So after a week of news about Infinite Frontier, I’m feeling strangely energized. Not totally excited, but interested and curious certainly. One bit of news most applicable to our discussion of Endless Winter is the new Justice League line up, including both Hippolyta and Black Adam! What do you think, Nick?
(You know what? This might be a moment where I have to take back some of my initial skepticism. As someone who’s going to be reviewing Brian Michael Bendis’ Justice League – and is as nervous as he is excited – the fact that Endless Winter is going to have some impact pleases me, and makes me feel like this event does have some purpose! Black Adam on the League isn’t what you’d call a traditional pick, but the line he walks between villain and anti-hero could provide a lot of compelling content for the book. I feel less interested in Hippolyta, but it’s a unique pick that I’m curious to see tried out, if nothing else. This is going to be a really fascinating year for DC, and I’m excited to see if it pans out well or not!)
Agreed, I think both are fascinating picks. And if this event has done anything for me, it’s piqued my interest in both characters.
Alright so, what books are we looking at this week? Well that’s going to be Justice League Dark #29 illustrated by Amancay Nahuelpan and Black Adam: Endless Winter Special #1 illustrated by Brandon Peterson. As we’ve seen with the rest of the event, they’re written by Andy Lanning and Ron Marz, and the flashbacks were drawn by Marco Santucci.
There’s quite a bit that happens between these two issues. The flashback is finally finished as we learn the last of the tale, the old guard is slowly but surely coming back together, and Black Adam makes his move! What I enjoyed most about these two issues was that instead of the split between past, present, and some plot we’ve had the past couple weeks, both focus solely on past and plot this week, which makes the story feel like it’s moving.
(It’s nice to see things pick up! Reading these two issues gave me a sense of satisfying progression that I didn’t necessarily feel during previous weeks. There were a lot of threads that started coming together in these two issues, and while I dunno if it was worth the wait, it definitely helps the story feel like your investment is paying off.)
Though now that the plot is moving, it does make me wish the overall story had felt more balanced. I enjoyed both issues this week, but it also points out some of the bigger problems with how this event has been structured. We’ve talked about pacing before but reading these two issues really makes me wish the story had focused more on characters integral to the current plot. We saw hints of Black Adam, but what else was he doing? How come it took this long to get around to seeing Hippolyta in the present? There’s just some plot related elements I feel could have been expanded on that quite simply weren’t prior to this, and that makes what we get here feel rushed.
(Big agree. I think it says a lot that we didn’t feel the need to start this review with anything to grab the reader’s attention, because we actually have stuff to say this time around. It’s a shame that previous weeks didn’t make me feel the same – though we can only say so much in that regard, seeing as we’ve already reviewed those previous comics.)
Justice League Dark #29
Generally this issue does a lot to push the plot forward and set up the end of the story. As I indicated earlier, Lanning works here to reintroduce us to Hippolyta, brings back the Viking Prince Jon as a spirit, and of course gives us a look at Swamp Thing in the present day, in order to gather together the remaining members of the original team who fought the Frost King. All in all, it feels like the characters are doing something to move towards actually winning.
Additionally, this issue feels very tied in with the rest of Justice League Dark’s story. It works as a continuation to what’s going on in the main story, explains why Swamp Thing is the way he is, and relies semi-heavily on you either knowing what’s going on or accepting it as fact. This all makes sense due to the fact that Swamp Thing’s main title lately has been Justice League Dark. There’s also enough explanation of what’s going on that new readers don’t feel lost. I –being behind on the series– felt a little spoiled for certain events, but that’s my own fault for not keeping up.
Nahuelpan’s art here is generally very strong. I love the scenes focused on earthy elements, especially when Diana and Zatanna go looking for Swamp Thing. There’s a couple double page spreads here that are down right stunning paired with June Chung’s colors. If you love lush plant filled almost fantasy landscapes, you’ll enjoy these moments as much as I did. Plus, right at the end they give us a just really cool looking Swamp Thing, and honestly? That’s all I could have asked for with the way things play out.
(There’s something really special about Swamp Thing as a character. I’m not sure I know enough about him to put a finger on what it is, but there’s a romantic tragedy to him that I love – connected to both humanity and nature, yet separated from being truly one with either. It creates a sad aura that surrounds his very existence… yet there’s a serenity to his life as well, and you feel a deep sense of contentment when Swamp Thing seems to be at peace in turn. Here, I felt that emotion in watching Wonder Woman talk to Swamp Thing amidst the flora of his vibrant garden, unable to return to Earth’s physical plane. It was a very good scene, and it made me want to see much more of him throughout the story. Not so much a fan of the fact that this issue has two “Endless Winter” namedrops, though.)
Black Adam: Endless Winter Special #1
Where Justice League Dark has a lot of information, Black Adam is where all the action happens. It wraps up the remaining threads of the flashback, and gives further insight into the heroes, particularly Hippolyta’s mindset as they finish up, and then moves directly into what’s pretty much solid action for the rest of the issue.
All that action isn’t a bad thing either. It steps slightly away from the seemingly endless shots of various heroes fighting random snow monsters to actually bring the Frost King into play at last as he and Black Adam discover his frozen family being held by Stagg Industries. We also get to see the B-list villains from issue #1 take on a bigger role here working for Black Adam, which I appreciate. It’s nice that they’ve shown up from time to time, and that they weren’t just a ploy to get us into the story, but have actual narrative value.
Seeing Black Adam infiltrating Stagg Industries is good, but it brings up questions. Yes, Barry told him about Stagg back in part 2, but I wish we’d seen some of his investigation prior to this issue. And also, how come he made this connection when the rest of the Justice League didn’t? They’re exhausted sure, but someone –like maybe the world’s greatest detective whose city this is going down in– should have at least looked further into things. Equally, Stagg himself feels underdeveloped. He may not be the big bad, but I’d like him to feel like more than a set piece. Generally there’s just a feeling of everything being rushed here, and that’s a shame since this event is 9 issues long and certainly has the time to flesh these elements out better
(This issue, along with Part 1 of Endless Winter, are the two most dedicated to attempting to flesh out Stagg’s character. I get the sense that it’s trying – in that the story gives him some cool things to do – but I think his design is quite weak, motivations even more so. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have given him more time to grow and sell us on why we should care about him, seeing as this arc has had plenty of time to spare.)
Peterson does a good job handling all the action here. There are a few scenes where things could feel really crowded but I never got the sense of being lost in them. I also like the moment where Black Adam and Frost King recognize each other, though I’d have preferred them actually looking at each other across the page instead of being flipped, though that’s a minor quibble. Additionally, he does a good job tying in some more subtle details, like having Diana wear the armor Hippolyta was given in the past now.
(I also would have liked to see all of the Justice League in the final spread, such as the version of “Swamp Thing” we see joining the crew at the end of JLD – as it stands, the final splash is cool, but feels like we’re missing pieces to the puzzle. I’m not super confident the finale can wrap it up in a satisfying way, but at least I enjoyed the penultimate issues a fair bit more than the previous ones.)
Agreed, here’s to hoping we will see how everyone comes together next week!
- You’re excited for the story to actually pick up the pace!
- You like your Black Adam medium-rare: certainly not a hero, but acting with technically noble intentions.
- Endless Winter’s relevance to Bendis’ Justice League strikes you as reason enough to give this a shot.
- You like a cool rendition of Swamp Thing!
Over the course of the month we’ve talked a lot about the pros and cons of this event. While it’s had some slow moments, this week picked up the pace in a way that left me once again both enjoying the event and interested in its ending. While I still want more for it, I can accept what it’s given and am looking forward to seeing the final wrap up.
(Let’s just hope they learn about the meaning of Christmas by the end of it. Otherwise, what’s the point?)
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with copies of these comics for the purpose of this review.