Future’s End #0, by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Zircher, Aaron Lopresti & Art Thibert, Dan Jurgens & Mark Irwin, and Jesus Merino & Dan Green
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” And then imagine someone cutting off that face. And the body attached to that face getting chopped up. And…
The basic plot of Future’s End #0 is as bleak and overblown as you might expect from the New 52. Earth has been ravaged and its superheroes turned into killer insectoid cyborgs by the malevolent Brother Eye, which definitely doesn’t sound like an idea ripped off from Seaguy. Terry McGinnis (a.k.a. Batman Beyond) has to go back in time to try and prevent this from happening.
A few now-elderly superheroes representing the last bastion of humanity stand up to the cyborgs, with results that once would have seemed bloody but are par for the course in the New 52: Captain Cold gets his hands sliced off, Grifter and Amethyst get their skin seared off, and – in a particularly unjustifiable bit of mutilation – Black Canary’s cut-off face is stitched to Frankenstein’s chest. (Evil Cyborg Superman also blasts John Stewart in the chest and arm with a laser, which is downright tame by New 52 standards.)
But Captain Cold et al. don’t stay dead. Instead, they join the ranks of the cyborgs and profess allegiance to Brother Eye, sprouting segmented metal legs, laser arms, and, in John Stewart’s case, an unsettling pair of metal spinal cords.
Rather than presenting an engaging ooh-I-wonder-what-happens next scenario, Future’s End #0 portrays a world in which it’s impossible to be good or to be an individual. In the world of Brother Eye, all goodness is subsumed into the new murderous, robotic regime. And this is how DC has chosen to represent its work and publications to new readers.
The excellent Chris Sims describes Future’s End #0 as “a depressing smorgasbord of death,” which I mostly agree with except for the fact that smorgasbords are finite. I would say it’s more like a depressing Groundhog Day of death, where characters suffer violently over and over again. They’ve barely gotten over the last big event, Forever Evil, in which Hal Jordan gets his arm cut off and Johnny Quick’s frozen leg is shattered into tiny pieces, and now they’ve returned for more pain.
It’s also a strange offering for Free Comic Book Day, which publishers tend to use as a come-on-board point for readers new to their comics or new to comics in general. To get anywhere near the full impact of the narrative, you have to be able to recognize a whole lot of DC characters besides Superman and Wonder Woman, such as Captain Cold, Blue Beetle, John Constantine, Black Canary, and Aquaman – and that’s just for starters. There’s also a man with an eyepatch who could be Nick Fury in the DC Universe, or a pirate version of Black Adam (these probably haven’t happened in DC continuity, even though I wish they had). And is that woman with the black hair and white bustier Zatanna? Who knows? Would new readers even care?
As an English major, I tend to see metaphors in everything. But it isn’t much of a stretch to read Brother Eye as a stand-in for DC, forcing its superheroes to assimilate into a uniform model of grimness and destroying them in the process.
Although I currently don’t buy DC comics, I can’t bring myself to say that I’m done with the company – not while Multiversity and the new Wonder Woman are on the way, and not while they’re still willing to take chances on creators like Grant Morrison, Cliff Chiang, and Greg Pak. However, if Future’s End #0 is any indication of DC’s own future, I’m inclined to agree with the statements running throughout the issue: