I knew that Future State had to offer at least one book that was a bonafide good title worthy of your money in both story and art, from start to finish. I had hoped that I would find that praise-worthy title amongst the Superman and Batman titles that crowd the shelves. You can only imagine my surprise when I has finished the first issue of this Suicide Squad/Black Adam book and realized that I eagerly wanted to read more. Other titles in Future State had given me hope with a good back-up story after a terrible feature, but this title gave me a good feature and a good back-up, mixing good stories with good artwork, all while properly paying homage to the characters of the DCU and forging ahead with bold creative choices. The only downside to these stories is the “Elseworlds” effect – that feeling that what happens in these might not be as important they make themselves out to be, but the Black Adam back-up story actually seems to fix this issue with an ending that shows that it might be a key development in the character after all.
Writer Robbie Thompson is no stranger to the world of comic books, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that this is why his story works so much better than many of the others that come from writers who have only ever worked in the worlds of television, movies, or novels. Thompson gives us a look at a world where the Suicide Squad is masquerading as the “Justice Squad” in a nod to the Dark Avengers era of the Marvel Universe. Amanda Waller has found several villains to take on the roles of the heroes we are more familiar with, though the exception being Conner Kent who is standing in as Superman. Waller has devised a plan to create a world safe from all otherworldly threats and has convinced Kent to join her. Our story opens with the team taking on Mongul, Sinestro, Cheetah, and Brainiac for a piece of tech that Waller needs for her plan, and lives are lost on both sides as the Squad eventually finds success. Of course, there’s more to Waller and her plans than meets the eye, but that’s the charm of Suicide Squad in any incarnation.
This alone as a Suicide Squad story would be fine and dandy, but Thompson throws in an extra wrinkle. It seems that there’s another Squad working in secret to find Waller. This Earth is, in fact, Earth-3, home of the Crime Syndicate. The Syndicate is dead is Amanda Waller from Earth-1 has apparently escaped here because she’s found that this world is more willing to allow her to proceed with her plans. The problem is that Earth-1 is facing some dire problems and the leaders now realize that they need Amanda Waller to help keep things in check. Peacemaker has arrived with his Squad from Earth-1, but the time they spend on Earth-3 is slowly killing them, giving them a small window of opportunity to find Waller and bring her home.
The artwork from Javier Fernandez and Alex Sinclair is dark and gritty when it needs to be and clean and futuristic when it’s called for, and looks great in the story. Each character from each world is recognizable when they need to be and even though the Earth-1 Squad is hidden in shadow for almost all of the first issue, they are recognizable once you know who you are looking at when you go back and revisit the story. While I’ve had my ups and downs with the Suicide Squad from incarnation to incarnation (the last series from Tom Taylor was unreadable and hopefully undone by these universe rebuilding shenanigans), this story was a massive load of fun and caused me to purchase the new series with the hope that it might be OK this time.
The back-up story features a group known as the Justice Legion-A in the far future (making this story feel more like a Justice League or Legion of Super-Heroes story than a Suicide Squad tie-in) made of future version of Superman, Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, who exist in a universe where cities and nations now exist on individual planets while Earth sits in ruins. As a new evil known as The Unkind appears to destroy the universe with the help of the personified 7 Deadly Sins and the Lords of Chaos, worlds and heroes fall (including the original Superman who is still alive, but now living in a yellow sun and glowing like golden metal) and the fabric of reality appears to be dissolving.
The future heroes of the Justice Legion-A are too inexperienced to handle this massive threat, but Wonder Woman knows of one man who might have the power to help them. Black Adam, the longtime arch-nemesis of Shazam (formerly known as Captain Marvel, but, well, you know…) has given up his former ways to be a man of peace and no longer rules his people but works as their ambassador. Apparently, he and Wonder Woman have secretly been having a relationship and Wonder Woman now finds herself pregnant, so she uses the news of Adam’s impending fatherhood to bring him out of his pacifist ways to help them in their battle with The Unkindness. As they battle and find themselves losing terribly and needing to regroup, they are met by Gold Beetle – the time traveling successor to Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, who appears in the nick of time to help them save all of reality, if she can remember how.
Jeremy Adams’ story is admittingly frantic and full of references that might require the occasional comic reader to check Google from time to time, but it’s also a dream for long time comic book readers and fans of DC’s difficult continuity. Adams is mostly credited as a screenwriter who has worked on a number of properties, but among them are The Green Lantern animated series, the DC Comics Scribblenauts Unmasked video game, the Justice League Action animated series, and a bunch of the LEGO DC properties. I can’t help but get the feeling that he’s a huge DC Comics fan who happened to pursue screenwriting and now has the ability to write the comics he reads. Amazingly, this feels more like a Crisis event comic story set in the far future than a random “What If…” or “Elseworlds” story like most of the others we’ve gotten. Paired with the excellent Suicide Squad story, it makes these issues feel like a great collection of mini-series events that have nothing else to do with Future State, and that makes them even better.
The artwork from Fernando Pasarin, Oclair Albert, and Jeromy Cox is highly detailed and stylishly colorful. The influences of artists like George Perez and Jerry Ordway can’t be overstated enough, and helps to give the story that feel of a classic “big event” comic from the 80’s and 90’s. With the time travel elements and the ending that makes it feel as if it is important to the ongoing story of Black Adam (and I’ll give them credit for finding a way to make it look like this story matters to current continuity), this looks to be like one of the must read stories of the DCU.
If these two comics can do so much in just 2 issues, it’s a shame that characters like Batman and Superman felt so underserved by Future State. DC’s current editorial staff are too worried about checking the right boxes for the wrong reasons that they’ve forgotten that you’re supposed to tell a good story in each issue and pair it with good art that makes people want to spend money on it. The current crop of DC Comics coming out from the AT&T conglomerate are a pale imitation of the books that came before, but luckily, comics like these still manage to slip through the cracks when no one is paying attention. I’ll bet that most people never read these issues of Future State, but I wish everybody would. If all the comics from DC were as thoughtful and creative as these, they might just inspire people to read and buy comic books again.