What does a memory look like? Not what is the experience of a memory. Not what is it like to have a memory. What is the physical reality of a memory? What is the actual manifestation of the past in the corner of space and time that we inhabit? In the world of The New 52: Futures End, memory exists as faceted crystals inside the mechanical mind of Braniac’s enormous, space-bound avatar. The heart of the issue consists of Ray Palmer, the Atom, infiltrating the Braniac-ship in a bid to find and save Angie, the Stormwatch engineer, who has been absorbed into the entity’s fabric. His adventure plays out against the background of flickering images from the multiple histories of the DCU, like a play staged in God’s private cinema.
Dramatic as the scenes are, they encapsulate the odd nature of this issue. This is a book that points beyond itself. Here we see the coming of the Convergence event, a two-month celebration of the history of the DCU in its various iterations. It is as if the authors of Futures End paused for a moment and, as their own story gathered breath, drew aside a curtain to give a bright, brief view of things to come.
And the vision is not without irony, for even as the Atom is experiencing the breadth and depth of DCU’s time, Superman and friends are defeating the giant Earth-bound avatar of Braniac, in effect slamming the door on the possibility of this timeline joining the others in that alien being’s library of forever. The roar of anguish that Braniac emits as he realizes what has happened is some of the most genuine, and convincing, emotion of the entire series.
But even as Braniac rages in defeat, the situation darkens. Terry McGinnis manages to take advantage of Braniac’s assault on Manhattan to defeat BatJoker, but in a way not yet explained this allows Brother Eye’s awareness to re-emerge into the world’s information grid. And Batman and Tim Drake discover that Mr. Terrific is trembling on the edge of insanity, his decisions paving the way for an apocalypse.
Memory is the sign and symbol of the end. Not ordinary memory, that is, but solidified memory that embodies the lost realities of the DCU. Will this future end in a place on the shelf, a nice, neat display case in Braniac's museum of eternity? Or will this future have a future of its own? And how will that future, should it exist, relate to the ongoing stories of DC's multiverse? We have six issues to go before answers are revealed, and new questions asked.