The New 52: Future's End #1
Why Does The Future Look So Familiar?
If you picked up last week's Free Comic Book Day preview, you know that this series begins thirty years into the future of "The New 52," the increasingly weathered term for DC's relaunch of their books almost three years ago. sentient satellite Brother Eye has taken over the Earth, and the last free-thinking hero -- possibly even living -- Terry McGinnis, aka Batman Beyond, has to travel back to a time before he was born in order to stop the events of his present from ever happening.
The crisis has been compounded by the failure of Terry's mission. Yes, he has made it back to the past, but not as far back as he needed to go. So instead of our present, and the present of every other DC book you might be reading, Terry is five years into the future, working to stop thirty years into the future.
Time travel stories make a lot of people's heads hurt.
Because this is a weekly book, Terry also works to get you hooked, which should have been easy because it's Batman Beyond. Unfortunately, this transplant from a beloved, albeit somewhat mature, animated series has not into a bright and shiny universe that we enjoyed watching him play in. He's in the New 52.
But writers who can make this work are here. Keith Giffen held things steady for DC's best weekly series, the similarly titled 52. Collaborating with him are Brian Azzarello (who was around, but not invited to play in that first series), Dan Jurgens and Jeff Lemire. All have written great books and, come to think of it, books that played around with alternate futures.
Thus the weakness of this right out of the gate. If you're new to comics, this might feel fresh, or at worst, like The Terminator on a grand scale. (Okay, Harlan, or "Soldier" or "Demon with a Glass Hand.")
But DC itself has done this a few times. The aforementioned 52 jumped forward a year and then filled in the gap. Armageddon 2001 sent a lone hero back in time to prevent a dystopia that's already thirteen years gone. Grant Morrison offered us DC 1,000,000 (now available in an Omnibus edition) with a similar premise. Teamed with Scott Snyder, Lemire even gave us something similar in Animal Man and Swamp Thing in the first year of the New 52.
So it feels tired going in. But what The New 52: Future's End has going for it is spectacular, if dark-edged, art by Patrick Zircher. It's bold and eye-catching, with terrific layouts and character work.
It also has a smart-alecky sidekick in A.L.F.R.E.D., the cybernetic replacement for Mr. Pennyworth that echoes in Terry's head. Part Skeets and part Tony Stark's JARVIS with all of the attitude Frank Miller gave Alfred, it may be an idea we've seen before, but the commentary could turn out to be hilarious, especially with both Giffen and Jurgens writing.
So what else is new? Well, terrible tragedies occur to various heroes in the DC Universe, and perhaps they will be shocking to you. There's a new line-up for Stormwatch, and so it might be interesting to see if the regular books start reflecting moves toward this status quo.
But my bet is that DC has gone for the shocking first, instead of building us toward caring. The impact of the character deaths isn't going to matter much if they're not characters you've been reading. This has to draw in new readers, not the old 52-year-olds.
If anything will save this book, it's Zircher and any alternate artists of similar quality. But right now, it feels pretty going to have been there, going to have done that.
Find this book and, of course, any comics you like at your local comics shop. We recommend Earth-2 Comics in Northridge, Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, Illusive Comics & Games, Hijinx Comics and The Comic Bug -- and many, many more in a neighborhood near you.