DC’s Future State Sacrificed Story For Characters: Did It Succeed?

Warning: contains spoilers for DC: Future State

The primary purpose of DC’s Future State was to introduce a diverse new cast of heroes for classic characters. Though many of these characters such as Yara Flor, Jace Fox, and Jesse Chambers have been well received by fans, many felt that the stories these characters appeared in weren’t among DC’s strongest. With this conflict, it has left many wondering; were the new characters worth the subpar stories they were often featured in?

While it’s tempting to look at the new characters and the problems of Future State as separate, the two are difficult to disentangle. One of the event’s biggest problems is that it rarely uses its future setting in interesting ways. Many of Future State’s stories could be told in the main DC continuity with few changes. Future State’s Superman, Jon Kent, is far from a new character, but he exemplifies this problem. Too often, Jon behaves like a carbon copy of his father. At the end of Superman of Metropolis Jon tells Metropolis that his father protected the world, but that he would protect Metropolis. This could be an interesting difference, but he saves the world multiple times throughout Future State’s other books, so it’s not borne out by the event as a whole.

Future State is at its best as an event when it does tell stories about characters who are sufficiently different from their mainline counterparts. Future Wonder Woman Yara Flor and future Flash Jesse Chambers both manage to step out of the shadow of their heroic legacy. These characters are fresh, and it’s positive that DC is folding them into the central DC Universe. They might not have the same exact problem that a character like Jonathan does,  but they do have a related one.

Neither character interacts with their greater legacy. Readers never see these new characters meet their predecessor, there’s never any sort of passing of the torch or other interaction. Future Batman Jace does meet Bruce Wayne, but it’s a brief encounter that doesn’t reveal much about either character. Beyond that and a few references though, the new heroes feel divorced from the previous generation. Of course, this is almost certainly because DC wants to give these new characters time to breathe, and that’s admirable, but it robs these new heroes of a relationship that could help readers connect to them. It all leads to stories that feel like business as usual for DC.

One of the few characters whose introduction in Future State feels the most justified is Aquawoman Andy Curry. She is similar to her father in many ways, but different enough that she still comes across as distinct. Her father’s time as Aquaman also plays a key role in her character and readers have some understanding of what her relationship to him is like.

None of this is to suggest any of the characters mentioned above are bad, because none of them are. Additionally, the diversity they add to the DC universe is long overdue. It’s ridiculous that it took until 2021 for a nonbinary superhero to enter DC’s universe, and readers are lucky that Jesse Chambers is such a phenomenal character. Unfortunately, though, none of them justify Future State for the simple reason that none of them need the event to exist save for Andy. It’s telling that the most popular characters such as Yara Flor, Jace Fox, and Jesse are all being incorporated into the main DC Universe in one form or another. Future State isn’t a bad event, but it often too forgets that compelling characters need compelling stories.

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