DC as a publisher may like to keep their publishing plans close to the vest, but longtime readers and observers know they also love to foreshadow their plans in seemingly innocuous and often seemingly unrelated (but very deliberate) 'installments.'
In other words, DC likes to reveal what's coming up on layaway.
Publisher/chief creative officer Jim Lee recently made a news payment in his fan Q&As during part two of DC Fandome. Lee chose a question and answered it in a way to make it very clear the rumored and so-called '5G' reboot that was seemingly to be the culmination of the original incarnation of the 'Generations' event (a fixation of the industry rumor mill early this year) was "not going to happen."
Whether '5G' was ever a fully-greenlighted publishing plan we may never know. And exactly the reasons why and sequence of events surrounding the exit of co-publisher Dan DiDio and the subsequent shelving of the 'Generations' project in its original form we may also never know. But for whatever their reasons, DC wants its readers to know this:
THERE. WILL. NOT. BE. A. REBOOT.
Perhaps the notion of readers drawing an association with the seemingly more-maligned-as-the-years-pass full reboot 'The New 52' put the fear of Darkseid into DC brass, but that's neither here nor there. Because Lee's delivered-on-the-sly 'Future State' preamble makes figuring out what the January and February 2021 event is a little easier.
Let's put it all together, shall we?
What we already know
As clearly stated in the teaser, 'Future State' takes place in January and February. In other words, it only takes place in January and February. Not beginning in January. Not extending past February.
In DC terms, that means it is finite.
- January 5's Dark Nights: Death Metal finale leads directly into the 80-page Generations: Shattered #1 (which looks very much like it'll be the first of bookend chapters), that same week, which in turn leads directly into 'Future State.'
Now let's do some house cleaning. A lead-in story by Dan Jurgens in Detective Comics #1027 features Kamandi appearing in the 'original' 1939 Batman's past to recruit him into an Avengers Forever-like team of time-plucked heroes at the behest of Booster Gold (who Kamandi refers to as an "old man"). The story concludes noting it will be continued in Generations: Future State #1.
Newsarama is willing to bet DC changed branding plans after that went to the printer and that there will not be a Generations: Shattered #1 and a Generations: Future State #1, but that they're one and the same and will be published as the solicited Generations: Shattered #1.
- Shattered #1 is written by Jurgens, Andy Schmidt, and Robert Venditti, 60% of the writing team of the original incarnation of the Generations event, with the other two absent writers being Brian Michael Bendis and Joshua Williamson.
In other words, to whatever degree that previous 'Generations' event has been reimagined or reinvented after DiDio's exit, the coronavirus industry shutdown, and mass personal changes that are still occurring at DC, the two incarnations share DNA and are related to 'Future State.'
What nobody noticed about the December 2020 DC solicitations
Perhaps the key to understanding the likely nature of 'Future State' is to again consider the things DC is already trying to tell us all on the down-low.
Recalling that DC has in recent months canceled a large handful of ongoing series like Batgirl, Teen Titans, Suicide Squad (a condition that won't last with a film coming up), and Hawkman, according to DC's December 2020 solicitations every single remaining core DC Universe series either concludes a story arc in December or isn't in a multi-month arc.
- Batman #105: "… the no-holds-barred conclusion of this epic tale."
- Wonder Woman #769: "It's the final chapter of the 'Sage of Lords.'"
- Superman #28 and Action Comics #1028: End of the Brian Bendis era.
- Justice League, Justice League Dark, Aquaman, and The Flash: All involved in the finite, December-only 'Endless Winter' crossover story arc sans their current creative teams.
And recall Aquaman was already without a regular creative team before the December Justice League crossover.
Add to that the surprisingly now small number of other ongoing core DCU series like Detective Comics, Nightwing, Red Hood, Superman/Batman, etc, are all in seemingly one-off stories in December.
So every mainstream DCU title has no story baggage in January or February. A clean slate.
Again, if you know DC's M.O., you know that is no coincidence.
So what does it mean?
What it means is observing Lee's promise not to reboot, all core DC titles will be suspended (temporarily, mind you) in January and February for two months of 'Future State' limited series and specials, ala the conceit of Marvel's Age of Apocalypse or DC's own DC One Million event.
Meaning the ongoing series and their numbering will be paused (not abandoned) for the two months, likely to be replaced by a repurposed version of the rumored '5G' concept to some degree - 'future' versions of DC's core characters and teams, maybe set in the 'old man' Booster Gold's timeline of a not-too-distant future, or the next 'generation,' not unlike its previous 2014 event 'Future's End.'
Consider John Ridley and Nick Derington's Batman four-issue limited series debuting in January. The project features the family of Lucius Fox and stars a Batman who is very likely a person of color, and artist Ladrönn's cover art seems to suggest a slightly more futuristic Gotham City.
This seemingly ties into the previous rumors that the 5G Batman would be Luke Fox, the former Batwing.
And not for nothing, but Batman Beyond was canceled in December. Perhaps DC has second thoughts about the idea of two future Batmans in different but similar timelines co-existing.
With such stars aligning it begs the question of whether Ridley's project is in fact Future State: Batman?
And we wouldn't put exploring past timelines during this event past DC either. The inclusion of the 'original' 1939 Batman will almost certainly have a longer tail than just the Shattered title or titles.
Then the core titles in the core timeline will resume in March with their original numbering intact with several high-profile series like Superman, Action Comics, Aquaman, and probably more (if not all) sporting new creative teams along with a likely bevy of new and/or returning ongoing titles.
Remember what we said about how DC makes news in installments and everything they say publicly is deliberate. Check out this response by Batman group editor Ben Abernathy in a recent IGN interview about Batman post-'The Joker War' when asked when DC might reunite Batman and Robin...
"A return of Batman and Robin as a duo? Hmm…let me think on that… " he replied.
That's DC language for "expect it soon." If you know a bookmaker that will take some action on a Batman and Robin series launching in 2021, probably as early as March, consider investing heavily.
Jim Lee's specific callout of Cassandra Cain/Orphan during another Fandome fan Q&A and her and Spoiler's story in the recent Batman: The Joker War Zone special make them characters to look out for as well.
In summary, 'Future State' won't be a precursor to a reboot (which DC really wants you to know isn't happening), but a lead-in to coordinated refresh/line-wide jumping on point the publisher can market heavily without alienating existing readers and throwing the continuity baby out with the bathwater as it did with 'The New 52.'
We should also note here, DC continuity - which during its history has been its Achilles heel and at the same time perhaps its most distinguishing feature - looks poised to be rethought of as 'timelines.'
DC's latest narrative meta-fix seems to abandon trying to conjoin its 80-year-old history into one constantly rewritten timeline that makes 'sense,' (air quotes implied), but to embrace 'generational' 'timelines' that fully recognize their rich history as it occurred. Meaning Earth-Prime, Earth-Two, etc. will be rethought as by generational dividing points in which multiple versions of their core characters and concepts co-exist.
So is that all?
So does that mean 'Future State' will just be a repurposed 5G-ish premise shrunk down into a two-month 'illusion of change'-style event without a long tail?
Probably not. Because there is a key aspect to DC's long-term plans we haven't mentioned yet - its digital publishing strategy, now even more important with the relaunch of the repurposed DC Universe Infinite digital subscription service.
We've heard chatter, though unconfirmed, that the original designation of '5G' was something of an ironic linguistic nod to the importance of digital to DC's future.
With the meta-machinations of Death Metal firmly establishing multiple generational timelines can co-exist, it would make a lot of sense for the 'Future State' versions of characters to live on in a shared-continuity universe, ala Marvel's former Ultimate line, but as a digital-first/exclusive entity and compliment to the core timeline, rather than a replacement of it.
But hey, time will tell.
(see what we did there?)