Hey, Joker War? How’s that crossover event going?

…It’s over? Cool, cool. How’s Death Metal chugging along?

…Still going? Well, okay. When’s Future State?

Next month?! Alright, screw it. We can probably squeeze in a Christmas event, right? No one’s gonna mind. 

Justice League: Endless Winter is the literary embodiment of a stocking stuffer, and it’s stuffed up my schedule so much that I’ve recruited Matina to collaborate on this event! (Since Future State cancelled all of my books… -Matina) Getting into a call, the two of us spoke about a lot of things: the state of DC, the coherency of continuity, where Teen Titans lost its way and what we’d like to see from Batman books going forward. We spoke about Endless Winter for about two minutes, and that’s really all you need to know about what we thought of it.

(I didn’t hate it!)

Okay, no, it’s not bad – though I’d definitely say for a big monthly event, it’s not particularly eventful. Written by Andy Lanning and Ron Marz, and pencilled by Howard Porter and Marco Santucci, Endless Winter focuses primarily on the Flash, considering his work-life balance as he goes around doing missions with the rest of the Justice League. In that regard, there’s something to enjoy here – work-life balance is something we could all learn a thing or two about, considering both reviewers here have a history of staying up at ungodly hours to publish their work. It does a good job of grounding each hero that Flash encounters, from Superman’s empathetic commentary on how he handles his life, to a surprising appearance from an emotionally stable Black Lightning and his family at Christmastime. This is probably the best part of the opening issue, even if it does give off the vibe of a “holiday episode” from CW’s The Flash.

There are some other elements that we liked – characterization seems pretty solid all around, and while I’m a little sick of dealing with the same roster on the Justice League, I’m enjoying how each of them presented themselves. Some of my favourite parts of the story included their introductions, from Aquaman’s somewhat surprising appearance to how Batman cornered Catman as the D-lister made his escape. In that respect, Endless Winter #1 is a fun read: there’s a coherency and simplicity to the story that makes it pretty easy to pick up without having read much else. 

But.

I’m sure those of you who have read my previous reviews on the Justice League line know I’ve had some issues with the stagnation of the comic, and those issues are just as prevalent here. This isn’t really the fault of the creators behind Endless Winter, but it’s definitely a downside; the knowledge that most of this Justice League content takes place before Doom War (because how could it not, when no one knows what the DCU looks like after Death Metal?) gives this book the sense that it’s treading water, with little to no real stakes or development that can be had. We know the roster won’t change at the end of this, and we know this book won’t progress anything in regards to the larger plot in this continuity – so it needs to work extra hard to keep us invested in the characters and what they learn in this story. To that end, nothing stands out to me as very impressive, or impactful – but the ending does present some interesting story potential.

(Matina jumping in here – Stagnation and this question of stakes is my biggest problem with this issue and event right now. DC is doing a lot, but it also feels like so much of that is just them playing the waiting game with us. And that’s almost what this whole event feels like, a chance for them to bide their time with a low stakes ‘event’ that’s masquerading as something we should be excited about. But nothing’s happening, and whatever will happen, is already overshadowed by the fact that they have so many other events in the mix. From the end of Death Metal to the upcoming Future State, I’m not sure what to care about or why I should care about this particular book. It’s going to take a lot to get me to buy into this event, and so far this first issue isn’t doing it.)

On the bright side, the ending and the introduction of a “Viking Justice League” immediately has my attention! When you can’t move forward with a story, digging into your past is a great angle, and I love hearing about the secret history of DC’s world. Black Adam is a fantastic character, and one I’m rather excited to review again – and while I never thought I’d see a world where he teams up with the likes of Swamp Thing, I’m all for it! Character mashups that you wouldn’t expect are always a blast, and I hope they lean into it more as the story deepens. (Heck yeah! Equally excited to see some fun crossovers.) 

The pacing of the reveal is handled well too, with artist Marco Santucci giving these old characters an impressive aura of ancient power, despite only having two pages to visualise their gravitas. Sadly, I’m not sure I feel as positive towards Howard Porter’s art on the rest of the issue. Porter is a prolific artist, and I’m not going to pretend he hasn’t done some work I really like – in particular, I was a big fan of what I saw from him during Snyder’s Drowned Earth arc on this very same comic. To me, my issue with the art comes from a similar place to my problems with Aaron Lopresti’s work in the previous Justice League arc: which comes down to a matter of time. 

(Is this how ice works?)

A lack of time is unsurprising in the comics industry – and I know it feels like I’m beating a dead horse when I talk about this subject matter yet again – but it really does seem to be a huge curse for the comic book industry, with the rush to meet a deadline stifling creative ability. In this issue, I mainly have a problem with the faces: characters who are trying to relay to us empathetic and relatable dialogue are relegated to strange expressions and proportions, and it takes me out of the story. Take, for example, the introduction of Wonder Woman and Superman. The poses themselves work fine, and I love Hi-Fi’s rendition of sun rays shining from behind them… but then you get to the faces involved, and I’m left with the sense that the eyes aren’t quite equidistant from their noses, or that Flash’s earpieces are half the size of his head. 

You can see similar problems in other panels we’ve shared across this review – and the part that bothers me most about it is that it really didn’t have to be this way. Endless Winter #1 clocks in at 32 pages (30 of them Porter’s), and I do not think it needs to be that long. There are a lot of scenes you could have cut that would still have made the story coherent, and I doubt any fans would mind the price drop to boot. Giving this issue fewer pages could have given Porter time to refine his work on a regular-sized comic, instead of pushing him to pump out an entire thirty-page special. It’s a difficult balance – especially since other reviewers take issue with multiple artists in one comic – but it’s a balance DC needs to continue being mindful of, especially with all the editorial changes going on behind the scenes. There’s good creative talent going into DC, but respecting artists and treating them right is a vital part of the production process. Hopefully, Endless Winter improves in that respect going forward.

Recommended If:

  • You’re looking for an educational comic on the importance of good work-life management.
  • Good characterization and team dynamics are important to you – the League is represented well and have some fun moments!
  • You’re feeling particularly chill* about all of DC’s events, and are capable of seeing potential quality underneath it.

*(Matina forced me at gunpoint to make this pun.) (Me? Never.)  

Overall

(One final jump in from me here just to add that while I’m reserved about this and not totally sold yet, I think it’s got some great potential. When I look at this story itself I do see something that could be fun. I’m interested to see where Endless Winter goes next and even how this will expand outwards to the other books it’ll cover in December.)

Obviously we aren’t above a few zingers in this review, but there’s definitely some potential in this comic (I certainly see some). I don’t particularly expect anything special from it, but when you separate your feelings on a good story from your fatigue with crossovers, then we could hopefully have a solid comic to last us through the winter season. Or Summer, if you live in upside-down land like me.

Score: 6.5/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch