Have you ever heard the riddle about what ways most, a ton of feathers or a ton of lead? The authors of The New 52: Futures End #34 evidently have.  Unfortunately, the concept of equality featured in the riddle escapes Madison Payne, the active component of the new Firestorm, as she battles the insane Doctor Polaris.  When the villain hurls a truck in her direction, she hastily transforms its atoms, turning it into a teddy bear.  She then learns that a multi-ton stuffed animal still ways multiple tons.  It is a moment of light-heartedness badly needed at this point in the narrative, which is now moving into harsh revelations.

The true nature of Father Time, leader of SHADE, is one such surprise.  He turns out to be an alien, a kind of mental parasite who’s race was destroyed be Braniac long ago.  His manipulative ways and ruthless plots are, he claims, in service to the people of Earth, whom he is determined to save from the fate of his own race.  However, the much harsher revelation is saved for the end of the story, as Bat Joker, the fusion of Bruce Wayne and his arch nemesis prepared by Brother Eye in the thirty-years-hence future, arrives in the past clouds of doom practically wrapped around his mechanized, somewhat Satanic form.

The New 52: Futures End occupies the technical mid-point between DC’s other two weeklies, Batman Eternal  and Earth 2: World’s End.  The Batman story aims at a tight, unified narrative crafted by a team in frequent contact and coordination.  It often fails in this effort, but the intent is clear. Eternal does at least succeed in keeping the different component stories largely coherent in their internal structures, largely through the technique of assigning one story to a given author and parceling the issues into small arcs written by one person.  The other two weeklies use multiple writers, and multiple plotlines, per issue.  Theoretically, this should allow for greater interconnection between the stories and a more powerful sense of overall progress.  In fact, it leads to muddle and confusion.  This is especially the case with Earth 2: World’s End, but The New 52: Futures End also often displays this weakness.

This problem becomes crucial as the weeklies approach the end of their stories.  Wandering and confusion that might be tolerable early in the tale becomes deadly toward the end.  Luckily, The New 52: Futures End #34 shows that the writers understand this danger.  The story seems to be drawing in its breath and gathering itself for one last burst of activity racing toward the finish.

But what will that finish be?  No one expects this future to actually come to pass.  For that matter, no one expects the fate of Earth 2 to remain unaltered.  But how will this be avoided?  One expects convolutions and complexity as a series of events play out, perhaps in tandem with whatever major events run through the DCU this coming summer.  If that is true, then the book is gathering its energies not a moment too soon.

Grade

B

Conclusion

With the arrival of Bat Joker, the story enters its final act. The end is well begun. Let us hope the promise carries through to the last word.