Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1 presents two stories of DC’s Amazon warriors. At the end of time, Diana makes one final stand against an evil god. And in the near future, Nubia must uncover the mystery of multiple stolen artifacts.
One of the greatest strengths of this first issue lies in the way it builds out this world’s history without a ton of specifics. This can all be traced to the truly brilliant caption that opens the issue: “Impossibly Long Ago, in the Distant Future.”
These kinds of fairy tale-esque vagaries might not work for everyone, but they hit me right in the feels from the first page. It’s not an easy task to follow up Wonder Woman’s arc from Death Metal, but Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have managed to continue the themes of that story while raising the stakes in unexpected ways.
Heads up: I’m going to get into very slight spoiler territory with this review.
We see Diana making one final trip to bid farewell to old friends. A Bat-Cave in disrepair, somewhere deep below a world that barely has any green left. The spirit of the Earth itself is weakened, taking root in one of the few spots of life remaining. Superman’s costume appears to have incorporated Shazam’s cape. Batman’s life seems to have taken some interesting turns in his later years (at least, according to one Easter egg that made this Gotham Academy fan ecstatic). Everyone is holding onto the past for dear life, including the Amazons that Diana is begging to leave.
And even at the end of time, Darkeid is.
The dialogue in this first story is one of its strong suits, perfectly encapsulating the depths of Diana’s compassion. There’s a sense that all of this time has been like the blink of an eye for her, and she still feels all of the joy and hurt and excitement that she felt back in the glory days of the Justice League. Her conversation with the memory of Batman is at once heartbreaking and impossibly tender.
Diana maintains her belief in doing the right thing and being the protector of life, even when there’s so very little left for her to defend. Above all else, this first story shows why Wonder Woman will always be necessary. The world building done in this opening tale is strong, even without much in the way of an explanation. We don’t quite know what the Undoing is, but we see it literally eating everything in a horrifying splash page.
As solid as the storytelling is in this first story, the real star of the show is the artwork. Jen Bartel’s design for Wonder Woman is nothing short of brilliant, incorporating multiple elements of the character’s long history into one costume. The subtle streaks of gray are the only thing that hints at Diana’s long life, while the character’s body language betrays her moments of fear while staring down the end of everything.
The sequence with Swamp Thing also feels like something right out of a fairy tale, bringing to mind the quieter moments of a Hayao Miyazaki film. There’s a mournful quality to it, but also a clear refusal to give up hope. Meanwhile, Darkseid is a swirl of fury and heat, appearing as every bit of “the Tiger-Force at the core of all things” that he once claimed to be. The action sequences also impress, although they certainly feel secondary to the exquisite character work being done by the whole of the creative team.
Bringing all of the storytelling together even further is the exceptional lettering by Pat Brosseau. Everyone has a distinct tone to their voice, from the surety of the Amazon’s words to the weakness of Swamp Thing’s flickering consciousness to Darkseid’s utter boredom in the face of nothingness. There are also some fantastic sound effects throughout that sell the bombastic nature of this story’s more over the top moments.
Meanwhile, the second half of the issue gives readers the return of Nubia, Diana’s long-lost sister. The Amazons have apparently long since abandoned Man’s World, but Nubia is still fighting to protect the history of her people. This half of the issue is a lot of fun, getting readers caught up to speed on who Nubia is and how she fits into the future of the DC Universe. There are a lot of character relationships and status questions that aren’t entirely addressed (particularly when it comes to Aunt Nancy’s exact role), but L.L. McKinney’s dialogue and storytelling is fun and smart, so it doesn’t ever become a pressing issue.
There was a confusing bit near the start of the story, however. During the fight between Nubia and Grail, it appears as though the dialogue from an earlier scene has been copied onto the word balloons in this fight. I’m not sure if this error has been corrected by the time the issue made it to print, but it did make the first chunk of the Nubia story harder to follow.
Nevertheless, the Nubia story moves at a quick clip, incorporating a ton of flashbacks in fun and interesting ways. The sequence in which Nancy explains the history of the stolen artifacts has a striking layout zig-zagging across the page, bringing the reader along for the ride. The artwork in the action sequences takes an interesting approach, showing both characters seemingly using one another’s momentum against each other, rather than engaging in a full-on fistfight. The posing from Alithia Martinez makes this fight feel different from a regular beat-em-up sequence.
Nubia herself is an interesting and underutilized character, so it’s great to see this take on her. Right from the get-go, it’s clear that she travels in different circles and handles things very differently from Diana. The sequence in which she makes her way through the club full of mythical bystanders is a highlight, and one would hope that future Nubia stories will embrace this aspect of the character’s world. As it stands, this issue features just enough of those elements to make sure the reader will want to know more.
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