Yes, I know this is an old issue. I don’t care, this is my first official content post and I wanted it to be about something I truly admired in comics. Tom King has quickly become one of my favorite writers in all of Comics. His writing clicks for me on many levels in ways other authors haven’t touched and with this issue I realized I was reading something special by someone who truly respects comics as a medium.
Tom King broke onto the comic scene along side Tim Seeley, Co-writer of Grayson. The “Futures End” issue was one of King’s first go rounds on a solo written issue, and it does not disappoint! This issue for many, is when King started to gain traction in the comic landscape an it tells an amazing story in it’s 22-page, one-shot format. King grabs the attention of the reader right off the bat with a unique story telling structure by writing each page in backwards chronology, however what left the lasting impression for me while reading it was the theme of responsibility used.
The story opens with Helena Bertinelli (Confidant & Partner) telling Dick “This is the end” as she lets go of the rope that Dick hangs from, inching closer to death. As the story continues and takes the reader back in time, the reason becomes clear as to why Dick has met his fate. He has been charged for the murder of KGBeast (Leader of Russia), after learning of the civilian population taken out for opposing KGBeasts regime during the war with “Earth 2”. Dick is a character, similar to Bruce Wayne, that carries the weight of the world upon his shoulders, we see this as he explains to Helena, “I was responsible.” “My hands will not be clean!” As mentioned before, responsibility plays a major role throughout the entirety of this issue.
The story continues in backwards fashion, and the reader delves deeper into Helena and Dick’s relationship. We see why the impact of Dick’s betrayal is so meaningful as the quote “My hands will not be clean!” Is used once more. This time however, Helena utters this phrase in a solemn tone just after saving Dick’s life from an armed gunman.
King does a masterful job expressing emotion with these two characters, drawing the reader in to their relationship and making you truly feel the dread of that opening page cliff-hanger. Why would Helena follow the KGBeast’s rule after what her and Dick experienced? Something that lingers with the reader after every page of development.
With the story progressing, each page jumping to younger points of Dick’s life we are brought towards the end of the story in a symmetrical loop as the reader catches a glance at Dick’s beginning. After just being brought into Bruce Wayne’s world due to the untimely demise of his parents, Batman explains to Dick about the acidic compound that was used on the rope to murder his parents. Dick angrily asks if Batman will kill the man responsible (Tony Zucco) for their murder, Bruce then tells “No” and divulges to Dick his darkest secret, why he bears the burden of responsibility and dawns the cape and cowl. The reader learns just how much of Bruce is inside Dick as he responds to Bruce’s confidence with our reoccurring quote “His hands were never clean”, bringing everything that has happened previously in the story full circle.
Finally we reach the final page of the issue, providing closure to the cliff-hanger with which we began. Tony Zucco letting go of the rope that Dick’s parents were using to preform their circus act, similar in fashion to Helena on the opening page.
King crafts this issue together so that we see the result of choices made by Dick before they happen, it’s an incredible story telling device and one that works perfectly for comics. We feel the impact of betrayal, the lessons learned, and the relationships between Helena and Dick built by past experiences. Which is what makes “…This ain’t finished.” Such a strong closing panel. Spoken as the acidic compound burns away at the rope, perfectly tying together what seems to be Dick’s final moments with what would ultimately result in his rebirth.
It’s hard to have an emotional story in such a short length but a one issue, 22 page story is something Tom King excels at, which is why I’m giving this issue a 9 out of 10. Please do yourself a favor and pick up Tom King’s work including his current Mister Miracle story with artist, Mitch Gerads as issues #2 releases Wednesday, September 13th!