The State of Future State, Part 3

JK, Shane and Tom continue their look at DC’s Future State titles, this time around focusing on ‘Dark Detective,’ Superman/Wonder Woman’ and more.

We’re back with part three of our discussion about of DC’s Future State comics, as Shane Bailey, Tom Bondurant and I talk about the first issues of Dark Detective, Superman/Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Robin Eternal and Kara Zor-El, Superwoman.

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

You can also read part one and part two of our roundtable on other, earlier DC Future State titles.

And away we go …

Dark Detective #1

Featuring: Dark Detective, by Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora, and Grifters, by Matthew Rosenberg and Carmine di Giandomenico

JK Parkin: Let’s continue with the week two books this time around — what did you think about Dark Detective #1?

Shane Bailey: I like the whole, Batman and Bruce faking their death thing, a Batman undercover and on the run could have been really fun. He eventually dons the mask again so it’s not exactly that, but Batman using hit and run tactics to strike at a larger force is always cool. It’s funny that they just continued “Batman without his toys” from the main book though. It’s not really anything new in that aspect. I do like the personal responsibility that is revealed at the end and we start to see “why” Gotham is like it is. Dan Mora is perfect on the book and once again the colors shine, this time by Jordie Bellaire. I’ve been a fan for quite a while. As far as I’m concerned, I’m good with Mariko and the rest of this team sticking around for as long as they want.

Tom Bondurant: I felt like the lead story mashed together an infodump with some character moments and hung it on a chase framework. It was an odd combination, because it was essentially “goodbye to Batman” and then not so much. I agree that lately we’ve had a lot of no-frills Batman, so this wasn’t as shocking in that context. Plus there’s the whole “villain knows he’s Bruce Wayne” angle, which again would be shocking if the regular book hadn’t been doing it with a bunch of villains. It all works — it’s just a very final-seeming story that turns into more of a transition.

I liked the Grifter story a lot, which is not a sentence I expected to be typing. I especially liked the different perspective on Luke Fox, considering that readers just saw him basically as a background character in The Next Batman. The dialogue was very crisp, and the art was clear and propulsive. Still, when these things are all collected I hope there’s a chronological reading order, because I suspect the Grifter story is part of the backstory (maybe indirectly) of the “Batgirls” story in Next Batman #2.

Shane Bailey: I’m a gigantic Wildstorm fan, so I was really happy to see Grifter. It also helps that I’m big fan of Matthew Rosenberg’s action oriented books and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art. I’m into heroes that get beat up a lot and this fills that need. Grifter gets his butt kicked here, but keeps on ticking. This is the place where it sort of solidifies the “who isn’t Batman” angle I was talking about earlier, sort of. I feel like a lot of people forget Batwing, but this didn’t do that. I kinda like the two of them together in a kind of “Lethal Weapon without having to think about watching a movie with a racist in it” way. I’m excited to see the hero that shows up at the end too and how she’s turned into sort of a legend.

They should reprint these in Dawn of X style volumes, but in reading order, I agree Tom. I’m allowed to mention Marvel books in a DC roundtable, right?

Timeline has been a problem in nearly every book so far. I’m assuming they want people to pick up all of these, right? So why not make that easier?

JK Parkin: So to build on what Shane said, I was thinking about Rosenberg’s run on Hawkeye as I read Grifter. I’ve never really thought of the similarities between the two characters until now. There were some great moments between Fox and Cash as well.

I really liked the art on the main story, and thought it set the tone really well. I think the issue I see here, and with all the books that fall into the Batman family in this event, is the feeling of sameness to them. You’ve got the magistrate, the outlawed heroes and a lot of stories that feature one hunting the other. I probably would have liked this better if I hadn’t read The Next Batman, Outsiders, Arkham Knights, Robin Eternal, etc. before reading this. Harley Quinn, at this point, at least seems to be taking a different angle.

Shane Bailey: I can say that feeling continues through this week’s books too. It’s like you’re just seeing the same scenes from a different point of view. It’s not that it’s technically bad, I’m enjoying them, but yeah, hopefully the second issue adds something besides heroes fighting cybers. And “cyber” has totally different connotations to a 90s kid. Also since the books aren’t going to be around for long, possibly, are they going to have enough time to resolve anything?

JK Parkin: There’s a lot I like in these books so far, esp. the two main Batman books, and this is one of the issues you can run into in a shared continuity/universe. I have this same issue with the X-books, actually, and have cut back on them substantially since they launched — like you said, it feels like reading the same scene from a different point of view.

Robin Eternal by Meghan Fitzmartin and Eddy Barrows

JK Parkin: So on that note, let’s jump into Robin Eternal! What did you guys think of it?

Tom Bondurant: It was fine. Eddy Barrows is a good storyteller, and Eber Ferreira (inks) and Adriano Lucas (colors) complemented him well. I especially liked the transition from nighttime aerial drone battle to daylight Robin recruiting. It was good to see the We Are Robin concept revived, and I enjoyed the infiltration of the SHIELD Helicarrier. I don’t have any complaints about Meghan Fitzmartin’s script, which captured the cores of Tim and Stephanie and endeared me to Darcy. However, I wonder how essential this issue is in the great scheme of Future State. I also wonder whether this deserved its own issue, or if it could have been incorporated into another anthology book, maybe with the Duke Thomas/Outsiders story from Next Batman #1 or the Cassandra Cain story from Next Batman #2.

Essentially I am trying to figure out what Tim’s role is in this, because to a certain extent that determines his characterization. If all the other Robins (including Dick Grayson) are sidelined, does that mean Tim is the de facto Bat-family head? How does that square with Duke and the Outsiders, to say nothing of the current Batman? In other words, am I reading this book because I want to see how the classic Bat-folks are doing, or just because I like Tim? Because — and correct me if I’m wrong — this is the first solo Robin book of any kind since that Damian Wayne miniseries from 2015-16. Since Rebirth, Damian’s been part of the Teen Titans and Tim’s either been a supporting character in Detective Comics or one of the stars of Young Justice. Moreover, when Future State ends, there’s going to be an ongoing Robin book, but with Damian and not Tim; and Young Justice will still be cancelled. I mean, I hate to say “this book isn’t important and therefore is less than,” because it’s a good comic.

Ironically, I have been critical of the Magistrate setup for being another set of paramilitary totalitarians, but here I thought it worked well. I guess knowing the bigger picture would help me evaluate the stakes.

Shane Bailey: I really enjoyed seeing Barrow’s art again. I think he’s a good fit here for an older Robin and I like seeing Spoiler again. Speaking of Spoiler, this book sort of spoiled who might be Peacekeeper 01 didn’t it? As well as some of the Nightwing stuff and hinting at a dark fate for Damian.

Spoiler seems to be an extremely important character throughout Future State with her showing up in multiple books and stories. Do you think that is foreshadowing her being more important in the new DC universe found forward?

I agree with you Tom, both on hoping for more Tim in the future and the Magistrate clicking better here than other places.

This almost heist set up in Robin Eternal shows up other places in Future State too and works well. I wondered why it was called Eternal too, and I guess we find out the answer to that with the cliffhanger at the end. 

JK Parkin: I’ll third the vote for the art team. The story was nicely handled and flowed really well. Now that I’ve called out the Magistrate storyline myself for feeling repetitive, it’s hard not to become repetitive about it feeling repetitive. Is that ironic?

I never read We Are Robin. Is that worth picking up?

Tom Bondurant: I didn’t read We Are Robin either, I just know the concept. All 12 issues are on the revamped DC Universe Infinite, so I can add it to my list. (You’re welcome, DC marketing!) As for the title, I thought Robin Eternal was a play on Batman Eternal and Batman & Robin Eternal, the two New 52 mega-miniseries. (If memory serves, they reintroduced Stephane and Cassandra Cain, among other things.) If you count Stephanie and Darcy, there’s three Robins in Robin Eternal, so it kind of makes sense. That said, the cliffhanger explanation makes sense too.

Shane Bailey: I didn’t read We Are Robin either. We should probably read that.

JK Parkin: Yep, I’ll add that to my list.

Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #1 by Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage

JK Parkin: Let’s get away from Gotham for a bit, and talk about Kara Zor-El, Superwoman. I thought the approach here was interesting; I mean, it’s as far from Gotham as you can get, right? The art made it feel almost more like a fairy tale to me, actually, than a DC Universe book. What did you guys think?

Shane Bailey: That was an interesting take on Supergirl that I really haven’t seen before, taking in what’s left of humanity on the moon and guiding them, or at least trying to, while learning from them herself. It didn’t seem to go with the rest of the line, but I didn’t really mind by the end of it.

A more mature Kara, growing into her role as Superwoman and leading others is absolutely something I want to see more of. She’s also a very human character that’s starting to recognize her faults. That’s a big part of growing up I think all of us constantly struggle with.

The art by Sauvage was absolutely stunning and fit the tone of the book perfectly and you’re right, it did feel like reading a fairy tale or children’s storybook. I would like to see more artists of differing styles take on traditional superheroes in the future. I think we’re seeing this more in anthology titles like Harley Quinn: Black. White and Red, but not always in the main books. It was a nice change of pace.

I know a lot of people thought it was a bit dark and depressing as it starts with Krypto being dead (I mean, c’mon, if Kara is aged up then that dog would be ancient) and deals a lot with the anger that Kara has, but I think a lot of us today have that anger kind of boiling inside of us, particularly with events this year, and dealing with it as an adult and finding ways to channel it is a good topic for a comic. Is Kara the right character for it? I don’t see why not.

She’s had to deal with a lot of stuff and I like the “meta-ness” of her rightful place being taken by a new character Jon becoming the new head Super character in the line.

She put in the work, she’s been right there the whole time, but she’s shunted aside for the next big thing to come along and she can’t even be a mentor to him? That has to hurt from any perspective.

But is she doing it because she’s owed something or is she doing everything because she just wants to help? I think she’s learning that it’s not entirely selfless being a hero sometimes.

This book seems to really take advantage of Future State to not only tell a future story, but to really examine the character in another light. I think it does THAT job better than the other books so far.

Tom Bondurant: You said it, Shane! I liked this book as an example of a future that isn’t so bad (although it’s not all good), which facilitates that kind of character development. The art was such a departure from the current DC house style that it really brought home those differences. Sauvage’s colors were huge in that respect, using a lot of highlights and monochromatic techniques to create a very impressionistic mood. It all worked to complement the script’s exposition pretty much as a storybook would. And the script wasn’t particularly clunky, but it did have a lot of information to convey. 

Historically Supergirl has been easier to put in these sorts of fantasy-esque settings because she’s not tied to a particular setting or supporting cast like Superman is. I feel like this story could have been an imaginary tale from an early 1970s issue of Adventure Comics. It had that same sort of trippy, dreamlike quality, but with enough substance to warrant an investment in the outcome.

Shane Bailey: Do you all see Lynari expanding much beyond this story? I can’t see her existing in the larger DCU right now. Also, does everything kind of sound Sailor Moonish to you guys? The Starfall Jewel and the Silver Crystal in the show, Lynari turning into a dog/cat like creature like Luna, it takes place on the “Moon”, the style, they battle the Dark Kingdom and Lynari is a dark princess creature… 

I didn’t see all that until my second read through and I might just be reading into it. I like it regardless.

JK Parkin. To answer your first question, not really, but I think she works in the context of this story.

And yeah, overall this issue felt otherworldly, maybe Sailor Moon or manga influenced … definitely not what I expect from a typical DC Comics book. And I liked it more because of that — it seemed like the creative team had a bit more freedom to try something different and tell the story they wanted to tell. Although it’s a very different book than Swamp Thing, it’s similar in how it pretty much creates this completely different world — and tone and feel — from what you might expect. You get that a lot with DC’s YA material, and like you said, Shane, with some of their anthology books, but not in a typical monthly floppy.

I like that some of the Future State slate isn’t just jumping five years into the future and telling the same stories we always see — this limited-time event with a pretty wide swath of time frames to choose from should give us something different than what we’d expect. Or maybe I was just happy not to see another Magistrate story, set in gloomy Gotham. 🙂

 

Teen Titans #1 by Tim Sheridan and Rafa Sandoval

JK Parkin: Next let’s talk about Teen Titans. I’ll start by saying that if you put the word “Academy” behind anything, I’m all in — Avengers Academy, Strange Academy, Walking Dead Academy, whatever. So my interest in the Titans went way up when DC announced Titans Academy would be coming out after Future State ends. But that comes later — what did you guys think of the Future State Teen Titans #1?

Shane Bailey: I felt like I was missing information when reading this book and the time jumps back and forth did not help at all. Was anyone else kind of lost here?

Tom Bondurant: One thing I do like is DC leaning into the Titans as less of a group and more of a demographic, like the X-Men. That opens the book up to a lot of different combinations, and not only in the alt-future “this is who’s left” situations. In this issue, that helped me get over some characters I didn’t recognize (maybe because I haven’t been reading the more recent Teen Titans series) and just go with the parallel narratives.

But it didn’t help that the issue was spoiled by a house ad.

Shane Bailey: I haven’t been reading the newest Titans either; maybe that’s why I was lost? I feel like the job of these books is to sell you on the characters and the situations, though.

And yeah, having your last-page surprise be an ad in other books might not be the best move.

Tom Bondurant: Overall this issue reminded me of the early “Five Years Later” Legion of Super-Heroes, with Nightwing in the Cosmic Boy role (at least at first). Speaking of X-Men, it has a very strong “Days Of Future Past” vibe as well, what with the graveyard of familiar names and the nebulous threat of imminent death. As a single issue, I thought it was decent. I like Rafa Sandoval’s work generally and I felt like Tim Sheridan’s script played a lot of Wolfman/Perez hits, including riffs on the Gar/Victor and Dick/Kory relationships. It wasn’t as depressing as Flash, but it wasn’t one of my favorites either. Very middle-of-the-road.

JK Parkin: I liked how much it leaned into the Wolfman/Perez years, personally; plus those same hits have been turned into fodder for Teen Titans Go!, which my kid binges daily — I’m not sure if those would be considered “covers songs” or maybe the KidzBop equivalents? But they hit similar notes for sure.

Personally I think DC is missing the mark if it doesn’t include at least some of those characters in a Titans book, which the most recent Titans series was missing (except Robin, of course). I tried reading some of those issues to my nine-year-old, and he looks at me like, “These aren’t the Teen Titans!” If there’s no Beast Boy or Cyborg or Raven, he notices. The “Five Years Later” Legion comparison is interesting, Tom; I hadn’t thought about that.

Shane Bailey: I hadn’t thought about that, either. In that case, maybe the “lost” feeling I’m having is on purpose. I did really enjoy the art and dialogue, but I just felt like I was missing some information. I enjoyed seeing a lot of the characters like Emiko and Jakeem, as well as the “originals” from the New Teen Titans.

I thought it was a nice mix, and I’m with you, it doesn’t seem like Titans without Cyborg, Beast Boy, Raven, Starfire and Nightwing to me. Then things got a bit weird with the Cybeast and Nightstroke…

I’m just not into a Dick Grayson that’s not optimistic, even though there was a point in New Teen Titans when he had a similar attitude. I’m tired of my heroes going dark and DC seems to go to that well over and over and over and over. The point of Dick Grayson is that he’s NOT Batman. He’s NOT Grim.

Tom Bondurant: I think part of Dick’s descent is tied to Donna’s absence. The issue doesn’t make that explicit beyond showing Donna’s grave, but their relationship was one of the cornerstones of the Wolfman/Perez run. And yes, Dick is the “happy Batman,” so his development here is interesting, to say the least.

Shane Bailey: That is probably true, but that story has been told before too when Donna was lost and Dick formed The Outsiders. Comics are like wrestling, though; we keep coming back to the same story with slight variations.

Also is Donna the Jean Grey of the DC Universe? How many times has she died or had her past changed?

Tom Bondurant: Yeah, I was thinking of the 1985-86 arc where Dick wound up with Brother Blood and Donna took over the team pretty much by default, which goes to your point. As for her backstory, I’m not sure if she or Hawkman has the more confusing continuity. At least she got a nice foster family out of it.

Shane Bailey: Where is Hawkman in the future anyway?

Tom Bondurant: [shrug emoji]

Shane Bailey: Anyway, I still liked it enough that I want to know how it ends so I’m at least on board for the second issue.

Nightstroke (laughs)

Tom Bondurant: Me too. It does have a lot of questions to answer and plot points to clear up.

JK Parkin: Agreed; I’ll stick with it, with hopes that Titans Academy might be a bit lighter when it debuts.

Superman/Wonder Woman #1 by Dan Watters and Leila del Duca

JK Parkin: Let’s finish things off by talking about Superman/Wonder Woman, which features the Future State versions of the characters teaming up. What did you think?

Tom Bondurant: it was a good blend of the characters, very much in the buddy-buddy spirit of World’s Finest Comics and not really the embryonic romance of the New 52 Superman/Wonder Woman. I liked how it fleshed out Wonder Woman’s mythology and her place in the larger Future State milieu; and I liked how it expanded on Jon’s role as Superman. Not having to deal with the bottle city was also a plus. And another Grant Morrison character shows up, this time for a very clever purpose!

JK Parkin: Yeah, I liked the “buddy” nature of it, without the romantic undertones that seemed kind of forced back when their predecessors were sharing a title.

Shane Bailey: This is another of the books that I mentioned earlier when I talked about a more self-assured Superman and Wonder Woman and how their friendship is explored more. The Wonder Woman here isn’t the Wonder Woman in her solo book and this isn’t the Superman from the Metropolis book. I really enjoyed this.

I loved the opening with Jon’s routine when he wakes up every morning and how that plays into the ending. And hey! And yeah I really enjoyed the Grant Morrison character appearance again.

Yara as a crusader keeping the city in check from the bigwigs and taking it to the man is a thing that I can get used to, a righteous hero for the people is nice today, is this a vague call back to Superman’s roots?

And I agree Tom, like you said, she’s dealing with her own mythology here rather than greek so it was interesting to see that fleshed out more. It made her stand out more as her own character to me. 

Seeing Kuat fight over his place in the sky with Solaris felt really Bronze Age to me and that’s my favorite era of Superman so this really thrilled me. I could see an old school cover depicting this race. 

Superman being able to time manage all the emergencies and still have time to stop the suns was a really cool moment, “here’s an emergency!” “3.2 seconds” “Here’s another!” “12.2 seconds” That doesn’t feel like the same Jon we read in the earlier books. It’s a Jon who’s comfortable with his powers, his responsibility, and what he can do. 

Out of all the books featuring Superman and Wonder Woman, this is the one I want to keep reading in the future once this event ends.

It felt new, even though it used some older elements it used them with new characters and different situations that we don’t usually see.

Tom Bondurant: I think part of the reason I liked this book was that it allowed the characters to be superheroes without overcomplicating things.

Shane Bailey: YES! That shouldn’t be as refreshing as it is.

Tom Bondurant: You get good insights into both of their routines and it culminates in a nice interpersonal exchange which sets out their relationship stakes.

By the way, the down-to-the-second stuff reminded me — and this is a super-deep cut, no pun intended — of Elliott S! Maggin’s Superman prose novels. He would lay out Superman taking out some armored bad guys with that level of detail, literally slowing down time like you were going panel-by-panel. I am sure this is not an explicit callback to that, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

Shane Bailey: I can almost here the announcer at the end of Superman or Batman’s tv shows… Will Superman regain his powers in time to face Solaris? Will Kuat lose his place in the sky? Will Yara come to their rescue? 

I still have to read those novels. I got copies some years back, but still haven’t read them. It absolutely calls back to that era of comic storytelling, though

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