Review: Infinite Frontier hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

There’s a prescient moment at the end of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis where the apparent last Monitor, Nix Uotan, wakes as human in Metropolis to the sound of radio commentators discussing the newly revealed “parallel worlds” — the newly resurrected DC Multiverse (not for the first time — or the last time, either). Aside for a few references in Final Crisis follow-ups, however, the apparent public knowledge of the multiverse was mostly ignored and disregarded, if not right away then surely once DC reset their continuity with the New 52.

More’s the pity because, among other things, this might have offered some useful differentiation at a moment when the DC Universe needed it (see the decline of the next few years that ended up with the New 52). After 80-odd years, I think “the DCU is just like our world, only with superheroes” wouldn’t be harmed by an update. Consider as an example the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which upon reaching the end of its first “phase trilogy” and contemplating its future, overlaid its entire continuity with a five-year “blip” that affected some, left behind others, and defined the culture of that fictional world as something all its own. The DCU had a similar opportunity with “people just like us but who live with the knowledge of parallel worlds.”

DC’s Joshua Williamson-lead Infinite Frontier leans very heavily on Final Crisis, to the extent one could go from that earlier story to this later one and not find too many seams. A big multiversal crisis just happened? Check. Certain absent or dead characters returned to life? Check. The DC Multiverse is now public knowledge? Also check.

[Review contains spoilers]

That DC’s newest era moves forward on the basis of a crossover event from over a decade ago (if not also bits of the well of a crossover event from three decades ago that they can’t stop drinking from) is good or bad depending on your viewpoint. But if DC and Williamson are trading on a “multiverse revealed!” idea from 10 years ago, at the least Williamson gives it an engaging modern twist. The multiverse is real — or is it? Some people believe it, but some think it’s just mass hysteria, or a rumor spread by superheroes to keep the citizenry in line. It’s a political divide, but also capitalism at its finest, as with a brewery that touts unsubstantiated that its beer is made from hops from different worlds.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

It’s a thread that I hope Williamson doesn’t lose as he goes, and that I hope other writers pick up. It addresses one of my biggest complaints about DC’s use of its multiverse going back as far as 2005’s Infinite Crisis or earlier — that DC has for decades used their multiverse as an applause line, its existence being the big revelation at the core of every major event, even if nothing comes of it afterward (looking at you, 52, but that’s far from the only guilty party). With Infinite Frontier, not only is the multiverse in the public domain, but also its characters are front and center, doing things — our Flash Barry Allen working with the President Superman of Earth-23 and Batman Thomas Wayne of the former Flashpoint Earth. That there’s a Justice League Incarnate miniseries to follow is great; I’d love to see an ongoing.

I am feeling my way through in what is essentially the new Joshua Williamson era of DC Comics. I enjoyed Infinite Frontier very much, seeing in it with one writer and limited seven-issue scope an advoidance of the pitfalls of a bloated book like Countdown to Final Crisis, which similarly tried to serve as the connective tissue of the DCU and imploded spectacularly. I’m wary, because Williamson’s Flash didn’t always sit well with me and also my sense (and this is just my opinion, take it for what you will) that this writer holds the reins of DC’s future only after two or three other writers suddenly departed for greener pastures.

But where occasional elements could still use polish — a villain called “X-tract” (and also “Extract”) whose job it is to … extract people, that the answer to every mystery the book sets up seems to be Darkseid, and then the startling reveal is that it is, indeed, Darkseid — overall I had no great complaints about the writing of the characters in this book.

Williamson succeeds in a hard lift making Thomas Wayne palatable again so soon after his significant heel turn in Tom King’s Batman (though Alfred strangely never gets a mention here) and pairs Thomas well with President Superman. I’d probably read a Cameron Chase and Roy Harper buddy procedural forever. And equally Williamson does well writing such lost-to-limbo characters as Power Girl, Atom Smasher, and Damage (though I was sorry that such really long-lost characters like Wildcat Yolanda Montez and Dr. Mid-Nite Beth Chapel only got the briefest of lines before disappearing entirely).

On art, credited series artist Xermanico does fine work, drawing a multiverse’s worth of characters with aplomb. Though, I really perked up when Paul Pelletier came on the scene, delivering the George Perez/Jerry Ordway vibe that a DC event like this cries out for. The Infinite Frontier Secret Files stories included here give opportunity for some great artists we don’t see as often at DC, including Valentine De Landro and Christopher Mitten.

One of my greatest thrills in Infinite Frontier — and come on, this was a great moment — was when Magog came out of the woodwork; more cameos like that, please! But also I thought Joshua Williamson offered an interesting perspective through Magog, reinforced later through the Iron Man analogue Machine Head, that historically all the multiverse’s problems have started on “our” Earth and then splintered outward — an “everyone hates Earth-0” scenario, if you will.



It’s another way Williamson starts to finally complicate the idea of the DC Multiverse in timely ways — how does the seemingly most special Earth in the world deal with being not so special? So far so good, and I’m interested to see where Williamson’s time in the sun with the DCU takes us.

[Includes original and variant covers]


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