Fans of Steven Universe were no doubt delighted by the news at this year's Comic Con that Rebecca Sugar's iconic world would be continuing with an epilogue called Steven Universe: Future.
But until now, that title and a little bit of teasing artwork was all the news we'd received about the upcoming limited series. Today, finally, we got our first sneak peak at Future, and it really is looking bright.
It's been nearly a year now since the fifth and final standard season of Steven Universe concluded with the apparent achievement of universal everlasting peace. Having recovered their lost, beloved Pink Diamond in the form of a small, half-human boy, the Diamonds' whole worldview was shaken. The framework of unquestioned superiority that had guided their rule was suddenly invalidated. They dissolved their society's rigid hierarchy and acknowledged the value of organic life. War and conquest are off the table, and gem technology will bring a new Utopian era to earth. Huzzah! Every problem is fixed and all the characters can now live in peace and love and freedom into eternity.
For a show with a well-earned reputation for tackling the complexity and nuance of interpersonal drama, it seemed a bit strange for events to be wrapped up so tidily. It's a sentiment that was perfectly captured in September by the song "Happily Ever After," that played in the first moments of Steven Universe: The Movie. "Here we are in the future, and it's bright. Nothing to fear, no one to fight." But no sooner was this sense of a happy ending established than Spinel was introduced and new drama ensued, showing the way for the franchise to grow moving forward. There are loose ends galore, and in the upcoming limited series Steven Universe: Future Steven will have the work of handling those, but also, "as he runs out of other people's problems to solve, he'll finally have to face his own."
That leaves a lot of room for Steven's romantic life, his questions of identity, and his private ambitions to be explored—not to mention his own messy history with the tribe of Watermelon Stevens, etc. It's not yet clear which of his personal problems will come into focus in Future, but we do have clues about some of the other problems he'll be facing.
Let's start with the frame of a generally better life in Beach City and the rest of the universe, with gems finding new ways to live, be free, and have fun on earth—yoga and art and new fusions galore. "Happily Ever After" echoes throughout the snippets of Future we've received so far, but the new sneak peak emphasizes Steven's misplaced optimism in believing that "soon, we'll all be able to put the past behind us." Dissolving the old hierarchy does not erase history. There are ancient grievances that we've never even heard of—as with Spinel, abandoned in Pink's garden—and there are grievances from within the show's established canon that may not be so easily forgotten. Enter Jasper.
Jasper is a toxic gem. Abusive and domineering, she has internalized the hierarchy of gem society to such a degree that she can't conceive of personal value or identity in any other terms. Fusions are beneath her, imperfect gems are beneath her, biological creatures are far beneath her, and Rose Quartz—who upset the natural order and remade herself into a half-biological creature—is absolute scum. For Jasper, it's not such an easy thing to let go of those ideas on the basis that this scum, this fundamental enemy of her values, is now being held up as Pink Diamond—Jasper's lost matriarch. And now the fact that her gem is corrupted is likely to only exacerbate her resentment. Her manic laughter rings out in the new video, along with the defiant declaration "You are not my diamond!"
Jasper will clearly represent a significant threat in Future, but she's not the only character fans are buzzing about. Perhaps even more interesting is the mystery of the damaged Pink Pearl. She was previously taken from Pink Diamond—before our familiar Pearl replaced her—and has since served under White Diamond. She has large fractures of unknown origin covering half her face, and in the sneak peak, we catch a glimpse of those fractures spreading across her face. No doubt the drama of her past and the question of how she will be incorporated into the new world will be another focus of Future.
Beyond that, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, but it's exciting to see so many new and wild fusions, and gem technology transforming life on earth—for the better this time. The release date hasn't been specified beyond the vague promise that it's "coming soon." Hopefully a date will be forthcoming, because "soon" can't come soon enough!