DC Comics Future State Retrospective

DC Comics Future State

DC Comics took a chance by having the majority of their comic book line take a break for two-months. In the place for the comic books that make up the current DC Universe, DC Comics went with a whole new direction known as Future State. With Future State we were given a look into what a possible future of the DC Universe would look like if things continued to play out the way they were going with were all the DCU characters were by December 2020. Not only was this a chance to have new ways of examining legacy characters and introduced new characters in iconic roles but also gave newer talent to write major DC Comics’ books.

NEW TALENT SHINE THROUGHOUT FUTURE STATE

More so than new characters getting the chance to step into the iconic roles such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman what stood out most is all the talent involved in Future State. For a long time now we’ve see the same big names headlining DC Comics publishing line. The names of Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Dan Jurgens, Brian Bendis, and James Tynion have been creators that have largely led the DC Universe the last few decades. While all these creators that DC Comics have turned to for major projects have all made big names for themselves for good reason it has long time coming that the company invested in their future.

Now with DC Comics’ Future State that is exactly what we saw take place as a lot of newer names appeared as the creators for the last two-months. Creators such as John Ridley, Joelle Jones, Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Gene Luen Yang are all names DC Comics fans are familiar with but they haven’t worked on the big DC projects. They have mostly done work on secondary or lower comic book series. But with Future State we got to see Ridley on Next Batman and Joelle Jones, Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad working on the Wonder Woman books. Giving these creators who have already proven themselves with previous work at DC Comics and other publishers helps to further build their stock up with fans.

Future State: Superman: House Of El #2

The legacy of Superman continues well into the future through Clark Kent’s descendants as shown in Future State: Superman: House Of El #2. Click for full page view.

The same goes for even more newer names that DC Comics likely aren’t familiar with. We got to see creators such as Mariko Tamaki, Brandon Thomas, Andrew Constant, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, and Stephanie Phillips headlining major titles in the Batman, Superman, and Aquaman franchises. Giving this type of experience to newer talent so they can build up their names in the eyes of fans strengthens the potential pool of creators DC Comics trusts to pull off stories like their previous big name talents have done.

And we are already seeing with who is working on all the comic books that are making up the new Infinite Frontier direction that Future State was a gamble that is paying off. Because on top of still having creators such as Bendis, Williamson, and Tynion working on major comics we are seeing a lot of the talent who worked on Future State books working on series’ for Infinite Frontier. Having this type of investment in the present and future is something that can lead to long-term success as long as DC Comics is invested in continuing this.

STANDALONE STORIES

From a strictly story perspective Future State was also successful in delivering an engaging new set of comic books for fans new and old to get invested in. For the most part DC Comics were able to have all of the comic books that made up Future State stand on their own. Yes, there were comics such as Teen Titans, Flash, and Shazam that directly tied into each other for their Future State stories. But for a large portion of Future State the continuity was kept to more of a broad view. This allowed creators to simply focus on telling stories that stood on their own.

That included many of the back-up stories that were added into certain comic book series. Even if a main story in a certain book didn’t completely grab you there were many additional stories to be found that will grab your attention. That is thanks to the writers being able to tell more character focused stories that did all feel standalone. And for those that did have connections, specifically the back-up stories, they worked to further strengthen what Future State was about.

FUTURE STATE TIMELINE PROBLEMS

For as enjoyable as Future State was the big problem that the direction had was a cohesion with the timeline of stories. This was especially problematic when it came to characters that appeared in multiple comic book series. Since the Future State comic books were not done to tell stories that wrapped up the direction, such as the Magistrate, the way certain characters acted in books that took place further down the Future State timeline did not make sense. There was a large disconnect when this happened that did take you away from the reading experience.

Also, the vagueness of how much time passed between comics that were telling connected stories was noticeable many times. It created more work to for the reader to fill in the holes created by jumps in certain stories. More clarity in terms of how much time passed would’ve been helpful for books like Teen Titans, Flash, and Shazam that all told one story. Having a clear idea of how much time passed gives greater context to how much these characters have had to deal with. Without that events come across as taking places days of one another rather than years or decades apart.

BATMAN FAMILY OVERSHADOW FUTURE STATE’S TWO DARK KNIGHTS

Of all the stories told during the Future State direction the one that was most engaging was the story around the Magistrate’s control of Gotham City. All of the creators who worked on the various Batman Family stories all worked well to compliment one another. There was a cohesive vision for how the story of the Magistrates fascist regime was portrayed. Adding in how major events such as “City of Bane” and “Joker War” played a large role in the Magistrate’s regime rise to power made what became of Gotham City as we started Future State fascinating to learn about. It gave a sense of familiarity for fans who have been following the current Batman Family while still making everything about Gotham City new that we were all learning about.

Future State: Nightwing #2

The Batman Family unite to create a Resistance to fight against the Magistrate regime as shown in Future State: Nightwing #2. Click for full page view.

The success of the Magistrate Saga within Future State is thanks to the incredible work done by all the creators working on the Batman Family line for this direction. Every story we saw unfold involving a Batman Family member that connected to the events going on in Gotham City were all well told. We saw how in Bruce Wayne’s absence the entire Batman Family from Dick Grayson to Stephanie Brown to Duke Thomas stepped up to defend Gotham City’s citizens.

One of the more important scenes came from Barbara Gordon after Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown saved her from the Magistrate during the Batgirls back-up story. As soon as Barbara was able to get back into action the first thing she did was announce the existence of the Batman Family Resistance movement. In the process she had a huge character moment that impacts the attitude the entire Batman Family now has during Future State as she admits that they all lost themselves the longer they were Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, etc. that they ended up losing the understanding of what it truly meant to be Gotham City’s protectors. It is something that provided further insight into how the Magistrate were able to take advantage of the state that Gotham City was in post-Joker War.

That self-reflection is something we saw carry over into all of the ways that the rest of the Batman Family stories played out. And in many ways the stories around all the members of the Resistance that Nightwing and Oracle were leading was much more interesting than what the two Batmen in Jace Fox and Bruce Wayne were doing. Because it was through all the actions that the Batman Family Resistance were doing to save Gotham City that we got a full scope of the impact the Magistrate have had on the citizens.

That is not to say the journeys of Jace Fox and Bruce Wayne weren’t interesting. John Ridley did a very good job providing the origin story for Jace Fox as he stepped up as Batman. And one of my favorite things about Jace’s rise as Batman was that he was not questioned for not being the right person to wear the cape and cowl. It reminded me of Terry McGinnis story in Batman Beyond as Jace was allowed to grow into being Batman. That further spotlights how having such strong stories around the entire Batman Family helped in Jace’s own story as the new Batman work as well as it did.

YARA FLOR SET TO BE THE NEXT BREAKOUT CHARACTER

As big as a star Jace Fox was as the new Batman there is no doubt that the breakout star from the Future State direction was Yara Flor as Wonder Woman. She in many ways is the poster child of the potential that Future State had right out of the gate. With Future State DC Comics gave themselves the opportunity to have new characters take on their iconic superhero names. That is something that was maximized with Yara Flor as Wonder Woman through her own ongoing series written and drawn by Joelle Jones as well as all her other appearances throughout Future State.

What made Yara Flor’s story as Wonder Woman stronger was the fact that they had her embrace her heritage in a way that was just natural part of her character. Jones does not throw it in our face how Yara Flor is of Brazilian decent. Instead we just learn that from the way the world around her is established. Jones is able to plant seeds of how the Wonder Woman franchise will now be delving into greater mythology beyond the Greek myths the franchise has largely focused on.

With Yara there is the opportunity to show another branch of the mythology as there are a branch of Amazonians that make their home in the Amazon Rainforest. It’s something that is not just repeated over and over to emphasize. Instead we see that being the case as Yara’s journey as Wonder Woman does show us how all the different mythologies likely blend with one another in the DC Universe.

Future State: Wonder Woman #2

Joelle Jones provides a glimpse into Yara Flor’s backstory in Future State: Wonder Woman #2. Click for full page view.

That all sets up Yara to be an even bigger star in the future as we will next see her as Wonder Girl. Yara’s new ongoing series will likely delve deeper into how the Amazon Rainforest branch connects to Themyscira, and vice versa. Which is something I’m excited to see be explored as there is a lot of potential in tapping into other forms of mythology within the DCU.

SUPERMAN IS THE DC UNIVERSE’S CONSTANT

Given how long the timeline of Future State turned out to be we saw widely different versions of the DC Universe throughout all of the comic books. While most characters only appeared in certain time periods of Future State the one constant that we saw throughout the direction is the Superman Family. While I’m not much of a Superman fan it was interesting to see how Clark Kent in particular changed over the course of the timeline for Future State. Through Clark we saw how much of a real impact that Superman has that is greater than any other hero.

It all goes back to the Superman ‘S’ shield being more of just a simple symbol. It means so much for the DC Universe that the impact Superman has whether he lives all the way to the end of time or not that his presence will persist. We saw that best with the House Of EL one-shot were we saw Superman’s descendants all take on the symbol that he represented during a time he was not around. Having each of the members of the House Of EL include other races like Tamarians or be part of the Blue Lantern Corps further solidified the reach Superman has in the DCU.

DC UNIVERSE’S APOCOLYPSE WAS FUTURE STATE’S MAJOR DUD

Not everything about Future State was a home run. The story that stood out as not working as well as intended was the event around the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This was a story that took place over the course of The Flash, Teen Titans, and Shazam Future State mini-series along with the Black Adam back-up story in Swamp Thing. One problem out of the gate was the lack of communication that these titles would all be telling one big event style story. That is not something you would know if your just getting Future State looking for what is up with the Flash Family or Teen Titans.

The bigger problem with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse event was the disconnect between it and the rest of Future State. We saw through The Flash and Teen Titans’ Future State comics that the Four Horsemen conflict started well before even the earliest Future State comic, Batman/Superman, took place in the timeline. That is not something that was ever gotten across in any other Future State comic book. That created a massive hole how certain characters were portrayed such as Nightwing that made the entire Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse event come across as taking place in a separate universe from the rest of Future State.

The event in The Flash, Teen Titans, and Shazam Future State comic books also just spotlighted how having such a wide timeline did not help the Future State direction. There never was a good sense of how long this entire event was going on because of how vague everything was kept in terms of when they took place. While I understand not wanting to give specific years for events we saw it would’ve helped give a sense of time passing in this conflict with the Four Horsemen if it was clearer how much time passed.

AQUAMAN FAMILY IS READY FOR BIGGER SPOTLIGHT

Future State Aquaman #2

Jackson Hyde and Andy Curry show that they are ready to step up and get a bigger spotlights in the future as shown in Future State: Aquaman #2. Click for full page view.

To not end things on a negative note, I have to say one of the pleasant surprises from Future State was the Aquaman mini-series starring Jackson Hyde as Aquaman and Andy Curry as Aqualass/Aquawoman. More so than any other mini-series, Future State: Aquaman showed me that there is so much untapped potential with the Aquaman franchise. While DC Comics has attempted to make Aquaman a major player the character’s franchise has never reached the level of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern.

But with Future State: Aquaman we do see that there is a ton of potential to be mined by getting more into the entire Aquaman family. Jackson Hyde showed that Arthur Curry is not the only one that can carry the Aquaman mantle. In the process we do see that Aquaman is a franchise that can be more than just about one person. Finally pulling the trigger on having Jackson Hyde be as important as the character was in the Young Justice animated series, where the character goes by the name of Kaldur’ahm, would be great to see.

It would strengthen the Aquaman brand to have not only Jackson but also Garth and Tula be big parts whenever we do get the next Aquaman series. Exploring a family dynamic, as we see with how Jackson mentored Andy as she became Aquawoman, would help differentiate Aquaman from the rest of his Justice League peers that are more solo heroes. Seeing that potential in the story we got from Future State: Aquaman made it one of my favorite mini-series’ from this entire direction.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When all was said and done Future State is something that is no doubt a success for DC Comics. It was a refreshing look into what a possible future of the DC Universe would look like if things kept going as is before Dark Nights: Death Metal. In many ways Future State reminded me of what Batman Beyond did for the DC Animated Universe. With DC Comics going all in on the Multiverse hopefully Future State can be one of the Elseworlds Universe rather than being specifically tied to what the main DC Universe future will be. There is so much potential with what we were shown in many of the Future State comic books that this direction can be its own Elseworld Universe much like what the Ultimate Universe was once for Marvel. Keeping it standalone will only benefit the potential of this new Multiverse direction for DC Comics as there are various continuities that can exists like in pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths.


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