The State of DC’s Future
Dark Nights: Death Metal set up a lot of stuff to come for DC. Before we could get into that though, DC decided to jump into varying amounts of time into the future of a lot of DC’s characters with a bunch of Future State mini-series. These were all 2 issues except for Superman vs Imperious Lex (3 issues), Dark Detective (4 issues), and Next Batman (also 4 issues). Released along side of this were 2 square bound books called Generations Shattered and Generations Forged. Overall, the stories weren’t bad. There were only a couple of the Future State titles that didn’t intrigue me enough to pick up and a couple that I didn’t bother with the second issue. Now, one thing we’ve got to remember is that these are only possible futures. They are sorta like Elseworlds that they might pick and choose details from sometime in the future. So, before we get into where things are going in modern times with Infinite Frontier that came out this week, let’s take a look at the past couple months and see how the future could look.
I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the Generations Shattered/Forged storyline. I was expecting something big out of it. I’m not saying that it was bad. It was a decent story but it really had almost no impact following up after Dark Nights: Death Metal and going along side Future State. The story pulled together heroes from all over time — Kamandi, Superboy/Clark Kent pulled from the 31st century with the original Legion of Super-Heroes, Steel, Starfire from early New Teen Titan days, Boost Gold, Doctor Light, Green Lantern Sinestro, and Batman from his very early days as a hero. It’s a motley crew that were sometimes not meant to be the one grabbed. They face off against the bad guy who is playing with time to create a life that makes him happy even if it destroys everything else. I’m thinking “Wow. This is going to help rewrite some stuff and get things set for the books coming out after Future State. Nope. Time gets set back exactly the way it was. Everyone is dropped back off exactly where they left off. The only things that are of note in the end is Waverider explaining to Batman about what he called the Linearverse and how people age slower allowing them to live longer and do more. (This awkwardly explains over 80 years of Superman history that is now all valid.) Also, Waverider leaved a time traveling device for Batman to use when he needs it during a crisis. (Not that word! We don’t need another one of those again though I guess Batman will be ready when it happens.) Overall, the result of everything is nothing but a meta explanation for continuity.
So, how is the future for everyone? Let’s break this down into groups of titles. Some have it better than others, but if you live in Gotham, it’s pretty damn rotten. The city has been turned into a police state with anyone who wears a mask is being hunted down. Batman/Superman picks up right at the start of this with Clark and Bruce still being the heroes with those names and is an adventure for the two in Gotham and seeing what the Magistrate is up too even early on. It would have been nice seeing this title before any of the other Bat-titles as it seems to set the stage for what happens in the others. With the first half of each series in one month and the second half in the next, issue 2 didn’t come out until at least 1 issue of everything else related had already been out. Dark Detective‘s main story (This and other books were double-size with other characters having back-up stories.) takes place much further into the future and shows a Bruce Wayne who is presumed to be dead is going around trying to be a Batman more in the shadows than ever with his brains but not his money or equipment. (How would a dead man get hold of that after all?) It’s actually interesting watching Bruce work with what he can scrounge up. I’m not a big Batman fan but I enjoyed it. The compliment to this is Next Batman which follows the new person to take up the Batman name, Tim (Jace) Fox who is Luke’s brother and Lucius’ other son. There is no explanation of how he became Batman as well as no reason for Tim to be going by Jace other than for something else he can argue with his brother about. It’s an ok book but the story wasn’t great and didn’t really build the character well for me. The back-up stories follow others related to Gotham like the Outsiders, Arham Knights, Batgirls, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Grifter, and the Red Hood. The Grifter and Red Hood ones were my favorite followed by Batgirls though the timing of them in relation to each other is questionable. This leaves 3 other Bat titles, Nightwing, Robin Eternal, and Harley Quinn. Nightwing is the man behind the masks in the chaos that is Gotham. During the story, we see Oracle (Batgirl) and Huntress (among others of the family) in the same scene. Oracle is found at the end of the Batgirls storyline but Huntress leaves Gotham at the end of the Grifter one and didn’t seem like much of a good guy or a team member at that point. This really makes me wonder how all of these line up. Then we have Robin Eternal, which you find out takes place before the Batgirls story at the very end of the second issue, which means that it must take place way before Nightwing. I thought the title would refer to an undying Robin legacy, but Tim himself actually becomes immortal. It’s definitely an interesting twist. Harley Quinn is a story unto itself which is probably one of the most enjoyable. We see Harley use her actual psychologist training while working with Dr Crane (Scarecrow) to catch villains. It’s not closely connected to all the other titles (but still is part of the whole Gotham mess) so I think it makes for a fun story on its own. Honestly, having Gotham turn into the mess that Future State shows it in would draw all the Bat titles down into a hole that it shouldn’t go in since it will pretty much lock all of the characters off from everything else.
The Superman side of things is very different. Superman of Metropolis follows Jon on his journey taking over for his father as Superman (with no cape) and butting heads with his cousin Kara, now going by Superwoman. (There are also Guardian and Shilo Norman/Mister Miracle backup stories. Scott Free will always be who I think of as Mister Miracle though.) Kara gets her own title and colony to protect in Kara Zore-El, Superwoman, but I wasn’t really impressed by the art, story, or how whiny some of it came off. Instead of Superwoman being strong as her own self, the two titles seem to make her come off as a little bitter because she’s not Superman and he doesn’t need her to protect him because she is technically older. In Superman/Wonder Woman, we do see Jonathan and Yara (the new Wonder Woman) team up in a stronger way. We’re given the idea that they sorta grew up together as they learned what they needed to take on the roles of their mentors. The story is fun and shows the differences between the two as well as shows them learning more about each other, but it isn’t part of any big arch like the Gotham stuff is. And while we’re on the topic of Wonder Woman, there were 2 titles for the character as well. Wonder Woman is a sorta bland story given this is a whole new character being introduced. Yes, we know that Yara is going to be built up more with the Wonder Girl stuff coming up soon. Leaving everything for that though means this title is a bit confusing and aimless since we don’t understand who the backup characters are. It is just something plucked out of the middle of future history with no real reference. Immortal Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is about Diana and where her path could lead her following the events in Dark Nights: Death Metal. In an incredibly distant future, the universe is being undone and Diana is there with appearances by Swamp Thing, the Amazons, Superman, Darkseid, and the Spectre as things unfold. It’s even far enough out that she mentions the Legion of Super-Heroes as a memory. It references things from other series (which I will address soon) in how the universe is being destroyed which is an overlying theme across a few random titles. The back-up story for this book is Nubia/Wonder Woman. This may be her first post-New 52 appearance and I had to even Google the character to see the bit of history there is. Honestly, I really want to see more of this character. The little bit that was shows in Future State makes her look like she could be a really interesting character with appealing related characters. If Yara is getting a Wonder Girl title, I’d love to see Nubia get one too. Of the 3 Wonder Women, I think Nubia is the one I’d be most interested in reading about right now.
Building out of these titles (and others yet to be talked about), we get Justice League. This new League is formed of Jon, Yara, and Tim/Jace along with Aquawoman (Arthur’s daughter), a Flash from an alternate universe, and the Green Lantern from the Far Sector series. (I’m not sure how far after the Bat titles this takes place for Batman to be able to be participating outside of Gotham.) Unlike the Justice League we’re used to, this team is all business and not very social because of the future history of the League. This ends up being their downfall as the Hyperclan (white Martians) shows up again to take them down and impersonate them. This was an interesting villain choice as they haven’t been around since the initial issues of the JLA title back in 1997. It made for a good story though and I’d be interested to see where this Justice League went next. The back-up Justice League Dark story wasn’t back and is actually where they will stay, a back-up story for the regular Justice League title for the time being. White the future for this team wasn’t too bad, jumping 1000 years to the Legion of Super-Heroes gives us something pretty bad and the worst of it was the artwork. Bendis’ 12 issues on the regular Legion title was bad enough but these 2 issues are even worse. Many of the characters are unrecognizable and the team has already been broken up due to a character supposedly turning traitor only to have that discredited an issue later. Given that we see the original Legion in Generations Shattered, I really hope this will be the last we see of this version.
The next 3 titles I want to discuss are Teen Titans, Shazam, Flash and Suicide Squad. I’m lumping them together due to a couple of overlapping themes. Teen Titans takes place following the upcoming Teen Titans Academy title. The original New Teen Titans begin training for the next generation of heroes, including members of the recently disbanded Teen Titans team and Red X (from the Teen Titans cartoon). We still doesn’t know who Red X even is right now. All that we know is that he is somehow connected to the death of A LOT of Teen Titans. The storylines of Shazam and Flash build on how Raven and Wally West are connected too as Raven goes full evil and becomes the Unkindness and Wally becomes the host for Famine, a horsemen of the apocalypse, who has stolen the speed force from the other speedsters. Over on Earth 3, we have Amanda Waller creating her own Justice League out of Conner/Superman and other “fake JLAers” that came from the regular Earth. Peacemaker brings his Suicide Squad to Earth 3 to get her. This may seem out of place but the back-up story is Black Adam in the 853rd century of the Justice Legion A where he has to deal with a time traveler Gold Beetle (think Booster Gold and Blue Beetle all in one) who comes for help dealing with the Unkindness. The timing of this is all kinda questionable given a few things. Nightwing is in a blue and yellow outfit similar to one of his older ones. This is different than what he was wearing back in the Bat-titles. Also, Cyborg and Beast have somehow become merged into one being called Cybeast. Given that Gar appears in the jail in the Batgirls storyline, I’m not sure if Gar got “cured”, that took place before whatever created Cybeast, or if the editors just didn’t talk to each other. Given the situation in Gotham in Future State and the fact the the academy will be started soon, Dick would have had to be stuck in Gotham for quite a while while the academy was going to be doing this later and for Gar to have been released and altered after that. My head is spinning trying to figure out how to make the events in all this fit in a reasonable chronological order. The only other option is that these could all be separate timelines from the other blocks of titles.
And now on to the final titles I’m going to discuss. Green Lantern has a few storylines each reacting to the power battery going dead. There’s one main John Stewart one that wasn’t that interesting to me. The Guy Gardner one was cute and Jessica Cruz’s story was pretty good. The Teen Lantern/Mogo one was cute but got a bit depressing and the Hal Jordan one looked like a set-up for something coming up. All of those talk about locations but not time so I have no clue when it all takes place. Given how young Teen Lantern is and the fact that she still talks about Young Justice as if it was recently, I don’t want to think this will happen far in the future at all but would be a big event for all the power rings to have died (again). I don’t read Green Lantern titles regularly so I’m not sure how this may be related to any current events. Swamp Thing takes place quite far into the future but when is not actually stated but it seems that a lot of humanity has died out. I don’t know where this might fall in relation to any of the futures already seen like ones for the Legion of Super-Heroes or Justice Legion A. Finally, I picked up just the first issue of Aquaman. I wasn’t going to but gave it a try. It is about Aqualad/Jackson as an adult teamed up with Arthur’s daughter when she was still very young. It didn’t really draw me in enough to pick up the second issue.
And that is where we stand at the end of all this. There were lots of things going on and a lot of it seemed pretty disastrous. Gotham is in lock down, the Green Lantern Corps has been destroyed again, the universe is being destroyed, and the people of Earth are destroying themselves slowly on their own. Superman, Wonder Woman, and the JLA are among the only storylines that have any hope for a good future. After making a big change like Dark Nights: Death Metal did, I wouldn’t think that the first thing you would want to do is show that the future is going to be abysmal and have very little hope. This seems to be where DC decided to go though. Let’s hope that Infinite Frontier gives us something more to hope for.