The general mood around DC’s latest “shake up” seems to be one of skepticism, and that is one hundred percent valid. Over the past few years they’ve thrown a nonstop deluge of crises, reboots, and relaunches ranging from nonsensical, to half-assed, to dead-on-arrival at us. The real question, to me at least, is why do they keep trying to justify or explain their editorial/business decisions in-universe? It looks from the outside like they’re caught in a strange loop, will the Infinite Frontier be enough to break them out of it? Who knows. Probably not. Let’s take a look at Infinite Frontier #0 for some clues.

I know it’s a little unorthodox, but sometimes for my reviews, I prefer to go full method. In order to prepare for the arduous task of reviewing Infinite Frontier #0, I underwent the transformative task of not reading the vast majority of Future State or Dark Nights: Death Metal. These relaunches are usually intended to be jumping on points for new readers after all, so I have metamorphosed into a bright-eyed wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn to find out if it serves its purpose. 

IF #0 is more of a series of vignettes, (very) loosely connected by a framing story. So instead of trying to review the whole thing whole cloth, I’ll treat each vignette as what it is: a pitch and/or setup for an upcoming series and grade each based on how hyped they get me for their respective series. So if the scores seem really low, that’s why.

FRAMING STORY

Wonder Woman has ascended to space-godhood, and has to choose whether or not she wants to join the Quintessence: a council of nigh-omnipotent beings that apparently watch the happening of the multiverse like us mere mortals watch Netflix.

Is the birth of the new multiverse literally spelling out the words “INFINITE FRONTIER”? I hope so.

My thoughts: The Quintessence calls Wonder Woman — a half-god (or is it artificial humanoid crafted from clay?) — the “pinnacle of human potential.” Not exactly fair now, is it? Look, this concept wraps itself up in grand notions, but we’ve all seen dozens if not hundreds of stories framed this way, but many of those have been much more cohesive. Think Christmas Carol or It’s A Wonderful Life, where a more-than-human entity gives a tour through a series of events designed to help tourists make a decision. Hell, there are even a few better stories where the Spectre is the one doing the tour guiding. This framing story is little more than a thin wrapper for a bunch of few-page-trailers for upcoming series. Stay tuned ‘til the end of the review to find out if the framing story gets me hyped for the upcoming Infinite Frontier event.

You can tell that John Timm’s art for the framing story wants to be big, grand, maybe even a little weird — but it just doesn’t pull it off for me. The art is busy, the perspectives look flat, and the sense of scale just isn’t there. For something like this I’d expect grandiosity/trippiness on the scale of stuff Jim Steranko or J.H. Williams III have pulled off in the past. These are weird space-gods/”the beginning of everything that will be” for Pete’s sake. All is not lost though, at least Sinclair’s colors are doing some heavy lifting to make things more visually interesting.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE

There’s a new villain in town (sort of): Shazadam. But he’s saving people? How will the Justice League handle this new portmanteau of the hero Shazam and his famous foe, the anti-villain/anti-hero Black Adam? Does this make Shazadam a half-anti-hero? 

My thoughts: In all honesty, I can see it getting really confusing whether Black Adam changed his name or him and Shazam did a super-Saiyan-fusion. Regardless, Shazadam is stupid. I know it’s not exactly a deep criticism, but it’s what we’re all thinking. (“Agreed.” -Nick, who’s going to be reviewing this comic.) Unless this is some self-aware piece of stealth comedy, I see this going down as one of those bizarre factoids pulled out to emphasize how weird comics are. Nothing about this pitch made me even a little intrigued, or even aware that it was intended to be a Justice League storyline. That said, I really dig Black Adam so I might check it out for laughs.

David Marquez’s art is, well, just there really. Superman yells “Great Scott! What happened here?” but all we see is some dust clouds… Characters are obviously Marquez’s thing, and at least those convey a decent amount of emotion with their poses/expressions. Meanwhile, Tamra Bonvillain’s colors are nice, bright and pop-y.

SCORE: 4/10

BATMAN

Arkham is under attack! One of its guards has to rush to save the survivors before time runs out! If the deadly laughing gas doesn’t get them, the flames will! The villain (or villains) behind this deadly attack might not be who you’d think! But all is not lost: the Bat-family gets the call! Also, Batman is… on his way, or something!

My thoughts: Everyone except Batman and Mahoney (nooo!)  is a one-panel cameo in this story. It feels right to have Barbara back behind the computer — something the vignette wastes no time patting itself on the back for. We also get appearances by Huntress, the Batgirls, various Gothamite bureaucrats, Grifter, Lucius Fox, and the not-Luke Fox-son (who doesn’t need to exist). This series is starting to look more like a character creation mill than a story. I’m not even the tiniest iota invested or intrigued.

Mahoney, nooo! Wait, who is this guy?

My main question is: Why was this so long? It doesn’t seem designed to get anyone new on board with the next Batman run. It isn’t an advertisement for a new team of creators. And to top it off, the exact same story could have been told better in half the pages by a better writer. All it did was take up space that many of the other vignettes really could have used.

Scarecrow, shows up looking like a Japanese rice farmer circa 1900 fell into a WWI medic supply closet, i.e., he looks like a buffoon.

Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey did some absolutely gorgeous spreads during Joker War, but the art/colors don’t look up to their usual magnificence here. Even the supposed-to-be-cool spreads of Batman just aren’t doing it for me. Shout out to the letterer, Troy Peteri, for the obvious relish they had with onomatopoeias.

SCORE: 1/10

WONDER WOMAN

Nubia and some of her sisters are tested to see who will take Diana’s place as the next Wonder Woman. The answer will surprise you.

My thoughts: I wasn’t interested in Nubia taking on the Wonder Woman mantle. For those of you not familiar, the character began its life as a Silver Age gimmick (Wonder Woman’s “black sister”) that has aged poorly, only to be erased in a crisis, revived around the early Aughts (in a less gimmicky/cringey fashion), and quickly dropped back into obscurity. In other words, the character had a really rocky start and no one has an idea what to do with her. While this could be an ideal formula for some clever clarence of a writer to make something really cool, I just don’t trust current DC to do that.

However, the vignette pulled the rug from under us and thrust her into a role that could prove to be interesting while at the same time taking Queen Freaking Hippolyta off the perma-bench. Consider me cautiously intrigued.

I don’t like Alitha Martinez/Mark Morales’ art in this snippet at all outside of some nice hatching and some sparing but effective use of spot blacks. It is flat, crowded, and the faces occasionally look malformed. Emilo Lopez’s crisp and textured colors make the art a bit easier to look at. I’d like to see his colors paired with an artist I gel with a bit more.

SCORE: 7/10

WONDER GIRL

A young girl prepares to take a flight back to Brazil. Little does she know mysterious figures are targeting her for equally mysterious ends.

My thoughts: Yara is a cool name, that’s the only positive thing I have to say about the Wonder Girl-focused vignette. Not that I have much negative to say either, they only gave me two pages to work with whose dialogue entailed everyday conversation and a cliched “we have located the target” towards the end.

Not a fan of Joëlle Jones’ art here, but I could see how other folks could get into their sharp, pop-art-y style. Jordie Bellaire’s bright, flat colors definitely pair well with the art.

SCORE: 3/10

GREEN LANTERN: ALAN SCOTT

The original Green Lantern has a heartfelt conversation with his two adult children. 

My thoughts: I might be behind. I’m probably behind, but why is Alan Scott coming out as gay… again? I thought there was a big hullabaloo about that years back. Maybe the writers of this vignette just really felt it necessary to re-establish it. If so, I have to assume that the comic to come is a slice of life and/or soap-operatic family drama. Odd decision, but it does have me a little intrigued. Who doesn’t like a good soap, and superpowers make any genre more interesting.

I found Stephen Byrne’s art enjoyable enough to gander at, even if the character’s emotions look a bit like their faces are partially paralyzed. His colors are even better than his art.

SCORE: 5/10

TEEN TITANS ACADEMY

Several students prepare to board a ferry to whisk them off to their new education at… Titans Tower. However, one of them isn’t what they seem. And if the Red X mask is anything to go on, their intentions might be outright villainous.

My thoughts: Now this is a vignette that got me curious. In its fleeting two pages, it gave just the briefest glimpse of the potentially weird and wacky students at Teen Titans Academy and set up a tantalizing mystery: which student is Red X, and more importantly, what are their intentions? 

Rafa Sandoval and Jordi Tarragona’s art is definitely the weak link of the snippet. Not a fan of Sanchez’s overly digital-looking colors either. Maybe they could do something more impressive if they were given more than two pages to work with. 

SCORE: 9/10

SUPERMAN

Superboy (is it SuperMAN now?) battles the mysterious Empyrean Maw, a reality-bending beast he has no hope of defeating. Good thing punching isn’t the only thing in Jonathan’s bag of tricks.

My thoughts: Not sure why the Spectre was hating so much on Jonathan Kent, but Superboy (I’m not calling him Superman) sure made him look like a judgmental old codger. The vignette wasn’t great as a setup or a pitch, but the attention to character, rundown of Jonathan’s history, showcase of his most admirable traits, and clever subversion of an end made it one (if not the) best snippets in Infinite Frontier #0. Though I still despite Bendis’ decision to age up Jonathan Kent with every sinew of my psyche, I’d read the ever-loving crap out of a miniseries/arc of Superboy saving lost eldritch space beasties. 

Jamal Igle’s art and Hi-Fi’s colors do their jobs. That’s about all I can say about them. Even if it isn’t the flagship anymore, I was DC, I’d put someone really strong in action, spectacle, and emotion on my Superman title as a point of pride.

SCORE: 8/10

GREEN ARROW & BLACK CANARY

Green Arrow and Black Canary are enjoying some adult time when they get a call from a special phone only a select few from Oliver’s past would possess.

My thoughts: This vignette begins with the words “for love renewed,” but didn’t Rebirth fix their relationship? Or is this just another thematic reaffirmation, a la Alan Scott’s gayness?  Regardless, it fixes one of the worst parts of one of the worst DC stories in recent memory: Identity Crisis. I’m excited to see an O.G. Teen Titan back in the fold again. Give these creators a medal.

Alex Maleev’s art is really going for a distinct style here, and I appreciate it, even if it rings a little too close to literally every neo-noir-ish comic I’ve read. Also a quick google of his art will show you he can do some pretty fantastic stuff, so I can’t help but feel he isn’t giving us his all with this one. At least Jordie Ballaire’s colors pair well with the art.

SCORE: 7/10

STARGIRL

Stargirl has to manage taking down villains and the responsibilities of a teenager. Good thing she has her sidekick/step-father Pat Dugan and his massive robot armor to help her out. A mysterious call from Dugan’s superheroing past throws them into a new adventure.

My thoughts: Stargirl isn’t my cup of [insert hot liquid here], and this setup didn’t exactly pique my interest — but maybe isn’t for me. In other words, having another character that’s relatable to the youthTM kicking around isn’t a bad thing. Keep them coming, hopefully faster than DC can kill or age them…

Todd Nauk’s art in this reminds me of everything I hated about early Aughts comic art and Hi-Fi’s colors come across as eye-bleedingly bright — which might be cool if they didn’t look so digital.

SCORE: 3/10

GREEN LANTERNS

Three Green Lanterns fly through space, this time in a ship. Problem is, one of them is a teenager, and no one knows how she got a ring. Time to go to Oa and figure out what to do with her.

My thoughts: Speaking of youthful characters, the Green Lanterns, John Stewart and Simon Baaz, have a new ward: a teenage probably-not-mutant Lantern who, at least in this artistic depiction, has a ninja turtle-like aesthetic. I’m serious, she has the mask and a backpack that looks like a shell and everything. I like the idea of a space buddy cop setup: a grizzled vet, a new-ish Lantern that doesn’t know his place yet, and a precocious kid — but other than the high concept, nothing else about this vignette appeals to me. Maybe if they’d been given a page or two more to work with to hook us more. I mean, Stargirl, who hasn’t headlined a comic in two decades, got four pages. Batman got a third of the book, naturally. Weird priorities, DC.

I don’t like Dexter Soy’s art or Alex Sinclair’s colors here at all. Both the colors and the inks look unfinished and the art has this sketchy/rushed quality that I’m not enjoying at all.

SCORE: 5/10

THE FLASH

Barry Allen has made a decision that will change his life, and the life of Wally West forever (or at least until the status quo resets). He’s getting a promotion. Can Wally step back into the yellow boots?

My thoughts: The Flash is playing around in the Multiverse. I love it when he does that. My interest rides entirely on whether or not we’ll get to follow Barry’s cool new adventures. Also, remember when Wally popped back into existence during Rebirth and it was heralded as “the return of hope” then not two years later Tom King made him a mass murderer? No? Me either. Let’s hope this series actually sticks to the hope angle it calls back to.

I feel like I keep harping on the art for these vignettes —  but Christ on a cracker, really? Howard Porter’s faces look grotesque and Cro-Magnon. I can’t buy the Flash’s heroic pose if he looks like his eyes are drifting apart mid-stroke…

SCORE: 7/10

EPILOGUE

A not-so-mysterious final boss enters the stage, and it looks like he’s leveled up. Oh, and he absolutely curb-stomps the Quintessence. I’m not being figurative here.

My thoughts: Yay. The antagonist for the upcoming event is… exactly who you’d expect. DC seems to drag the poor lug out for every dog and pony show. You have other big-big-bads, DC, use them. I get that they haven’t managed to create a big bad on Darkseid’s level for these huge scale affairs, but maybe instead of making these huge events and tossing Darkseid into every other one, you could just… not have them? Focus on smaller deeper stories? Honestly, what do you have to lose? Sigh. Wishful thinking.

John Romita Jr’s art will end this with a bang right? Big guns? Right? No. Unfortunately, it looks bad. I assume Klaus Janson did the space bits and the effects, which are fine — but neither his contributions nor Brad Anderson’s colors keep this from looking half-arsed.

SCORE: 1/10

 

RECOMMENDED IF:

  • You often find yourself liking trailers more than movies.
  • You’ve always wanted to see a superhero adaptation of a Christmas Carol.
  • You collect anthology stories.

OVERALL:

I really wanted to be into this one-shot. The cover just looked so darned hopeful. It borrowed the “frontier” moniker which, for me at least, brings to mind grade A distilled classic superheroing. But at the end of the day it’s just an advertisement — and it didn’t sell me on over half of its products.

OVERALL SCORE: 5/10