lastly, I am basically staying away from Batman books. While I have heard some reviews on Magistrates and new Batmans, I haven't seen it first hand. So I thought this would be a good dip of the toe into the Gotham waters.

I do have to say that it has been hard for a simple mind like me to keep all this Future State timeline in my head. This looks like it could have been an issue from next month. But at some point Superman is on Warworld. At some point Superman is free and talking about Lexor. At some point, Superboy becomes Superman. It is enough to give me a headache. Are all of these Future States on one timeline? Or can some exist as their own fractured timeline.

On to the book.

We start with Batman in the sewers of Gotham being attacked by rats who have a genetic mutation of a human-like eye on their backs, eyes which can shoot heat vision. 

Batman wonders how Clark is involved.

Nice opening. And Oliver's artwork is horrifying. 

Batman saying 'hrm' is actually a plot point as later Superman hears Batman say 'huh' and that difference in utterance means something is wrong. Nice little moment showing how close these guys are.

We go back in time and head to Metropolis.

Here Superman stops a young man from killing himself by throwing himself in front of a train. The boy took 'False Face' serum so he could make his head a ram, a way to join a pep rally at a game. Unfortunately, the serum has rewritten his genome. When he is agitated, he grows horns. He can't live with that shame.

Superman brings this kid to STAR Labs and learns all this False Face drug is coming from Gotham.

Excellent splash page here of Superman blocking a train. It reminded me of Grant Morrison's young Superman blocking a train in Action Comics #0, also by Ben Oliver.

In Gotham, Batman is a fugitive as the city has hired a 'Magistrate' to keep it in a police state, controlled by innumerable drones and mecha robots.

It is good to see the two heroes together again. And that contrast is obvious when Superman talks about liking his red cape.

Still, Batman on the run in his own city is an interesting wrinkle. Not the first time he has had to fight cops.

The two stumble onto three teens who are using the False Face serum to give themselves animal heads to flummox facial recognition technology. They are rebelling against the magistrate, destroying drones, and on the run. And they are so passionate about this, they are willing to deal with the risks of the long term complications of False Face.

One teen talks about her father, a genetics expert, who she thinks has been kidnapped by the Magistrate.

Now we get to see a true contrast.

In Metropolis, False Face is used for pep rallies as nerds try to become popular. 

In Gotham, it is used to fake out tech in a police state.

Nicely shown but not told by Yang. Gotham and Metropolis are very different.

The two heroes get a lead on where the False Face is flowing from and head to the underground.

Again, we see how different the heroes are. Superman is all bright and friendly, stopping to light a fire with his heat vision so the homeless won't get cold.

Batman, as he worried before, is afraid that Superman sticks out too much. While Clark acts like he doesn't need to hide, he knows there have been times that Superman has needed to go incognito.

Still, Superman waving while Batman broods is a good image.

Sneaking into the False Face headquarters, the heroes are attacked by human/animal hybrids. The heroes are split up.

Then Superman meets the leader, Mr. Toad.

I mean it when I got flashbacks to reading Mr. Frog and Mr. Toad books to my kids many years ago.

But then comic book coincidence slips in. 

The very girl the heroes saved earlier? Her dad hasn't been kidnapped by the Magistrate. He is Mr. Toad.

I suppose I have read such coincidences all my comic life so I shouldn't be surprised to see it here. 

What I do like is that Superman promises to help with the Magistrate. The risks of False Face are too much. There has to be a safer way and the Man of Steel will help.

But Batman's spidey-sense ticks off when he sees that the facility goes dark. 

And it should. Mr. Toad pulls out a Kryptonite dagger and stabs Superman. 

Now you might wonder why Mr. Toad has a K-knife hanging around. Or how he got it. Or why he even has it on him. In fact I wondered about that a lot. But given the genetic rats from earlier, I shouldn't have been surprised. Still, stabbing Superman seems like a bad idea.

I know I haven't commented much on the art but seriously, Oliver's work speaks for itself in the quick picks I have shown. His work is just mind-boggling! It is just so fantastic.

So overall, I loved the art. I liked the Batman and Superman interactions, comparing and contrasting who they are and what their worlds are like. Even this plot of Superman being a bit ignorant of Gotham's plight is interesting. 

But given the quick nature of this story, the coincidence of the rebel being saved happening to give her back story and happening to be the daughter of the bad guy is a bit much. The K-knife is another leap. It pulled be back just a touch. 

Still a good read overall. And the art alone probably makes it worth perusing.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

This was one of the better ones, and I loved the writing. So it leaves me thinking I might buy the regular monthly when it picks up in March.

There is a timeline of Future State printed in the free one-shot DC put out a few months ago, "DC Nation Future State." It collates a lot of the publicity and interviews that have appeared elsewhere, but also prints the nice timeline. Stories mostly take place between 2025 and 2070..

Just a few examples:

Batman/Superman is in 2025, and all of the Magistrate-related Bat stories are during the period 2025-2027.

Superman of Metropolis and Worlds of War are set in 2030.

Superwoman and Yara Flor are in 2050.

On the extreme end, there are just a few outliers: 3000 (Legion, and House of El which hasn't been published yet); 4500 (Swamp Thing, which is clearly set in a post apocalyptic landscape); 82,020 (Black Adam) and "The End of Time" (Immortal Wonder Woman).

I'm reading all of them, and it takes me a lot of brain cycles to deal just with the in media res nature of most of these stories, leaving me little energy to also worry about the the time frames.

If you don't have the DC Nation book handy, Bleeding Cool wrote a piece to expressly display that timeline, without trying to elaborate on it:

https: //bleedingcool . com /comics/lets-have-another-look-at-the-dc-future-state-timeline/

I really enjoyed the Aquaman, Catwoman, and Swamp Thing stories so far. Aquaman has beautiful art by Daniel Sampere, does a great job characterizing the somewhat tense mentor relationship between the new Aquaman (Jackson Hyde) and Andy Curry, then goes off into psychedelic and then sci-fi/horror directions. I think it's going to end well.

Catwoman is a well-done train heist.

Normally I like my Swamp Thing as a supporting character, but at least in issue #1, he's written as a benevolent father figure to all the young creatures he has been creating and educating. There's something very sweet about it.

So if you were looking to sample stuff outside of the Gotham -centered tales, and are already reading the Super Family, I'd suggest Aquaman and Swamp Thing, and while Catwoman does connect to the Magistrate, it's just fun.


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the review, I avoided this as I couldn’t bear another Magistrate book, but it sounds rather decent. I am soooooo tired of the contrasting Batman/Superman bit, though.

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