THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes one last time to discuss the final week of DC‘s Future State titles. Did the event finish strong? And how did Future State stack up as a whole?
Joe Grunenwald: Well friends, as Boyz II Men would say, we’ve come to the end of the road for DC’s two-month Future State event. What were everyone’s overall impressions for this week’s comics?
Zack Quaintance: In brief, the comics were strong this week. Very strong. Probably the best they’ve been yet on the whole.
Greg Silber: Everything was at worst merely okay and at best delightful. A solid spread, all things considered!
Cori McCreery: Yeah agreed here. I liked almost everything, and the things I didn’t like as much weren’t BAD, just not doing it for me.
Grunenwald: Agreed on all counts. There wasn’t a book or a story this week that I didn’t appreciate on some level.
McCreery: It’s nice of Future State to end on two weeks of high notes.
Grunenwald: Let’s go alphabetically this week! What did you all think of the conclusion of the Future State: Aquaman series?
McCreery: I really liked Aquaman. It made Andy a very complex character, and a little bit more morally grey than you expect of the progeny of a founding Justice Leaguer.
Silber: I was impressed by the art here. I’m not enough of an Aquaman reader to speak to the characters much, but I really like how all that Aquatic magic was represented visually.
Quaintance: That was a great-looking comic, and the story just kind of washed over me (ocean wordplay!) in a nice way. I thought there was a good core to it thematically, as well. It probably won’t be one of the more memorable stories within this event for me, but I enjoyed it well enough.
Silber: Frankly, this is one of the books that I thought was “just okay,” but again, I don’t think I’m the audience here.
Grunenwald: I really enjoyed the first issue of this series, and then the second issue was completely different, and I still loved it. I enjoy that they split the title between the two protagonists – it made reading the story more interesting than it probably would have been had it alternated back and forth between the two of them for two issues. And I agree that Daniel Sampere and Adriano Lucas‘s art on this book is indeed spectacular.
McCreery: I really liked the breaking of focus, too, Joe.
Grunenwald: It’s the sort of ‘trick’ you can experiment with on a self-contained story, and I really appreciated it. Speaking of books with two protagonists, Gene Luen Yang‘s first Batman/Superman arc also wrapped this week.
McCreery: This is another book I really enjoyed. I just think Yang writes them both really well, and I’m really excited to see what he does with them in the ongoing.
Quaintance: Heartily agree. Great dynamic in this book, and it did its job well — sort of answering any loose questions about how The Magistrate could happen with such powerful heroes involved.
Silber: I’m so excited for Gene Luen Yang to keep writing these characters on an ongoing basis, because G-d he just gets them. I was especially impressed by how he managed to sneak in some remarkably creepy scenes, because most of his work is so wholesome that I wasn’t sure he had horror skills in him. That’s on me for doubting one of the best writers in comics today, though.
McCreery: Yeah, there was some really good body horror stuff in here and it landed extremely well.
Grunenwald: I agree that Yang captures their voices well, and the conflict between their personalities hits hard. I will say I was a little disappointed that Ben Oliver didn’t draw the full issue, but the combined team of Scott McDaniel‘s breakdowns and Oliver and Stephen Segovia‘s finishes worked pretty well together. Much credit to Arif Prianto‘s colors for helping hold it all together.
Silber: Prianto’s colors are definitely the secret sauce here, which helped the horror imagery land especially well.
Quaintance: I am VERY excited to see what the regular series art team of Ivan Reis and Alex Sinclair do paired with Yang on the title moving forward. That book feels like a sleeping giant in this forthcoming line.
Grunenwald: It’s definitely the Infinite Frontier book I’m most looking forward to.
McCreery: Honestly haven’t been this excited for a Superman and Batman book since the earliest of Jeph Loeb’s time on the title.
Silber: Having not read any Infinite Frontier books yet, if I could only pick up one sight unseen, that would be it.
Grunenwald: Staying in Gotham, we’ve got the final issue of Future State: Dark Detective, which has another creator team that’s continuing on in Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, and Jordie Bellaire. This, to me, was a fantastic conclusion to their story.
Quaintance: It had my favorite thing in Batman comics, which is when Batman says, “This ends!” Or the more verbose and often more common, “This ends now!” But joking aside, this was a great ending to this story. I’d like to read all four of these chapters at once now. Feels like this was a very well paced story.
McCreery: Yeah, agreed Zack, and it feels like the Dark Detective story just got better as the issues went on.
Grunenwald: It definitely picked up steam as it went, and it started from a very strong premise to begin with. I’m fascinated by Bruce’s housemate and his daughter, characters I doubt we’ll ever see again, but I think that’s a testament to the strength of Tamaki’s writing that I got so invested in them.
Silber: It’s great that Dan Mora was able to stay on for all four issues too. I’m overjoyed that he finally got a nice big DC story to show off on.
Quaintance: Do we think this was the best-looking Future State book? I think there’s a case to be made…
Grunenwald: I absolutely think it was, hands-down.
Silber: I can’t think of a better looking one.
McCreery: I’d say yes. Though Nightwing comes close. Mora getting to do cyberpunk by way of Batman meets Power Rangers is just delightful.
Silber: Also, I said when this story began that I loved the premise of dirt-broke Bruce Wayne, and I’m glad that conceit was never dropped. Bruce didn’t save the day by getting his fortune or old gadgets back. And it gave Mora room for some really creative designs too.
Grunenwald: I also really loved Giannis Milonogiannis‘s artwork on the Red Hood backup story. It paired well with Mora and Bellaire’s art on the main feature.
Silber: I said something to this effect last time, but I’d love to read more Big 2 books that look like this.
McCreery: God, I enjoyed that Red Hood story more than I have any Red Hood story since Judd Winick wrote him.
Quaintance: Cori, it’s almost like a writer you don’t like had control of Red Hood for more than a decade or whatever.
McCreery: Gosh is that it?
Grunenwald: I’m really excited that they’re continuing that story in the Future State: Gotham series. In addition to the great art, Josh Williamson really has a great handle on the character.
Quaintance: Yeah, and that new book being black and white is somehow making it even more exciting to me? Feels like there’s a little bit of creative freedom to it, right down to that choice in its foundation.
Silber: It’s an exciting time to be reading DC Comics.
McCreery: Know what else has me excited?
Grunenwald: Next up this week is the House of El one-shot. Cori, you have the floor.
McCreery: Philip Kennedy Johnson’s Superman. It’s amazing how fast I spun around on my excitement for his run, just on these three issues in Future State. It helps that he really seems to focus on what Superman MEANS rather than just on big punch-em-ups. House of El is all about Superman’s legacy, and in the best way possible. I loved every moment of this book. And it gave me something I’ve wanted to see with the Superman family for over a decade.
Silber: What was that, Cori?
McCreery: A member of the Superman family with a Blue Lantern ring. It’s a no-brainer that has taken way too long to happen.
Silber: Oh, I hadn’t even thought of that. Certainly a long time coming. For me, the thing that this book introduces conceptually that I’ve been waiting for ever since I read All-Star Superman is the idea of an extended Superman family. I don’t just mean supporting characters. I mean the idea that Clark’s lineage extends beyond a single line, if that makes sense.
Grunenwald: That makes total sense, and it works much better here than it has in other series that have explored a similar concept, particularly by bringing other alien races and lineages into the mix.
McCreery: The diversity of the family was so nice. And despite only getting one issue of them, I felt like we got enough of their personalities to really get a good feel for all of them.
Quaintance: Poor Brandon.
Grunenwald: Something I appreciated about this one-shot is that it felt like it was doing something sort of similar to what the Green Lantern book was doing, telling a sci-fi story with familiar characters, but this one felt so much more effective than that one did, I think because this was grounded so firmly in the Superman mythology and the familiar trappings that come with it. It wasn’t as far afield as the GL story was, which I think ultimately worked to that story’s detriment. I agree with you on Johnson’s work establishing their personalities, Cori. I think that was a big part of the draw there as well that made it a little more effective than the GL story, where I felt like the characters were sort of interchangeable.
Quaintance: Even on a micro scale, I thought this comic was really interesting. It introduced and established characters so well, populating its one big action set piece with characters we not only understood but also actually cared about…and then on top of all that, it built to a climax that was inevitable and still totally awesome. Just a very well done book, start to finish.
Silber: I think this book also benefited from being an extra-sized one-shot rather than two standard issues. In retrospect, a number of other Future State books would’ve improved if given similar treatment. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, but its a short, meaty story that makes for a satisfying single-issue read.
Grunenwald: I sort of feel that way about the Legion of Super-Heroes miniseries, Greg. That’s a story that feels like it will hang together well when read all at once.
McCreery: Yeah, I liked the Legion story well enough, but it was one of the weaker offerings of a very strong week.
Silber: You’re probably right, Joe. I had trouble following the first issue because the Legion is mostly a blindspot for me, and while I enjoyed Riley Rossmo‘s art once again, I was totally lost.
McCreery: Hey Greg, do I have the article for you to erase that blindspot.
Grunenwald: I think the first issue was all table-setting for this issue, which might’ve been my favorite issue of Brian Michael Bendis‘s time on Legion so far. I don’t know if this is indeed the final issue of Legion, since no new ones have been solicited yet, but if it is the series finished strong.
McCreery: I really loved the thing he did with Saturn Girl and the rest of the Titanians in this issue. That’s a unique take for a classic Legionnaire that felt fresh and fun.
Quaintance: I heavily suspect this is the finale for this Legion run. In part because nothing new has been solicited, but also because there was a tease for an updated Great Darkness Saga that I think was sort of resolved in a couple lines here, though I may be wrong.
McCreery: I hope it’s not the end, because I really do like Bendis’s Legion, but if it was it was a strong enough note to go out on.
Grunenwald: Our second-to-last book for the week is Future State: Suicide Squad.
Silber: With an ending that made me think “how could I not see that coming?!” In a good way.
McCreery: This was definitely the weak point of the week for me. It wasn’t bad, but it really doesn’t hold up to the rest of the books of the week, which is just a testament to how strong this final full week of the event was.
Silber: I have to agree there. While I did like the ending conceptually, the first half of this story was stronger overall.
Quaintance: I liked the first half of the story a lot, on account of it being surprising and a little bit bonkers. Felt letdown by this second half, which felt way more predictable in most ways.
Grunenwald: I agree there as well. I think I wanted to see the ‘Justice League’ and the new Squad working together more as a team rather than split up. There was a lot less fun characterization in this issue than there was the first part.
Silber: I would have liked to see more of Connor’s interiority as well, which we also got more of in the first issue. Was it also a little confusing, or is it just me?
McCreery: It was not just you.
Grunenwald: There were a lot of moving parts and it was a little hard to follow where everyone was and what they were doing.
I’ll tell you what did not disappoint me at all was the conclusion of the Black Adam backup feature.
Silber: That Gold Beetle, she’s just a chip off the old block huh.
McCreery: Oh… I am the odd woman out here. I really did not care for Gold Beetle in the least.
Grunenwald: She was a little much but it worked for me.
McCreery: It felt like someone watching early 2010s sitcoms to use that as reference for how the kids talk today, and it just didn’t land at all for me.
Quaintance: I didn’t think the jokes were funny either. I just kind of rolled right past them, like, oh look she’s supposed to be like Booster.
Grunenwald: Okay so Gold Beetle aside…
Quaintance: No, wait, defend your bad senses of humor!
Grunenwald: I….can’t. But I will say that this story actually made me interested in <waves hands> all that that was happening in Teen Titans, Shazam, and Flash.
Silber: That is… surprising.
Grunenwald: No one was more surprised than me! It turns out all I needed was some basic information about what was going on!
Quaintance: That’s usually the sort of thing it’s nice to have around the start…
Silber: I will say, I liked that The Phantom Stranger got an appearance. We don’t see much of him but I’m glad he’s still hanging around the DCU. (I’m sure he’s in Justice League Dark but I haven’t read that in a while.)
Grunenwald: I always enjoy when he pops up as well.
That brings us to our last book, Superman vs. Imperious Lex. Going into Future State that was easily my most anticipated title just due to the creative team of Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, and boy have they not disappointed one bit.
Silber: And it’s not even over! We still have the final issue coming in March, and I can’t wait.
Quaintance: This is just a great future Superman comic, totally independent of anything else going on in the event, and while reading it, I have thought to myself several times, what have we done to deserve a comic this good?
McCreery: I still don’t understand why that issue comes out a month after the rest of Future State, but it’s something fun to look forward to at least.
Grunenwald: I really sincerely wish this was an ongoing series, but that’s just because I, like Lex Luthor, am greedy.
Quaintance: Lord Lollipop.
McCreery: Someone get Joe the orange ring.
Grunenwald: I read last week’s issue of Second Coming and this issue fairly close together, and honestly what a gift Mark Russell is. There’s so much to love in this book.
Quaintance: Yeah, his work is so consistently good that it’s sort of easy to take it for granted, but it’s really special and singular.
Silber: I’ve read comparatively few Mark Russell books, and this makes me want to read everything he’s written.
McCreery: You wouldn’t be disappointed Greg, there’s nothing by him that I haven’t absolutely loved.
Grunenwald: My favorite part is that this is ostensibly a Lois Lane and Lex Luthor comic, with Superman on the periphery.
McCreery: Like so many of the best Superman comics, really. He shines when those two shine.
Grunenwald: I’m sure one could quibble over where this falls in the timeline of all the other Future State Superman books, but honestly I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. This book shrugs off quibbles.
Quaintance: There you go DC, pull quote: “This book shrugs off quibbles.”
McCreery: Lex could use a Tribble though. For his head. Because he’s bald, get it?
Silber: I think, all things considered, Future State was a strong event, but I still wish more books were allowed to use as few constraints as Russell and company here. It’s a great Superman Elseworlds story set in the future. That’s all you need to know.
Grunenwald: What did the rest of you think of Future State on the whole?
McCreery: Overall, I feel like the event was pretty strong. I feel like it could have been tied together a little tighter, and part of that was probably because it didn’t have a main mini-series as glue, but sometimes that’s a good thing too, because look how Convergence did.
Silber: Creatively, I’m fascinated by the idea of a superhero “Event” that shares common threads without a Convergence-esque miniseries. It worked out better than I’d expect.
Quaintance: Remember, this entire thing was presumably born out of work that was started and then scuttled when Dan DiDio left and with him went 5G. In that context, it’s nothing short of a massive, roaring success.
Grunenwald: I think the decentralized nature of the event worked to the benefit of some books and to the detriment of others. I loved how the timeline of events in Gotham unfolded over the course of the numerous miniseries set there, but clearly for books like Shazam, Teen Titans, and Flash, that were all apparently connected to each other, it just didn’t work as well.
And yeah, that’s a great point, Zack. Overall I think there were far more hits to this event than there were misses, which is really impressive given the number of titles and creative teams involved. I’m also excited that we’re getting more of some of these characters and stories in books like The Next Batman: Second Son and Future State: Gotham. There are a lot of corners left to explore in this world (even non-Batman-related ones, DC!).
McCreery: I for one hope we see more of the House of El for sure. I need more Rowan in my life.
Quaintance: Totally. I think it also tableset really well for what comes next in the present too, oddly enough. I’d wager we’ll see some kernels of the ideas, conflicts, and characters seeded here rearing up in alternate forms as things to be avoided or embraced in certain books, and that’s interesting.
Grunenwald: Any closing thoughts on this week’s book or the event as a whole before we wrap up our final Future State roundtable?
Silber: YES. I can’t believe I forgot to mention the rare appearance of one of my favorite superheroes in Batman/Superman: ANIMAL MAN!
Grunenwald: And here I thought we were going to escape without Greg nerding out about Buddy’s appearance.
Silber: Never! He’s basically me in that he loves ranting about obscure trivia, and sometimes his friends humor him like Batman did here.
Grunenwald: Well on that note, team, this has been a blast to do for the past two months, and hopefully we can find another excuse to do it again in the future.
Silber: THE FUTURE!
Quaintance: An Infinite Frontier of content options awaits…
McCreery: I feel like there are infinite chances to do this.
Grunenwald: Who knows what the Universe will Spawn.
Quaintance: Now we’re talking.
Grunenwald: Until next time!
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