The idea of a weekly comic set five years into the future of the DC Universe isn't a bad one at all. Done properly, it could excite and thrill readers as they look for hints on what's to come, as well as present a story that doesn't need to worry about what's happening in other titles to tell its own little saga. In the case of "Futures End" #2, though, Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, Jesus Merino, and Dan Green have given us something entirely different: a reason to fear and dread the potential future of the DC Universe.
The Future Writers (Azzarello, Lemire, Jurgens, and Giffen) almost evoke the feel of the surprisingly successful "52" weekly from a few years ago; disconnected from the other DC Comics titles in a blank spot of the timeline getting filled in week-by-week. But while "52" had a lot of hope and promise of heroism right from the start, that's definitely not the case with "Futures End" #2. This is a comic full of irritating, annoying characters. Mister Terrific's time in the "Earth 2" universe seems to have done him little good, portrayed here as a social-media-obsessed mogul worrying about hashtags on the way to a funeral. And if you disliked Firestorm last week, you'll positively loathe him here; the Future Writers make him (or at least Ronnie Raymond) an arrogant, self-absorbed, petulant child. Now, this could easily be the start of a fall-and-rise for the characters, something I'd actually wager money on. But the problem is that you need to give readers an initial bit of good to grab onto in order to make them care about the eventual redemption. And at this point, Ronnie Raymond's been portrayed at a pretty foul character. Why would you want to see his turn-around?
The only characters of "Futures End" #2 that jump out in a positive manner are the threads with Lois Lane and Batman Beyond, and that's all of three pages' worth of material. While A.L.F.R.E.D.'s humor isn't as strong as what we've seen before, the interplay between it and Batman Beyond is enough to buoy their one page. Lois Lane's two-pager also holds some promise, not only in terms of getting her into the plot, but also having some real human emotion other than nastiness on display here. There's also a nice eulogy for Green Arrow (including a hint about the eventual collision between the main DC Universe world and that of "Earth 2"), but at the same time it's also talking about a character who just got killed off. Ultimately the interesting parts from the writing of are just a small portion of "Futures End" #2, and that's not much to make one want to show up next week for another installment.
It's been nice over the years to watch Merino rise up through American comics; first as an inker on projects with Carlos Pacheco, and then penciling his own titles. He's got real talent, and overall he does a good job here. Batman Beyond's crawling down the wall looks great, for example, and the angry expression on Arsenal's really brings the emotion to that scene at the funeral. On the other hand, King Faraday's typing looks like he is either casting spells or had his fingers broken, with his hands in such odd poses. And I'm still unsure why so many of the panels are at a tilt, other than perhaps just for the heck of it. The problem is, doing so comes across distracting at best; it's not good storytelling. Ultimately Merino's the best thing about the book, but even his contribution isn't perfect.
Because this is a book that has involved time travel right from the get-go, it's hard to get too worried about the timeline portrayed in "Futures End." If anything, it all but promises some sort of intervention that wipes out some or all of the events of this comic. Right now, this is a series that could have just as easily been titled, "Fear the Future." If I was a character in the DC Universe, after reading this comic, I know I sure would.