Review: Future State: Superman trade paperback (DC Comics)


Among other things, the Future State: Superman book is our first look at what the Super-titles will be like in the post-Brian Michael Bendis era. So far, no big concerns (only small ones), and especially not as pertains to main new Superman writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (the other other “new” Superman writer, Tom Taylor, will turn out all right, I expect). Outside of Johnson, most of what’s here has generally lower stakes and is good enough for those.

Let’s establish first and foremost that I’m not particularly concerned about the “continuity” of Future State, which the Superman book even more than the two Batman ones firmly places in the realm of “imaginary stories.” But, versus the Future State Batman books, collection editor Jamie Rich or someone spent some dedicated time trying to move the main and backup stories around in this volume toward making a cohesive whole. I appreciate the attempt, as in general I like for my trades to read like all-in-one graphic novels, though where the effort fails there’s some danger of confusion.

[Review contains spoilers]

Superman’s main event, between “Superman of Metropolis” and “Worlds at War” and their backups, reminded me of the New Krypton era, the main stories on one hand and then the grounded, somewhat “street-level” backups on the other. Insofar as the backups take place within the span of time that Jon Kent has shrunk Metropolis and placed it in a dome, and that the setting of the backups begins in Metropolis and largely ends up on Warworld, again one can see an attempt to move the backups around into something of a sequential order.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

After Jon encases Metropolis in the first chapter, then we have the first Mister Miracle backup, taking place right after; then a Guardian story, taking place six months later; then another Mister Miracle story, which jumps backward but ends with Miracle shunted off to Warworld, just before the first “Worlds at War” issue and the subsequent Miracle story. Now that we’re narratively “on Warworld,” we get the Warworld-set Midnighter and Black Racer stories, then the final Warworld-set Miracle story, the final “Worlds at War,” and then another Guardian story that coincides with the final “Metropolis” story that rounds out this section.

So we recognize what was attempted here — the first “Superman of Metropolis” issue and all the backups related to it, then a Miracle backup-bridge to Warworld, all the Warworld material, then back down to the second “Metropolis” and related backups for the conclusion. I would venture the only real misstep is putting the first Guardian story in the front between the first two Miracle stories, which means we go from “the present” to six months ahead and back again. Running the two Guardian stories together at the end would have meant we’d come back from Warworld to Metropolis “six months later,” which would have been a nice effect and smoothed out some out-of-order Jimmy Olsen appearances.

Superman is the lesser for my having read Future State: The Next Batman and Future State: Dark Detective first; no fault of its own, then, but equally it’s clear how DC’s Super-titles have often not been as good as its Bat-titles. While the Bat-family battles the fearsome Magistrate and Peacekeeper-01 in those Future State books, the Super-titles have what feels like Magistrate also-ran Andrej Trojan and his generic “nanotech,” plus a bantering robot villain actually called “Brain Cells.” In this, as in many things, Superman’s boilerplate sci-fi does not beat Batman’s noir crime drama.



What is good in the beginning of Superman is Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s, namely “Worlds of War,” and what is passable but lesser than the Batman books belongs to Sean Lewis (“Superman of Metropolis,” with Brain Cells), Michael Conrad and Becky Cloonan (“Midnighter”), and Jeremy Adams (“Black Racer,” making me worry about Adam’s Flash). Fortunately, Johnson is the only writer here who really matters in terms of Superman’s ongoing adventures. Lewis does write the Guardian well, and will continue that in the Super-titles; Brandon Easton’s Miracle is good and certainly sufficient for me to follow into the subsequent miniseries; the Midnighter tale is relatively rough and I wasn’t as impressed with artist Gleb Melnikov as I was on Batman and the Outsiders, but here too it’s hardly that important for what will just continue on into backup stories (with no collection as yet in sight).

Coming later this week, more on the later stories in Future State: Superman!

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs]

Comments ( 7 )

  1. Nearly a year in, I've found Tom Taylor's Superman: Son of Kal-El to be better than I'd expected.

    Even with his Nightwing and Suicide Squad runs, I didn't have high hopes. After all, Taylor was going up against the specter of Tomasi AND the continuing backlash to the damage Bendis did to Jon.

    But now, I do think Jon's in good hands and it's generally employable

    Johnson's Action Comics...yeah, this is a big preview. The Warworld Saga is basically playing like Planet Hulk with Superman in the Bruce Banner/Russell Crowe role's good. It's not quite up to Tomasi or Jurgens, but it's definitely a return to form after Bendis.

    1. AnonymousMay 22, 2022

      I love this take. I have never read much superman, and jumped right into action comics this year. It’s my current favorite read. Just picked up these future state issues and looking forward to it

  2. Great review. The black racer story is no indication on Jeremy Adams Flash run.His Flash is pretty good.They are two different type of stories. I didn't even realize that he wrote the black racer I thought his Black Adam future state was doing better.

    1. Glad to hear that, and I'll be curious to see Adams' other Future State work.

  3. Yeah, Jeremy Adams' Flash has been a high point of the Infinite Frontier era.

    Granted, the opening arc had the unavoidable messy work of completing the post-Heroes in Crisis damage control Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth and, Joshua Williamson had begun in Flash Forward and Speed Metal.

    But now that it's past that, it's been neo-classic Wally-as-Flash. As someone who grew up with Wally's tenure, it's just great to have him, Linda, and the kids back and thriving after a lost decade.

    1. I'm most interested to see what Adams can do with the kids. I think the kids is where Wally-as-Flash started to stumble, the Mark Waid/Wild Wests era. Arguably had that never happened, Barry wouldn't have returned as Flash. So I'd like to see if Adams can make the kids workable; tall order, but in the meantime we have a great template with Peter Tomasi's Clark and Jon, especially.

    2. Yeah, it definitely feels like Adams is leaning into the modern Super Family template Tomasi established.

      It's not quite there yet, but it IS good. Adams probably the first writer to truly sell me on Irey and Jai.

      The Wally/Irey Father/Daughter Dance (Flash #774) especially is one of those quintessential comics issues that will make you "Awwwww”.


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