Maybe it’s because I’ve come to not expect much from Future State, but I found myself really enjoying one of these two stories. I’ll be honest though, there isn’t much depth to either of these stories. Both rely heavily on spectacle and the nostalgia of seeing these fringe characters from the omniverse, but one, in my opinion, accomplishes some solid developments by subverting expectations more than once. And it does so in a way that actually has me interested in the next chapter of this story, but also the potential direction that could be coming in March for two announced titles.
Does all of this sound vague? Yeah, it’s supposed to! Get the juicy details below.
“The Justice Squad”
First up, we have “The Justice Squad” by Robbie Thompson, Javier Fernandez, and Alex Sinclair. As I stated, I didn’t have high hopes going into this story, and was less enthused once I read the explanation of this fake Justice League that’s doing Amanda Waller’s bidding. Granted, I do like the idea of Talon on the Suicide Squad – this something that was announced all the way back in the New 52, and never came to fruition – but I’ve always felt that forcing a Talon to do the government’s bidding could create an interesting rivalry between the Court of Owls and the U.S. Government. None of those elements are found here though, so it’s just wishful thinking on my part. Anyway, the one thing that did catch my attention and is relevant to this story, is that this is Superman… Well… Sort of.
The Superman here is Conner Kent. We learn this during the opening battle when the Justice Squad faces off against Brainiac, Sinestro, and Mongul. As expected, the Justice Squad prevails since they’re the focus of this story, but with this being a Suicide Squad book, you know there will be some casualties from the core team. Up to this point, this story is really nothing more than an action romp, but there is an intriguing plot introduced when a dying Brainiac pushes Conner to embrace the Kent side of his DNA and not the Luthor side.
From here, the narrative transitions into the standard moral dilemma found in most Squad stories. These soldiers aren’t here of their own free will, nor do they necessarily like the work they’re doing. Regardless, they’re pawns of Amanda Waller, and the bombs in their heads ensure that they do her bidding. Nothing new. We’ve seen this before.
The one team member that seems to have a smidgen of clout with Waller is Conner. Maybe it’s because she knows he’s powerful enough to get in her way, or maybe it’s because Waller needs him above the rest. Whatever the reason, Waller is more transparent with Conner, and is more open to sharing her plans with him. For me, this is where the story gets interesting.
Waller’s ultimate goal is to build a base of operations for the Justice Squad, but she’s also been hiding a dirty little secret… The Crime Syndicate. One of the biggest questions I’ve had since the announcement of The Crime Syndicate title is how DC plans on bringing them back. Every existence of these characters have been killed off in their respective timelines. This is something that Conner even comments on here. And, yes, they are, in fact, dead. But… Waller has black lantern rings and plans on using them. I’m intrigued.
I wasn’t overly excited for The Crime Syndicate, but this development does make me wonder if this is the direction DC plans on taking that title, and if so, I’m on board. I know this has less to do with Future State: Suicide Squad, but if we’re being honest, all Future State really is, is an opportunity to promote upcoming titles. And, well, this development has piqued my interest enough that I actually look forward to giving The Crime Syndicate a read when it hits shelves. Mission accomplished.
Back to the main story though, while Waller appears to have no other threat standing in the way of her plans, we, the readers, know that a shadow group has been tracking them and following them. It’s in these final pages that we learn who this group is, what their plan is, and some surprising details concerning where we actually are. It’s an information dump that really subverts expectations, and it leaves me eager for the next chapter.
Now, I usually discuss “subverting expectations” in a negative manner. Too many creatives try too hard to subvert expectations. But here, this reveal really does surprise me, and it does so effortlessly. The reveal makes sense for the plot, feels like a natural progression, and creates a number of questions in the process!
So, who is this group and where are we? Well… The group is a separate version of the Suicide Squad that is led by Peacemaker!
The other big reveal is that all of this is taking place on Earth 3. And that creates a number of questions for me. Based on the countdown watch Peacemaker’s Squad is wearing, it would appear as though they are from Earth-Prime (or whatever we’re calling it now). What’s unclear, is if Amanda Waller sent them. Hell, we don’t even know if the Waller that we do see is Earth 3 Amanda Waller or Earth-Prime Amanda Waller. We just know that the Waller we see is just a hologram, so that leads me to believe that either is possible.
Same with Conner Kent. Historically, heroes on Earth 3 are actually evil and villainous. But as we saw from Conner’s interaction with Brainiac, Conner was seen as an actual hero. Which could mean that he also from the main Earth. So, does that mean that the entire Justice Squad is really from the main Earth, and Waller’s main goal is to just get the Crime Syndicate? Does that also mean that this is what we’ll see unfold within the pages of Suicide Squad come March? Probably…
Javier Fernandez delivers the art for this story and does a solid job. I like his overall aesthetic, and there’s a dynamic energy to his artwork that plays well in a Suicide Squad book… However, his work doesn’t look as crisp or polished here compared to normal. It looks as though he rushed a number of these panels and pages. It still looks good, but it’s not up to the standard that I come to expect from him.
I love how he plays with shadows though. It’s something we got quite a bit of during his run on Nightwing, and we get multiple instances of it here as well. His visual storytelling really plays well into helping sell the reveals towards the end of this story, and without his skill, this story would’ve easily fallen flat.
“The Justice Squad” score: 7.5/10
“The Beginning of the End”
The back-up story is a Black Adam feature brought to us by Jeremy Adams, with art by Fernando Pasarin, Oclair Albert, and Jeromy Cox. This story takes place way in the future. Like “Justice Squad,” this story suffers from a lack of depth. Unfortunately, “The Beginning of the End” doesn’t have the reveals or twists like its predecessor, so there’s not much to save it here.
We’re in the 853rd Century, and the JLA (that’s Justice Legion-A… yes, I rolled my eyes), is suddenly faced with an imminent threat from the Unkindness. The opening pages set-up the Unkindness – as well as some other villains that play no role in this story – and then set-up Superman Prime as the greatest hero in the omniverse… Only for the Unkindness to eliminate him with ease rather quickly.
The shock of this leads Atlantis to attack and fall as well. We don’t see this, it’s just revealed through exposition. With two of the strongest forces defeated, the androids on the Cybernetic Aster-droid world decide to destroy their planet, essentially committing mass-suicide. There is also no explanation for their reasoning here either. Again, we’re just told that it happens. Is it out of fear? Is it to prevent the androids from becoming weapons for the enemy? Who knows? Minor details that ultimately aren’t important, but it would’ve added some much-needed texture to the narrative.
Now, I know all of this sounds super heavy and dark, and while thematically, yes, it is, the execution isn’t nearly as dark. In fact, the story runs through these paces so quickly that it carries little to no weight. The expanse of this story isn’t suitable for the page-count it has been given. There’s simply no way to provide the impact one would need to fully enjoy this story, and because of that, I find myself not caring.
I don’t care about the Justice Legion-A. I don’t care about the loss of Superman Prime. I don’t care that the Atlantians fell. And I don’t care that the Androids decided to destroy their planet. There’s literally nothing to grab and hold my attention… One of the worst things you can say when reading a story is that you don’t care.
Anyway, when it appears as though all hope is lost, Wonder Woman reveals that there is hope in Kahndaq. That hope would be Black Adam, but it is shortly revealed that Black Adam is no longer Black Adam. That’s right, our favorite King has given up magic and is just Keth now, an ambassador serving Kahndaq. So… How is he supposed to help? No clue.
The story progresses and the Justice Legion-A make their way to Kahndaq. As expected they’re followed by the Unkindness. Keth, who abandoned the role of Black Adam because he embraced peace, finds himself going toe-to-toe with Wrath. As Wrath’s nature infects Keth, he takes that rage and resummons the magic he’d given up for centuries, and Black Adam is reborn.
The Unkindness overcomes all of the Justice Legion-A with the exception of Wonder Woman, leaving just Black Adam and Wonder Woman to fight this threat… Until the Gold Beetle arrives squashing the evil Justice Legion-A members… And that’s pretty much how this story ends.
To put it lightly, this is a mess of a story. There’s almost a 90’s throwback feel to this story, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I’m referring to the bad, “what were they thinking?” type of stories that defines a large portion of the 90’s. “The Beginning of the End” does have a fun nature to it though, which works in its favor, but the plot is so unfocused. There’s too much taking place, and that prevents the story from ever really landing. And while I enjoy Black Adam here, he’s barely in the story, and that makes me wonder if my like for him stems from his role in the story itself, or just from my general like of the character. I have a sinking feeling that it’s the latter, and that reality doesn’t make me excited for the next chapter of this story.
On the art front, Fernando Pasarin delivers the pencils here. I was a big fan of his work on Batgirl and Detective Comics during the New 52, and I didn’t realize that he’d been missing – at least from the various titles I’m reading – until I saw him here. For me, it’s a happy return, and I thoroughly enjoy what he does here. He has more of a traditional comic art style, but that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I’d say his work here leans a little more traditional than what he delivered on Batgirl and tec, and that decision, in my opinion, plays to this story’s advantage. Jeromy Cox’s decision to utilize bright colors also play into this notion as well, and ultimately makes the art the best thing about “The Beginning of the End.”
“The Beginning of the End” score: 5/10
- You’re interested in picking up The Suicide Squad or The Crime Syndicate come March.
- You’re a fan of Black Adam.
- You want to experience everything Future State has to offer.
Future State: Suicide Squad is a bit of a mixed bag. Neither story knocks it out of the park as far as a stand-alone story is concerned, but ”The Justice Squad” manages to at least pique my interest for the next chapter and future titles coming from DC. Black Adam’s “The Beginning of the End,” however, while not bad, is forgettable in every single way. Should you pick this up? Mmmm… That’s on you. If you’re a die-hard Black Adam fan, then you might find something there. Other than that, I’d say only pick this book up if you want a tease into what DC has planned for Suicide Squad and The Crime Syndicate.