Review: Immortal Men: The End of Forever trade paperback (DC Comics)

January 9, 2019

 ·  1 comment

Immortal Men was the first of DC Comics' "New Age of Heroes" titles to be cancelled; since that time, we've also seen the ends announced for The Unexpected, Curse of Brimstone, and Sideways (plus the straight-to-miniseries New Challengers), leaving only Silencer, Damage, and The Terrifics from the original pack. As such, Immortal Men: The End of Forever is the first "done in one" "New Age of Heroes" collection I've read, and the first via which we can begin to speculate about the outcome of the "New Age of Heroes" experiment (not good, essentially, though to be fair three [for now] ongoing series with new characters out of seven might not really be a failure).

Immortal Men itself is not bad (lesser than Silencer, on par with Terrifics, and ahead of Damage), though the premise is considerably more interesting than the execution. James Tynion writes, ostensibly following up from his strong team-book work on Detective Comics, and art in the first issue is by Jim Lee, arguably DC's biggest-draw artist. But even with all that power, Immortal Men never quite grips, and never quite finds its hook nor its heart. I'd have kept reading, but the book's end is not a surprise.

[Review contains spoilers]

The back matter for Immortal Men calls it "a secret history to the DC Universe." Even without the (sorely needed) "history of the DC Universe" aspect, the idea that Immortal Men might be populated with long-lived heroes from DC and real-world history is an enticing one; a DC Universe-style League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, if you will. Unfortunately, writer Tynion bumps off some scads of these heroes at the outset, leaving alive only four, all American and all from the 19th and 20th centuries. Had the series continued, maybe Tynion would have found a way to work more in, but on its face this seems an opportunity wasted.

I do appreciate that Jim Lee's character designs nod toward the characters' eras of origin; Ghost Fist, for instance, from the Harlem Renaissance, looks like a pulp hero, while Reload, recruited from the war in Vietnam, has a 1970s gritty Moon Knight kind of look. Timber is a take on the Super Friends character Apache Chief and ironically she's said in-story to have been the inspiration for the legend of Paul Bunyan. But aside from occasional flashback narration from Tynion, there's little to distinguish the characters in attitude or speech patterns as coming from the eras they do. End of Forever's story is constantly in motion, perhaps to its benefit, but after six issues I never felt I'd spent enough down time with any of the characters to care about them or want to follow them individually.

Art is at first by Lee, for part of an issue, then Ryan Benjamin and then Tyler Kirkham. Honestly, I assumed that despite artists' names being listed first for the "New Age of Heroes" books, behind the scenes things were proceeding as normal for DC in that the writer wrote the script and then the artist drew it (in contrast to the "Marvel method" of an artist drawing from a writer's notes). But Tynion does a lot of narrating here, more than in Detective or that I think seems normal for this writer, and to me that reads as discomfort with the artist -- that a writer over-narrates when they're unsure of the art or the art hasn't done its job to convey the scene.

Notably, on the first page of the sixth chapter, in the first panel, the narration talks about the villain having already sent out a kind of digital-psychic call, and then in the second panel the villain places that call via dialogue, and it's these kinds of misfits that make me wonder about the process for the book. Anachronistically, the book posits Amanda Waller as director of ARGUS (a holdover from the New 52) and then redresses the issue with dialogue, again seeming a collision of art and story (there is a very current depiction of the Justice League at the end, but interviews have suggested Immortal Men might've been in the works for a while).

Tynion posits a structure of five "houses" for the Immortal Man and his siblings, which I thought held potential (though at this point, while Geoff Johns didn't invent the trope, such a structure immediately reminds of Johns' multi-hued Corps). The main rivals of Immortal Man's Action house are his sister "Infinite Woman"'s Conquest house; Lee's 1990s-influenced designs present Infinite Woman and her minions as irredeemably fiendish, but I thought Tynion did a good job of crafting reasonable-ish philosophies for both parties. The Action house supports humanity essentially by performing superheroics in secret, while the Conquest house purportedly supports humanity by creating conflicts for humanity to overcome. Conquest's war and murder are ostensibly bad, but equally a Lex Luthor-esque character might take a dim view of Action doing what they think best without giving humanity a say in the matter. In that way there's an Authority-type bent to Tynion's protagonists that might have offered nuanced exploration as the series matured.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Immortal Men: The End of Forever

Jim Lee penning Immortal Men: The End of Forever is perhaps the biggest indication something greater was intended here, though that stops short when Lee immediately departs. One could be forgiven for waxing a tad cynical about the "New Age of Heroes" titles meant to be artist spotlight books that all almost immediately lost their star artists. Yes, the buying public needs more appetite for something new, but at the same time when hype continues to fail to deliver, it's not surprising the public keeps to known entities. I've a soft spot for these "see what sticks" spin-off spawn of crossovers (see Primal Force, Xenobrood, and of course everyone's trying to score a Starman) and it's unfortunate the evidence is for fewer, not more of these. Hopefully DC offers some sort of wrap up to the Immortal Men story, sometime.

[Includes original covers, triptych cover image, pitch notes, character designs]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Immortal Men: The End of Forever
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Pretty sure The Terrifics is also ending. Lemire announced #14 was his last issue, and the solicitation for #14 calls it an "epic conclusion to over a year of Terrifics comics stories."

    ReplyDelete

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.