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Comics Review: THE NEW 52: FUTURE’S END #1

DC’s success rate with weekly series is hit-and-miss, to say the least. Their first weekly back in 2006, titled simply 52, was a massive gamble that paid off. The follow-up weekly series that came out in its wake, not so much. DC seems to be righting that ship somewhat, as their new weekly series Batman: Eternal has been pretty good, and now this year they are introducing two other weekly books, the first of which hit this week, The New 52: Future’s End, brought to us by writers Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen (who worked on the original 52 series), and artist Patrick Zircher.

The real set-up for this book actually took place in the Free Comic Book Day issue #0, where the basic plot for this story appeared. Opening 35 years in the future, the world is a dystopian ruin, where robot OMACs (Omni Mind And Community) have assimilated many of Earth’s heroes and are targeting whatever human resistance is left. These OMACs were created by Bruce Wayne and Mr. Terrific decades prior before evolving into what they are now. So Bruce Wayne sends young Terry McGinnis (that’s Batman Beyond to you) back into the past to stop these machines from ever having been created, and therefore erasing this horrible future. If it sounds like the plot to X-Men: Days of Future Past, it’s because it’s the plot to X-Men: Days of Future Past. 

That’s not the only blatant knock off to something popular; Terry McGinnis’ Batsuit has a talking interactive computer system (presumably with a haughty and sarcastic British accent) named A.L.F.R.E.D. It’s so obvious and on-the-nose that I think that it’s gotta be a wink-wink homage to J.A.R.V.I.S. from the Iron Man movies, and not giant rip-off, but with the basic plot already resembling another famous Marvel story, this just adds to the feeling of  this whole thing being a knock-off of something already popular from their chief rival.

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So, in this first issue, Terry McGinnis arrives in the past, but not “our” present… he lands five years in our future, after the Sentinels OMACs have been created. We get glimpses of the DCU in five years’ time – Hawkman is a member of Stormwatch, Grifter is killing aliens posing as humans, Firestorm has a spiffy new costume, etc. But they go out of their way to show us how things have changed and become darker and more messed up five years from now too. Ronnie Raymond, one half of the Firestorm matrix, is even more of a womanizer and jerk than before, and more or less has to be forced into joining with Jason Rusch to become Firestorm. It’s interesting to note that the most prominent characters in this first issue are Firestorm, Stormwatch, and Grifter, all characters who got ongoing series at the launch of the New 52, but who all were cancelled relatively quickly. It’s actually nice to see DC isn’t giving up on giving these characters a chance to shine, regardless of how the market reacted to their own solo series two years back. Although I’ll admit the Wildstorm characters still feel very shoehorned into the DC universe.

Problem is, DC has already gone on record saying that this “five years later” future that the book is set in is just a “possible” future, meaning it almost certainly won’t come into play this way, meaning none of this matters. It’s fun to see Batman Beyond incorporated into the main DCU, and I think Patrick Zircher’s pencils are pretty good here, but just two issues in and there’s a warmed over “been there, done that” feel to all this. Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire in particular are really solid writers, and time will tell if they can make something out of this concept that right now feels like a rip on a story that’s classic and just happens to have a $200 million dollar movie opening in a couple weeks. The best I can give this book right now is a giant “meh.”

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The original weekly DC book 52 worked almost in spite of itself; it was a book no one thought would come out in time and everyone was sure to miss a week, but never did. It featured four writers at the very top of their game- Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid. Four guys who lived and breathed DC Universe lore, and who, by collaborating to closely together for a year, rubbed off on each other in all the right ways and arguably became better writers as a result (some of the best work from all four gentlemen came quick on the heels of their work together on 52.) Neither of the weekly follow ups - Countdown to Final Crisis or Trinity - could come close to what 52 did, because it just didn’t seem like the right combination of talent (and it felt like a cash grab, to be honest.) Future’s End has the closest pedigree in terms of its writers to that original weekly series of eight years ago, but it remains to be seen if they can work in tandem like the guys behind 52. Only time will tell, but this first issue feels a lot more Countdown than 52.

Note: portions of this review originally appeared in our weekly Pull List round-up.

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