Endless Winter, Part 1
The Frost King ain't no jolly magical wintertime snowman. He's back. And he's pissed. And he's rising up from the Fortress of Solitude's former residence to wreak havoc upon an unsuspecting world...
DC’s Justice League: Endless Winter #1 kicks off the company’s month-long crossover of the same name. It tells the tale of the Frost King, an ancient villain awoken by corporate environmental raiders in the Arctic, who’s mad about… something, and unleashes a worldwide winter storm as recompense. Oh, and there’s a Justice League Viking, apparently, from about a thousand years ago, too, that have something to do with this.
Now that we’ve established a baseline of facts, let’s cut to the chase: this comic almost certainly exists as a means to fill the publishing gap in December between DC axing a half-dozen titles last month and the kickoff of Future State next month. It’s a filler arc meant to move units and pad the publishing line while the company treads water between disparate (desperate?) ends of their recent chaotic behind-the-scenes earthquakes. The problem here, though, is that it’s hard to enjoy this comic beyond a most basic surface level when its reason for existing is so transparent. Endless Winter isn’t a horrible comic by any means, or even a bad one. But it doesn’t give readers any reason to care about it.
Actually, that’s not quite right: it’s exactly as good as a reader wants it to be. If someone were to go into it expecting something unique, or special, or groundbreaking in any way, they’re going to walk away disappointed. And why wouldn’t they? There really isn’t much going on with the story: one-dimensional bad guy breaks out of the ice, screaming about vengeance, and kicks off a big ol’ worldwide winter storm. Oh, and he makes animated ice wolves. (That’s cool, but nothing we haven’t seen before.) There’s perhaps some half-hearted attempt at making a statement on spoiling the Arctic for corporate gains, but it never really gains any traction.
There’s a couple of interesting angles to the story, though, that aren’t fleshed out much yet but bear watching as the story proceeds: first, the Frost King emerged from the former locale of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, and may or may not be imbued with Kryptonian this-and-thats, leaving Superman to feel responsible. That provides some emotional stakes for our Man of Steel, which are things Endless Winter desperately needs. As it stands, so far it’s just a standard supervillain/superhero punch-’em-up.
Second, there’s the so-called Justice League Viking, consisting of Hippolyta, Black Adam, an early incarnation of Swamp Thing, and Viking Prince. Forged a thousand years ago, this proto-League banded together to battle the Frost King the first time he rose, and are apparently responsible for his entrapment. Unfortunately, the obvious parallels between Marvel’s Avengers 10,000 BCE are too noticeable to be ignored, and the lack of originality in the idea of JLV means that it’s dead on arrival before it even gets a chance to launch. Ho-hum.
So, with all that, what’s the up side? Readers wanting a straightforward superhero comic are likely to be entertained. That may be damning it with faint praise, but the honest truth is that some readers really do just want some straight-up superhero fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Justice League: Endless Winter is a comic that doesn’t exist to change the game in any way; it exists as a pure product of entertainment. Think of it as a Michael Bay movie without the crass cynicism or inherent racism and sexism. It’s pure popcorn movie put to page. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but it certainly lowers the bar for expectations.
Howard Porter and colorist Hi-Fi do the most heavy lifting here, rip-roaring through the script and pulling out all the artist stops possible to deliver on the spectacle where they can (and giving us Catman!). And to be sure, there are a lot of big wide-screen moments that the artistic duo deliver on. That doesn’t make for a deep comic, but at least visually, it makes for a fun comic. And when it comes to punching ancient ice deities on the head, that’s definitely what readers should be looking for.
Lanning and Marz are good writers. Legends, even. They’ve written or co-authored some of the best comics DC or any publisher have ever printed, from Green Lantern or Silver Surfer to Guardians of the Galaxy or The Legion. Which makes it all the more sad to report that they were clearly tasked to write a story to kill time for a month, and that’s exactly what Endless Winter reads like: a comic of no real consequence, transparently designed to sell a story most readers will have forgotten about as soon as it’s concluded. Readers deserve better, but almost more importantly, every creator involved deserves better.
Justice League: Endless Winter #1 is a comic that isn't necessarily bad but doesn't have any real reason to exist, and it shows. The art boosts an otherwise forgettable story, but that's about it. Is it time for Future State yet?
Justice League: Endless Winter #1: Winter Wonderland
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 3/103/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
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