THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team discusses week 5 of DC’s Future State titles, which conclude the first batch of the event’s titles.
(Note: the following discussion contains spoilers for this week’s slate of DC Future State titles.)
Joe Grunenwald: Well friends, we are officially in the second month of Future State, and while The Next Batman has one more issue to go, the rest of the first batch of series wrapped up this week. How’s everyone feeling about this week’s books, and the event as a whole as we enter the home stretch?
Cori McCreery: Mostly pretty good! Even one of my least favorites from month one righted the ship this time and ended on a high note. I think I’m pretty optimistic about the end of this event.
Zack Quaintance: I also feel good, Joe. Thank you for asking. I have enjoyed more titles than I have been bored with, and the ratio is not super close.
Greg Silber: Now that we’re more than halfway through, I think it’s safe to say that this has been a better-than-average event across the board. Some of these stories ended a bit more abruptly than I would’ve liked, but these creators accomplished quite a bit with so few issues to work with.
Grunenwald: I was generally fairly impressed by the endings that we got this week. Some of the Future State books that had a lot of heavy lifting to do in their first issues felt like they settled in and actually got to tell most of their stories this go-around, and I appreciated that we got a mixture of endings that were pretty final for some characters and that left the door open for more stories for others.
I think the most improved award for the week probably goes to Superman of Metropolis, which was much more enjoyable this go-around than it was in its first issue.
McCreery: God yes. I hated the first issue, and somehow this one turned me completely around on the series. Both Jon and Kara felt more true to what I expect out of them than they did in that first issue. I can only hope that this means Superwoman also spins things back to enjoyable.
Quaintance: Yeah, my reaction to that first Superman comic was a bit of, “ugh, this is a lot and I’m not sure I want to care about this.” But then we got to this issue, and you know what? Turns out I did want to care about it after all. That was nice. I’d be curious to see how that story reads as a whole.
Grunenwald: The first issue of the series had a lot of setup to do and I think it did so at the expense of solid characterization for Jon, Kara, and even for Brain Cells. With all of that out of the way for the second issue it could get to the good stuff and it really delivered nicely.
Silber: I suspect it would read better in one piece. When I only had that first half available, it was hard to see it changing course favorably.
McCreery: Yeah with such short events set in a different time, that’s one of the risks you have. There’s so much exposition that needs to be established and only so many pages to do so.
Grunenwald: I also like how the ending of Superman of Metropolis feels like a natural progression to the beginning of Superman/Wonder Woman.
Silber: I hadn’t considered that but now that you mention it they’d probably pair well collected in a single trade.
McCreery: Yeah I feel the same, Superman/Wonder Woman is still a Jon working to atone for his earlier mistakes, and doing a pretty fine job of it.
Grunenwald: I also just want to say how much I loved both the Mister Miracle and Guardian back-ups again. Both of those did a really nice job fleshing out what was going on in Metropolis while Jon had it in a bottle, and the art on both of them was spectacular. I’m so glad there’s still one more Mister Miracle back-up to go in another book.
McCreery: I’m still a little perplexed at the way they decided to go with these Mister Miracle back-ups, but they are a lot of fun.
Quaintance: I think I’ve said it in every other chat we’ve done, so I’ll just say it in this one too — I love Valentine De Landro‘s work; what an inspired choice for Mister Miracle, colored to perfection here by Marissa Louise, as well.
Grunenwald: It’s worth repeating.
McCreery: He loves Valentine De Landro’s work; what an inspired choice for Mister Miracle.
Quaintance: Should I repeat it too, Joe? I’m unclear on the rules here.
Silber: What is happening
Grunenwald: You had already repeated it from every other chat, so I think we’re good. Moving on! What other Future State The DC Round-Up team discusses the latest round of Future State titles, including final issues for Superman of Metropolis, The Flash, and more.books were strong this week?
Silber: Should we talk about my favorite of the week, and maybe all of Future State? Swamp Thing?
Grunenwald: Bold statement! Future State isn’t even over yet!
Silber: That’s why I said maybe!
McCreery: Swamp Thing was fantastic, but I also have to admit that I’m not the target audience for it. Ol’ Swampy has never really gotten his vines into me, so even a good Swamp Thing story does less for me than some other characters.
Grunenwald: I’m the same way, Cori. I think I appreciated the Swamp Thing story more than I ‘liked’ it, but it’s a great story and beautifully told.
Quaintance: Ultimately, I came away from Swamp Thing satisfied with this story, but more than anything wanting to see what Ram V and Mike Perkins have in store for the book as an ongoing come April.
Silber: Well I adore Swamp Thing, and this gave me exactly what I want out of a Swampy story: environmentalism, strong horror influences, and ultimately a message of hope. Oh, and as we discussed last month… ellipses!
That said, I’m with Zack—I’m mostly excited for this team to continue through the ongoing, free from the restrictions of a line-wide event. This almost read like a proof-of-concept.
Grunenwald: I hate to burst your bubbles but The Swamp Thing is a 10-issue miniseries, not an ongoing. If this two-parter is any indication it should be pretty great, though.
Quaintance: Dang, not even 12.
Silber: WHAT. NO! Somehow I missed that news.
McCreery: Aha they also said there’s room for more if it does well though!
Silber: Take that, Joe!
Quaintance: I don’t condone picking on Joe, but here’s hoping it lives on past the original plan.
Grunenwald: I agree with you on both counts, Zack.
McCreery: I agree on one and only one, you decide which. Anyway, the other book I really loved this week was Wonder Woman. I’m excited that one of the characters that seems to be sticking around is going to be Yara Flor because I fell in love with her so deeply already.
Silber: She’s so fun! And I love her design.
Quaintance: I’m going to create a bot that just replies to all of your more cogent points with, ‘hey yeah, and how good was the art!’ But I really was blown away by Joëlle Jones and Jordie Bellaire‘s work on that comic.
Grunenwald: Yara had a ton of personality right from the jump in the first issue, and I really liked how this issue built on that and showed us even more about her and her backstory. And yeah, Jones and Bellaire’s artwork is incredible. I particularly liked the monochrome effect used for the flashback/memory sequence.
McCreery: Yeah, the art was just so fantastic, and that really helped to define the essence of the brand new character. Also, she got to play fetch with a pupper.
Silber: I especially loved her confrontation with Hades and his henchman. I laughed out loud when she tried to impress them with that pulling-your-finger-off trick.
McCreery: GOD THAT WAS SO GOOD.
Silber: Also, you can make fun of me all you want for apparently having a shtick, but Joëlle Jones draws a SICK Hades. I hope she works on Wonder Woman again sometime just so she could bring him back. Zack made fun of me for yelling about how much I like the art in these books, so SORRY FOR RESPECTING THE CRAFT.
Quaintance: I wasn’t making fun of you, Greg. I was poking fun at how I kept making that same point, which hey, maybe speaks to how strong the artwork has been throughout the event.
Silber: It really has been terrific! Events can be a crapshoot but there’s only one book throughout this whole event that I thought had weak art, and I’m sure we’ll talk about that later.
Grunenwald: The art really has been pretty solid throughout. I really enjoyed Simone Di Meo‘s work on Harley Quinn. That was a book I liked a lot overall. I’ve never been a big Harley Quinn fan but I enjoy Stephanie Phillips‘s take on the character and I’m interested to see what she does on the ongoing series.
Quaintance: Oh yes, that one looked so good. I also thought Stephanie Phillips did a really strong job writing Harley dialogue that felt in character but not preening or too reliant on constant silliness.
McCreery: Yeah once we got past the unnecessary Joker’s girlfriend jabs, it was just a really fun take on the character. But I’m also a sucker for forensic psychology getting used well.
Silber: I enjoy “Detective Harley.” Its a vibe we don’t normally get from Harley Quinn solo stories, and the idea of putting her (and Scarecrow, in a way) in this Hannibal-Lecter-in-The-Silence-of-the-Lambs role is a clever one.
Grunenwald: Yeah, I liked seeing Harley’s smarts being on full display. Slightly less slapstick-y Harley was refreshing.
McCreery: Yeah these past several years she’s really fallen into the Deadpool trap for me, and it’s just a type of character I really don’t gel with.
Silber: Detective stories are inherently more deliberately-paced than the zany energy we usually get from her, so it was an interesting way to see her in a genre she’s rarely associated with. After all, Batman’s usually the detective.
Quaintance: If I was running the chat like I did last week when Joe was otherwise occupied, I would jump all over this for a stunning segue to talking about The Next Batman #3…
Grunenwald: That’s as good a segue as any! What did you think of how that series is shaping up?
Quaintance: I like this book a lot. I think I was alone on badly missing the Nick Derington and Tamra Bonvillain art from #1 to #2, but that’s really my only major qualm with this series. I just liked the art in the first issue so much — the color pallete! — that I keep thinking about it while reading subsequent issues.
Silber: It’s letting its politics come through more clearly now, to its benefit. I like the Fox family dynamics too, so I’m glad the series is continuing post-Future State to explore all those wrinkles.
Quaintance: Oh yes, a well-realized and complex full Fox family with this kind of focus is a great addition to Gotham.
McCreery: Yeah, I think my favorite thing is the Fox family stuff, and the dramatic irony of other members of the family blaming Luke when he really and truly has nothing to do with it.
Grunenwald: I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed by the main story. The scenes with the Fox family are definitely the strongest, but I feel like at this point there’s not much to differentiate Tim Fox’s Batman from his predecessor, especially since there’s another book where we’re seeing Bruce doing pretty similar stuff to what Tim’s doing in this book. I really want to be interested in him as Batman but it’s not giving me anything to grab on to at this point. I hope the stories coming post-Future State help flesh that out more.
McCreery: That’s about exactly where I fall on it I think, Joe. There’s nothing here that really makes Tim his own Batman. It’s just a Batman story with no care that it’s someone else under the cowl.
Silber: I dunno, I think this Batman operates noticeably differently, but I definitely agree that too much focus is spent on how he’s not Bruce rather than all the things that make him his own person.
Quaintance: I can see that with the action scenes, and The Magistrate being a shared foe sort of takes away drastically different plots. Overall, however, the scenes out of the cowl are enough for me to feel like I’m reading a different take on the concept.
Grunenwald: My favorite part of The Next Batman #3 was probably the Outsiders backup story, which, like the main story in Superman of Metropolis, felt like it picked up a lot from where it started.
Quaintance: The Outsiders story in this comic was a very strong backup.
McCreery: Yeah, this Outsiders backup was the best thing to be done with that team in oh, probably the last 15 years? I dunno when did Judd Winick leave that book?
Silber: Black Lightning manifesting in Katana’s, uh, katana, is the dopest shit.
Grunenwald: I loved Duke’s narration throughout the story. I hope he gets something exciting to do during Infinite Frontier. I really wanted to like the Arkham Knights story, but it really did nothing for me. It felt like a Gotham-centric Suicide Squad story, which is fine, I suppose. It wasn’t bad. Like I said, it just didn’t do anything for me.
McCreery: Yeah, I have no attachment to the Arkham Knight whatsoever, so this story was just kind of there for me.
Silber: I think I said this last month, but that Arkham Knights story sure feels like satire, considering the lead character’s fascist overtones, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it’s satirizing.
Quaintance: I didn’t care to think about that one too much, but I did jot this on my notepad: More like Arkham good-knight…this story put me to sleep!
Silber: Excellent work Zack.
Quaintance: You don’t have to lie to me, but I appreciate the sentiment.
Grunenwald: No, that is A+ material and I’m glad you shared it with us and everyone.
I suppose we should probably talk about The Flash at this point.
Silber: But we were having such a good time!
McCreery: Remember how Superman of Metropolis got good after a bad first issue? Well Flash did not.
Quaintance: “Should we start with the severed limbs” is not a sentence I want to consider when talking about a Flash comic.
Grunenwald: Barry Allen cutting off Wally West’s legs with a rainbow blade rivals the first issue’s Barry moped-ing away from peaceful protestors being gassed by police in terms of sheer insanity.
McCreery: There’s something deeply depressing about taking the character that Geoff Johns made a paragon of hope… and telling… this story with him. Like I don’t really don’t love that Barry Allen was the Justice League Blue Lantern in the first place, but the precedent is THERE AND THEN YOU DO THIS.
Silber: Last month I expressed my controversial opinion that Future State: The Flash #1 had some redeeming qualities. I have no such affection for this final half. It’s the worst comic I’ve read in recent memory.
Grunenwald: But Cori, this story builds on Barry being the paragon of hope! Famine was feeding on him the whole time! What is Famine? How does he feed on an emotion? No one ever says!
Silber: I don’t wanna assume anyone’s intent here, but it sure feels like we, as superhero fans, are being punished for enjoying hopeful characters and stories.
McCreery: Also, Famine belongs to the X-Men rogue gallery, get her out of my Flash book.
Quaintance: This comic seemed like it was going to do one of my least favorite superhero tropes, which is when a super-powerful villain that has been successful for a sustained amount of time gets beaten by the power of friendship. And you know, even that ridiculousness would have been welcome in the story we actually got.
Grunenwald: I would have leapt for joy if that had happened.
Silber: What theme is being expressed here? Because it almost feels like the message is “hope and friendship are bad, actually.”
Grunenwald: So look. I’m not inherently against a dark story. And I’m not even inherently against a dark Flash story (Cori, please hold your Walter West jokes). All I ask is for it to be told well and for it to make any damn sense, and this issue did neither of those things.
McCreery: Instead we get to suffer with the depressing ending and the “Hey read more in the also bad Teen Titans book!”
Silber: That may have pissed me off more than anything. This isn’t even over? I have to read the end of a DIFFERENT SERIES to find out how this wraps up?
Grunenwald: There are basic storytelling things that are not being done here. As mentioned, there’s no explanation for what Famine is or how it’s doing what it’s doing. There are things that are set-up that just go nowhere, like Iris apparently disappearing out into the city and never returning. One might’ve thought that was setting her up for a return, but nope! She’s just gone! Is this comic Famine? Because it fed on my hope and left me a shell of a reader. That said I will give the Future State: Flash series one thing: it was consistent from beginning to end.
McCreery: Well consistent other than the art team.
Quaintance: And I will give it credit for a character doing that super-hammy thing where they say the title of the movie/television show/event comic.
Grunenwald: HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN THAT.
Quaintance: I thought that would be the first thing up for discussion.
McCreery: You forget lots of bad things, Joe.
Grunenwald: This is true, but that was laughably awful. Flash was the first book I read this week and I was worried every series was going to say “future state” at one point. I’m glad the other books didn’t follow suit.
Silber: This feels silly, but was it ever explained how the Flash family lost their powers before issue 1 began?
McCreery: Of course not, Greg, that seems like it’d be an important thing.
Grunenwald: I don’t believe it was, no. Maybe Famine ate the Speed Force. Or maybe we’ll find out in Teen Titans.
Quaintance: Maybe they lost it because they didn’t have friendship.
McCreery: What if we find out in Shazam!?
Grunenwald: The part that made me laugh the most was when Barry tried to send his bleak, ‘I know I’m about to die’ recording to the cloud or wherever and as he walked away the computer showed the transmission had failed. This is how bad things are! His simple transmission doesn’t even work!
Silber: What was the point of that?!
Quaintance: Wasn’t Barry’s back turned so he didn’t even know?
McCreery: Also why would you walk away before confirming that it sent? I know Barry’s dumb but not that dumb.
Grunenwald: He hoped it would send.
Quaintance: Jeez, now I’m wondering how many of my own “I know I’m about to die” transmissions never made it to the cloud.
McCreery: Clearly he doesn’t have a high speed connection.
Grunenwald: Oof, you really forced that one.
McCreery: Much like this story.
Grunenwald: Does anyone have any final thoughts about this week’s books?
McCreery: Overall this week left me optimistic for how this event as a whole is going to play out. I expect most of them to be good, and even the worst would have to work really hard to be worse than Flash.
Quaintance: I’m getting more excited for Infinite Frontier. There were a lot of rumors around the chaotic process that led to the Future State event, which we know led to the ouster of long-time DC honcho Dan DiDio. So, I’m kind of thinking, well if these are this good, what will it look like when the new-look DC editorial team has more agency with the line?
Silber: That’s what I’ve been thinking all along. I’m really optimistic about Marie Javins‘ DC reign. If this was the transition from Bob Harras to her, I think a lot of good stuff will be coming now that she can really make her own mark.
Grunenwald: Agreed on all fronts. I have nothing to add! See you all back here next week!
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