So often in storytelling, and that goes for DC Comics’ new event Future State, the future is a reflection of the present. Launched last week, the event has kicked off new takes on characters in an Elseworld-esque reimagining of the DC Comics universe. That includes a new Batman named Tim Fox, and a new Wonder Woman named Yara Flor. It’s a bold new direction, but one that in many ways reflects the fear and anxiety we feel in a society where police brutality seems to be in the news every waking day.
You see it most exemplified in the Batman titles. The Next Batman and Dark Detective reveal a police state overrun with cops with high-tech armor and the desire to shoot first and ask questions later. Though the cops in this world have an agenda to lock up all superheroes, the fact there is no due process or governing body to proceed over the actions of street cops seems rather poignant. In an age where it took weeks of protests and unrest to bring even a few police to justice for the murder of George Floyd, it hits harder seeing cops fire on Batman and those around him without a care in the world. The way police authorities act in the DC Future State universe is incredibly familiar and frightening because it is reminiscent of American society today.
In Future State: Superman of Metropolis, we literally see a military battalion open fire on civilians. This is certainly a stark contrast to the mob attacks on the Capitol last week, but a familiar one if you Google “Black Lives Matter protests 2020.” Sean Lewis and John Timms open the comic with this fear-mongering and overuse of power, effectively distinguishing the series with familiar visuals from real life.
Extending the theme further, another new Future State title out this week makes the reader ponder who we can fully trust. Future State: Justice League by Josh Williamson and Robson Rocha unveils a superhero team that at first glance is shiny and positive, but the first issue cliffhanger reveals there’s something afoot and we may not be able to trust this team in the slightest. Again, these themes seem to be mimicking the police brutality that we’ve been seeing while doomscrolling on our phones for what feels like years, and have escalated significantly in the last half of 2020.
Themes of vigilante heroes fighting against the establishment aren’t new, but they do hit harder when reading DC Future State titles. The lack of good-guy police officers within the establishment, or the facelessness of the militarized police we do see, lend to a feeling of fear and anxiety around police who are meant to protect us. There are many other examples of this — just wait till you experience Nightwing and its case of entrapment — and it’s an incredible achievement to pull off an event that resonates so closely with these themes.
Even the name of this event, Future State, lends to the idea of a military state. The word future is typically used as a positive, as we look ahead to a brighter tomorrow, but so far these series show us a state that is dark, scary, and unnerving. The very fact Future State: Superman of Metropolis opens with text at the top of its first page that reads, “Welcome to the Metropolis of Tomorrow!” whilst depicting soldiers and a tank preparing to fire on civilians tells you everything about this city of the future. The title of this event sounds hopeful, Gotham has been depicted in bright neon lights, and yet every act by authorities who are meant to be protectors is that of trickery and overbearing violence.
Often, it’s tricky to lock down when comic books were written and then drawn, with scripting sometimes taking place a year or more before the comics reach stores. The event kicked off this week with six titles all sprouting from the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal #7 which Scott Snyder told AIPT that he’s been working on for two years. One might argue that Future State isn’t a reaction to the protests of 2020 specifically, but if you live in America, it probably doesn’t matter, as we’ve been fighting against tyranny and police brutality via protests for decades.
This event feels very much like a reaction to the fight Americans, especially Black Americans, have endured the entirety of their lives. In an industry where stories lean towards escapism and bombast, Future State has so far shown a resolve to tell a meaningful story that will resonate with fans in important ways. For that, this event has already shown it’s an important marker in comics history, and one that will help its readers understand why we fight and why we must continue to do so.
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