Review: Future State: Justice League trade paperback (DC Comics)

March 27, 2022

Future State: Justice League is another of these volumes that gives me hope, you’ll forgive me, for the future. Though not flawless, where it counts the stories here are great, even spectacular. That’s Brandon Thomas' “Future State: Aquaman” above all, along with Joshua Williamson’s titular “Justice League,” Geoffrey Thorne’s " Green Lantern," and Ram V’s always-good “Justice League Dark.” Thomas and Thorne I wasn’t familiar with before, and my experience with Williamson’s Flash was rocky, but here all of them do well on characters they’ll be guiding in the Infinite Frontier era.

[Review contains spoilers]

Brandon Thomas' “Future State: Aquaman,” with art by Daniel Sampere, is simply stunning, and I’m very excited now for what Thomas has coming up in Aquaman: The Becoming and beyond. Take just the first issue, with its startling in medias res beginning (Aquaman Jackson Hyde escaping from Neptune? What?!) to what is essentially an issue-long conversation between captive and captor (with some fairly complex alien cultural mores), to the “castaway” situation in the flashback that just gets worse and worse with horror movie efficiency.

Thomas' Jackson Hyde feels like a natural evolution of the character, with Aquaman Arthur Curry’s power but not perhaps his cockiness. All told I’m exceptionally skeptical of Williamson’s upcoming Dark Crisis and the mainstream emergence of this new Future State Justice League — isn’t any attempt at replacing DC’s best-known heroes just an exercise in waiting until they come back? — but I must say Thomas sold me on Hyde as an Aquaman I’d want to read more about. Not to mention new Aquawoman Andrea Curry, with an injury here smartly reminiscent of one of her father’s iconic looks.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Again, I’m hesitant to get too attached to the Future State Justice League, given their predecessors will eventually take over again. It’s hard even to know where this League will eventually fit, supplanting a generational space the Titans used to occupy (and haven’t even wholly abdicated). But gosh if Williamson doesn’t get me with a League still struggling to get to know one another, capable but not as established as the originals, with a Batman not necessarily the one with all the answers and a Green Lantern for once in the lead. And having the Hyperclan — first enemies of Grant Morrison’s JLA era — as the bad guys here is a perfect touch.

Williamson suggests a Justice League “of today” (in contrast to a play on the original Superman being the “man of tomorrow”). We’ve seen plenty “of the people” Justice Leagues over the years that haven’t quite lived up to that charter (Steve Orlando’s Justice League of America, most recently) and neither does Williamson give a lot of concrete indication how his will be different.

But at least this is the diverse Justice League that DC has sought for a while (perhaps the only indication this team won’t eventually disappear for good) and we see them, of sorts, worry about the mental health of the public around them. This, combined with some of the work Sean Lewis and Dan Watters did with Superman Jon Kent in Future State: Superman and Future State: Wonder Woman respectively in terms of guiding, not necessarily saving, Metropolis gives me hope that maybe Williamson will be able to see this idea through to fruition.

Thorne’s “Future State: Green Lantern” is a rollicking fun space yarn. It’s maybe a little tough to gauge his forthcoming Green Lantern from here given that none of these characters actually wield rings, but it’s hard to dismiss a dog-monster iteration of G’nort (not to mention an alien that’s the very image of Secret Six’s Ragdoll). Thorne’s John Stewart is nicely tough and heroic, and without a ring, we’re spared intimations of the army sniper John Stewart retcon. If Thorne kept on like this — more John Stewart, wise former Darkstars leader, less angsty “kills from a distance” John Stewart, I’d be more than happy.

An unexpected benefit (I’d gone into the book having forgotten about the backups) is four “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” stories. All of these, you’ll realize quickly, end in cliffhangers purposefully never meant to be resolved, and the wild abandon is a bunch of fun — Jessica Cruz about to become a Sinestro Corps member, Far Sector’s Jo Muellin about to give Hal Jordan the smack he undoubtedly deserves. Josie Campbell and Andie Tong tell an intriguing story of Teen Lantern Keli Quintela that starts in the here and now (ahead of Thorne’s series) and then intersects with Future State. That Robert Venditti also writes Hal again is a treat.

Ram V’s “Justice League Dark” story with Marcio Takara is also good, as Ram V’s work on that series has been. There’s an interesting suggestion within that some of the magical characters may yet remember this “alternate world” back in the mainstream. On the other hand, the only story that really didn’t work for me here was Brandon Vietti’s “Future State: Flash” two-parter. Can’t argue with Dale Eaglesham art, but I found this one rather more violent than a Flash story might warrant, and with a sad Barry Allen too much in the vein of Williamson’s run. Were Vietti continuing with the character, I’d be more concerned; as it is, that this story connects over to Tim Sheridan’s “Future State: Teen Titans” bumped it up a notch for me right at the end.

3.0

Rating

So mostly good news all around out of Future State: Justice League — perhaps the only question left now is which good book to start with after Infinite Frontier. Maybe I’m a bit more forgiving years later, but it really seems I’m enjoying these Future State stories more than, say, the essentially similar Futures End books some years ago; not quite sure if the writing and art is better now or if it’s just me.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs]

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