The Vanier Report: Week 10
New 52: Futures End #46
Written by: Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen
Pencils by: Scot Eaton
Inks by: Scott Hanna
Colours by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Tom Napolitano
When this weekly was announced, its central conceit had me hooked: time-displaced Batman Beyond trying to prevent the Brother Eye apocalypse five years too late. It took one of my favourite childhood characters (Terry McGinnis), my favourite fictional world (the DC Universe), and basically the plot of Terminator – of course I was excited. And when New 52: Futures End #0 debuted during last year’s Free Comic Book Day, it delivered all the promised robot monsters and desperate time-travel and terrifying apocalypse. This book was going to be my favourite.
But something changed in the subsequent few issues. The myriad divergent storylines felt disconnected. There was too much history to learn about this future of five years from now, but not enough history of the 35 years from now Brother Eye future. Most jarringly, nearly the entire action of the series shifted away from its central premise, leaving Batman Beyond as stranded in the narrative as we were within the context of the story itself.
The title, admittedly, became a bit of a slog for me; most of my instincts told me to drop it entirely, but the completionist in me pressed on, vainly hoping for the title’s original promise to be realized.
And now, as the title speeds toward its conclusion, I am so thankful that I stuck with it. For the past several issues, culminating in last week’s climactic defeat of Brainiac, Futures End has righted the ship, tying a number of storylines together and finally focusing the narrative back on Batman Beyond and Brother Eye. In this week’s issue, Batman and Mister Terrific must confront the fact that their creation is now beyond their control, and in a true desperation move, Batman Beyond reveals to them his entire mission.
The real strength of this particular issue comes from its moments of wonderful character work. While there is plenty of action – especially with Brother Eye’s cyborgs overrunning Terrifitech – the writers have consciously and successfully countered that outward kinetic energy with a look inward at some of the story’s main players. From the horror and desperation of Batman, Mister Terrific, and the Atom (all of whom unknowingly unleashed the end of the world), to Tim Drake’s re-emergence as a hero, to the unlikely and fascinating romance between Plastique and Batman Beyond, this issue has managed to retain and celebrate its humanity – something which is increasingly important as machines take over.
Specifically, there are a couple of separate moments in which Batman Beyond demonstrates why he is such a fitting counterpoint to the cold calculations of Brother Eye. His interactions with Bruce (both contemporary and Jokerborg) as well as with Plastique are touching and human, and they elevate the stakes of the more explosive action sequences – which, it should be mentioned, are dynamically realized by Scott’s Eaton and Hanna with colours by the incomparable Hi-Fi.
For all there is to love about the issue – and there is a lot – there remain some lingering problems sewn by the book’s long diversion into relatively unrelated backstory. For all of its prevalence in early issues, the Cadmus storyline has failed to fully connect itself to the larger story. And though a good chunk of this issue is devoted to those characters, I am no closer to understanding why they matter. Where do Grifter, Fifty-Sue, Sgt. Rock, Command-D, and others tie-in? There is a clue to this in the cover for Batman Beyond’s upcoming series, but that fails to satisfy my curiosity in this book or justify the sheer volume of pages spent on that subplot.
Likewise, the zero issue heavily featured Frankenstein as a willing agent of Brother Eye’s dystopian far-future, complete with a surgically grafted Black Canary in his abdomen. Though given no time in this issue, I am curious to see how his long and meandering arc through space, life, and now death will lead him to that point in the future? Or, more accurately, perhaps it won’t. There has been so much temporal interference (by Batman Beyond, Jokerborg, and Brainiac) that perhaps the future we were shown in Futures End #0 no longer exists.
The solicitation for this issue touches on exactly that idea, and I think it comes as a bit of an admission on the part of the writers that, in the course of writing their own subplots and arcs and exploring and developing this future, they may have lost sight of its trajectory. That would certainly explain why it took so long for Batman Beyond and Brother Eye to return fully to the spotlight.
I suspect that the frayed strands of unrealized subplots will never be cleanly tied off. This is one of the dangers of a massive, year-long weekly series – that perhaps the story the writers wanted to tell wasn’t going to take that long, and so the “filler” stories got too bloated or felt too important in order to compensate. That being said, I am definitely an enthusiastic fan of the title once more. It feels like the title is back on track, overall, with an exciting finish just a few issues away.
Feature Written By: Reid Vanier
“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”