I’m trying to get a good read on the Future State event so far, and I have to say, I’m a little stumped.
I’ve actually had debates with my coworkers about the nature of this event: while I’ve been honestly rather stoked at the chance to see characters doing something different within the DC Universe, several other reviewers argued that the concept is kind of hollow without any impact or follow-through. There’s a point to be made there. After all, do I want to get invested in stories that will only last for so many issues, with no knowledge of their relevance to later comics – if they have any relevance at all? What is the point of introducing a new cast of characters for us to be enthralled by, if they’re sidelined not a week into March? This is the difficulty that lies in dipping your toes in the water: attempting to get the full experience of swimming, without leaving the safety and comfort of the shore. What kind of stories – good stories, mind you – can you make with this mindset?
Apparently, at least two kinds! Let’s get into why I like the opening half of Future State: Justice League.
Beginning with the titular story, Justice League is a comic with a rather big task on its shoulders. People are used to the usual suspects helming the team from issue to issue, so to completely change the roster is a big decision! When it comes to drawing in new readers, the familiar is always going to be less of a risk… which is probably why DC can only get away with a new roster during a limited event. Unfortunately for writer Joshua Williamson, he also has to sell us on this team, and he has to do it in the span of a single issue. Justice League takes place well into the careers of a new generation of heroes, operating under a new set of rules, and through enough exposition to make a Bond villain applaud, the issue manages to fill us in on everything we need to know for context.
That’s not entirely a dig at Williamson – there’s a lot to balance here, and I think he does a pretty good job of it! To me, it was most important that he managed to get the characters right. Like Doom Metal before this, Williamson seems to have found a niche for atypical Justice League teams, which I don’t think is a bad thing at all. I think he needs to work on balancing how much time he gives each character: people like Batman fall by the wayside a little, for example. Normally I wouldn’t have an issue with that, but Batman’s a completely different character now; he’s given a few interesting panels, but nothing particularly significant. It might be for the best, though, because I don’t know if his writing lines up with how he was written in The Next Batman. The other characters, though, fare a lot better!
Jon and Yara, the current Superman and Wonder Woman, have a very sweet chemistry – it genuinely feels as if the two have been good friends for some time, and know how to be honest with one another when the other person needs it. I don’t have a good read on Yara’s characterization yet, but Jon feels about as accurate as you could expect. Meanwhile, I was very excited to see Green Lantern Jo Mullein on the team! I think having a Green Lantern becoming the detective of the group, instead of the usual Batman/Flash combo, is a really good change of pace (and honestly fits the Green Lantern role a little better, anyway – after all, they deal with world-threatening events). Finally, there’s Aquawoman and Flash, and their little interaction was probably my favourite part of the issue. It was nice to see that Williamson was able to get me invested in two characters I had zero connection to before now, and the two make for a really fun pair! Their designs are fantastic, and it’s nice to have a nonbinary person in a major DC comic… I’m just not sure how invested I should actually be, depending on how long they’ll stick around. For the first issue of a two-parter, though, it does more than enough to make me care about where the story goes.
At this point, I’ve said quite a bit about Robson Rocha’s work – if you’re under the impression that I’m not a fan, I have to assume you’ve been reading different reviews. What I love in particular in this issue are the character designs! While some designs are clearly lifted from other books, others seem unique to this issue: while it’s hard to tell readers that a new costume is just as iconic as the classics, Rocha illustrates these characters with a level of ease that makes you believe this group could easily be a rather iconic league in their own right. There’s a great introductory page of the entire league laid out over a table, including a broken and toyed-with action figure: details like that are very charming, and add just that little extra to the world Rocha is letting us peek into. I also appreciate the effort he went into the new Legion of Doom: some of their designs are a little extra, but several of them look as if they really could be new, interesting villains for a new age of heroes.
My only major complaint with this book, aside from it being a little cluttered, is the ending – I think the new villains we see at the cliffhanger of the issue (not the Legion of Doom!) are kind of weak, and their designs do nothing to sway my opinion in that regard. When you only have two issues to do a Justice League story, I feel like you want to give yourself as much space as you can to let it breathe – that’s a lot more difficult with an entire team of uninteresting villains serving as antagonists. In any case, though, the issue’s certainly good enough to pique my interest for where it’s going… and what, if anything, Future State will mean for DC as a whole.
Justice League Dark: Prophéties
This book is intriguing, in that it serves as the flipside of the Future State coin: while the stakes seem a little more dramatic than usual, I honestly don’t see why this couldn’t be a regular Justice League: Dark arc. That might be an issue if the comic was mediocre, but it’s actually very good; as a result, I finished reading this with a satisfied, if somewhat confused, impression. Writer Ram V begins the issue with the JLD (specifically, Zatanna and Detective Chimp) in the Mojave Desert, amidst a ruin of magic and fields of desecration. In this version of the future, the magician Merlin is looking to claim all of the world’s magic for himself, and executing those who stand in his way via a fleet of his hunters and knights – which is a funny thing to read if you mostly know Merlin from Le Morte D’Arthur and the BBC family show. From here, we travel along the west side of the States, picking up several characters along the way to form a ragtag JLD in the face of overwhelming opposition. While I might have liked something that leaned more into the possibilities of an alternate future, there’s a benefit to this too! Ram V clearly knows that you can only do so much in the span of two issues, and I think there’s been an active effort not to overstep what he can actually do with that limited page count. As such, we’re presented with a compact issue that doesn’t stay in one place for too long, with a cast of characters that ranged from the obvious (Constantine, shocker) to a few pleasant surprises. I’ll only spoil one: the decision to make Detective Chimp the new host for Etrigan is completely inspired.
Illustrating this issue is the talented Marcio Takara, and I really like how he and colourist Marcelo Maiolo work together to create a sombre, gothic atmosphere to the book. Some of my favourite panels from the issue are the quieter ones: Zatanna admiring a sea of sacrificial magic users, or a secret magical suit stashed in the corner of a basement. Even a simple establishing shot of the team entering a store under the night sky feels imbued with a beautiful gloom: the colouring feeling like it emanates an almost magical glow. Of course, more dramatic shots are very welcome as well: flashbacks to Merlin’s hunters burning their captives are very striking, and there’s a wonderful action sequence where a character gets to go berserk on his opponents, while Zatanna attempts to escort the rest of the team to safety. Overall, though, I enjoy the book for its tone, rather than its content: it makes me feel happy to sit in the world the creative team are crafting, even if it is a sinister and miserable world.
- You’re a fan of DC taking bold steps in different directions, and want to show the executives that this can be a really good thing!
- Representation matters to you – the Justice League of this team is incredibly diverse and unique, and the team is all the better for it.
- You’re okay with purchasing a book that’s a little pricier, yet has two quality stories that’ll be over before February’s out. It’s a small commitment for what will hopefully be a quality product.
I’ve been a big supporter of what DC is doing with Future State, though while I’m still enjoying its books, I’m beginning to have doubts about its longevity. I’d be awfully disappointed if I end this event wanting more, yet left sorely unsatisfied by the content we had. This will be an opinion I develop further throughout the coming month – for now, I’m quite happy with the content we’re receiving! If Future State manages to continue meeting the quality of Justice League, then if nothing else, the event will be a good creative first step to taking DC out of the creative holes it’s been stuck in for so long.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch