Two Great Team Books In One: ‘Future State: Justice League’ #1 Reviewed
by Olly MacNamee
Future State: Justice League #1 has some great fun with the readers with its turn-paging revelations that make this new title such a riveting read. If the story doesn’t grip you, the art most definitely will. Add to that a contrastingly dark story involving the Justice League Dark and you have another amazing new edition to the DCU.
(+++ WARNING: Contains some spoilers for Future State: Justice League #1 +++)
Given The Flash is supposed to be a solo book, under writer Joshua Williamson’s tenure it certainly felt like a team book a lot of the time. And a great team book at that. So I was keen to see his take on the new Justice League of the near future, having become something of a fan of his writing in recent years. And, I was not disappointed.
Of course, Williamson – and stand-out artist Robson Rocha and Daniel Henrique’s (on inks) – have the luxury of building a team from the floor up. Yes, they are familiar names, but mostly new names underneath the masks. Names we are, however, already becoming familiar with thanks to the titles published last week that kickstarted the DC Future State initiative. As well as a highly promoted set of characters too. And with so much Justice League history to dip into and remix, it certainly kept this reader guessing as to the identity of the criminal masterminds behind the sudden murders of the Legion of Doom. A death that comes as a shock to readers after a proclamation by the members of this supervillain team and a great bit of bait-and-switch so early on in the comic. They may only appear for the briefest of moments, but the likes of Despera, Amaz-X and The Screech Owl are intriguing enough that I do hope they don’t stay dead. After all, the is comics.
This new League claims to have learnt from the mistakes of the past, choosing not to divulge their secret identities to one another. That, and keeping the team tight in terms of membership numbers. Although, Williamson certainly gives us a very different take on the Justice League trope of partnering up and peeling off into dynamic duos to go do battle. Superman and Wonder Woman, Aquawoman and the Flash. I enjoyed these moments in which we got to know each member little bit better.
Arguably, we aren’t given enough clues – or enough time in this fast-paced book – to guess the identity of the murders, so the final page reveal should come as a shock to most.
Williamson delivers a script that effectively introduces readers to this new League and its members, while also including a some shocking stand-out moments. Moments such as as the aforementioned sudden murder of the Legion of Doom. One minute their leader is announcing that “The Justice League must die!” and on the very next page they’re dead, in a shocking murder mystery. Something lost on anyone reading this digitally. Some things only work in a floppy copy, I’m afraid.
I was not at all familiar with Rocha artwork before, and Henrique’s inking, before I picked up Future State: Justice League #1. But on the strength of this, I’ll certainly be looking out for further work by them. Great attention to detail, awesomely posed and presented characters and dynamic page layouts all contribute to a comic book that you will find yourself pouring over again and again. There are hints of Ed Benes, and flashes of Ivan Reis in Rocha’s artwork which delighted this fanboy immensely. It’s a familiar art style that South American artists seem to specialise in and a style favoured at DC Comics. You won’t hear any complains from me, that’s for sure.
If one of DC Future State’s remits was to introduce new talents and new voices to us, then Future State: Justice League #1 succeeds on that front in spades. One issue in and I’m already a fan. A fan of this new Justice League of the future as well as fan of Rocha’s artwork. I’m sold!
And that’s before I’d even delved into Ram V and Marcio Takara’s take on a new-future Justice League Dark, also included in this bumper-sized issue.
The Arthurian legend has taken something of a bashing in comics of late, thanks to Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s great rethinking of this legendary king in Once and Future, and here too it gets cast in the role of villain. Although, to be fair, Merlin is half demon, So there is that.
And while we don’t get to see Merlin (expect briefly from the back) – which only adds to the tensions building throughout this story – we certainly feel his presence.
Interestingly, unlike the futuristic Justice League, this story had a more familiar ring to it. The team comprises of members from their now-cancelled series, but with the odd new edition. And I mean ‘odd’ in both sense of the word as Ram V delves into the DC Comics’ vaults to bring us an all-new Ragman and the return of a particular Lord of Order. It’s very much the story of getting the band back together, but in the dark fashion Justice League Dark readers will be accustomed to.
There is the requisite rain and the application of a great deal of shadow by artist Takara to highlight this title’s more gothic tendencies. Add to this a darker colour palette applied by colour artist Marcelo Maiolo and this tale sharply contrasts this story with that of the Justice Leagues in the first half of this issue. As it should. The Justice League Dark was always the darker take on the JL, and Ram V has shown on more than one occasion he can conjure up a diabolical tale of magic and the supernatural.
Another great issue in a batch of great new titles. Which got me wondering…
With DC Comics having shaved down its output in March 2021, I wonder if they’ve simply made room for any DC Future State announcements based on sales? Cut back on less popular titles in the hope that they can only strengthen their sales numbers with “hot” titles coming out of this publishing programme. Could that be the plan moving forward? It makes business sense to me.
I think Dan DiDio may have been onto something with his 5G reboot idea after all. Sadly, I doubt he’ll get the recognition he may deserve for this publishing initiative that has caught the interest of the whole comic book community long after he’s left DC Comics. Especially as much of the talent on these books would have been ushered in at DC Comics by Dan himself. Maybe one day, he’ll let it be known how much was kept and how much was jettisoned by AT&T’s overlords. And, I personally hope Didio can get some satisfaction knowing his legacy lives on. Not too many of us can say that after leaving a job, that’ll for sure.
Future State: Justice League #1 is out now from DC Comics