By: Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen (story), Patrick Zircher (art), Hi-Fi (colors)

The Review: One of the best things about 52 was its choice of cast, an unusual combination of lower-tier characters who grew richer and more well-rounded over the fifty-two weeks until they became geek household names in themselves. What’s promising about Futures End is that it looks to take the same path, taking a diverse selection of characters from all the different DC properties and sending them on a time, possibly universe-spanning adventure.

It’s also encouraging to see a handful of Wildstorm heroes in the mix, as they haven’t fared so well since the DCU relaunch. I don’t know if Futures End will work the same magic for Grifter and Stormwatch as 52 did for Booster Gold, Animal Man, or Starfire, but the exposure can’t hurt—if they survive the series, of course.

To that end, things don’t kick off very well when the Stormwatch crew are caught in the self-destruction of their ship within the issue’s first act. The perp makes only a voice appearance, claiming to be “the true storm…the ultimate threat” the team was created for, and humiliating them with near-instant annihilation, or so it seems. Given teaser pages for Futures End that have Midnighter, Apollo, and Hawkman on prominent display, I expect this can’t be the end for Earth’s secret first line of defense.

Given that the perp has the power to take complete control of the Carrier and even the Engineer (leaving her screaming in binary pain), this is likely the creature who’ll be responsible for the dystopian, Brother Eye future that Terry escaped from. But the rise of Brother Eye will depend on other factors, too, such as the cyborg that followed Terry to the present DCU (plus five years), whose arrival is marked by a man watching intently nearby.*

There’s only a tenuous link between what’s happening with Stormwatch and Terry, but it beats the seemingly unrelated activities of Grifter and Firestorm, who come into the events of Futures End from radically different directions. Our writers (whom from now on I’ll dub JLAG—Jurgens, Lemire, Azzarello, Giffen—feel free to pronounce it “J-lag” if you want to sound unbelievably cool) are only beginning to spin plot threads around these characters, and their scenes mostly serve as introductions to the personalities we’ll be dealing with.

Between Grifter and Firestorm, the former probably gets the better intro, invading what appears to be an ordinary family’s home and mercilessly mowing them down, methodically going from father to mother to young daughter (in bunny slippers, no less). Just at the moment that you doubt he knows what he’s doing, he coolly reveals that he’s been in total control all along, relishing the fact that he’s feared among the alien invaders: “Best job ever.”

Firestorm, and its dual components, Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond, fare less well. Sadly, five years hasn’t softened the overtired dynamic between rigid nerd and careless player. If anything, they have gotten even more shrill and archetypical, with Jason walking in on a busily foreplaying Ronnie and lashing him with a lecture. While Ronnie’s the one admittedly most at fault for—spoiler alert—the death of Green Arrow (with beard!),** Jason comes across as the least appealing half, shrieking within the Matrix, “No! This is on you, Raymond! This is your fault! Your selfishness caused this!”

Kudos to Futures End for starting out, much like Batman Eternal did with Jason Fabok, with its strongest artist. Edgy is just a natural part of Zircher’s style, as we’ve seen on Suicide Squad, but he proves here that he can be just as slick and polished as the rest of them. The excess hatching and shading that used to evoke much of Suicide Squad‘s darkness is cleaned up, leaving behind only tight, attractive figures in perfectly straightforward panels of storytelling. Hi-Fi undoubtedly is crucial to this flashy new look, filling the pages with brilliant, shimmering sparkles of color that’s at once vivid yet controlled

Conclusion: The art is the more attractive feature, honestly, but the story’s not bad. Despite a slight lack in character work and plotting, there’s good intrigue in the mystery being woven.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Watching and recording, with what appear to be Google Glasses.

** I actually sincerely hope that Ollie doesn’t go back to the goatee, unless he’s also planning to adopt a completely hipster lifestyle to go with it.