THIS WEEK: For a special fifth-week edition, the DC Round-Up team reconvenes to discuss the final entry of DC’s Future State event, and reflects on what’s worked and not worked during the first month of the Infinite Frontier initiative.
Joe Grunenwald: Welcome, friends (and me), to the final Future State discussion ever until Future State: Gotham launches! The proper event may have ended last month, but there was still one title left to conclude: Superman vs. Imperious Lex. What did you all think of this week’s finale for that series?
Greg Silber: Loved it. I don’t know what I can say about it that we haven’t said in previous discussions, but what a great little Elseworlds Superman story.
Cori McCreery: It truly was a fantastic alternate future story that showed us how the best of Superman can help us realize the best in ourselves. It was also nice just how integral to the climax Lois Lane’s actions were. She should always be the co-lead of a Superman book, after all she debuted in the same issue he did. They are inseparable in my mind, and always should be as important to each other as they were here.
Grunenwald: Agreed that Lois playing such a crucial role in this series was really nice, particularly considering that we don’t see her at all in any of the other Future State titles. I love the idea that she ends up moving on to grander and more important things as a United Planets delegate.
Speaking of the United Planets, I also liked how this issue tied back to what Brian Michael Bendis set up for the UP during his Superman run. It felt like a very natural extension of that, and in the hands of Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, and co. it works so well.
McCreery: And honestly, you know that her father (rest in pieces) would absolutely HATE her role in the UP.
Grunenwald: Sam Lane has no time for politics!
Silber: Lois arguably has a bigger and more consequential role here than Superman. We all know Lois is the world’s greatest journalist, but seeing her in this diplomatic context is a great way to show her smarts and resourcefulness manifesting in a way we haven’t seen before.
McCreery: I just meant that he DESPISES aliens. But yes, this United Planets actually felt better than the one that showed up in Legion of Super-Heroes, but I suppose this is a version that’s young and optimistic.
Grunenwald: I really appreciated the pointed refugee analogy. It’s not subtle but it also doesn’t have to be. Hopefully the Lexorians who choose to leave Lexor for United Planets worlds end up in better temporary living conditions than real world refugees do in the U.S.
Silber: As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m not a Legion guy, but I do love the idea of the United Planets and really enjoyed how it was depicted here. It’s the sort of optimistic sci-fi we could really use more of, applied to subtly deadly-serious and important themes for this story.
McCreery: That’s what I love about the Legion, is that for the most part it IS that optimistic vision of the future. Sure there are times when things fall apart, but mostly it’s bright and shiny.
Grunenwald: Lois and Superman sort of act as the conscience for the United Planets in this story. The other representatives seem more than happy to write off Lexor entirely. One wonders if the eventual loss of their influence is how we end up with the UP of the 31st Century, which always seems like it’s in disarray whenever I drop in on the Legion.
Silber: On paper, the way Lois and Clark solve Lexor’s dictatorship problem may seem overly simplistic, but Russel does a great job demonstrating how radical compassion can save the universe. That exchange about “mercy,” for example. I hope I never forget that.
Grunenwald: I’m sorry Zack’s not here for the discussion but also I know he would’ve been disappointed that there weren’t more lollipop jokes for Lex in this issue.
McCreery: This series also did a fantastic job of depicting Lex Luthor’s particular narcissistic brand of evil.
Silber: I love that his fake face was never fully explained. It didn’t need to be. We all know what’s going on there.
McCreery: BUT I STILL WANTED TO SEE IT.
Grunenwald: Russell’s got Lex down cold. His twist on the parable of the cave is absolute perfection. I also wanted to see Lex’s unmasked face, but you know he’s got that thing glued on there, and that probably would’ve been gorier than DC wants in a Superman comic.
Silber: It was plenty creepy on its own, though. Steve Pugh did a great job making it look just “off” enough to be unsettling.
McCreery: Oh so he pulled a Baron Zemo?
Grunenwald: Exactly! (Forgot about that one…yikes.) I know there’s still more Future State to come in the aforementioned Future State: Gotham series, but I still really liked this book as a wrap on the non-Bat-related side of the event.
McCreery: Well until Action Comics Annual 2021, anyway.
Grunenwald: Ahhh of course! How could I forget.
Silber: I kind of hope they remove the Future State branding in future trades for this. The connection to the rest of that event is tenuous and that is perfectly alright.
Grunenwald: Yeah, this title really stands alone nicely as its own little Elseworlds/alternate future tale, as you both said earlier. And I would love to see Russell and Pugh come back to it at some point if they’re so inclined.
McCreery: And the fact that we’re seeing so many creators continue or set-up their Future State stories means that’s entirely possible.
Silber: I’d welcome it, but I like the way things ended here. I’d rather Russell and Pugh start a new Superman story, or even do something with mainline Supes.
Grunenwald: Speaking of the main line, we’re at the end of the first full month of DC’s Infinite Frontier, so let’s chat briefly about that. How’re you feeling about where things are going in general for the DCU?
McCreery: With two exceptions from this first month, honestly really good. I feel more excited for mainline DC than I have in a very long time, and it just feels fresh and exciting.
Grunenwald: I bet they’re the same two exceptions I have in mind!
Silber: I think I know which exceptions you’re talking about, and one of them is among the few new runs I haven’t read yet. Otherwise, it’s a remarkably strong line across the board. I’m extremely impressed.
McCreery: Pun intended there, Greg?
Silber: No but it works!
Grunenwald: I agree that the line is overall really strong. I think the strategy of fewer titles is working really well. There’s less chaff to cut through to get to the really good stuff. I’m also on the record as a big fan of back-up stories and the anthology format, and I think all of those have been solid so far.
McCreery: But yeah, for all the hype about how this was going to be a fresh start for Wally as the Flash, the first issue of the Infinite Frontier run completely contradicted what Josh Williamson did in the one-shot.
Grunenwald: Yes, sadly, this week’s new issue of The Flash is one of those exceptions. This one was rough. I think even without what Williamson set up in the Infinite Frontier one-shot it would’ve been a painful read. But the fact that it did blatantly contradict both the content and the spirit of that Infinite Frontier short story felt extra-rough.
Silber: That’s one of the ones I haven’t read yet, so tell me all about it!
McCreery: Well Greg, Wally has decided NOT to be the Flash and instead to just retire and give up his connection to the Speed Force.
Silber: Well that’s no fun at all!
Grunenwald: It’s okay, when he and Barry try to sever his connection he instead gets lost in time! Which sounds like it should be a lot of fun! But instead it’s just kind of dull.
Silber: Between that and the Future State Flash story kicking off with the flash family losing their powers for no apparent reason, I’m pretty baffled by this trend of “what if the flash was slow”
McCreery: Also the art was terrible. It’s a bad fit for the Flash as Brandon Peterson is terrible at conveying motion. And also he drew the head-wings of the Flashes as big bulky hood ornaments.
Silber: I can forgive that because comics. What I can’t forgive is drawing The Flash if you can’t depict speed.
Grunenwald: I’m also really sorry to say that Gorilla Gregg deserves better than Teen Titans Academy.
Silber: Thank you, you’re right. My poor boy, my favorite thing to come out of a trio of that terrible Future State: Titans, deserves to be in a better book. Someone rescue him, please.
McCreery: That book infuriated me. Why do we keep getting middle-age cisgender white men writing teenagers (this applies to BOTH companies). Just get someone young and preferably of a marginalized gender. You could make this concept POP if you gave it to say, Vita Ayala or Leah Williams.
Silber: I LOVE the idea of a superhero school. It will almost always draw me in. But this isn’t the way to do it. It simultaneously tries too hard to appeal to the youth while also being deeply condescending “kids these days are too PC” BS.
Grunenwald: I really love the concept but the execution is pretty poor, even beyond the cringe dialogue. I think Tim Sheridan thinks the mystery of the past Red Xs is way more compelling than it actually is. Instead it’s just oblique references to stories we’ve never seen that are frustrating after three issues of them with no new information added.
McCreery: It feels like he’s going after fans of the cartoon without actually trying to capture the feeling of the cartoon.
Silber: He’s teasing something that, so far, I have no reason to be excited for. I realize fans of the ’00s Teen Titans cartoon have an affection for that character, but there’s no real attempt yet at showing why Red X is cool or scary.
Grunenwald: It doesn’t work if you haven’t seen the show. I also chatted with someone who has seen the show and he said that having seen it doesn’t help clear anything up in the comics, so…I don’t know.
McCreery: It also doesn’t work if you have seen and don’t care for the show.
Silber: I mean, I’m a 30 year old man and I just happened to not get into the show when I was the intended age for it, but what about actual teens who didn’t grow up on that show who might be reading? Once again, Teen Titans comics have that problem where it doesn’t seem to be geared towards teens.
Grunenwald: I suppose it’s not a huge surprise that two of the weaker Future State books are also the two weakest Infinite Frontier books, even if one of them has a different creative team. It’s still disappointing, though, especially compared to how overall really good the rest of the line is right now.
Silber: Not to dwell on the negative, but there is one other Infinite Frontier comic that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Grunenwald: Do tell, Gregory!
McCreery: <popcorn emoji>
Silber: I hate to say it because I was so excited for it, but Superman: Red and Blue.
Grunenwald: Technically not Infinite Frontier, but it did come out in the last month so I’ll allow it. Also because I agree with you.
Silber: Well I’ll be honest: I haven’t read the whole first issue yet, because the initial story in that anthology turned me off so much.
Grunenwald: It doesn’t get better, to be honest.
McCreery: Oh see, I’ll be the contrarian here, and say that while the first two stories were the weakest of the issue, I felt that the final two stories were wonderful.
Silber: In that case I’ll go back and read the rest. But the more I think about that first story the more I dislike it.
McCreery: And that’s really the drawback and benefit of an anthology series like this, is that each take can be wildly different.
Grunenwald: It could be that the first two stories colored my reading of the rest of the issue but woof those first two stories
McCreery: But I fully agree on that first story. It hinged on two issues of World’s Finest that are impossible to find, which doesn’t help it at all.
Silber: True, anthologies are hit and miss, but starting things off with a story that (A) shows Superman being completely ineffectual in the face of a war criminal) and (B) heavily implies that Superman was sexually assaulted for no good narrative reason… is that really what you want readers’ first impression to be of this series?
Grunenwald: Flipping through the issue again and shocked to learn that there are actually five stories in it. The story about grade school Clark completely left my mind. I remember now thinking that one was nice and very cute.
Silber: I think I get what John Ridley was trying to do here, and I’m not saying it’s impossible to tell that story, but don’t do it with Superman, and certainly not one like this that ends on such a cynical note.
McCreery: But I agree, I feel they should have led with the Dan Watters story, about reintroducing color to the world, rather than Ridley’s much darker story.
Silber: I have hope for the rest of the series, because there’s a lot of creators involved who I love, but WOOF. Anyway, sorry to be a downer. There’s many more good comics to talk about!
Grunenwald: No, I think that’s an important point to make, especially since we didn’t cover that book at length when it came out. Thankfully there are other, better Superman books out there to read, like my personal favorite book of Infinite Frontier, Gene Luen Yang and Ivan Reis‘s Batman/Superman.
McCreery: Speaking of upcoming creators!!!!!! SOPHIE CAMPBELL TEASED A SUPERMAN AND STREAKY STORY TODAY! And yes! Batman/Superman was absolutely a masterclass in how to play with those two characters and make it fee fresh and new, which is funny since it’s all about referencing the past.
Silber: I adore the way Yang slipped in the subtlest of hints that something was wrong with these throwback Batman and Superman tales before the big reveal at the end. I’ve said it before, but Gene Luen Yang is one of the best and most consistent talents in comics today, and we’re so lucky to have him. I can’t wait to see where this goes next, and Ivan Reis continues to show how brilliant he can be when given the creative freedom.
Grunenwald: What were each of your favorite Infinite Frontier books this past month?
McCreery: Hands down for me it was Nightwing. I’ve not enjoyed a Dick Grayson led book like that since he was Batman, and haven’t enjoyed a title with that name like that since it was written by Devin Grayson.
Silber: Hey, great minds Cori! I’ve gotta go with Nightwing as well. Which is funny, because as much as I love the character, I’ve never latched onto any of his solo stories the way I’ve wanted to. This new take by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo changes that big time. I’m getting serious Fraction/Aja Hawkeye vibes here, and not just for the obvious reasons.
Grunenwald: Nightwing is probably my second favorite of the month for sure. It certainly worked on an emotional level better than any DC book has in quite a while, in my opinion.
McCreery: Redondo’s art was also the best of his career in my opinion, just absolutely firing on all cylinders.
Silber: It’s got that emotional core that made me love Dick’s time as Batman under Grant Morrison so much, and a sense of kindness that I think is crucial to the character.
McCreery: I also love the fact that Dick Grayson is now richer than Bruce Wayne.
Grunenwald: That is pretty delightful.
Silber: Batman/Superman is one of the ones I was most excited for, and while I definitely enjoyed this first issue, I thought the dual narrative gimmick was just a TINY bit too unwieldy for me to love as much as Nightwing. Alfred was richer than Bruce too! That’s such a great take: that Bruce would make sure his father figure was ridiculously loaded, and that Alfred would trust Dick enough to give it all away.
Grunenwald: Overall this past month’s worth of books has me really optimistic about where the mainline DCU is going. It’s also got me excited for books I didn’t expect to be excited about (the last-page of the Williamson/Gleb Melnikov Damian Wayne back-up story in last week’s Detective has me really looking forward to the new Robin ongoing).
Silber: It’s introducing some bold new concepts too, like Ram V’s take on Swamp Thing. It’s great to see DC taking risks.
Grunenwald: Any final thoughts on either Future State or Infinite Frontier before we wrap?
McCreery: I’m also hyped for the summer of Roy Harper.
Grunenwald: You know if he would just pop in and forgive Wally for manslaughtering him that one time we could all move forward.
Silber: I’m just really happy to see so many good books coming out. It’s easy to be skeptical about superhero comics and any corporate entertainment, but it’s clear that most of the people behind these books care deeply about telling stories they believe in about characters they love.
Grunenwald: Well said, and I think that’s as good a place as any to leave it for this month. We’ll be back next month, and until then, may all your frontiers be infinite!
Silber: Justice for Gorilla Gregg!
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