(You know, there are a lot of easy jokes to make about a title like Endless Winter. “Yeah, this event sure does FEEL endless!” is the obvious one. “With a title like Endless Winter, you really should have expected an ice-cold reception!” is another. That being said, I actually think the title is the most effective part of the story – mainly because as an Australian living in the sweltering Summer heat right now, the name is making me really fucking envious.)
As a Texan who’s only just now getting some chilly weather, I agree. I’d love some snow right about now.
After two weeks of Nick being the main narrator I get to take a shot at things, and what a week to do it on. We’ve got three more entries in the Endless Winter saga: Aquaman illustrated by Miguel Mendonca, Justice League illustrated by Xermanico, and Teen Titans illustrated by Jesus Merino. All three are written by Andy Lanning & Ron Marz, with flashbacks drawn by Marco Santucci.
This week things started out on a stronger beat with Aquaman, but my enjoyment waned with each successful issue. Not so much because I was reading three parts of this series –I prefer to read or watch things in binges– but because of just how cookie cutter it all is, and how slow the plot is moving. What they put out is not bad per say, but it’s also not interesting. Most of the attention is focused on our title characters exploring themes of family and duty, and each issue has segments focused on exploring the past and furthering the present plot.
While I’m probably going to sound negative soon, I do want to point out that there is something to be said about the wholesome themes being developed by Lanning here. It’s certainly in tone with the season. Themes of family of togetherness, and hope are not only good ones for the holidays, but something I think the world needs a little more of right now. Those are some of my favorite kinds of tropes, and I genuinely enjoyed aspects of them here.
Crafting wholesome stories doesn’t really excuse the fact that this event is bloated and filled with fluff that could have been cut. There’s little reason to read any of these stories, or spend $4 on each issue just to move the plot forward by 4 pages every issue. Except, you also can’t skip one, or just pick up another on a whim because they’re all interconnected. What’s worse, is that none of these stories really matter in the greater focus of their own books. Sure Aquaman includes their marriage, and Teen Titans shows us the new team, but everything is treading water. Until Future State hits, nothing is allowed to progress, so for pages we just get–filler content. Like air pumped into a bag of chips to make it feel like you’re getting a full bag instead of half.
(I mean, god, would we really want to spend 12 bucks this week on three stories that preach the same Saturday-morning cartoon message? It’s not a BAD message, but it’s not anything special in terms of concept or execution – which gives me pause as to its purpose, aside from the obvious need for DC to make some extra dosh.)
Alright, we’ve ranted enough. Let’s get into some quick focused looks at each title.
As I said at the start, I think Aquman is the strongest title this week. The story focuses on Arthur, Mera, and their baby Andy as they return to Atlantis to help find a way to both stop the Frost King and keep the Atlantians safe from the freezing temperatures. What I like about their part of the story is that it strikes a nice balance between family, duty, and actively doing something that feels like it’s helping on a large scale.
The flashback isn’t much to write home about. In fact, it’s more just a snapshot back into Jon, Swamp Thing, Hippolyta, and Black Adam struggling in their fight against Frost King presented just in case you’d forgotten they were duking it out with him in the past. Beyond that, it adds very little to the overall plot.
Mendonca’s art here is very good. His action sequences look good, and he does a great job pouring details into the various settings, but more importantly I just really love the way he draws Aurthur and Mera as doting parents. He’s got a great hand for expressions of fondness, whether that be when Aruthur’s handing Andy over to Mera, or when the two of them reunite later during a fight. It goes hand in hand with the family oriented nature of this issue, and really makes the whole thing shine.
(Aquaman’s issue was definitely my favourite too! There was the sense that while this issue was definitely a tacked-on tie in, there was an attempt to continue where the story of Aquaman is already going. It felt like we were taking a detour in Arthur’s journey, rather than a strange non-sequitur. Plus, Mera commanding an army of fire demons just does something for me on an aesthetic level.)
Justice League #58
Instead of bouncing between the entire team again, Lanning chooses to focus on John Stewart this time. He continues the theme of family, jumping from a warm loving one, to John’s own personal loneliness. But this isn’t a tale to leave you cold hearted, instead the personal story here focuses on putting lost families back together, and John even finding his own in the team.
The flashback is in direct opposition to John’s part of the story, turning its attention to further pulling apart the Frost King and his family. But plot wise, I feel like it definitely moves further than Aquaman did. Still, not a lot happens. Even less is learned with present day plot progression. The team eventually comes together for a battle that feels almost pointless beyond reminding us they’re still a team, and trying to find Frost King.
I also enjoy Xermanico’s art here. His style, blended with Sinclair’s colors really bring home the idea of a world covered in snow, from shots of a lone family trying to push through the storm, to the Hall of Justice covered in icicles everything feels cold and washed out in that way only a day full of clouds can do.
(I gotta say, while I normally take the time to sing Xermanico’s praises, I wasn’t feeling it as much here. I know he’s been working very hard on the Justice League title lately, and while I could never say his work is bad, I’m not sure the quality of this issue was the same as what I saw in, say, Doom Metal. It felt a little rougher, and I have to assume that’s due to time constraints. When I think of specifics, my mind jumps to facial expressions: here we have a panel that’s well constructed, as well as clearly choreographed – but the faces unfortunately fall into the uncanny valley, where they feel just that little bit “off” and disproportionate. The good news is, this is an action-based issue – so there isn’t a need for scenes that involve heart-wrenching acting from page to page. Overall, I think the art is still the best part of the issue – which is rather bland without it.)
Teen Titans #48
Teen Titans is the weakest of the three, for a number of reasons. The first is that, again the plot really doesn’t progress. Secondly, this is a really strange book to start a new, or semi-new team in. The team hasn’t had any time to become an actual team, so it feels weird reading about them with no context. That said, more than any of the other stories, I feel like this one does actually try to build some foundation for where the narrative might end up in future months.
The flashback here feels somewhat repetitious. It continues the narrative, but really only gives us details we’ve already learned or intuited from the last two issues. What’s more interesting is the Titans deciding at last to visit Hippolyta and see if she can lend a hand in this fight.
Merino’s art is not my favorite of the bunch. There are a few moments where character expressions look odd, and he tends to pick and choose who gets more details than others in group shots which can be a little frustrating. That said, he does a solid job balancing the team, especially during the fight.
(As someone who doesn’t spend much time with the Teen Titans, a lot of this issue felt like I was taking a peek into a very awkward period in time for the crew – like watching someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, which is something I clearly know a lot about as an Australian. Reading it made me feel like I was peeking at part 3 of some arc I wasn’t privy to, yet this is the final issue of the comic before Future State.)
- You want a couple wholesome stories
- The trade off of plot for character work is one you don’t mind
- It’s December and you’ve got time to kill between shopping and sitting at home
When I find myself constantly going “but why?” and searching for plot all the way in Week 3 of an event it’s not a good sign. Yes, there are some genuinely nice moments in this week’s lot of books, but unfortunately I’m still not sold. If I was just a fan, heading to the store to pick this up, I would have stopped already. In fact, this is the kind of story you trade wait for and read when your library gets it. I don’t want to recommend buying this because it’s recommending you something that doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a place of caring about the reader at all. Yeah, the story has a wholesome vibe and will probably end happily, but it’s also asking readers to spend their whole month waiting for bits of a plot I’m now thinking might have fit neatly into two issues. It’s just not right.
(If the ending does something thoroughly exciting and unexpected, I might recommend the trade – but I have no reason why I would suggest the individual issues, when it’s given me zero reason to care about any of it beyond it involving characters I like. Plus, I keep confusing the Frost King for the Ice King from Adventure Time. That’s too much hassle.)
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with copies of these comics for the purpose of this review.