Do you know how long the Lord of the Rings movies are, Matina?
(Not the exact number, but I know they’re long enough I rarely watch all three in the same day, especially considering I always watch the extended editions.)
Looking it up on Google, that beast of a trilogy clocks in at around about 558 minutes when collected together – 686 if you’re talking about the Extended Editions. What you’re getting when you watch these movies is 11 and a half hours of content, which is a fucking gauntlet to watch – no matter how much you love these films. By the time you’ve finished them, there’s a sense of relief and accomplishment that washes over you, and it’s perfectly encapsulated by Frodo, standing at the steps of Mount Doom as Mordor collapses. “It’s done.”
You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure.
(I do, I do indeed.)
Fortunately, as far as climaxes go, this one could have been a lot worse! Endless Winter managed to pick up near the very end of the event, and the finale is a story (illustrated by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Howard Porter) of appropriate scale and spectacle – which makes up for the fact that there’s little substance to justify its existence.
Most of this issue is spent on the final battle, which is split into two locations: Sebastian Stagg’s facility, along with a return to the Arctic, where the Fortress of Solitude once stood. The change of location isn’t bad – I wasn’t particularly excited about an uninteresting side-villain’s research building being the site of the climax of the story. The Arctic provides some interesting drama, too: the weight of the superheroes fighting one another is enough to make the ground unstable, adding an element of environmental risk to each and every punch. With that being said, the reason they find their way back to the Arctic is flimsy, to put it mildly. Batman – who has been secretly monitoring every Stagg facility offscreen – manages to put a tracer on the ice containing the Frost King’s family (also offscreen), which the villain manages to spirit away to the Arctic. This is a frustrating use of time management, considering you had two consecutive weeks (and five consecutive issues!!!) where little to nothing happened to progress the story, save for the flashbacks and a few significant character interactions. Why did we need to see the Teen Titans? Did we need the Superman special? Why make your readers spend so much money on an event if the actual plot progression is waved away with a simple “I’m Batman”? As a culture, we need to move past “I’m Batman”. I think it’s time.
(This is also a problem of “showing vs telling”, that I see happening often in comics: where we’re told important plot points happened offscreen that could have easily been shown in a page or a few panels. Because characters like Batman have such a history of competence it seems like writers think they can skip these moments of showing readers those skills, instead leaning on previous iterations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. Here we needed to see Batman working to investigate because that’s a huge question of the story: where is the Frost King? Instead we were to assume Batman had been searching the whole time, even though everything we’d seen was just him fighting in snow. I don’t mind stories taking time to show readers things like what we got with Superman, but when it means the end feels rushed by a lot of off screen action there is a balance problem. We saw a lot of tired heroes, and honestly I’d liked to have seen them doing real investigations. Both for Batman and Black Adam.)
Then, the final fight happens – and I think it’s pretty neat, if I’m honest. There’s a lot of great parallel action going on here, from the kaiju-like brawl of Swamp Thing/Viking Prince vs the Frost King, to Batman and Hippolyta discovering the Frost King’s true form beneath the arctic ice. There’s a feeling of intensity to the larger brawl, like two forces of nature colliding like tectonic places, regardless of the lives they step over – and it’s also nice to see Aquaman showing up at the end, just so we know that the writers didn’t completely forget about what he was doing. Meanwhile, the story manages to get some genuine emotional stakes from the Frost King’s former self, Edwald Olafsson. The contrast between Black Adam’s attempts to end the man’s life, vs Hippolyta’s desire to connect with him in a way she failed to do all those centuries ago? That’s the kind of quality drama I like to see from a comic. Everything involving the Justice League Viking had merit in this story: whether it was in potential or execution, it was nice to step away from the usual cookie-cutter Justice League story, and cut to a dynamic that’s new and fresh. It’s a shame the story wasn’t entirely about the Justice League Viking, because I was always up for seeing more of that.
And then the battle ends, and… well, that’s it, I suppose. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that they defeat the Frost King – and while I actually don’t mind how they wrap his story up, the first thought I had during his final scene was “well, we’re never seeing that guy again”. There’s enough time for the Justice League to learn the meaning of Christmas, thank god; though we never cut back to Black Lightning, so his appearance in the first issue seems somewhat strange in retrospect. There’s also some decent foreshadowing with Black Adam to cap off the issue, which I have to assume is to lead into Bendis’ run… but really, the ending has nothing that will surprise you if you know a single thing about a “filler” arc in a story. This provided nothing that you can’t live without… but then again, the visuals do provide an interesting counterpoint.
(I feel like I’m always complaining about why I don’t like events and crossovers, and today I’m happy to expand on one reason I do enjoy them from time to time. That reason is learning about, and becoming fascinated with, new characters I wasn’t previously very familiar with. If I took anything out of this event, it would have to be a new interest in both Black Adam and Hippolyta as characters. Previously I knew of the characters in a very basic sense, Endless Winter has piqued my interest in both. They have a great tense dynamic as both have very strong opinions and lead countries. I enjoyed seeing it explored here, and I’m eager to see it expanded on in the future.)
There are three artists that work on this issue – the two I previously mentioned, along with the usual contribution from Marco Santucci – but it all blends reasonably well together. Porter’s art, for example, is genuinely impressive here, and I much prefer it to his work in the opening issue. I know that the team at Batman News (myself included) has mixed feelings about multiple artists on one issue, but it sits a little better for me when you can tell it’s given each artist more time to refine their work. One small moment I enjoyed from Porter’s work in this issue was the panelling during the climax, where the panel splitting the parallel action of the Justice League is framed like the cracking of a glacier. Little things like that really help set the tone of a book, and it helped me enjoy the final fight of a story I have little positive feeling toward.
Meanwhile, Carmine Di Giandomenico has a somewhat smoother style than Porter’s – which helps during the more emotional scenes of the comic. There are several scenes between Wonder Woman and Hippolyta throughout the issue, establishing their dynamic as a supportive mother-daughter duo: Di Giandomenico’s work makes that feel genuine, in particular during the opening sequence. If you’re going to have multiple artists in an issue, then it’s good that you have a duo that manages to capture both the impact of a Justice League story, along with the emotional weight the characters carry along the way.
Finally, I want to shout out Marco Santucci’s work one final time. While I’ve spoken about his work in previous weeks – and honestly would have preferred his content to take place over the course of just one issue – the consistent level of quality he provided from comic to comic kept me sane throughout a generally disappointing event. While the final page of Endless Winter is a strange flashback to end on, I’m glad it was given to Santucci to cover, capping off the story with a suitably moody and detailed epilogue – one that represents the things that I liked the most about this book.
- Look, it’s a nice ending, but let’s not kid ourselves here. You can find these artists in other books, and this story doesn’t give you much to latch onto outside of an interesting concept.
- But if you’re looking for something that reads well as a collected edition for your kid, this isn’t the worst decision you could make! I think the event does resemble the trope of “the whole being better than the sum of its parts”.
Final thoughts, Matina?
(As a last issue to wrap up this event I felt this book did a pretty good job hyping up the energy, tying up loose ends, and even giving the Frost King a better send off than I was expecting. It has some problems, like the rest of the event, but it was a pretty fun read. I wish it felt like it had a little more staying power, but we’ll see what comes of it in the future, especially with Black Adam and Hippolyta.)
Well, I think that about sums it up! Endless Winter is something of a stocking stuffer in DC’s library – not insulting, but clearly an event made to pad for time before Future State and Infinite Frontier. I liked parts of it, and the ending is good enough… but I sincerely hope this is the last “filler arc” we get in Justice League for some time.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch