Review: THE NEW 52: FUTURES END VOL. 1

The-New-52-Futures-End-fullTHE NEW 52: FUTURES END VOL. 1
Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens
Art by Patrick Zircher, Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopestri, Jesus Merino, Scot Eaton, various
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: December 3, 2014

The first volume of DC’s weekly look at 5 years from now is in stores today, weighing in at a whopping 416 pages for $39.99. Not only will picking up the collection save you a few bucks over the weekly, you get a stronger narrative with this format as well!

I want to start by saying I have read each issue of this volume weekly as it was released, so this collection was my second spin through the material. One of my criticisms of the series in single issues was the gap between returning to storylines that I found interesting, which I’m happy to say is eliminated by the trade format. There is a lot to enjoy in here for DC fans looking for a different take on some characters that are generally accepted as “B” level characters and the introduction of Terry McGinnis into the DCU is very entertaining. The writing team seeds a lot of plots early on and I was happy to see that with the flow of the trade, they are a lot tighter and more enjoyable. Even a week between issues can cause choppiness in the narrative, but holding 17 issues in one tome makes that a moot point.

In this collection, the writers work through the storylines at a brisk, yet enjoyable pace. Readers learn a lot about this work 5 years later in this collection, and the framework is set very well for when the series really kicks into high gear as it goes. Several characters stand out in these first 17 issues and must be noted: Terry McGinnis is engaging and entertaining on every page that he appears. Fifty Sue is a new addition to the DCU and she is a riot. Attitude, massive power set and unpredictable as can be, this is a character that will grab your attention and not let go. I really enjoyed the take on some Earth 2 heroes in this collection as well, and in the interest of spoilers, I’m not going to say who. It will most likely be very evident when she appears who I mean, as her presence adds a fun dynamic into the collection. In general, each character has gone through some kind of transformation or event that adds layers to what we already know about them. There are several characters that in the “present” time frame that I am completely apathetic about that are quite interesting in Futures End. This is a great book to showcase some interesting characters that are not strong enough to headline their own tales, but work really well to drive this narrative forward.

The writing team needs to be praised for building a world 5 years into the future that is easy to dive into but dynamic and interesting enough to keep readers coming back. Things are just the right amount of foreign to make you ask “how did this come to be this way” without being so far gone that we just don’t care to find out. That is not an easy line to walk, and the team handles that challenge well. In collected form it is easy to see that they are building to a common goal and not writing any divergent plot paths, and their unified voice is very strong. With this many cooks in the kitchen you usually end up with some missteps, but on the writing front this is not the case in Futures End.

The artwork is a mixed bag in this collection, and while the writing is strengthened by the format, I’d argue the artwork is hurt by it. I want to say right out of the gate that Patrick Zircher’s work shines in this collection. It is easy to identify when his turn in the rotation comes around as there is a noticeable increase in the quality of storytelling and world building in general. There is a part of me that wants this weekly to shift to a monthly just so each issue can be handled by Zircher. Lopestri, Jurgens, Merino and Eaton deliver artwork that I would describe as “fine”, with moments that are really solid, and times that are shakier. With artists in a weekly rotation you can’t help but expect some change issue to issue, and the artists do their best to keep that from happening. The entire stable works in a similar style and some of the dramatic shifts in style seen in Batman Eternal are nowhere to be found in Futures End. For that very reason, some would consider much of this collection to be rather generic superhero artwork, though it does not let the story down at any point. While much of the non-Zircher artwork in this collection didn’t wow me, at no point did I consider anything to be a failure. The colour work by Hi-Fi helps maintain a cohesive look and feel in the collection and sets a solid visual tone for the varied pencil work. It provides a layer of consistency from the beginning of the collection to the end, and is worthy of a shout out.

Criticality of some of the artwork aside, I enjoyed this collection. Futures End may come out of the gate a little slow, but it is obvious in this collection that it is by design and I was impressed by how quickly the story builds. Details such as that are easy to miss when reading weekly, and this is a stronger story in this format. The New 52: Futures End Vol. 1 is a solid value for readers looking to keep up with the story and not kill their wallet.

The Verdict: 8.0/10

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