Hey guys! Nick here. Yes, I know this is Cam’s account, he’s right next to me. See, Cam and I are working together on today’s review. You might be surprised to see a review for these books go up – you’d think after all this time we just would have skipped them. However, we have a very simple explanation.
Mmmuusst Bbbeceomme Eldnden LLorrdrd.
We’ve been a little distracted. But with the release of Infinite Frontier‘s trade and the upcoming Death of the Justice League (sigh), we thought this was a perfect time to come back to the event that set all of this in motion, as well as its follow-up in Justice League Incarnate.
So! What do we think of them?
. . .
Well at the very least, I think this is about as good as anything else of Williamson’s, which is “just fine”. Gotta give him points for consistency.
I will say that I don’t know how much of that fine-ness is his fault. A lot of these events seem increasingly company-driven.
True, but they could do a better job of hiding it. There are so many moments where characters are loudly commenting on all the ridiculous and ever-increasing crises, just for the sake of saying how strange it is – as if it’s not obvious how blatantly the characters are attempting to explain away increasingly asinine editorial decisions.
Especially when the characters are joking about how much better the book they’re in could have been (though this is a way bigger problem in Justice League Incarnate). I understand that it’s a way for creators to vent some of their frustrations with the direction a story is being forced to go, especially with an event as big and corporate-y as this one, but you can still do this and make a worthwhile story out of it.
Williamson has to construct a story around said editorial decisions – and while he does a passable job, I still struggle to get emotionally invested. That doesn’t, however, mean there aren’t good moments.
Or great concepts. The idea of a group of heroes from across the known multiverse is great! There’s, quite literally, an infinite amount of fun to be had. Also, a personal favorite from this book, Black Lantern Roy Harper was SO cool!! I kind of wish he’d stuck around.
And in concept, I like the idea of Darkseid’s selves coalescing into a single entity. I like Director Bones collecting Earth 2 heroes across the Multiverse as sacrifices to Darkseid. And I like seeing heroes from across the multiverse actually get involved in a story.
Exactly! You get a sense that these people are more than just cameos for an event… which is weird, considering the amount of characters that are just cameos in this event.
Before we continue harping on Williamson’s writing, I want to pivot to something I really liked. The art for this entire mini was absolutely fantastic. I love the way Paul Pelletier, Xermanico, Jésus Merino, and Tom Derenick blend the styles of different Earths and time periods to add to the feeling of these worlds crossing over. Couple that with the masterful inks by Norm Rapmund and Raul Fernandez, absolutely godly colors of Romulo Fajardo Jr., and letters by my long-time favorite Tom Napolitano, and you’ve got a feast for the eyes that reminds me why I love comics.
To that, I agree. Infinite Frontier knows how to use their artists to the best of their ability, and that carries over to Justice League Incarnate. Infinite Frontier is an attempt at a mystery novel, harking back to several important events in DC’s history to pave the way for the next chapter in the story. Some characters, like Chase and the Justice League Incarnate, have fairly substantial roles that fit well for the story they’re in!
Other characters really, really feel like they’re just here to pad out the whole multiverse thing, say a couple lines, then leave.
And other characters, like Barry Allen, feel fridged in their entirety. I can’t exactly call Williamson out for disrespecting Barry when he was the main writer on The Flash for years, but it does seem strange that he spends the entire comic as a plot device and little more – even with the attempt at an emotional and slightly disturbing ending for the character in the final issue.
I really don’t like the oversaturation of the multiverse in pop culture right now, but if we had to get another multiverse story, this was the way to do it. I love seeing new and out there characters like Captain Carrot and Thunderer, as well as genuinely different takes on more familiar heroes, like President Superman or the aforementioned Black Lantern Roy Harper. Way more fun than the current “what if x was y?” that we’re seeing from MCU and its spinoffs.
Yeah, not every multiverse story needs Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.
My issues with Infinite Frontier carry over to Justice League Incarnate, so I’ll save the bulk of my critique for a little later. I think the best thing I can say about this book is that it’s consistent: it has a clear direction, it’s well-paced and with an ending that portrays a suitable degree of gravitas (that I do not feel is the case for some of Williamson’s other stories.)
Justice League Incarnate
But wow, do I HATE this book.
I wouldn’t go THAT far, but it definitely wasn’t great. There’s a lot of surface-level fun concepts at play, but with only 5 issues to develop, everything just feels like a bunch of bullet points of ideas that someone thought would be like, sooooo cool, you guys.
Williamson tries so much here, from planting Thomas Wayne’s Batman in a cartoon universe, to creating a metatextual narrative about Superman writing a comic book, to introducing a brand new Multiversal superhero, to even attempting to explain every single crisis event as one coherent story. It’s an ambitious attempt, and I would be impressed if it wasn’t such a misfire to the point that it blows up in the book’s face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more blatant and completely unsuccessful Grant Morrison impression – and I’ve read every Scott Snyder DC book.
Okay, a little harsh, I know. But I genuinely despise what this book is going for here. Consider Multiversity, and the nature of The Empty Hand as villains in the story. Sure, they have their place as villains in the world of DC itself – but they also serve a larger, symbolic purpose that gives Multiversity narrative weight.
The thing that made The Empty Hand one of my favorite recent villains was their ability to act as a stand-in for the reader, the power each and every one of us has when it comes to the story. The power to put the book down, to end it. To empty our hands.
So what if we just fucking dropped all of that for the sake of “the new biggest baddest most strongestest villain of all time”? The Great Darkness is not an original creation of Williamson’s (it’s Alan Moore’s, surprise surprise), and I’d be grateful he wasn’t inserting an OC if it weren’t for the fact I’m not seeing much originality here at all.
Exactly. There was no purpose The Empty Hand served here outside of “look at this thing you recognize!” I understand that adding yet another “cosmically powerful bad guy” type would have felt pretty shoehorned, but did we need an omniversal baddie of that level? Wasn’t the One True Darkseid enough?
Digging a little deeper, what does this book stand for? What does it want to say, other than Williamson’s usual spiel of DC being about a long and tenured history of superheroes? What does that mean to its readers? If you’re going to write a book about the nature of superheroism, don’t you think you should have a point you’re trying to make, other than how costumed capes are cool and important and capable of stopping queer-coded villains?
Speaking of inserting OCs, let’s circle back to Dr. Multiverse. I’m gonna preface this by saying that I actually quite like Dr. Multiverse in theory. On paper (I guess technically the comic is also on paper but you know what I mean), the idea of a person who’s the only one of themselves in the multiverse is awesome. However, some buildup for her would have been greatly appreciated, especially when she’s just dropped on the reader like she is. We’re expected to just hop on board and ask no questions, when she’s a character I’d very much like to ask questions about. You’ve introduced a genuinely cool and interesting idea here, tell us more!
Her introduction is a whole lot of nothing. Her development is interesting to some degree, and I don’t have any issues with her showing up again – but it’s certainly not a compelling enough character to be one of the hooks for your story. But wait! This book isn’t the whole thing, no sir – tune in to Justice League #75, where we hijack a whole other book to continue this narrative. More on that in my review, out later today.
One thing I will say I enjoyed is the stylistic changes throughout the story, which is helped to a great degree by the variety of artists DC employed for the book. Some of them were traditional and more suited for action-adventure, some employed a more cartoonish style for the more ridiculous universes – it’s fun to see DC embracing the weirdness of their Multiverse, especially when it’s a concept that’s shockingly underutilized in their comics.
100% agree. The rotating styles, and beyond that, the insanely large rotating art team, do nothing but expand upon the feeling of multiversal crossovers mentioned up in the Infinite Frontier section. It’s a small touch, and one that had to have taken a lot of work to coordinate, but the payoff is an astoundingly cool and pretty book that was unfortunately wasted on a plot that doesn’t explore its concept in the slightest.
Overall, Justice League Incarnate is a terribly named followup to a pretty good event that doesn’t live up to any expectations one could have after reading Infinite Frontier.
Oh, and just in case you have any objections to the score:
Yeah, I think the image speaks for itself.
Is it too late to give this a -20? I think I threw up a little.
- Cosmic mysteries in the DC Universe are your bread and butter – there’s good stuff here, even if it isn’t always fully realized.
- You’re a little more interested in plot development than character.
- You want to know what happens before Dark Crisis.
Look. Justice League Incarnate at its lowest isn’t worse than Morbius – but Infinite Frontier at its highest isn’t better than, I don’t know, a cool brunch on a Sunday morning. I don’t dislike Williamson’s writing, but so much of his output ends up being, like I said at the beginning, just fine. “Fine” is good for tie-ins, not the main event of your entire company. The way DC has managed to make what’s supposed to be their biggest story yet feel like a whole lot of nothing is impressive – and I don’t know if they can make up for it.
They definitely won’t with Flashpoint Beyond, that’s for sure.
So, back to Elden Ring?
Please. It’s had its time. I’m a Lego Star Wars man now.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.