For a company with the reputation for despising marriage, DC has a strong fascination with families. The family units in question are not usually biologically determined, but rather what are known in modern social jargon as “families of choice,” although often the choices seem predetermined and problematic. These groups provide the building blocks of the DC Universe’s heroic infrastructure. The Bat Family, the Superman Family, the Arrow Family, and the like spread out like roots from the Justice Leagues that sit at the apex of the super hero hierarchy.
Given this, it comes as no surprise that, hostility to marriage or not, stories set in the DCU are usually family stories in the sense of being plotlines featuring family dynamics and relationships at their core. The New 52: Futures End #38 deals with four family dramas, each touching on one of the ongoing storylines weaving through the Futures End weekly. Unfortunately, none of the stories proceed smoothly or reach effective endpoints. This issue is an exercise in frustration and delay.
The first family is that of Batman and his erstwhile protégé, Timothy Drake, along with his future assistant, Terry McGinnis. The attack of the Bat Joker cyborg launched last issue sets the stage for these characters to at last bring their disparate perspectives and experiences together, and to at last give answers to why Tim and Bruce became estranged. But the narrative halts before we receive any information.
The second family, Fifty Sue and her adoptive parents, Cole and Lana Lang, intrude into the narrative only long enough to remind us of their existence. Much the same is true of Dr. Polaris and the new Firestorm. This last isn’t really a family, per se, but the challenges of the storyline certainly arise from family issues, and touch on the policies and politics of the Justice League, the Platonic form of super families.
The last storyline is that of Frankenstein and his friends, who journey to Castle Frankenstein in order to find a cure for the conflict between science and magic that has been tearing apart everyone’s favorite undead champion. Their they find Frankenstein’s surprisingly young “Father,” just in time for the book to end.
And MacDonald’s art in this issue is somewhat reminiscent of a comic strip. The features of his characters are unfinished and slightly vague, and the forms seemingly undersized against structural backgrounds and oppressive shadows. This is a world of futility and danger. A world being squeezed by forces not yet even seen, much less understood.
But there are now only ten issues to go in this weekly series. At this point, it is very late indeed for delay and mystery, for the fundamental forces of the story to remain hidden and important plot points to stutter and stumble.
This book told four stories about four different families. Each of the stories carried plot beats important to the main storyline of the weekly. And each of the stories failed. DC is a company said to hate marriage but love families. But in this instance, the families aren't doing so well, either.