- March 24, 2021
DC’s Infinite Frontier So Far
So the Infinite Frontier has begun, and I’ve read a few of the first new issues this week. I’ve read Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Detective Comics, Justice League, Teen Titans Academy, and Batman: Urban Legends.
Eight titles in all. I think most get off to a relatively good start, here are some quick first impressions.
Batman, written by James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez
I’ll admit, it’s pretty gross how many Batman books there are, and I will also admit that I am a part of the problem. There’s a stupid amount of Batman books on my pull list, but its so easy to get me interested in a Batman book. Don’t judge me too harshly.
But come on, it’s not like they’re bad, especially not this one. Here, James Tynion continues from where he left off before Future State. Batman is no longer a billionaire, and he’s hanging out with old (new) his long lost buddy Ghost-maker.
While I appreciate this status quo, there is something strangely weird about Batman working out of an apartment rather than the manor. It’s technically something new, but it doesn’t feel all that different story wise. It just puts us into this unfamiliar setting that doesn’t ultimately mean much.
It all also feels a bit underhanded with how close Ghost-maker is there at all times. He’s supposed to be wealthy, so why is he not helping Batman out? It’s a little nitpicky but it’s a bit distracting from Tynion’s otherwise enjoyable take on Batman.
His Batman isn’t a loner here, and he believes in his crusade, but I will admit, the thing that’s most interesting is the new dynamic with Ghost-maker. Batman now has an equal among his family of characters. One whose equal in capabilities and authority. Not in that Ghost-maker can order the Bat-family around, or to say that Cassandra Cain couldn’t beat Batman any time she wanted, but nearly every big player in Gotham looks up to Batman as some kind of mentor. The only real and active exception to that rule is Oracle, whose not out in the field.
Ghost-maker gives Batman a real rival, someone who challenges and pushes him to improve. At the same time, there’s this very anime-esques levity to their friendship. Having the two of them be all serious one moment taking down clowns, to challenging each other to a race in the next, adds a kind of secret sauce that Batman hasn’t had in a long time. Gotham’s always felt hopeless, and Batman its hopeless firefighter. Batman’s still just putting out fires, but it seems almost as if he can enjoy being Batman again.
That’s what I look forward to in this run the most.
Superman, written by Sean Lewis & Phillip Kennedy Johnson, drawn by Phil Hester
Now, I’ll admit, I have never purchased a Superman comic before this one. Like, I’ve read some graphic novels and one-off stories in trade, but never before have I purchased a singular issue. For the longest time, Superman just hasn’t been my guy.
Now I feel like I could use more Superman in my life. Even more so, after Future State: House of El I had to pick this up to see how we get to that future. That issue had so many new characters rumored to appear in this series, so I felt compelled to complete a first this week.
I have not been disappointed.
This story opens with a sullen voice over about how children see their parents as invincible, until they’re not. It’s this slow burn of seeing Superman fighting side-by-side with his son as Jon out performs him. Maybe this just hits me hard as someone whose had to come to terms with my own father’s mortality. Seeing Jon slowly watch his father be hurt struck me.
I understand people’s complaints with Jon being aged up. It happened too soon, and it hasn’t been used to create any worthwhile stories, until maybe now. I really enjoyed Jon here, because for the first time, he’s getting a story that wouldn’t have been told the same if he were younger. When I was younger I didn’t understand my own parent’s mortality, and if you are young you shouldn’t. When you’re older, and start seeing your parents as people, having an emotional breakdown over a parent’s death has some more depth.
Jon’s old enough to understand what it means when a beam hurts his father and not him. The way he tries to avoid talking about it at first, is something I can’t imagine seeing a child do. Then to see him unknowingly blow off his dad who just wants to reconnect with him feels like something both relatable, and strictly for older Jon.
Then to have Jon tell Clark that he’s going to die soon, because he’s been to the future and knows what will happen, is possibly my favorite part of the book. He tells Clark not to go, to let his son do it himself, but he can’t do that because he’s Superman.
This story could lead to a Superman death that’s more meaningful than a crazy fight with a giant monster. I can’t wait to see if it pays off. God I really hope this pays off because I’m gonna look stupid for defending teenage Jon for the little that I have.
Wonder Woman, written by Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, and drawn by Travis Moore
Now, seeing Travis Moore draw Wonder Woman is worth the price of entry alone. Seeing him draw her new design makes it even better.
I’ve been an off and on Wonder Woman reader, so it feels good to jump back in with this new status quo. While I feel like Norse myth is slowing overcoming Greek myth as the most overexposed mythology… it works here. Most stories talk of the Aesir gods and Ragnorok, but this one takes a look at the mortals of Valhalla.
Ancient Nordic believers in Norse myth used to fight and die hoping to gain their way to Valhalla. Yet, few stories ever explore what they do there. Wonder Woman going through this very Edge of Tomorrow loop where she and the dead souls of Valhalla fight during the day before partying at night immediately captures me. I could have done without the generic “I don’t remember why I came here” trope, but Diana getting this moment of freedom and happiness is cathartic.
It also makes her feel far more human than rather than the monolithic figure of love and peace she usually is. It also lets her bring out her warrior side without making her too violent. It’s not like anyone really dies in this Valhalla, so no hardcore monster slaying here.
The hints towards the future overarching plot is a little barebones, but that’s not bad per say. There’s plenty of places for Cloonan and Conrad to take it so I’m still interested. I’ll admit, it would be nice to see Wonder Woman get a more interesting love interest, maybe a woman for once since she’s supposed to be bisexual. It could make for some real drama to have her date a Valkyrie or a shield-maiden, some kind of woman warrior from another mythology. I can only imagine what kind of drama that could create if Diana brought her home to the Amazons.
That or the story could just keep going on without a love interest at all. Maybe I’m misreading Sigurd’s place in the story, but he just seems like an another one-off pretty boy Diana dates for a story arc or two. If there’s something this Wonder Woman really needs to improve on is the supporting characters. I really want to see the Wonder-fam play a part in this book soon.
Harley Quinn, written by Stephanie Phillips with art by Riley Rossmo
I’ll admit, I picked this one up on a whim after a recommendation from a few people I follow on Twitter. I like Harley Quinn, but I don’t love her. I do like her relationship with Poison Ivy and her new friendship with Batman, but too often she feels like someone other people have to put together.
The idea of Harley actually getting down and dirty to redeem herself really appeals to me. She’s not having someone else set the path for her, she’s going out and doing it herself. If they just made Harley redeemed because Ivy or Batman set her up for it, it wouldn’t feel earned. Harley trying, failing, and trying again without prompt from anyone but herself is, in my opinion, the best way she can redeem herself.
Harley’s hurt a lot of people, straight up murdered, kidnapped, and tortured people. She’s not a hero, she has to earn that title, and Phillips is going to make sure she does it.
And its gonna be a fun ride too. The way the book opens with Harley trying and failing to make amends with Killer Croc, sets the tone for the book. This isn’t 4th wall breaking, she’s not DC’s Deadpool, and I’m glad. Her sense of zaniness is down to Earth, relatable even. She never takes me out of the book.
And Rossmo’s art style is even better suited for someone as bonkers as Harley, more than Moore is for Wonder Woman. It feels like the world is drawn as Harley sees it, off its rocker, tilted, and uneven, but full of color.
Harley Quinn is not the book I thought I would be recommending, but it might just be the best of Infinite Frontier, no lie.
Detective Comics, written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Dan Mora
I’m sure everyone will at least takes a cursory glance at this book for the art by Dan Mora. I know, I shouldn’t call him an up and comer, he’s been here for years, but this feels like his big outing. I mean, he’s drawing Batman, and he does so spectacularly.
This book seems almost anime-esque, but in all the right ways. Everyone is perfectly human, yet the art style is perfectly unrealistic. There is little that doesn’t leap off the page.
That makes it all the more ironic that he’s paired with Mariko Tamaki, whose writing a small and intimate Batman story. I alluded that with Tynion’s series, it felt like Batman no longer being a billionaire wasn’t too big a deal. Here, its less so, with Tamaki making a point to make Bruce Wayne become a part of his neighborhood. It’s strange to think about, but in Wayne Manor Batman never had neighbors. There were no characters right around the corner he had to hide from, or make sure not to disturb at night.
Tamaki skillfully introduces the setting and future tension in just a few pages by introducing Batman’s neighbors.
For the first time in a long time, Batman feels perfectly small, ironically during a relaunch called Infinite Frontier. He’s not this outside presence trying to control a monolithic city. He’s a man protecting his home, and I’m all for that.
Justice League, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by David Marquez
God, on one hand, Black Canary (happy nod), on the other hand, Brutus (head shake), but Black Canary (happy nod), but calling Wally Barry (angry head shake), but Black Canary (really happy nod), but Bendis’s writing (crying).
I’m really conflicted on this, because this roster immediately grabs my attention. A Justice League with a Superman with no secret identity, a Batman without his billions, paired with Wally West Flash, a supervillain in Black Adam, the new richest member Green Arrow, and Black freakin’ Canary.
Aquaman and Hawkgirl are welcome, they’re just the only ones whose status quos haven’t changed in the league. Hippolyta isn’t here yet despite being on the cover, so I can’t speak to her. Naomi didn’t appear until the end, but I’m excited to see what she does.
So suffice to say, this team has everything it needs to do something new and interesting. Then Bendis does what Bendis does best, and makes it clear he doesn’t care to do his research. I’m mean, the Flash in this book is clearly Wally West, so why is he being called Barry? I do blame the editors on this too, but still, this is just the worst manifestation of Bendis writing characters out of character.
It goes beyond just the Flash too. Black Adam just seems to lack character, Green Arrow has no charm, and Black Canary is quiet. Goddamn, give her actual lines, and you know, give us the tough boss who’d give Batman a stared own before taking control of the league.
Goddamn it, why isn’t Black Canary the leader of this team?!
I just don’t have anything nice to say about the writing. Even the villain, who has a pretty cool design, is rife with Bendis’s overly normal talky-talk. Brutus looks like an alien bull, why does he talk like a normal guy who just walked into an RPG mission too high for him to beat? A lot of the book tries to cram in a lot to establish and explain the new status quo, but this one is the worst offender. It doesn’t make it work, and makes a book that’s boring.
God… if only it weren’t so goddamn pretty, I’d have nothing nice to say about its content. At least, with nothing else, we have David Marquez. I’ve read and liked Bendis’s work before, but that’s always small, focused, ground level stuff. I never like it when he tells what should be a wide, spanning story about many different heroes.
DC, stop giving Bendis team books and have him write a Question series already!
Teen Titans Academy, written by Tim Sheridan and drawn by Rafa Sandoval.
First things first, is Nightwing dating Batgirl or Starfire in Infinite Frontier? He better not be a cheater, hmhmm, they deserve better.
All joking aside though, I thought this book isn’t as bad online reactions made it out to be. This book could be better, it commits the same cardinal sin as Justice League to a lesser extent. It tries to introduce and explain everything. At the same time, I think it works much better here. The concept itself, of the Titans opening a school for young heroes, is a good one, and self-explanatory.
The problem is that it spends so much time trying to introduce and characterize every character. We don’t need to know every new student right away. This book would be better if it had picked one or two new students to focus on for this issue. This lack of focus did disservice a lot of the newer characters. There’s no one character we get the chance to know or like. It feels like Sheridan was too busy trying to craft one-liners to explain each of the new characters.
Though, I should be honest, none of this is terrible, or even bad. It can get slow and limp around in a state of okayness at worst, but the concept is fun. Seeing Nightwing teaching kids how to be heroes is fun, seeing the Titans together is fun, and seeing how the school is run is fun.
It also helps that this book is beautiful. One thing, that no one should be saying about the Infinite Frontier books, is that they’re ugly. It’s insane how talented the artists on display are. Sandoval is no exception. He makes every costume distinguishable and eye-catching, among the Titans, new and old.
Except for Roundhouse. Not even Sandoval can make him look good.
This issue is pretty weak in a lot of areas, but it feels like it has the most potential to be something special. It’s already unlike every book DC has made in the last few years, and the Titans could use a win. I’m here to see it.
Batman: Urban Legends, written by many, and drawn by many
Okay, I’ll be honest, I did not realize that this is basically a compilation of all the books DC wants to publish, but can’t get people to buy. This is not a series where Batman teams up with a new hero every story arc. There are several stories, like a collection of backups in one.
I’m using the word ‘backups’ because I don’t have a better word for it, not to be insulting, because they’re good.
I wanted more Outsiders from Future State, and this is where to find them. I said the same for Red Hood and this is where to find him. There’s a Harley Quinn story that hints at Harley and Ivy getting back together in Harley’s solo, and there’s this… Grifter story…
Overall, its a good idea when one of Infinite Frontier’s biggest criticisms going in, is the lack of diverse characters with titles. DC here, uses Batman’s name and brand to get people who wouldn’t buy and read books about other characters, to do so now. There are going to be readers who never cared for Black Lightning who will read this. After this book is done, some will now care for Black Lightning. Same with the other characters.
Except Grifter. I skipped right over his story. Grifter isn’t cool, he’s never been cool, stop trying to make Grifter happen DC, there’s no good reason for him to be in Gotham!
There’s a lot of story in this book, more than in any of the others. If you think there are too many Batman books, I still suggest this one. This is barely a Batman book. Batman is nothing more than a marketing trick to get Batman fanatics like me to try something else.
I think it’s going to work.
Closing Infinite Frontier Thoughts
Am I still disappointed that DC isn’t continuing Future State? Massively.
Did that mean I don’t enjoy Infinite Frontier so far? No.
Infinite Frontier is really good so far, and worth the time and money I’ve spent. It’s done what previous events haven’t and got me reading several characters I never would have before. It has its flaws, and its not the best we could have, but I think its worth giving a chance. There’s good stuff coming out of DC, I just hope they know which titles are that good stuff.
DC has a habit of taking the wrong lesson from success.
Like seriously, stop putting Grifter in everything, he’s not going to happen.
What’s your favorite book from Infinite Frontier, and which character deserves their own title next?