Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Futures End #0

• Brian Azzarello
• Jeff Lemire
• Dan Jurgens
• Keith Giffen
• Ethan Van Sciver
• Patrick Zircher
• Aaron Lopresti & Art Thibert
• Dan Jurgens & Mark Irwin
• Jesus Merino & Dan Green
Art Consultant
• Keith Giffen
• Hi-Fi
• Carlos Mangual
• Ryan Sook
Assistant Editor
• Kyle Andrukiewicz
• Joey Cavalieri
Group Editor
• Matt Idelson
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster.
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.

This is what happens when you make a weekly comic — it has to be done by committee. I'm a firm believer that the fewer people working on a comic, the more cohesive the story can be. So we could be in for a pretty rough ride over the next handful of issues. Or maybe not. We'll see.

Futures End made its debut on Free Comic Book Day 2014, which explains why the cover has a huge white chunk in the bottom left corner. Actually, that doesn't explain anything. I have the digital version of this comic, so that big white space is completely useless. Whatever. The cover shows the Batman from the old Batman Beyond cartoon looming sinisterly over some grotesque versions of the Justice League, including the Flash, who doesn't seem to have a shred of humanity left on him. And the evil behind all this is apparently the most powerful villain ever, the sentient satellite Brother Eye.

Our story begins in Central City, 35 years from now. Captain Cold, who hasn't died of cancer in this timeline, is hiding out in one of the last havens of humanity. Cold convinces his companions to keep the door open just a little longer so the Flash can return from his reconnaissance mission. Right on cue, Flash arrives, still wearing his classic red suit and sporting a big white beard. The exhausted Barry says he's been running all night, but couldn't find any other survivors. The door suddenly caves in, showing that Flash was followed back to the hideout. Leading the attack are hideous spider-robot versions of Wonder Woman and Hawk, followed by thousands of small robot spiders.

Flash destroys the Hawk spider-robot, but Wonder Woman slices off Cold's hands. The wounds are sealed by invasive nanobots that take control of Leonard Snart and assimilate him into Brother Eye. Flash retaliates by destroying the Wonder Woman monstrosity, but now he's too tired to defend himself from the next wave of robots. Frankenstein, who has not been assimilated, leads this group, and he says that since the Flash was once his friend, he'll offer him the chance to join Brother Eye willingly or be destroyed. Flash refuses, so Frankenstein opens up his shirt to reveal he's grafted Black Canary's head onto his chest, and he uses her Canary Cry to vaporize Flash.

And that's the end of the Flash in this issue. Most of what follows next is more overly violent deaths of various heroes at the hands of more grotesque robot-spider versions of other heroes. The only part that really matters is a dying Bruce Wayne sending his protégé Terry McGinnis back in time to prevent Brother Eye from taking over the world. Unfortunately, Terry only goes back 30 years instead of the necessary 35. So he ends up five years from "now," which I say puts him at 2017.

Now, there are a lot of inconsistencies with this future and what we saw in The Flash because nobody at DC talks to each other. But I think I can make sense of it. Following my last post about the alternate timelines, I'm going to say this story takes place in the year 2047 of the new Timeline C. After seeing the crazy version of his future self, Flash decided to keep his iconic red costume throughout his career. And perhaps he was able to help Captain Cold beat cancer because he wasn't going crazy and constantly losing time due to the fractured Speed Force. I'm not sure how Captain Cold got his powers back, but perhaps he felt he needed them to combat Brother Eye. At the end, when Terry travels back in time, he creates a new Timeline D. I know I'm making up a lot of stuff, but it's the only way I can make it work in my head.

The Good:

The Flash. Yeah, his beard did make him look like Santa Claus, but I liked seeing that the Flash was one of the last heroes to survive. And even though he was exhausted, it was nice to see he still could kill Hawk and Wonder Woman (even without the Brother Eye assimilation, I still think Flash could beat Wonder Woman). Working with Captain Cold up to the end was another nice touch, although I'm not sure why Flash wasn't also working with Batman and the other straggling survivors. And it almost feels sacrilegious to have the Flash in a story with time travel, but not have Flash at least involved in that time travel aspect in some way. But this isn't Barry's story — it's Terry's.

The Bad:

Too gruesome. This comic went out of its way to be as shocking and grotesque as possible. Perhaps DC showed a little bit of restraint for this free issue, but I don't think they restrained themselves enough. This comic was handed out to children, and it showed limbs being cut off, heads grafted onto torsos, spines being pulled out of bodies, and more. That is not acceptable for all audiences. This book did receive some backlash, but not enough in my opinion. I'd still be disgusted if this was just a regular $2.99 issue, but I'm much more upset because it was DC's lone offering to Free Comic Day — a happy event intended to celebrate comics and introduce them to a younger audience.

Brother Eye. This vague villain is far too powerful and illogical. How on Earth did he assimilate Superman and Wonder Woman? And when he assimilates people, why does he transform them into spider robots? How is that more efficient or powerful? Wonder Woman is severely weakened when you cut off her arms and replace her legs with a large, awkward spider butt. It's more work than it's worth. And why didn't Brother Eye assimilate Frankenstein? Even if he did willingly join, wouldn't it fall under Brother Eye's motivation to convert all flesh into robotics? And what's the point of saying "Eye" instead of "I"? They sound exactly the same. The only way we know there's a difference is because we're reading speech bubbles in a comic.

Too many cooks in the kitchen. Four writers and five pencilers is a recipe for disaster. Well, disaster might be too strong a word, but it certainly creates disjointed storytelling. Each shift in art and writing is jarring to an extent. Some transitions work better than others, but at the end of the day, you still feel like you're reading several different stories stitched together rather than one cohesive narrative. Perhaps there are good "comics by committee" like this out there, but I have yet to read a satisfying story that follows this format.

Final score: 3 out of 10

The Flash actually plays a rather minor role in this event, so we'll be skipping around quite a bit. Next time: Futures End #2.

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