Infinite Frontier #0, in the same vein as books such as DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and the recently released Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0, is a collection of stories meant to preview the direction of the DC comics universe going forward. It’s a simple formula that when done correctly can be the exact burst of energy a publishing line needs. But falter too much — accidentally kill off Batman, or take away Superman’s powers — and a publisher could find themselves bleeding readership. So, I guess that’s the question: how does this one go?
This issue makes a few things indisputably clear: Future State did matter, DC is committed to a path of growth and change in their line, and that growth won’t come out of nowhere, but will be built from the characters and stories readers love. It’s a striking commitment to long-term growth from a company which has repeatedly torn down and reverted vast swaths of character progression. What’s left to be seen is if readers will be happy with these new directions, and if DC actually has the follow through to make them a reality.
The story is framed as The Spectre’s appeal to Wonder Woman to have her join the Quintessence, and he does this by taking her through the lives of her old friends and convincing them they’ll be OK without her. From the jump, it should be noted that Joshua Williams has a surprisingly deft hand at writing Wonder Woman, and immediately sets this issue out on the right foot. Her narration of the DC Universe throughout gives it a sense of cohesiveness that it hasn’t had in years. With no ominous new threat to deal with, our heroes begin returning to what they do best, whether that’s Batman taking on classic villains, Superman parenting, Black Canary and Green Arrow hooking up or the Justice Society of America just existing.
It’s in the compromise of these two ideas, a new future and a familiar present, where this book finds its success. Readers are effectively teased and hooked with new narratives that start in comfortable places.
DC Comics’ Infinite New Stories
Justice League: Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez’s Justice League teaser is simple and light. It mostly focuses on the discovery that Black Adam has been serving as protector of this community in Egypt. Bendis pulls off fun banter between Superman and The Flash, and gives readers a little cameo from a New Age of DC Heroes’ Favorite! Marquez’s art is beautiful throughout, which gives the feeling of a true marquee book.
Bendis also makes the weird decision to rename Black Adam “Shazadam”, which is a terrible idea. It’s a laughable line when first read.
Batman: Readers get a lot of Batman in this issue, and it’s setting up a lot. Readers will run into every Batman character imaginable, and it can at times feel a little overstuffed. There are also some teases where readers might wonder if it’s too soon for us to do “that” again.
Other than that, James Tynion IV continues to flesh out the most expansive Batman story in a decade. Readers will continue to be excited about the inclusion of old, favorite characters, but will also be promised committed development with new ones, such as Timothy “Jace” Fox, who isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. It might be the newest elements that are the most exciting though as Mayor Nakano and the promise of the coming Magistrate are the most enticing elements of the story.
Jorge Jimenez is of course a known quantity at this point. He executes each page with the skill of a standard-bearer in the industry, whether it’s a simple conversation or Batman jumping between buildings. His action is energetic and fun, and his designs are top notch, especially new one for Scarecrow.
Wonder Woman/Wonder Girl: This pair of stories is largely uninterested in fleshing out Diana herself, or even Hippolyta, who will be stepping into Diana’s role on the Justice League in the coming weeks. Instead, Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad cut their teeth on Wonder Woman focusing on Nubia.
It’s an exciting and endearing introduction to a modern interpretation of the character which will obviously play an important role in future stories. The status quo shift also works incredibly effectively, as life on Themyscira has been rather stagnant since before the New 52. One might wonder if the two lean too hard on the warrior aspect of Themyscira’s interpretation, though.
Next Joëlle Jones gives readers a sweet, three-page update on Yara Flor. It isn’t much, but it’ll scratch the itch for readers who fell in love with Flor during Future State. It also doesn’t hurt that Jones is typically in top shape artistically here.
Alan Scott: In what might be the most heartfelt, quiet moment in the whole book, Tynion IV and Stephen Byrne tell the story of a man in the twilight of his life finally coming into his identity. It’s framed as a sweet moment he shares with his kids, especially his son.
This story doesn’t seem to be setting anything up, but it’s an effective use of the Justice Society of America, and the realization of a moment that’s been a long time coming.
Byrne does some of his best work here, as his typically cartoonish style lends itself towards emotive expression. He emphasizes and embiggens a quiet moment so that it speaks at the volume it should be heard.
Teen Titans: This isn’t really anything. It’s just two pages to remind readers Teen Titans Academy is coming, and Red X is going to be in it.
Superman: Following Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s breakout work on Future State: Superman: Worlds of War and Future State: Superman: House of El, it was abundantly clear he had a scholar’s grasp of Superman’s meaning and what makes Clark Kent special. The million-dollar question was whether he’d be able to effectively utilize the aged-up Jon Kent, which readers struggle to connect with.
Here, in this short story, he succeeds. Johnson is able to effectively frame Jon in a new light, highlighting the elements of his story that are unique and interesting while also maintaining the heart and kindness that makes readers love Superman. It’s an exciting first step that will hopefully re-establish Jon as a fan-favorite character.
Green Arrow & Black Canary: It’s a short story that re-establishes Ollie and Dinah’s relationship, while effectively teasing a much bigger development to come. There really isn’t much else to say without huge spoilers.
Alex Maleev is great here as usual. Funnily enough, though, the character he seems most at home depicting is The Spectre.
Stargirl: Geoff Johns returns to Stargirl with the same levity, gift for pacing and love for classic DC that he’s approached all his works with. It’s a familiar formula that works great for introducing and endearing readers to characters, and this story is no different.
It’s an interesting twist on the Stargirl formula to play on her legacy with the Seven Soldiers of Victory, as opposed to the Justice Society of America, and infuses this story with the right amount of intrigue.
While Todd Nauck’s work is somewhat reminiscent of Lee Moder’s work on Johns’ origins Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., it’s a style that’s dated and makes the story a slog to get through.
Green Lanterns: One day, DC should let readers know what Magic 8-Ball they use to decide when to focus on which Green Lantern. Here, the focus is shifted to John Stewart, Simon Baz and Teen Lantern Keli Quintela, and the new pairings are used well. Geoffery Thorne’s choice to leverage Quintela’s first time at Oa for a big grand-opening shot is smart, and gives the story an exciting sense of scope.
Dexter Soy is a Grade-A choice to depict all of this too, as his sense for action, scale and drama is often spot on. Mostly though, his work here is exciting for the promise of epic stories to come more than the actual work.
The Flash: Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter close the short story section of the book with an answer to the Barry/Wally problem that’s plagued DC since Barry’s return in 2008. It’s a smart idea that expands the scope of the Flash universe, while truly letting the characters claim dominance over the element of comics they’ve helped define the most: the multiverse.
Wonder Woman’s New Frontier
The rest of the issue finds Diana back at the Quintessence giving her answer to their question, and truly kicking off the Infinite Frontier. Then the issue ends on one of DC’s best cliffhangers in years. It’s a simple one, but one that follows the commitment DC has made through the whole book of building to the future from the past.
DC Comics truly seems to be drawing their line in the sand here, and have outlined a new direction fans haven’t seen from the company in quite some time. It’s fresh and exciting — two things DC desperately need to be, but now they have to follow through. Pop culture fans have been burned many times before by those that have waved the flags of change and never followed through. It’s now on DC and their new creative teams to prove why these are the best directions for these characters and that fans should be willing to commit to this new story.
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