It's 2019 and Clark Kent is living in Ethiopia, trying to bring new life to dead ground. He's retired from being Superman and is relying on the skills he learned on his parents' Smallville farm.
Thousands of miles away in Metropolis, people are getting super powers. A would-be suicide can suddenly fly. A petty crook gains super-strength. A young boy uses invulnerability to defend his abused mother.
Suddenly, their futures seem brighter. Soon, though, they learn that the abilities are but a temporary gift from a mysterious stranger.
The powers are gone as quickly as they came. but the beneficiaries have been given a glimpse of something brighter; there may be a better future out there if they just try for it.
The glowing Superman figure appears before Clark, and he too is left with food for thought.
I wasn't looking forward to the Futures End event, but my cats love the lenticular covers - so scratchy. And as it happens, I love this issue. Turns out it's written by Sholly Fisch, Johnny DC genius and occasional Action Comics pinch-hitter. So it is that while Superman barely appears, his spirit is all through the book, literally and metaphorically. Older fans will find it interesting that the figure loaning out super-powers and words to live by is a dead ringer for the Sand Superman. This seems to be a wink more than anything, because the Seventies version was an adversarial figure, whereas the new guy is all heavenly helpmate.
Fisch really gets what Clark is about - a man more powerful than those around him, but never one to feel above them. Here he is getting his hands dirty, while his legacy inspires people around the world. It's about hope, it's about potential - it's about Superman.
Fisch thinks through the power set - how does invulnerability work apart from super-senses? Is super-strength so great without invulnerability? Questions such as this make for a fresh look at the Man of Steel.
As for how this fits in with the Futures End weekly, Clark has only just shown up there in a scene that looks to fit after this issue. To be honest, I don't much care, I'm just happy to have a done-in-one that captures the wonder of Superman.
Pascal Alixe and Vicente Cifuentes do a commendable job on the art, bringing a soft-yet-scratchy quality to the pages that complements Lee Weeks and Dave McCaig's spiffy lenticular cover. The interior Clark looks a little off the New 52 model, but it has been five years and he's grown a beard, so let it pass. The Sand Superman looks superb, eerie as heck, and I hope we see him again. Colourist Pete Pantazis and letterer Carlos M Mangual also deserve praise for helping pull the story together visually.
All in all, this is an entertainingly effective issue that demonstrates once again that DC and its readers are losing out by not having Fisch on a regular title. I can only assume he's busy with the day job, so I'll simply look forward to his next guest appearance. I just hope we don't have to wait until 2019 ...