THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes once more to discuss the six new titles released as part of DC’s Future State event, and what turned out to be the strongest week of books so far.
(WARNING: The following contains mild spoilers for this week’s DC Comics Future State titles.)
Joe Grunenwald: Well team, we’re on the third week now of DC’s Future State event. How’s everyone feeling about it overall now that this latest round of titles is here?
Cori McCreery: Slightly better than last week? I felt the books this week were the strongest of the line thus far, with mostly decent, a couple really good, and only one stinker.
Zack Quaintance: I’m with that 100 percent. This was easily my favorite week.
Greg Silber: I think I was a little sour last week with, you know, the actual fascist insurrection coinciding with a DC event largely focused on a fascist takeover of the DCU. So I don’t know how much of it is the worst people in America finally seeing some semblance of consequences, or if the books this week were just straight-up better, but I’m feeling more positive.
Quaintance: Not to get off topic immediately, but I live in D.C. and things have been very scary all week. And yet I still liked these comics!
McCreery: There were also fewer books this week too, which probably helped.
Grunenwald: I certainly agree that this was the strongest week of titles overall so far. There were fewer titles, but not by much — six books compared to last week’s seven — thought more stories if you count the multiple titles with backup stories included.
Quaintance: I think I’m also more settled into some of the ideas and concepts that are unifying the line. I’m doing way less wondering about what’s happening when and where certain key characters are.
Grunenwald: It’s almost more enjoyable if you try not to create any sort of continuity out of it. You can do it easier with some books than with others, but I don’t know how to easily fit last week’s Teen Titans book in with this week’s issue of Nightwing.
Silber: I don’t know how much readers who only follow a few of these titles will feel the same way, but having read all of them, it definitely seems to be coming together. That said, I still think things could’ve been explained more elegantly across the line
Grunenwald: I want to switch things up a little this week if we can. Let’s start off with the books we thought were maybe the weaker of the titles, and then get into the others, especially since I think we all agree this week was pretty strong overall.
Quaintance: So you’d like to talk about Shazam! first?
Silber: Yeah, that one’s easily the weakest of the week.
McCreery: God it was just kind of wretched, wasn’t it.
Grunenwald: It was totally the antithesis of what I want from a Captain Marvel comic, but also…I didn’t hate it? The ending kind of worked for me. And helped to explain a lot of what had come before, though there are still definitely outstanding questions I need answered.
Silber: At least it’s easier to follow than Future State: Teen Titans, which I still think is the weakest of the entire line so far, but it shares many of the same problems as that and Future State: The Flash.
McCreery: I think one of my biggest problems when you do these dark futures is writers trying to twist normally bright and optimistic characters into something darker and twisted within it, rather than allowing the brighter heroes to still be bright, fighting against the darkness.
Quaintance: That was my problem with this too, Cori. It also seemed to treat that approach like it was novel and hadn’t been done with this character as recently as the New 52.
McCreery: As recently as the New 52, Zack? Did you forget like a year ago with the Infected?
Quaintance: I did forget that! Dark and gritty has weirdly become the de facto Shazam.
Silber: Just a general PSA to anyone writing or thinking about writing a superhero comic: that grimdark twist on traditionally friendly and colorful superheroes you’re considering probably isn’t as bold or clever as you think. The genre has evolved since The Dark Knight Returns.
McCreery: This is the third DARK SHAZAM! story we’ve gotten in the last decade, which is an awful lot of those for a character who is one of the most optimistic and happy superheroes in existence.
Silber: It feels mean-spirited, frankly.
Grunenwald: It does seem like DC is having trouble figuring out what to do with him, and the default thing to do in that case is to make the character dark (see also: Supergirl).
McCreery: <sighs deeply>
Grunenwald: But the take on the character aside, I actually did enjoy the story in Future State: Shazam!.
Quaintance: Go on…
McCreery: Convince us!
Silber: <sits back with arms folded, scowling>
Grunenwald: Or at least find it interesting. There’s still question as far as I’m concerned of why Captain Marvel (He will always be Captain Marvel, sorry DC) is acting the way he is, even beyond ‘he’s not tethered to Billy anymore.’ I feel like there has to be more to it than that. And the assemblage of other heroes was entertaining. I do enjoy The Question (even if there’s also some question over who this version of The Question is). in particular. I also thought the art from Eduardo Pansica, Júlio Ferreira, and Marcelo Maiolo was pretty solid.
Quaintance: The art was good. There’s a big panel with the full assemblage of aforementioned interesting heroes that I enjoyed.
Silber: Glad to see Vixen getting some love, at least in the sense that she has a pretty big role here.
Grunenwald: I do wonder how well all of the mysteries will be wrapped up, between this book and Future State: Teen Titans, before Future State ends, but maybe they’ll also carry over into the main line, since Tim Sheridan is also going to be writing Teen Titans Academy. But all of that said, I agree that this was the weakest book of the week.
McCreery: Yeah I think we’re going to see a lot of threads move into the mainline books after Future State wraps.
Quaintance: I’d assumed as much too, with so many of the creators staying on the same heroes.
McCreery: I think the next weakest book for me was, surprisingly, Immortal Wonder Woman. It was still miles ahead of Shazam! but it still had some problems I couldn’t quite get past with both stories. In the main story my biggest problem was with the art. In that while Jen Bartel is a fantastic cover artist, she still struggles a bit with sequential storytelling.
Grunenwald: I thought this was some of the best sequential storytelling we’ve seen from her, but there is something about her work that’s still very static.
Silber: That’s fair. I liked Immortal Wonder Woman quite a bit, although there were some points in which I was reminded that she’s still rather new to sequentials. But damn if those individual panels don’t look pretty.
McCreery: Yeah, she’s definitely improving on that front, she just needs a good run on a consistent ongoing book to really lock down the storytelling aspect of comics. She’s a very fast learner, but she needs to be given something to really cut her teeth on.
Quaintance: Some of the color work was really well done, lending an ethereal feel to the scenery. I also liked the concept. It’s fun to think about how the context we generally see Wonder Woman in — interacting in the modern DCU — is a really small slice of her lifetime.
Grunenwald: There’s one panel that struck me as incredibly funny, though I’m not sure it was intended to be. Give her a humor book! To your point, Zack, I think on the timeline of Future State books, this one is supposed to be set at the end of time, so I was actually surprised to see so many familiar faces, but it was a pleasant surprise in most instances.
McCreery: My other concern with Bartel is that she tends to just put female characters in full faces of make-up whether or not that’s something that character would actually do.
Quaintance: Plus there was Superman, who had seemingly been mixed with Santa.
Grunenwald: The jolly man in red! Love that journey for him.
Silber: And let’s not forget ancient, dying Swamp Thing, which was pretty heartbreaking.
Grunenwald: What did you all think of the backup story in IWW?
Silber: I’m very into the idea of Wonder Woman facing off against an existential—and implicitly environmental, given Swampy’s involvement—threat at the end of time, so I look forward to seeing where that goes
McCreery: The first thing out of my mouth when I got to the backup was “Ugh Grail” so uh, not a lot of nice thoughts, Joe.
Silber: I was unfamiliar with Grail, but I still thought the story was only so-so.
Grunenwald: The villain there really could have been anyone. Using Grail was an interesting, if unfortunate, choice.
McCreery: Grail was my second least favorite part of James Robinson’s Wonder Womanless Wonder Woman run.
Quaintance: That’s a good point, Joe. You could have switched Grail out for really any villain, and nothing in the story changes.
Silber: I was surprised to learn that she was the daughter of Darkseid. The relatively petty crimes she commits seem beneath her.
McCreery: Yeah it was just a generic superhero story, which is really unfortunate for the return of Nubia.
Grunenwald: I actually think Grail’s inclusion does a disservice to Nubia. The opening story features Diana fighting Darkseid; the backup features Nubia fighting a lesser version of that character. Using any other of Diana’s villains would’ve been a more interesting choice and put Nubia on more of an even plane with Diana, in my opinion.
McCreery: Yeah, exactly Joe. It’s just disappointing all-around for a story I wanted to love. At least Nubia herself looked fantastic. I loved her hair.
Grunenwald: I did really enjoy Alitha Martinez‘s art on the backup story. It felt very ‘classic superhero’-y to me.
Silber: She’s a great artist. I’m always happy to see her work.
Grunenwald: If I have a major complaint about both stories in IWW, it’s just how unfinished they feel. Obviously they’re both the first part of a two-part story, but they’re not satisfying as individual pieces. The Nubia story in particular ended super-abruptly, but they’re both guilty of that.
Silber: I think a lot of Future State #1s so far have had that problem. They don’t feel like chapters so much as stories that get interrupted midway through.
McCreery: I maybe wonder if we might not have been better served with just a bunch of one-shots for each lead and each backup story.
Grunenwald: Cori, what was the other book this week that you thought was just okay?
McCreery: Actually, if I were grading them all (and I am, but not for here) the only books that below an A this week were the two we’ve already talked about. But The Next Batman that was more for the backup story than the main story, so that is probably next on my list as we go through them bottom to top.
Silber: The Next Batman may have been my favorite this week. Both for the main story, in which we got a better sense of what makes this new Batman tick, and the backups, which were both stellar.
Quaintance: I had to orient a bit with the artist change on Next Batman. Nothing against Laura Braga, whose work I enjoy, but that pure Nick Derington-Tamra Bonvillain combo in the first issue has been haunting me in the best way. It felt jarring to get back into the story without it.
Grunenwald: Yeah, The Next Batman was near the top for me as well. I 100% agree with you Greg that I have a better feel for who the new Batman is this week than I did last issue. I wish we’d gotten some more of that characterization in the previous issue. As for the artist change, it helped for me that Derington at least did breakdowns that Braga fleshed out. There’s even a panel or two that I swear Derington just drew himself. Faces that look just like his. But overall I really enjoyed the art.
McCreery: Yeah, I did enjoy the main story, but I was always going to be here for Vita Ayala’s “Batgirls” story, because that was the story I was most eagerly awaiting out of all of future state.
Silber: Grown-up Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain in a Gotham City prison drama! Who knew that would be what I wanted.
Grunenwald: The “Batgirls” story was really spectacular.
Quaintance: I really loved that Steph was reading Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Dispossessed, which is my favorite sci-fi novel.
Grunenwald: Particularly enjoy the irony, given a key element of the story, that Steph is a cyclops.
McCreery: I STILL WANNA KNOW HOW SHE LOST THAT DAMN EYE.
Grunenwald: Nobody did it.
Silber: At this point I’d be willing to accept “idk it looks cool” as an answer. Anyway, give Vita Ayala an ongoing Bat-book, please.
Grunenwald: I also really enjoyed the Gotham City Sirens story that closed out the book.
McCreery: Yeah, for sure. I want Vita to swing around both Gotham and Krakoa forever. They’re fantastic with both.
Silber: I am DELIGHTED by Slam Bradley’s heroes-and-villains nightclub. I hope that becomes a thing in the mainline DCU because it’s such a fun idea, if somewhat implausible.
McCreery: Yeah the Sirens story was really just a lot cuter than I expected, and I loved that for it.
Silber: And I’m here for the robot who learned everything she knows about humans from binge-watching TV
Grunenwald: I appreciate how the backup stories and ancillary titles like Harley Quinn and Nightwing have gone a long way towards fleshing out both the Magistrate itself and what life is like for the people living with them
McCreery: That’s a good segue to talk about our hero with the rearo, how nice was it to see Nicola Scott on Nightwing again?
Grunenwald: I scoured that book for butt shots and didn’t find one! Disappointing.
McCreery: Page 13, Joe.
Grunenwald: Oh yeah, there it is. I just missed it. Thank you, carry on.
Silber: I love the way Nicola Scott draws Nightwing, and I’m happy for everyone who enjoys looking at Dick Grayson(‘s butt), but I gotta say, this comic didn’t click with me.
McCreery: But really, the fan-service Nicola gave us was the shower scene rather than just a nice clear butt shot. I don’t love Dick’s costume, but he absolutely felt more like Dick Grayson than the one in Titans did.
Grunenwald: You want to know how Steph lost her eye; I want to know why Dick is wearing that ridiculous chinstrap.
McCreery: They’re all the rage in 2030 or whatever year this book is set.
Quaintance: He’s got some kind of multi-strap costume situation going on. There’s a matching across-the-back strap.
McCreery: I’m wondering if it’s meant to be a communication device? It covers his ears.
Quaintance: That occurred to me as well.
Grunenwald: I just thought it looked like wrestling headgear.
Quaintance: In the end, however, I settled on, guy wants to wear a strap, wear a strap. And I moved on.
Grunenwald: Fair. I wouldn’t say I got hung up on it overly. I agree with Cori that this book felt more like Nightwing to me than Future State: Teen Titans did. I particularly like the role he’s been cast in as the head of the Gotham resistance, and his interactions with the issue’s guest-star in the second half were pretty entertaining.
McCreery: See this is how you do a bright hero in the face of overwhelming fascism Mr. Sheridan.
Quaintance: Are we not saying who the issue’s guest star is? I liked this comic, and building to the ending we got was a big part of why. Going back to what you all were saying about stories ending abruptly, I thought this one did serialized superhero cliffhanger well.
Grunenwald: We can say who it is. I don’t think it’s a spoiler. Or at least I don’t think it hasn’t been revealed in solicits at this point.
Silber: Its not a spoiler, it’s an oracle!
Quaintance: Okay, well, I think Nightwing and New Batman holed up in Arkham-turned-to-HQ while the forces of the new big bad magistrate gather outside was a cool thing.
Silber: Barbara Gordon. Do you get it Joe.
Grunenwald: Yeah, that was a solid cliffhanger. Greg, who’s Grail?
Silber: Is this gonna be a counter-pun
Grunenwald: No I don’t have anything.
McCreery: Thank god.
Grunenwald: Zack was making a point I think. (Zack please help)
Quaintance: I was just into this comic. I also thought it did grimdark in a self-aware way that worked and didn’t feel like a grab for attention. At one point, a disposable bad guy character even uses the phrase, which I took to be a nod to folks like us who tend to be hyper-alert for poorly-done or cheap use of the tone.
Grunenwald: Compared to his portrayal in Future State: Teen Titans, this Nightwing was downright chipper. He seemed more determined than grimdark to me.
Silber: Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that part but it’s kind of hilarious. I appreciate the self-awareness. I should clarify that while Nightwing apparently didn’t work for me as well as it did for you all, I didn’t dislike it. I mostly still find this version of Dick Grayson to be a little more, well, grimdark than I like him, and I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned that way. My Nightwing doesn’t have to be all “holy [noun] Batman” but he’ll always be characterized by friendliness to me, so seeing him this brutal felt just a bit jarring.
Grunenwald: I think that’s a totally fair read.
Quaintance: I have a theory that people have long liked Nightwing more than they like Nightwing comics, but that’s probably a tangential discussion best held for another time.
Silber: You’re probably right!
McCreery: I can agree with that Greg. He was still darker than normal, but at least he wasn’t where he is in Titans. Small victories.
Grunenwald: I mean considering for the past several years he hasn’t even really been Nightwing in his own series it’s just nice to read a book where he has all of his memories. Do we want to stay in Gotham and talk about Catwoman next?
Silber: Let’s do it! I really enjoyed that one.
McCreery: I absolutely loved Catwoman. I have loved Ram V’s run on the main title, and he’s still crushing it here in the future too.
Silber: I haven’t been following the main title, and this makes me want to catch up.
Quaintance: Yeah, I don’t know if I have too much to say about Catwoman, other than going on about it being awesome. It was a heist on a train drawn by a really stylish artist who takes chances and a rising star writer who has been spinning gold from every DC property he touches. I also liked that you could almost pick this book up and enjoy it totally independent from the rest of the line. Just a well-executed high-action heist story.
McCreery: And by a heist on a train, Zack really means the heist OF a train.
Grunenwald: It was really a well-constructed issue from start to finish. Probably the most satisfying single-issue of the bunch so far I would say.
Silber: Umm can we talk about the WILDEST cameo in perhaps all of Future State?! Onomotopeia! Almost certainly Kevin Smith‘s best contribution to comics! The villain who’s only apparent power is that he says sound effects aloud!
McCreery: Love that guy.
Quaintance: Loved Onomotopeia showing up here. Whip whip kapow.
Grunenwald: That was a very strange and entertaining cameo. Certainly not a character I expected to see.
Silber: It’s such a silly thing and I laughed out loud when he showed up.
Grunenwald: And then takes the time to make his ridiculous mask.
Quaintance: It was funny too, because obviously the chained-up bearded guy was going to be Batman, and it still was — but first! It was also Onomotopeia.
McCreery: And yeah Zack, Otto Schmidt is always a treat, so this was just fantastic all around.
Quaintance: We were talking about why this was our favorite week all around, and for me it might just be as simple as I read Catwoman first, setting the tone.
Grunenwald: It’s a good way to start off the week for sure.
McCreery: I read in alphabetical order, so I also read it first, and you’re right about it just setting a fun tone for the week.
Grunenwald: And I actually thought the Bruce reveal at the end was a legitimate surprise, maybe because we’ve already seen what he’s up to in Dark Detective. Again, don’t worry about the continuity and it’s much more rewarding! I was more surprised at who it was that was there to free him.
Quaintance: I was too. That wig totally fooled me. Really did its job well.
Silber: I gasped at that reveal, which isn’t easy to make me do in superhero comics.
McCreery: That reveal aside, I think that the biggest surprise of the week for me was actually the quality of Superman: Worlds of War.
Grunenwald: That was by far my favorite book of the week.
Quaintance: I LOVED Superman: Worlds of War.
Silber: With maybe my favorite backup, but let’s talk about the main story first.
Quaintance: There was also a thing for me where having Clark show up and getting more information about what’s become of him was the main thing I’d been wanting from the rest of Future State, but, first and foremost, I just really enjoyed how this main story was told.
McCreery: I was leery of it because I really didn’t like Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s take on Captain America this summer, so I didn’t have a lot of faith in his take on DC’s own paragon of virtue. But I’m eating my words right now. This was just a really good Superman, and I’m now much less apprehensive of Johnson’s Superman run on a whole.
Silber: I am such a sucker for Superman comics where people just get together and talk about how great Superman is.
Grunenwald: Agreed. The way the main story is structured is really entertaining, and the info we get at the end has me very excited for the next issue.
Quaintance: Me too. I also just like comics that show Superman’s effect on regular people, which we got a lot of here.
McCreery: It also felt a lot like one of my favorite Superman stories ever, in the Jerry Ordway and Roger Stern-penned Exile saga.
Grunenwald: There’s a two-parter of the Justice League animated series called “Hereafter.” The first part opens with Superman apparently dying, and the rest of the first episode is all about the League sort of dealing with that and how to move on without him. And then at the end it’s revealed to the viewer that Superman’s not actually dead, and the second half of the two-parter is about what he’s up to and how he gets back. This first issue felt very much like the first part of that two-parter.
Silber: I also liked that there were some sly counters to some common misconceptions about Superman, including nods to his over-commercialization. Ironic coming from a DC book, sure, but a welcome theme nonetheless.
Grunenwald: I love the idea that Clark’s old papers from high school were being read as if they’re sacred text. There are a lot of implications to Clark revealing his identity to the world that haven’t been dug into much at all and this made me want to see more stuff like that.
Quaintance: Yes! Me too. I was also just happy they decided to build on that development, instead of instantly sweeping it away or undoing it.
McCreery: It definitely makes it feel like Johnson’s not planning on just erasing that story beat, doesn’t it?
Grunenwald: Bendis did a little bit of it in regards to the Daily Planet, but there’s so much more to explore.
Quaintance: So much more. I think it’s a really compelling narrative development that makes a lot of sense in the context of modern times. Glad to see the new Superman writer seizing on that from the start.
McCreery: Also, Mikel Janín’s gladiator Superman is just GODDAMN SMOKING HOT.
Grunenwald: Janin is incapable of drawing characters who aren’t smoking hot.
Quaintance: And Jordie Bellaire’s coloring in those scenes was amazing, potentially best-described as blood-stained.
Silber: But still hot.
Grunenwald: On top of the really strong main story, I thought all three back-up features were also pretty solid.
Silber: That Midnighter one was my favorite.
Grunenwald: I’m loving this take on Mister Miracle in particular.
Silber: Let’s talk about Mister Miracle first, since that comes first in sequence.
Quaintance: I liked them all quite a bit. I’m on record in week one saying I absolutely love Valentine de Landro‘s art, which I really haven’t seen regularly since the first two arcs of Bitch Planet, and it’s so good here that I don’t want these Mister Miracle shorts to stop.
McCreery: Yeah Val’s art is something I’ve been missing for some time. It’s nice to see it again, and in such a prominent place.
Silber: I don’t think I’m as into these Mister Miracle shorts as the rest of you, because I’m a bit frustrated that I know so little about him. But I like the off-kilter art, even if it is sometimes a bit muddier than I’d like from such a wild sci-fi tale.
Quaintance: There’s a really interesting tidbit in this one that suggests The Authority and the JLA are sort of co-super teaming as earth’s protectors.
McCreery: I mean, I’m there with you a bit Greg, the New Gods are one of my biggest DC blind spots that I really need to rectify.
Silber: It’s likely my fault more than the comic’s, and I need to let that baggage go.
Grunenwald: I liked the mention of the Authority there as well, Zack, as a little bit of world-building. And I wonder if we’ll see the point of crossover between Mister Miracle’s story and Midnighter’s story in the next issue.
Quaintance: Seems likely! Excited for that.
Silber: I know a lot of DC fans dislike the Wildstorm universe’s relatively-recent merging with the DCU, but as someone who knows about the Authority almost exclusively from Steve Orlando and ACO‘s superlative Midnighter (and Apollo), I’d love to see more synergy there. Plus, I just freaking loved Midnighter’s story. The one-liners! The giddy ultraviolence! The [spoiler] surprise appearance!
McCreery: Speaking of Midnighter, Gleb Melnikov draws a pretty fantastic one.
Silber: He sure does. And he gets out of ACO’s shadow, which is not an easy feat.
Grunenwald: I thought that story was a lot of fun, though I didn’t love the art. It was fine, just not really to my taste.
McCreery: Joe just wanted three pages of talking heads.
Grunenwald: (I am choosing to not engage in The Discourse.)
McCreery: But it was also a really fun Midnighter story. Like a lot more fun that I expect from that character.
Grunenwald: I think this might be the first solo Midnighter story I’ve ever read, but he was always pretty fun when he popped up in Grayson, so that wasn’t a huge shock to me.
Quaintance: I am this chat’s resident WildStorm guy and I approve of this back-up story.
Silber: You’ve gotta read that Orlando series, Joe. It’s so fun.
Grunenwald: I thought the twist/reveal at the end was a little too telegraphed. Probably my only complaint about that story. It’s still a solid reveal, but they made it a few pages too early.
Quaintance: I too thought it was inevitable that Apollo would show up, although it was the kind of thing that I didn’t like any less just because I knew it would happen.
Grunenwald: You kind of can’t have one character without the other.
Quaintance: Especially not if the preceding story is teasing The Authority.
Grunenwald: The Black Racer story was a pleasant surprise for me as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect from that one and it was really compelling.
McCreery: As neither a New Gods nut nor a Wildstorm nut, I don’t have a lot to say about any of the backups, but they were all nice.
Silber: I look forward to learning more about this version of The Black Racer. The story didn’t go where I expected it too in a way that I initially found disorienting but ultimately was fascinated by.
Quaintance: But yeah, overall…this week’s comics? They were good.
McCreery: I hope they keep this momentum. I really do.
Grunenwald: Yeah, it was nice to have a week where the winners far outnumbered the not-winners. Any other final thoughts? Anything anyone’s still really hoping to see from next week’s Future State books?
McCreery: I can’t wait for Batman/Superman actually. That’s one of my more anticipated books.
Silber: Same. Gene Luen Yang (once again The Beat’s person of the year!) has been one of the most consistently exciting creators in comics for, jeez, 15 years now?
Quaintance: Batman/Superman, of course. But Superman vs. Imperious Lex is also one I’m looking forward to. I really enjoy whenever Mark Russell has occasion to write Lex Luthor.
Grunenwald: Superman vs. Imperious Lex is probably the title I’m most excited about out of all of Future State. I have no idea what it’s going to be and I love that.
Silber: That Lex Luthor/Porky Pig story where Lex basically creates Gab/Parler and gets bullied off by Daffy Duck is one of my favorite single issues. I’m always down for more Lex Luthor by Mark Russell. As far as continuing stuff, I’m pumped for more Dark Detective. That may have been my favorite #1 of Future State so far.
Grunenwald: Looking forward to doing this again next week!
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