The State of Future State, Part 5

JK, Shane and Tom wrap up their look at DC’s Future State first issues, including ‘Legion of Super-Heroes,’ ‘Aquaman,’ ‘Suicide Squad’ and more.

And we’re back with our final look at DC’s Future State titles, as Shane, Tom and I talk about the first issues of Legion of Super-Heroes, Superman/Batman, Superman: Imperious Lex, Suicide Squad and Aquaman.

You can see what we had to say about some of the other Future State first issues in parts one, two, three and four.

This is also my last opportunity to post the Future State timeline, my best friend and lifeline while reading these titles:

The second issues of everything we talk about arrive today, as DC wraps up the event and prepares for Infinite Frontier — which will feature some of the characters we met during FS. We talk a little bit about that at the end.

And away we go …

Superman/Batman by Gene Yang and Ben Oliver

JK Parkin: Let’s start off with a Batman/Superman, which seems to take place before any of the other books in the event (although our trusty timeline infographic doesn’t really call that out). What did you think?

Tom Bondurant: It was well-crafted and very nice to look at. We know that Gene Luen Yang can tell a great Superman story, and so far this is a pretty entertaining World’s Finest story. I liked how the False Face Society has roots in Gotham but has spread to Metropolis and I liked how it tied into fooling the Magistrate (which, ominously, seems to have its own roots in current subplots). Superman and Batman’s different reactions to the Magistrate were reminiscent of Supes’ visit to “No Man’s Land,” which — intentional or not — was another good way to think about Gotham’s future sta– uh, circumstances.

A couple of things did bother me. First, when Superman is talking to the suicidal teen, I thought it was framed like the famous All Star Superman scene. Maybe I’m reading too much into that. Also, while I did like how the issue was shot through with a sickly green color, to remind us of the Kryptonite threat from Page 1, I was a little disappointed in our heroes not being on the lookout for Kryptonite when they finally got to the old hospital. Maybe that big green-glowing monitor screen should have subconsciously put them on the alert? These are minor nitpicks, though; and I really did enjoy the issue.

Shane Bailey: I enjoyed the False Face Society’s origins, too, and Superman’s optimism in the face of the Magistrate threat, but it just kind of felt flat overall to me. It wasn’t bad, it was just there. It felt like a fill-in story because it was so divorced from everything else we’ve read, and while there were other stories set apart from the main Future State timeline, this one didn’t seem that important.

I’ve gotten a No Man’s Land feel from the Gotham Future State storyline from the beginning. No one seems to care that Gotham is under martial law outside of the city. That kind of thing would be national news in the real world, at least for a couple of news cycles.

JK Parkin: I wonder if everyone outside Gotham has become desensitized to news about the city? “Another crisis in Gotham? Must be Thursday. Now sports.”

As for the comic itself, I like that it seems to be set before the events of the Superman and Batman books we’ve read so far in Future State. I’m hoping the second issue maybe bridges that gap between the current DCU and where we see Superman and Batman in Dark Detective and Worlds of War, although that might be asking too much. But I’m guessing there’s a reason that it seems so out of sync with the other FS books.

Aquaman by Brandon Thomas and Daniel Sampere

JK Parkin: Moving on, let’s talk about Aquaman. First off, huge props and respect to the art team here, who made this book look beautiful. I thought Daniel Sampere captured the feeling of the ocean and being underwater really well, which I imagine is one of the challenges of working on an Aquaman book, but then to add in the extra (terrestrial) challenge of the off-Earth stuff … I just thought visually it was well done. What did you guys think?

Shane Bailey: I agree, the art was superb. I said before I was tired of all the dark future books, and this fits the bill with Aquawoman cutting off her leg and all, but I still really enjoyed it because it had some very cool ideas with the one ocean and ended with hope for the future. I thought Jackson Hyde as Aqualad was an interesting idea before, but I really like him elevated to Aquaman and his friendship with the future Aquawoman was explored well here, their relationship goes from a protector/protectee mentor/student thing to real partners within the span of an issue and it was believable. That’s quite a feat in my eyes.

This really made me excited for whatever is going on with Aquaman going forward from Future State. If this is what we have in store I’m on board.

Tom Bondurant: The art really sold the book for me as well. I thought it was clever to make the older Jackson look like Jason Momoa, kind of like Nick Fury Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson. Aquawoman’s dismemberment was very jarring, but as Shane said it ended on a more hopeful note. Besides, ’90s Aquaman had a hook hand, so it’s not the end of the world.

I keep wanting to lump this book in with Kara Zor-El, Superwoman because it had a similar otherworldly quality. Obviously it wasn’t expressed with the same art style, and its tone turned out to be distinctly different, but it took the opportunity to change its characters’ status quos pretty dramatically. I didn’t agree with all the choices — again, just because it’s the future doesn’t mean someone needs to be maimed — but this was another book that made a good faith effort to convince me otherwise. How’s that for some backhanded compliments?

Shane Bailey: I guess you could say it ended on the right “foot.”

Tom Bondurant: Oof.

JK Parkin: Oh geez.

Have they made reference to the dismemberment in Justice League, where Aquawoman has been appearing?

Tom Bondurant: Not that I remember. According to the timeline, Justice League takes place 10 years after Aquaman. Maybe it was just a flesh wound?

Shane Bailey: I don’t know. I was a big ’90s comic kid, and I learned to not look for feet. So maybe I missed it?

Legion of Super-Heroes by Brian Michael Bendis and Riley Rossmo

JK Parkin: And on that note, let’s talk about something else — like Legion of Super-Heroes. You mentioned “Five Years Later …” in an earlier post, Tom, and I was hoping we might get that same kind of vibe from this, but I don’t think we did. Mostly this just seemed to be a re-intro of the roster and some fun character moments, but I don’t feel like I really got much story here, at least not yet. What did you guys think?

Shane Bailey: While it wasn’t what I necessarily expected out of my Legion of Super-Heroes, it was interesting. Rossmo’s art, while I really like it elsewhere doesn’t seem the best fit here. It made everything a little harder to figure out who was who and what was what. In a cast as big as this clarity is something you really need. But like I said, I love the Legion so I still enjoyed the book, it was just took a little more work.

Also a fractured Legion with some studying with the United Planets and some rebelling is an interesting idea, even though I like the overly optimistic Legion pre-Five Years Later, I’m open to other interpretations like this.

Tom Bondurant: I would not call myself a Legion scholar, but it seems like the team has been through enough dark periods that this doesn’t seem out of place anymore. To me it did feel very much like the Bendis Legion’s take on Five Years Later. Somehow that made it both exposition-y and decompressed. Bendis has hinted that the regular series may tie into this setting, so if it does I hope it doesn’t take over the book.

I also like Riley Rossmo’s work, although I’m not sure his style fits the Legion generally. Again, here it didn’t seem out of place, but that’s because it reminded me of Olivier Coipel’s art when the post-Zero Hour Legion took its dark turn. Also, Rossmo did a couple of Robin King stories for the Death Metal tie-ins, and that sort of grim-wacky feel might be coloring my impressions of this issue.

Still, overall I did enjoy the book. I liked the buildup to the team’s reveal, and I appreciated the optimism which ran through the issue. I just think it’s a little early in Bendis’ run to go full dystopia.

JK Parkin: I don’t know if I would have thought of Riley Rossmo to be the artist for Legion, but I thought the art worked really well here. I think my issue with it was more in how it tried to jam pack the issue with just about every Legion member possible. I like some of the ideas presented, but that plot didn’t really feel like it had room to really get going. That of course is always going to be a potential problem with a book like Legion — the large cast is typically the draw, right? But it felt more like a detriment here, esp. with it being so decompressed.

Shane Bailey: Yeah and because some of them have new designs it’s even harder to recognize them. They had the handy dandy call outs by their appearances, but there were still times I had to look twice to see who was who. I think I’d like to see Rossmo’s take on the bright and shiny Legion just to say the difference.

JK Parkin: Yeah, when I saw the promotional art for this book, at first glance I thought maybe we were getting completely new characters with some recognizable traits/callbacks to the regular Legion — which wouldn’t have been out of place in Future State.

Superman: Imperious Lex by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh

JK Parkin: Up next: Superman Imperious Lex. Which I keep wanting to type as “Impervious,” but nevertheless …

After Second Coming, it’s interesting to see Mark Russell working on Superman. I thought this one was a lot of fun, and it was definitely the most “Mark Russell” of all the Future State titles, which I think is a thing we can say now. What did you guys think?

Tom Bondurant: It worked for me on a lot of levels. It was a good Superman/Luthor story (with a healthy bit of Lois thrown in), it was a nice homage to the old Lexor stories, and it was a positive use of “the future.” I also got a good bit of Star Trek-style politics out of the membership debate. And of course, Russell’s various in-jokes and sight gags (chief among them the “cake thief”) were well appreciated. To be sure, I got the impression from the original Lexor stories that Luthor was actually not a bad ruler once he didn’t have to worry about Superman showing him up — kind of like Doctor Doom being objectively good at governing Latveria. You get a sense of that here, with Luthor basically telling Supes he’s ruined his life on Earth, so why does he have to ruin it on another planet. However, the point is that Luthor has been exploiting the Lexorians (killer robots aren’t the foundation of a stable economy) and the United Planets has to basically save them from their misplaced faith in Lex. That’s a good twist, so once again my nitpicking is minor. In fact, I kept forgetting that this was Part 1 of 2. It worked really well as a standalone story.

Before I forget, Steve Pugh’s art complemented Russell’s script very well. I liked his designs for the older Superman and Lois, as well as the various non-standard United Planets representatives (i.e., not the Guardian or the Thanagarian). Luthor’s skin-mask was also simple, creepy and effective.

Shane Bailey: Yeah I really enjoyed this one, too. I expected a lot out of this creative team, and they delivered. There was a lot to like; I agree that Steve Pugh’s art was refreshing and fit the story really well. I loved all his designs and, like you said, future Lois’ design was well done. I really like the United Planets as a story device and I think it was well done here. Lois being the representative for earth was perfect and gives her time to shine. I feel like we’re going to see her take center stage next issue. This issue really hit all my Superman buttons.

I didn’t get a lot of Lexor growing up but I eventually heard of it and ferreted out those stories so I could read them. From then on I really liked the concept. It’s nice to see it back.

JK Parkin: I agree with both of you, on the art and the story. It makes me wonder if DC would ever let Russell and Pugh loose on a regular DC title. I think that could be a lot of fun.

Suicide Squad

Featuring Suicide Squad by Robbie Thompson and Javier Fernandez, and Black Adam by Jeremy Adams and Fernando Pasarin

JK Parkin: And finally, I think we’re down to Suicide Squad, which also featured Black Adam. What did you guys think?

Tom Bondurant: Well, after complaining about all the Future State books that were too dark, I thought this one made the most of that. The story’s big twist was appropriate as well. However, I’m a little surprised that both stories featured alternate versions of the Justice League. I never thought the Squad was particularly interested in making those comparisons.

Anyway, the first story was dark-comedic fun. I liked the “casting” of the Justice Squad and overall it felt — for lack of a better term — light-hearted. I could enjoy it on its own terms without having to worry about its lasting effects. However, I did not connect with the Black Adam story. Honestly, between making Wonder Woman his OTP and setting it up so that he has to save everyone including Justice Legion A, to me it Poochie-fied Black Adam. I know he’s the headliner, but come on! This did not convince me of the merits of its premise.

Shane Bailey: DC had transformed Black Adam into their version of Doctor Doom and honestly I kind of like him for that. It’s kinda strange that a Suicide Squad book set in the future is working on setting things up for a Justice League book in the present, making Adam a more heroic figure. I agree they kinda softened him up here.

That said i liked the main story despite going into it not expecting much. It’s funny seeing Peacemaker everywhere now after so long. I remember being introduced to him way back in the Janus Directive crossover. I kinda want to know the back story on why Conner is working for Waller in this timeline. I really like the team dynamics here too. That’s the thing with these Future State books. I want to know a lot of the backstory on what for us here more than what happens next.

JK Parkin: Regarding Black Adam, I don’t remember all that much about the Justice Legion, to be honest, but the story felt like it was poking fun at them. Are they intended to be weaker and less capable than their present-day counterparts? I thought maybe they were supposed to be inferior copies, which is why they needed Black Adam’s help.

And as for Peacemaker, well, with John Cena playing him not only in the next Suicide Squad movie but also in an HBO Max spinoff, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of him moving forward. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a solo series when the show debuts.

All that being said, I enjoyed both of the stories here, despite some confusion/lack of knowledge about the Justice Legion. I thought the characters chosen to “replace” the Justice League were interesting; I figured Martian Manhunter would end up being another White Martian, so when that character was revealed, it was a nice surprise. And I’m looking forward to reading the second issue.

All right, so we made it through all the Future State first issues, with one asterisk for House of El. I thought, though, that we could end this time by talking about this press release, which is about what’s in store for some of the characters featured in Future State, like Yara Flor/Wonder Girl and the Next Batman. I think we already knew about a lot of these projects, but a few of them may not have been obvious. One interesting development seems to be that Jo Mullein will be featured in the new Green Lantern title. That’s certainly a change from having her own stand alone title.

Tom Bondurant: I am all for Jo Mullein being a bigger part of Green Lantern. With Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp wrapping up two years’ worth of Hal Jordan-centric adventures, and Jo doing her own thing in Far Sector, the Green Lantern Corps hasn’t seen a lot of action. I’ve enjoyed both looks at two very different Lanterns, but part of the fun of the feature is seeing the Corps in all its diverse glory. More to the point, I’m hoping that the GL creative team is inspired to do right by Jo, making her feel at home in the Corps without sacrificing what makes her unique.

I also appreciated that DC called out Wonder Woman’s Eurocentric origins in its plans for Yara Flor. I don’t think I mentioned this when we talked about her earlier, but her (relatively brief) adventures are starting to remind me of the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman. That run wasn’t without its problems — most notably changes to the Amazons’ collective backstory — but some of that involved changes to longstanding Wonder Woman lore. With Yara Flor you don’t have the same issues, so you can do more with a character who’s spiritually similar to the classic WW but free to make some new choices.

In that respect the Next Batman almost gets dealt the worst hand, because a) he’s tied directly to current Batman developments and b) at this point he’s “just another” new Batman. Granted, the idea of a “new Batman” goes back almost 30 years, but those Knightfall and Dick/Damian collections are just a few clicks away. Now, I like what I see of Tim Fox, and the inherent power of Bat-marketing may make him the most popular new Future Stater. When all is said and done, though, he may end up as one of the more traditional takes on Batman.

JK Parkin: I agree; I like both Jo Mullein and Teen Lantern (from Young Justice) being part of the new Green Lantern book. I do wonder, though, if that ends NK Jemisin’s work on the character (and at DC). Hopefully not, because I think that was part of the draw. Also, does that mean Young Animal is officially over?

As for Yara Flor, I hope the fact that the CW didn’t pick up the Wonder Girl pilot doesn’t stop their momentum with the character. Joelle Jones’ work on Wonder Woman was one of my favorites of the Future State titles, so I’d like to see it continue.

Shane Bailey: Yeah, I’m kind of glad they are using Jo in DC proper now, but I hope she doesn’t slide into the background, same with Yara Flor. If they really use them though that could be a really good thing for the company. They are great characters that I think can be really popular with people even outside comics.

I feel like these characters can really inject some excitement into these franchises if they do it correctly. But if they are “just another GL” or “just another Wonder Woman” it will be such a waste of all they built up here and in Far Sector.

I don’t feel like we got a lot of time with Jesse, so I’m glad we can learn a bit more in Flash too. I’m actually hoping we see more than this coming out of a Future State as overall I think it was a really good exercise at taking existing characters like in Future State Aquaman and adding to them as well as creating new ones to expand upon. I would call this whole experiment a success.

I guess what I’m saying is “Hey, DC, don’t squander this goodwill. You’re doing a good thing this time.”

JK Parkin: Agreed. Having read several of the second issues now, I’m also glad to see them sticking the landing on comics like Nightwing and Wonder Woman. So, final question: without explanation or caveats, what were your top three favorites from all the comics we talked about? I’ll start: Superman: Imperious Lex, Nightwing, Wonder Woman.

Tom Bondurant: Wonder Woman, Next Batman and Justice League for me.

Shane Bailey: Strangely enough, since it’s not my favorite setting, Nightwing and Catwoman were pretty strong books for me. I think Superwoman would have to be my third for just trying something different with the concept.

For me I think it was the books that either really used the setting well, in the case of the siege and the heist in the two Bat family books, or decided to just go for it like Superwoman. Aquaman was a strong contender too. I didn’t expect to enjoy that book as much as I did.

Overall, I had a lot more fun with these books than I had with DC for quite a while. It got me energized for the future in a DC Universe that I was thinking about saying goodbye to for the most part.

Not every book was a hit, but it felt like this was a nice refresher on what DC can do in creating a cohesive shared universe and still change things up a bit without getting too bogged down in continuity like it has been

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