NEW 52: FUTURES END Volume 2
Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Keith Giffen, and Dan Jurgens
Art by Patrick Zircher, Aaron Lopresti, Jesus Merino, Cully Hamner, and more
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: July 15, 2015
The second act of DC’s yearlong adventure into the future is collected, and the fate of Cadmus Island is the primary focus. Brother Eye has taken full control and it’s up to Deathstroke, the Green Arrow family, and a little girl with all the power in the world to stop it. But where’s Superman?
Reading weekly comics in collected form can go one of two ways: it either improves the experience by collapsing the wait or dulls it down in the wake of either repetition or disjointed storytelling. Unfortunately, Futures End volume 2 — unlike the set of issues pulled together in volume 1 or the remainder left to be collected in volume 3 — reads as the latter for the most part. The narrative structure of the book worked really well in weekly format, with touchpoints on most storylines occurring every week, including:
- The Atom leading a new Stormwatch in space with Hawkman, Amethyst, Frankenstein, and Black Adam and preparing a fight against Brainiac;
- Tim Drake leading a shadowed life, hounded by Lois Lane and losing ground with his girlfriend to the guys who make up Firestorm;
- Batman Beyond breaking into Mr. Terrific’s building with Coil, the Key, and Plastique in tow;
- Big Barda arriving on Arrow Island to meet the heroes who would take Cadmus Island; and
- Fifty Sue, Deathstroke, Lana Lang, and Grifter coming up against the OMACs and King Faraday’s machinations on Cadmus Island.
But put together in collected form, before these threads really start to wind together strongly, and it feels like a bit of a jumble. The best moments are where the writers focus on a single story, which occurs about midway through the title with the flashback to the origins of the Apokolips War on Earth. But otherwise, it’s a little too much to juggle too fast. Time truly was on the series’ side at original publication. It made the read that much more digestible.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton to love in these pages, in particular in this volume, the development of the character Fifty Sue. A scientific experiment involving 52 different strands of meta-human DNA that looks and sounds just like an 8 year-old girl, Fifty Sue is an exceptional foil to nearly everyone around her. And surprisingly, she’s endearing as hell.
This is something the writers involved in Futures End did better than anything: introducing (or revising) and developing new characters that made me sorry to see this version of the future… end. Both Plastique and the new Firestorm really see their best moments in the third volume, and Fifty Sue gets more of her due there as well. But for the latter, that development all starts here, and brings her on par with Tim Drake and Terry McGinnis for star status.
By contrast to some of the jump around storytelling, the diverse art teams work harmoniously together, with very little graphic conflict across the volume. The pencillers in question — Zircher, Lopresti, Merino, and more — all have different stylistic flair and choices, but ultimately produce a seamless experience for the trade reader. Better in fact than I could have predicted. The stand-out in style is Cully Hamner, but again, it’s in a very particular section — the history of the Apokolips War that led to the creation of Cadmus Island. And so, Hamner’s pages, while different from those other artists, do not break the flow of the book. If anything, Hamner’s work stands out in the best way possible, showing itself off and deservedly so.
All the pages take the narrative seriously and move it along with a realism that accentuates the dark future style storytelling the series is aiming for. Zircher’s pencils in particular give the book an edge that it needs to tell a story set in the nearly post-apocalypse.
If you can handle a little narrative jumping, Futures End volume 2 has enough to make it worth the bridge read between volume 1 and 3, but as a story in itself, it’s not going to hold up. But Act 2 collections rarely do or can. But, if you want to see some great character-building of a psychopath that just happens to look like your little girl next door, pigtails and all, you can’t pass this one up. Long live, Fifty Sue. May your future burn bright in the DCU.
The Verdict: 7.0/10