Evening, Matina! How are things going for you this week?
(Afternoon, Nick. Things are good, how about you?)
Oh, just peachy, really. But, more importantly, how are you?
(Me? I’m good, had a nice week. How’s your week been?)
Great! Great. Good week. Great time. Thanks, yeah. Good stuff.
So– yeah. Hey, how long until we reach the 500 word minimum?
(Well, looks like we’ve got about 62 down, so quite a bit.)
Shit. Okay, how else can we stall for time?
(You know that “Poison for Kuzco” meme? Maybe we can get some mileage out of that.)
Yeah! Ooh, or, here’s an idea. Wanna publish a month-long crossover event that drains our consumer’s wallets, then fill two issues with nothing but padding?
(Ah, like Endless Winter?)
Yes, exactly! I’m so glad we’re on the same page.
Week 2 of Endless Winter consists of two issues, both written by Andy Lanning and Ron Marz: The Flash #767, illustrated by Clayton Henry, and Superman: Endless Winter Special #1, illustrated by Ande Parks. Both issues also include scenes illustrated by Marco Santucci, and both issues are about as cookie-cutter as you could ask for from a comic book. What little momentum this event had from Week 1 comes to a dead halt here – funny, considering this book is all about the two fastest members of the Justice League.
(You could say it froze in its tracks!)
Get out. Now on its surface, I can understand the importance of a story that takes its time unfolding, for the sake of both pacing and emotional investment. Hell, a lack of that has been my biggest criticism of Death Metal for the past few months. That being said, pacing is a fine art… and I don’t believe the writers of Endless Winter have a good handle on it. The issues themselves have very little substance to them: each contain a genuinely interesting flashback to the story of the Viking Justice League, followed by an issue mainly dedicated to how Flash or Superman are handling a world suddenly frozen over, with very little plot development in the process. Out of the two issues, I prefer The Flash for a few reasons – but I can’t say either blew me away, and both are equally representative of a larger problem with this crossover.
The Flash #764
Three things are going on in this issue of The Flash: while the main narrative is Flash’s feelings of burnout as he races across the frozen world, we’re also given some peculiar insight into Black Adam – both in the present day, and in the past when he first faced the Frost King. Black Adam’s inclusion in the story elevates the issue, there’s no doubt about it; I’ve spoken before about my love for Black Adam as an anti-hero, and that remains true here. His speech to the United Nations on behalf of Kahndaq is nothing to write home about, but adds some depth and nuance to the story that I appreciate – especially when you’re giving us a nine-issue arc in the span of one month. His conversation with Barry Allen was also an enjoyable read; it seems like these two characters will be the stars of Endless Winter, and their best strategy going forward is to follow up on the journey the two of them go through.
That being said, this issue is short. Both of these comics are twenty pages, as per usual, but this issue in particular is stretched out like I’m trying to fit into a shirt I wore when I was five. I counted two two-page spreads and two one-page spreads in this issue, which turns six pages of potential development and content into stuff that could have been told in three (or less). Fortunately, Clayton Henry’s art is great enough for me to not mind too much. The lean, angular way he portrays these superheroes freshens the book up with an energetic art style – if one that’s slightly at odds with Santucci’s equally accomplished opening pages. While the book is seriously lacking in substance, the style helps smooth that problem over.
Superman: Endless Winter Special #1
Superman’s one-shot, meanwhile, doesn’t particularly speak to me at all. This issue tries to do what Flash’s issue did, that being juggling three plot threads… but, unlike Flash, not one of them grabbed my attention this time around. The closest one to doing so is the flashback at the beginning, still illustrated by Marco Santucci. Here, we see the origins of the Frost King, and their motivations as to becoming our antagonist for this story. It’s… fine? I think it does its job, though it doesn’t provide much in the way of anything new, or a compelling reason to be invested in Frost King as a villain. If you’ve seen Magneto in X-Men: Apocalypse, then you basically know what you’re in for here. Other than that… really, the issue doesn’t have much going for it.
Once again, we spend most of our time with the titular hero of the comic, which would be fine if they did anything to progress the story. Instead, we see Superman actively making the decision to stop the plot, in order to take a break and have a drink with his parents. We’ve all been there – reviews drive me to drink all the time – but it doesn’t bode well that three issues into your story, characters are already saying “let’s take a step back and forget about the plot for a moment”. Nothing exceptional is said in this conversation, other than Clark’s parents giving the Man of Steel a little pep talk, to remind him to keep fighting. I understand what they’re going for, but I don’t think it’s a message that Superman needed to hear right now, when we’ve barely had a grasp on the stakes.
The issue is framed in a way that I’m not a fan of, either: Lois Lane’s op-ed is interspersed through various panels in the comic, replacing what would normally be typical narration. The principle is sound, but it’s also a very tricky thing to do. If you’re trying to write a character that’s won a Pulitzer, then people are going to notice if the article she’s writing isn’t exactly worthy of a Pulitzer. The art doesn’t really hold things together, either – while I’m often a fan of a simplistic style, Parks’ illustrations felt very jarring when compared to the rest of the story. I don’t dislike it – despite some complaints I have with proportions – but I find it’d be better suited for something like Batman: The Adventures Continue, rather than Part 3 of a Justice League crossover event.
Alright, let’s cut to the chase.
It’s not just the specifics that we take issue with here, though – I think Matina and I have severe objections to these issues on principle, too (Indeed). I touched on this briefly last week, where I mentioned that the opening to Endless Winter could have been shortened to lower the price of the comic book – that problem is far more egregious here, when you’re buying two books for 4USD each, with neither issue being particularly substantive. This book is already in the precarious position of being wedged between several other major events, and I still haven’t been sold on it – yet in your second and third issues, you’re already stalling on progressing the plot, making consumers buy one overblown and underwhelming comic book for the price of two? As a creative endeavour, it feels mediocre – and as a business practice, it feels exploitative. If you are trying to convince readers that this event is worth your time, then these two issues were not your best foot forward.
(Nick’s said a lot of what I wanted to, but I thought I’d add a few thoughts regarding the way Endless Winter has been structured, because it is a heavy drain on a pocketbook, and that makes me more than irritated, it makes me angry.
Even with as little plot as we’ve seen, the three parts of this event released so far all have important story aspects to them that make me feel like I shouldn’t skip portions of this even if I want the whole story. To me, that is asking a lot of your fans, fans who are probably also buying other books. While I think this might not be a terrible idea in general, I am upset that so far the event feels boring and like a major waste of time. And to put out 9 books that could have easily been 4 just to pad time for another event that’s taking over all regular titles (and totally changing the trajectory of many) is actually not great. I was hopeful last week that Endless Winter would be a fun transition into something I’m not super sold on, and now I’m back to being ready to jump to March.)
- Black Adam as an anti-hero is up your alley, and you want to dive into stories about his past.
- You’re interested in stories about Flash and Superman’s reactions to a major threat, rather than the characters making any leeway with the story itself.
- I dunno, you like snow? I like snow. That’s a good reason.
There’s an argument to be made that we’re being too harsh – character pieces are often great chances for comics to shine, and a story’s strength is often found in character. But Endless Winter, whether it chose to be or not, is being used by DC in order to wrestle a few extra bucks out of their fans; and when I read issues like these two, it’s hard for me to make the argument that it’s worth the trouble. I wish I had a higher opinion of their quality, but the reading experience has left me distressingly… frosty.
(Not my pun this time, though I agree.)
Yeah, I’m allowed to have one.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of these comics for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch