Welcome to part two of my Future State retrospective. Last time I looked at the highs and lows of the Bat Family books. This week, we’re turning our focus to the other 2/3 of the DC trinity, Wonder Woman and Superman.
There’s some definite gold here, but there are also some real missteps, and a few really, really weird choices.
Let’s get into it with one of my favourite books of the entire Future State Initiative, the introduction of the most popular break out character of the entire series, Yara Flor, the new Wonder Woman.
Future State: Wonder Woman #1-2
Here’s the blurb from DC:
Deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest lies a hero of mythic legend…Wonder Woman! But in the absence of Diana, Yara Flor has risen out of obscurity to protect Man’s World from the magic that lies within it. Along with her trusty steed, she journeys to the Underworld to rescue one of her Themysciran sisters from the grasp of Hades. Will she unleash the wrath of this god in the process? You won’t want to miss this first appearance of a character who will change the history of Wonder Woman forever!
Man, what an introduction. Let’s start with the fact that Future State: Wonder Woman was written and drawn by one of my favourite author/ artists working in comics today, Joelle Jones. Jones’s art is absolutely fantastic on this book. The character design of Flor is unique and amazing, with a distinct colour scheme and a sleek, clean look sadly lacking from so many new characters being introduced today (see: every character James Tynion IV has introduced in Batman for reference on what not to do).
As for the story, this is how you introduce a character mid story. Last time I critiqued The Next Batman for tossing us into the middle of a character’s life without the info we needed to understand what is going on. But with Future State: Wonder Woman we have all we need.
Long time readers of Wonder Woman (such as myself) know that Flor does have connections to WW continuity, being a descendant of the Amazons of the Brazilian rainforest, and as such we already have some understanding of who she is and why she does the things that she does. We learn about a war on Themyscira that Yara Flor fought in, and her fellow Amazon who died saving her life. Now Flor is on a mission to the underworld to bring her back to the world of the living.
Future State: Wonder Woman is a gorgeous book, filled with breathtaking imagery, and made me fall in love with this character. I personally can’t wait for her new Wonder Girl series to debut, and if nothing else good came out of Future State, I would have considered this book worth it.
10/10, buy this book.
Future State: Superman: Worlds Of War #1-4
If Superman were any other character, DC would have probably dropped him years ago. His book sales are usually fairly low, far lower than other titles that have been cancelled for poor performance. His fans are few and far between, and generally consist of die-hards who would buy his book no matter what, and casual readers who might occasionally snag a cool variant cover or spec on a cameo appearance. Even putting Brian Michael Bendis on the title, a move they hailed with two-page spreads ala Jack Kirby, failed to garner much attention or interest, and Bendis’s run that began with a bang has ended with a whimper.
So why aren’t you reading Superman? For a lot of people, they just don’t find the character that compelling. Superman is too powerful, they say. Superman’s stories are boring and don’t have any real stakes. Superman just isn’t a relatable character.
That last response is interesting to me. Is Batman really “relatable”? Is The Flash? Wonder Woman? Can you really look at any super hero and say “yeah, they’re just like me?”
The answer, of course, is yes if they have the right writer. Any character can be relatable if handled correctly, even the Man of Steel. The problem is DC has never really put much effort into Superman. Why put A+ talent on a book that will never be cancelled, and also never has any real sales expectations? Crappy art, nonsense stories, filler issue after filler issue, who cares?
And what kills me about that is that Superman can be done well and can be an interesting, relatable character, and we can see this in every other form of media that deals with him. His animated series was fantastic and garnered a lot of praise, as did his subsequent appearances on both of the Justice League animated series that followed. Man of Steel was far from my favorite movie (and I still refuse to believe BvS exists) but Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Superman connected with enough people that they are still clamoring for another Snyder Superman film.
Prior to the Bendis take-over, I was actually reading and enjoying both Superman and Action Comics, because both series were leaning heavily on Superman as a father/ mentor to his son Jon. If you’re complaining that Superman is too powerful to be relatable, go pick up Tomasi and Gleason’s run on the character and see if you still feel the same way. This was Superman at his most vulnerable. Good writers understand that Superman’s greatest weakness is his concern for others and his love for his family, both immediate and worldwide. They don’t want to break up his marriage and send his kid off into space to age up and join some stupid…sorry. I just, I really hate what Bendis has done to Superman.
Which, of course, takes us to Superman: Worlds of War, by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Mikel Janin. This is a great book, even if it is hamstrung by its back-up stories, but I’ll be talking more about those at the end.
Here’s the blurb from DC: This monumental Future State title features four big stories! First, Clark Kent is gone, leaving a Superman-shaped hole behind. People gather in Smallville to celebrate their hero, little realizing that he is across the galaxy helping others. Superman has gone to Warworld, where he fights as a gladiator in the deadly pits of Mongul. But this is Superman we’re talking about-and his idea of a victory does not line up with the expectations of Mongul’s hordes! Meanwhile, on the other side of Warworld, other agents are at work, struggling for a better life. Shilo Norman, the man known as Mister Miracle, has ridden a Boom Tube across the cosmos from Metropolis to finds himself at odds with an entire planet! At the same time, Midnighter, the greatest fighter from Earth, is punching his way through a whole mess of trouble. He’s on the hunt for a new energy source deadlier than Kryptonite. His goal: to shut it down before it gets unleashed on an unsuspecting universe. On top of that, the Black Racer, a girl raised in the slums of Warworld to be one of its top competitors, turns betrayal into a crusade to fight for the freedom of others like her.
Alright, let me get a few things out of the way. Midnighter, I just, I don’t know. I get that there are big fans of this character, but his inclusion here feels a lot like Grifter showing up in the Bat books, and by that I mean it feels like a continued desperate attempt to shoehorn in characters that we have seen, time and time again, just don’t work with the DC universe. I’m assuming it’s all part of a plan to continue to pander to Jim Lee, but in a book that is about the nobility of Superman, including a Batman/ Punisher pastiche just doesn’t work.
The Shilo Norman Mister Miracle title does work, and he shows up in another Superman book later, so I’ll save my critique of him for now, but I do like this character and hope we see more of him in the future.
As for the Black Racer story, well, it just kind of exists. For, reasons?
But the main Superman story in Future State: Superman: Worlds Of War? Fantastic. The story is told in two ways. First, we get a view of Earth without Superman, where he has been elevated to god-like mystical status among the people of Earth, with Smallville becoming the hub of Kryptionian worship. This is an interesting take on devotion, and the fact that the message of those stories is that the real hero was Clark Kent, and not Superman, hits hard, but in a good way.
The second POV is of Mongul, who has captured Superman and is forcing him to fight in the pits of War World in an attempt to break him. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but the last issue is, in my opinion, the perfect Superman ending to a fantastic Superman story. I really, really liked Future State: Superman: Worlds Of War and recommend it, despite the lackluster back-up stories. Definitely worth your money.
Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1-2
Here’s the blurb from DC: The Undoing are coming. Long past the Age of Heroes, few of Diana Prince’s friends survive, and most of her sisters have passed as well. As an immortal goddess, this is her lot. But then, a threat appears that even the mighty Darkseid can’t handle-and it’s up to Wonder Woman to take on the battle! It’s big action and high fantasy at the end of time, courtesy of Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Becky Cloonan (By Chance or Providence, Gotham Academy) and her Doom Patrol co-writer Michael W. Conrad, with the popular artist Jen Bartel (Blackbird) making her interior art debut for DC. Then, peer into a closer future as the original champion of Themyscira strikes out on her own. Things have not been stable on Paradise Island for some time, and Nubia has found a new home in Man’s World. Now, she is tasked with protecting it from the dangers of the world of myths and magic. The writer of DC’s Nubia: Real One, L.L. McKinney, takes this powerful Amazon to a whole new level.
Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman was just a good read. It’s nice to see Wonder Woman finally getting the big push she deserves from DC. She is arguably one of, if not the most important and famous female hero of all time. Diana should be celebrated and hyped by DC constantly, and I am here for that!
The art on Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman is fantastic, with the ancient Diana looking powerful and regal in a way she has never looked before, and the story, wow, you know, there are some stories that can only be told with Wonder Woman and this book shows that. How would Diana deal with the end of everything? How would she face a foe she simply cannot defeat, destroy, or evade? It’s a heartbreaking and inspiring story and I 100% recommend it.
The Nubia back-up story is also great. Nubia is a character that has gotten little pushes here and there, but in this book she is finally given the big push she deserves and I love it. DC has given hints that there is more in the works for Nubia, with her playing a significant roll in Infinite Frontier, and if this book is any indication, well, we’re in for a good time with that.
Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-2
Here’s the blurb from DC: The sun has set on the heroes of the past, and a new age is dawning! As two arrogant gods challenge one another to a contest of strength, Superman and Wonder Woman are forced to take action to save their cities from the chaos. Together, Jonathan Kent and Yara Flor, man of science and woman of myth, have the potential to become something powerful, but that’s only if they can learn to get along! Can the two fledgling heroes put their differences aside long enough to save the world they have sworn to protect?
If I had to sum up my issues with Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman in one word it would be this: unearned. Yara Flor is a new character who we are just starting to get to know. In her debut book she is fun, feisty, caring, and wonderful. In Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman, she does things for reasons and has a problem with Jon because, something, but then they become friends and ugh.
In a lot of ways it feels like they are trying to recapture the Batman/ Superman dynamic magic but it just isn’t working. Jon feels like a pale imitation of his father and Yara feels like, I don’t even know. Possibly a mix of Wonder Woman and Batman? She’s unnecessarily gruff to Jon for no real reason, and their dynamic just doesn’t work.
Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman is particularly jarring in light of the Justice League series that shows Jon and Yara, admittedly further along in their relationship, being very close friends. If Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman had highlighted that dimension, their shared personal struggles living up to the roles they had adopted, it would have made this series a lot more interesting and compelling, but making them adversarial just long enough to make them best friends, well, it just isn’t that interesting or worth the price of the book.
Still, the variant covers were nice, and it’s not an awful book. There are some hints of better things in it, but overall, I’d pass if I were you.
Future State: House Of El #1
So, I’m going to keep this one short. Here’s my summary of this single issue story: In the future, Superman’s kids get in a fight. Then he shows up and stops them. The end.
The problem with Future State: House Of El, really, is that it just doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose. Future State does a lot right, but it also has one fatal flaw, which is consistency. Following Superman’s timeline in this series is frustrating at best, and those inconsistencies lead to the issues that so many readers have with Superman as a character.
Future State: House Of El also falls back on one of my least favorite Superman tropes, the telling-a-story-about-Superman-but-not-actually-have-him-in-it model. Superman’s descendants here all have different takes on who Superman was, and all of these represent different iterations of him as a character (which also means more than a few of the designs are a little on the nose).
By taking Superman out of a Superman story the writer gets to avoid actually dealing with the reality of Superman, and can instead focus on lesser characters that they might feel more comfortable writing about. Personally I dislike this approach because putting Superman on such a pedestal is not only antithetical to everything the character represents, it’s also been done to death.
Future State: House Of El muddies an already murky timeline, tells us nothing new about Superman, and seems to exist solely to create new action figures. The designs are nice, and the story does at least make a kind of sense, but overall this is another clear pass for me.
Future State: Batman/ Superman #1-2
Here’s the blurb from DC: Back in the early days of the Magistrate’s occupation of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne found himself pushed to the edge like never before. So calling the Man of Steel in for backup makes sense, right? Wrong. Gotham’s sinister overlords have already sprung the ultimate trap on the Last Son of Krypton…and with Kryptonian power at your command, no one can stand in your way! Plus…where on Earth did Professor Pyg get a Kryptonite scalpel? Brace yourselves, because things are going to get gross in the caverns below Gotham…
So, here’s the thing about Future State: Batman/ Superman: It’s not really a bad story. In fact, overall it’s pretty solid.
Really, what is disappointing about Future State: Batman/ Superman is the wasted potential. This could have been a solid, two-part mini that really explored what Superman and Batman mean to each other. Since Batman is supposed to have died, how would Superman have reacted to that? If Superman disappeared, what would Bruce do?
This really is a major missed opportunity across the board with the entire Future State line-up. As I said last time, I have no problem with generational heroes, and really like the idea of moving forward with new people picking up the mantles, but there is virtually no reverence for the past at all in this entire line.
We could have had, with this series, the chance to reflect upon how that loss has affected the DC universe. We could have had a Trinity book with three issues that addressed how each character dealt with the loss of the others in a way that showed respect for the past and set a course for the future. Instead we get Superman and Batman fighting pig-men and laser eye rats. It’s sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Future State: Superman Of Metropolis #1-2
Here’s the blurb from DC: Before leaving for parts unknown, Clark Kent entrusted Earth’s safety to his son. Now, Jonathan Kent is Superman! Top priority for this new Superman: to protect Metropolis. When a new version of Brainiac attacks, Jon takes drastic measures—which result in the Bottle City of Metropolis! But watch out, Jon, because Supergirl is on her way, and she is not happy with your decision.
Meanwhile, in the new bottle city, a new hero has risen. Jake Jordan, the former Manhattan Guardian, came to the City of Tomorrow to start over. But he’s not the only one who wants a new beginning. An anarchist calling herself Honest Mary sees this time of trouble as an opportunity for rebirth, and she’ll tear down the entire city to prove her point. Does Jake have what it takes to save his new home from disasters both inside and out of the bottle? Superman’s former pal Jimmy Olsen is going to make sure he does!
Finally, the current Mister Miracle, Shilo Norman, is also in the bottle and he’s looking for a way out! He’d better be careful, though, or he may end up someplace unexpected. It’s a story that continues in Superman: Worlds of War #1!
How? How did they screw this up so badly? Future State: Superman Of Metropolis is just such a mess.
The whole point of Future State was that it was supposed to be a way to bring in new readers. If I was a new reader picking this book up I would be lost from the first page. That being said, I am not a new reader and I was still lost from the first page.
Future State: Superman Of Metropolis is a book where things I don’t understand happen for reasons I can’t explain. Jon Kent Superman decides to shrink Metropolis like Kandor, for, reasons? And then a completely out of character Supergirl shows up to attack him, because, something? And then in the end it all goes back because…character growth?
This story was bad. Real bad. It made little sense, revealed little about the world, and seemed to exist solely to create unneeded conflict that was way too easily resolved. I just, yikes.
Don’t waste your time or money.
Future State: Legion Of Super-Heroes #1-2
Here’s the blurb: Whatever happened to the Legion of Super-Heroes? The team is no more, and the United Planets are in total chaos as one of the Legion’s own has turned on the entire galaxy! Everyone is affected…and not everyone survived! Ultra Boy tries to put the Legion back together to face the future head on! Find out the fates of all your favorite Legionnaires like Shadow Lass, Triplicate Girl, Brainiac Five, and Bouncing Boy. Plus, a shocking twist in the Legion mythology-and a long overdue appearance by the Legion of Substitute Heroes! It’s all here in a truly way-out tale by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist extraordinaire Riley Rossmo!
Bendis loves the Legion, which is ironic because this book made me hate them.
Now, to be fair, I was never a huge fan of the Legion, but to be even more fair, that’s kind of the point! If you are going to give these more obscure groups a shot at gaining a real following, you should be putting serious effort into bringing in new readers with easily accessible plots and character explanations.
Future State: Legion Of Super-Heroes felt like I was being flung to the end of a 300-issue series that I have never even heard of. New readers have no access character here. If you are not up on your Legion history, well tough luck sucker, you’re on your own. Bendis hasn’t got time to explain anything. He’s got too much going on to worry about you, like making sure every character has a gigantic, Shakespearian level monologue in every panel.
I mean my god. I was onboard with Young Justice at first, but the Bendis dialogue is just such a slog to get through. Is DC paying him by the word? If so he’s probably the wealthiest writer on their staff. His characters just drone on and on and on!
I don’t like what Bendis is doing at DC. I know there are people who do and I accept that and hope Future State: Legion Of Super-Heroes made you very happy. However, as an outsider who doesn’t have a vested interest in these characters, there was nothing, absolutely nothing in this book for me to care about. I didn’t understand the stakes. I didn’t care about the characters. I didn’t like the art.
It’s a bad book.
Future State: Superwoman Kara Zor El #1-2
This book, dear sweet lord in heaven, this book! I fully admit I am not the greatest expert on Superman or Jon Kent, and so Superman of Metropolis might have been a treasure that I just don’t understand. And the Legion book, yeah, I do not care about the chracters so there is no doubt that I may have missed something great there.
But Supergirl? My good fellow, I know Supergirl. I have read Supergirl, and this, sir, is no Supergirl.
Here’s the blurb from DC:
Kara Zor-El, Superman’s hot-tempered cousin, has finally found peace and purpose away from Earth and its heroes. Now known as Superwoman, she watches over the Moon and the refugees from across the galaxy who have congregated there. But all of that is about to change when a spaceship piloted by a runaway alien crash-lands and turns Kara’s world upside down! Does this fugitive come in peace? Or does this arrival bring war to our hero’s front door?
This book makes me angry. DC has been kicking Kara to the curb for years, never giving her a chance to shine like she truly deserves. In this book, with the amazing team of Marguerite Sauvage and Marguerite Bennett I thought her time had finally come.
The art was amazing, beautiful and lush in a way that comics rarely are.
But the story in Future State: Superwoman Kara Zor El. Oh my god, the story was complete and utter nonsense. I reread both books twice just to see if I was missing something, and in the end the only thing I was missing was a reason for why this book ever existed.
Again, it’s back to missed opportunities. Kara should have taken over for Superman when he disappeared. Instead, Jon does. And I get that they want to give Jon the big push, but what they did to Kara here was offensive and insulting. She is shuffled to the moon, where one day magic space lizards show up, and she fights with them, and then later she dies and is buried by her dog, and no one ever has to think about her again. The End.
Kara deserved better that this book.
So there we are friends. Join me next time for the final review of Future State where we jump into all the remaining titles, including some of the best books in the entire line, and the worst book I have ever read. Until then, stay safe!