The State of Future State, Part 2

JK, Shane and Tom continue their look at DC’s Future State titles, this time around focusing on ‘Justice League,’ ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘Harley Quinn’ and ‘Swamp Thing.’

Following part one from earlier this week, Shane Bailey, Tom Bondurant and I are back to talk more about of DC’s Future State comics, roundtable style.

This time around, Shane and I finish off week one by discussing Harley Quinn and Swamp Thing, and then Tom rejoins us as we jump into week two’s Superman of Metropolis and Green Lantern.

As always, the timeline DC provided helps put these stories into context:

So let’s get to it …

Harley Quinn #1 by Stephanie Phillips, Simone Di Meo and Tamra Bonvillain

JK Parkin: Last time around we covered The Next Batman, which introduced us to the Magistrate-run Gotham, so this time around let’s talk about another book set there (and in the same timeframe) — Harley Quinn #1. While some things change — like Gotham becoming a police state and masks being outlawed — Harley’s gonna Harley. I liked the story, and I thought Stephanie Phillips wrote Harley really well. I also like the set-up with the former Scarecrow working for the Magistrate and having a “counseling session” with Harley as he extracts information on Gotham’s villains from her. That was a fun reflection of her previous life. Simone Di Meo and Tamra Bonvillain’s art also worked for me; Harley is a little bit of chaos being thrown into this new order that Gotham is under, and I thought the art brought that out rather well. What did you think, Shane?

Shane Bailey: I thought this was a perfect book considering the direction Haley has been moving in the last few years. I thought the art was really suited for this book, too. Tamra once again killed it on the colors and Simone wasn’t afraid to get a little wild since it was Harley and the book allows for it. I really like the setup of Harley being forced to work for the Magistrate but actually doing some good for Gotham in the long run, taking down her past “associates.” I’m going to enjoy seeing her go up against Black Mask, too; having just finally watched the Birds of Prey movie (I know, I know, I’m way behind), this match-up was fresh in my mind.

It really seemed to “read” like Harley from Tynion’s Batman run, too, and was a great continuation from that series. Plus I love any book where someone takes down Professor Pyg. That character terrifies me. Having Harley use knowledge from her previous career to get into the minds of the villains instead of her criminal career was a nice touch.

I really think Harley was a strong book, but with the least amount of changes out of all the Future State books. In the end it was just another Harley book, albeit a good one. That’s not really a bad thing, but it didn’t take as much of a chance with the premise as the others.

Swamp Thing by Ram V and Mike Perkins

JK Parkin: I think that’s a good point, Shane. And speaking of risks and taking a different path, what did you think of Swamp Thing, the final comic from the first week?

Shane Bailey: You’re right about the creative team taking chances here. At first I read this too fast and didn’t get as much out of it, but I slowed down and took my time with the re-read and actually understood the book better. Totally my fault on that first read.

Anyway, I thought this was a really cool take on Swamp Thing, setting it at the end of humanity and having Father Green basically create a new race of creatures based on himself and what he remembers of his humanity. The insets where Perkins shows how Swamp Thing created the vocal chords, the lungs, and emotions for his children out of plant life were all really cool and I really like how he imbued different personalities into each new “person.” It felt very Metal (Plant) Men to me. I love the surprise guest appearance at the end too. I couldn’t quite tell who the Undying Man was supposed to be, I’m assuming Arcane? It felt like it wrapped up quickly at the end just as it was getting started. I’m really interested to see where Ram V and Mike Perkins take this book and how much of it will be carried over into the new series after Future State.

JK Parkin: I did the same thing, Shane; I liked Swamp Thing a lot more my second time through. With a character like Swamp Thing, you can, and should, get a little weird and out there, so setting this one so far into the future and basically creating this “alien” world — even though it is Earth — I thought was a cool direction to go in.

I liked the inset pages as well; they reminded me of the text pages that appear in the current X-Men titles, helping to break things up and act almost as chapter marks. And I agree — the surprise appearance at the end was cool. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Justice League

Featuring: Justice League by Joshua Williamson and Robson Rocha, and Justice League Dark by Ram V. and Marcio Takara

JK Parkin: Moving on to week two, let’s start with Justice League, which also included a Justice League Dark back-up story. What did you guys think? (Also, welcome back, Tom!)

Shane Bailey: I really enjoyed this book. The Grant Morrison callback surprise at the end was handled really well, and I’m glad to see those characters used again. I also really liked how the JL tried to be formal and not become friends; it was seen as a weakness of the previous JL, but that obviously doesn’t work as friendships ended up forming regardless. Each of their personalities really shine here, though I wanted to see more of Aquawoman and the Flash, as the others had spotlights put on them in other books. The quiet moments between each of them were handled really well. I want to read a lot more about this league and I hope they stick around.

Tom Bondurant: I liked it a lot. I see what Shane meant earlier about Jon Kent growing into the Superman role in this book, and I also appreciated how the Leaguers were committed to improving upon their predecessors’ missteps. I felt like the characterizations were handled well, and the art was dynamic and easy to follow. I was not expecting the cliffhanger, partly because I was enjoying the premise of classic League foes getting together. It was a good alternate-future setup that built on tragedy but didn’t wallow in it. At the same time, it was suspenseful because in an alt-future, there may not be any guardrails.

I thought the JL Dark story was very well-done too. I’m not sure how much I can say about it without spoiling a lot of the twists, so with that in mind I did enjoy the twists, especially involving the character reveals. I liked how Merlin’s menace related to our heroes, and I felt like the central conflict was compelling. Although these stories might not be intended to set up ongoing series, I would follow them as part of the Omniverse. Nice places to visit, and all that.

Shane Bailey: Yeah I really enjoyed the JLA Dark story, too. I wanted to read more of that immediately. It was just creepy enough to make me interested in DC Universe’s magic users and the reveals were handled well, even if you didn’t know the importance of those characters the other characters reactions sold it well enough. It made me want to read the new JL Dark book which was the idea, so that worked.

I did think it was kind of weird that Merlin and the Magistrate seemed like two versions of the same idea.

I would take these series as kind of like The Legion of Superheroes: it’s connected to the existing DC Universe, but only as the mythology backing it up.

JK Parkin: I enjoyed both stories in this as well. I thought Sojourner in particular was handled well and brought an interesting dynamic with the rest of the team. I also like the friendship that’s developing between Jon Kent and Yara Flor.

The one thing I’m not sure I really bought into was the idea that “this League isn’t going to be friends.” For one thing, several of them are already ignoring the rule, but it also just seems like a weird rule to instill in any group that’s supposed to act like a team. But my guess is also that this current threat is exactly the type of thing to show us why that’s a dumb rule. That aside, I liked the characterization of everyone here, thought the re-appearance of a certain threat at the end was pretty cool and I’m looking forward to the next one. Although it’s a shame this new Legion of Doom went down so fast — they seemed pretty interesting in their own right.

Shane Bailey: Yeah, I think the point was to show us that doesn’t work and they are still learning, but also trying to do things differently than what their predecessors did. Trying new things.

I thought the Legion of Doom was worth exploring too, though their plan was very old school villain team. I would have wanted to see a bit more out of them.

Tom Bondurant: It may be worth noting that the Ivo/T.O. Morrow pairing was also part of an early Morrison/Porter JLA, the one-off issue #5 which introduced Tomorrow Woman.

Shane Bailey: It seems like there’s a lot of Morrison throwbacks in these books. I wonder if that was planned, or the creators were just all fans of his.

Tom Bondurant: Probably the latter.

JK Parkin: Yeah, he’s always been influential, but with Superman of Metropolis, Justice League and maybe even The Next Batman, I think we’re seeing a lot more of those influences really coming out. He always liked to play with the future — DC One Million, his Batman run — so it makes a sort of sense.

Shane Bailey: I would like to see these characters and ideas stick around for a while this time. It seemed like after his previous interactions with the DC Universe, they were quickly forgotten. Morrison kept bringing these ideas back during his time, but others didn’t get to play with them that much.

JK Parkin: As for Justice League Dark, they aren’t quite as “new” as this rendition of the Justice League is, and the relationships there are pretty well established — so while the first story was setting the stage for a new team, I felt like a lot more happened in the second story. I agree with Tom that there were a lot of cool twists here, and it’s probably better not to go to deep into them for spoiler’s sake. And I’d agree with Shane that I’ll be reading the Justice League Dark when it returns in March.

Green Lantern #1

Featuring: Last Lanterns, by Geoffrey Thorne and Tom Raney; The Taking of Sector 0123, by Ryan Cady and Sam Basri; and The Book of Guy by Ernie Altbacker and Clayton Henry

JK Parkin: Let’s turn now to Green Lantern. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into it, and I was surprised at the direction of the story, to be honest, with the de-powered Green Lanterns becoming space mercenaries. That being said, I kind of liked it. It felt messy at times, but considering it’s one big chaotic battle, it kind of worked. I do have to say I cringe at seeing a “serious” version of G’Nort, and I’m guessing this whole scenario is temporary, but it was an interesting way to start the story.

Tom Bondurant: I was surprised at how much I liked it. At the risk of spoiling the Earth One Green Lantern OGNs, they have a similar plot element, so that was probably in the back of my mind when I read this. There’s definitely a path to re-powering the GL Corps, because the book isn’t called Knockoff Orange Lightsabers. Feral G’Nort is g’not what I expected either, but after a while it was fine. The book as a whole was about how the Lanterns just keep on keeping on, rings or no rings. The cliffhanger at the end of the Guy Gardner story made me want more DC’s space-based characters interacting with the ex-GLs, like Vril Dox and LEGION picking up the slack. The Jessica Cruz story built on her character growth from Justice League Odyssey and the Guy story was just fun. Overall I liked the issue and am curious to see how quickly they try to get back to normal (assuming they intend to). 

Shane Bailey: I do think Guy’s story was the best of the bunch, but I really enjoyed seeing Jessica Cruz being a badass. I kinda groaned when I saw the serious Gnort and the way they were going with the main story and the depowered Lanterns, but by the end of it I realized…I kinda like this. I need to know a bit more about how they are going to handle it and where they are going, but for now, i’m on board. I’m 100% on board for more Guy and Cruz though. Those stories were cool.

Plus I’m a sucker for Tom Raney art. I love how it’s all a little bit unusual, a little bit off, a little bit fluid, it makes it interesting.

It was cool seeing the Khunds as the big bad guys. I don’t think we’ve seen them in a major role since Invasion in the late 80s BWAHAHA JL days, have we? Or should I have said “Invasion!“, gotta have that “!”

Tom Bondurant: I want to say that the Khunds have been around here and there (other than in the Legion books) since Invasion! I know they popped up fighting the Imperial Guard in JLA/Avengers in 2003. In fact, they might have been part of the Bendis/Reis United Planets storyline in Superman. That’s what I’m talking about, though — more mixing and matching the space stuff. When the Omega Men came along in the ’80s, the Vegan races were basically walled off from the Green Lanterns; and I think Invasion! took place when only the Earth-based Lanterns (and Ch’p) had working rings. That was over 30 years ago, but you still don’t see a lot of that involving the Green Lanterns, so this was nice.

Shane Bailey: I should have known you would know. You’re our own comic Wikipedia. [laughs]

You’re right, though; it’s nice to see other villains, characters, locations and situations getting a spotlight that haven’t been seen in the DC Universe in quite a while.

JK Parkin: I know the Khunds mostly from old Legion issues, but they do strike me as the perfect enemies for a book like this … they’re like the DC space equivalent of orcs, with a never-ending supply of monstrous soldiers to serve as a threat. And this issue did bring to mind the L.E.G.I.O.N., a title I always liked and I’m always looking forward to seeing revived.

As for the back-ups, I really liked the Jessica Cruz one as well. I like the fact that she’s evolved from a person who never wanted to leave her room to someone who can take on a squad of Yellow Lanterns. The Guy story wasn’t bad, and it seemed to give us the biggest hint as to what happened to the rings — or at least showed us how abrupt the loss of power was.

Overall, this was a fun comic, with several nice character moments and the set-up of a mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

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