With the end of DARK NIGHTS: DEATH METAL, the DC Comics universe is getting ready to head into the Infinite Frontier. But first, we pause for two months to take a brief sojourn into the future.
The two-month FUTURE STATE is a complete revamp of the DC Comics line of comics, advancing all of our heroes into undated futures that was rumored to be the new status quo for the publisher. But between the comic book shutdown from the coronavirus last year and the ouster of DAN DIDIO as co-publisher, plans clearly changed.
Judging by the first week’s worth of Future State titles, that’s probably a good thing.
To kick off the event, DC Comics published six Future State comic books this week, each telling their own story at various points in the timeline. Of those six books, I picked up four, because comic book prices are getting out of control and even with the back-up stories, some of these books (like the $7.99 Next Batman) are crazy expensive. Maybe the Future State Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman titles were better than the selection I picked up. I’ll certainly give them a shot once they debut on the DC Universe Infinite app in six months. But for right now, it’s a hard pass.
Let’s take a quick look at the four books I did pick up and how depressing the future continues to be:
Superman of Metropolis
With Clark Kent no longer on Earth, he passed the role of being Metropolis’ guardian to his son, Jon, and his cousin Supergirl, Kara Zor-El. At some point in the apparently 10 years since Superman left Earth, Jon and Kara managed to defeat Brainiac and turned parts of his system into a vengeful artificial intelligence mobile app that brainwashed people and caused confrontations between the citizenry of Metropolis and the armed forces.
Look, I don’t mind a little bit of social commentary in my comic books. I think Mark Russell did it really well in The Flintstones, for instance, but this was just heavy-handed and kind of bad.
So, in response to the threat that he created and kind of nurtured (I’m really not sure why this Brain Cells was allowed to do whatever it wanted), Jon protects Brain Cells from getting in the hands of the U.S. Armed Forces (probably not the worst idea) and then decides to use Brainiac’s own tech to shrink Metropolis down and place it into a protective bottle.
There’s almost zero logic to any of this.
The backup stories with Mister Miracle Shilo Norman and the Metropolis Guardian – both stuck in the bottle city – are OK, but don’t come close to saving this mess of a story.
The Next Batman
This is the book that DC Comics hyped as the flag-bearer for Future State. It’s a new Batman, written by John Ridley! For weeks, the publisher hyped the mystery of who the new Batman would be before just giving up and announcing it was Tim “Jace” Fox, the black sheep son of Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne’s most trusted advisor. But you wouldn’t know it from this issue. Aside from introducing Tim as he has a fight with brother Luke, there’s no big reveal for who is actually under the cowl in future Gotham, which is under a police state from an entity called the Magistrate and all masks are banned.
The Next Batman is another book with back-up stories. I could take or leave the Outsiders tale, but the Arkham Knights story was pretty good. Still, overall, this felt like a waste.
This company really doesn’t like speedsters. After everything Wally West has been through the last few years – most notably murdering his friends in HEROES IN CRISIS – making Wally the big bad of this book isn’t much of a surprise. But the death of TWO OTHER SPEEDSTERS (I won’t spoil it, I guess) was a little much. Especially since none of the members of Team Flash have any speed left.
Wally is possessed by one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and apparently caused a massacre at Titans Academy – one of the books planned for the INFINITE FRONTIER scheduled for March – so, we have an upcoming book that will build to seeing Wally West kill a bunch of young heroes.
If there was a standout from this week’s batch of books, it’s this one. Harley Quinn – who, let’s not forget, was a criminal profiler before she became a criminal – serves as Hannibal Lecter as the former Scarecrow tries to capture Gotham’s criminals for the Magistrate. Under the pen of writer Stephanie Phillips (who also wrote SENSATIONAL WONDER WOMAN), Harley Quinn was a lot of fun, and could likely hold as an extended miniseries of some sort.
With Phillips staying on Harley when the Infinite Frontier begins in March, I may find myself regularly reading a Harley Quinn book for the first time ever.
After a very unsuccessful first week – 1 out of 4 is in no way good – DC Comics will hope to rebound with another batch of seven books. Highlights of week 2 should include Mariko Tamaki writing Bruce Wayne in Dark Detective; Marguerite Bennett on Kara Zor-El: Superwoman; a look at the future heroes coming together in Justice League; and Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown joining forces in Robin Eternal.
Will any of week 2’s books be any good? We’ll find out!