Infinite Frontier #1 is a gorgeous, engaging, occasionally very clever comic that seems to shoot itself in the foot every five pages. It’s turned the repercussions of DC’s last event into a genuinely compelling story about people grappling with the implications of the multiverse and manages to make several short scenes with many characters across multiple worlds all feel like part of a cohesive story.
However, the book begins with Batman’s Semi-Evil Alternate Universe Dad-Who-Is-Also-Batman arriving on another alternate Superman’s earth in yet another alternate Superman’s rocket. I’m all about reinterpreting superhero symbols and stories by putting them in other contexts, but this feels like it’s lost all meaning in the process. Now, maybe Flashpoint Batman has a lot to add, but even if I believed he was necessary to this story, his introduction is such a jarring instance of superhero Mad-Libs that it isn’t worth it.
The surprise wore off as I realized that the DCU contorting itself around Batman is, for better or worse, the most natural thing in the universe. Smart money says he’ll join Justice Incarnate, filling in that Batman-shaped hole on the roster.
The bit with Batman is used as an example of “multiverse insanity impacting regular folks,” which segues directly into a gorgeous two-page spread. We see the shape of the multiverse, while online comments give us ordinary people’s perspective on suddenly learning of the existential crisis. This opening is involving enough it let me forget about the convoluted setup of the first few pages. And it’s all anchored by Tom Napolitano’s incredible
The text boxes are designed in such a way that they’re clearly excerpts of social media, but they’re kept clean and streamlined enough that you parse the dialogue immediately. It’s hard to pull off, but the effect feels like the reader is pulled into the world of the comic just as the panels zoom in on Earth-Prime.
The story moves naturally to follow the Green Lantern Alan Scott and his team of reality-protecting heroes and villains who formed in the wake of the last crisis. Despite being queer, I’ve never cared much about Alan Scott, but his dynamic with his son Obsidian is fun and hints at a lot of character depth for both of them. Obsidian is understandably tired of duty after duty calling his father away, escalating from protecting a city, to the world, to the whole damn multiverse. What keeps this character beat from feeling like a trite retread is that Obsidian gets it. He’s a superhero, too; he knows the pressures, the demands, the responsibilities. He doesn’t begrudge his father for what he’ does, but he wants things to change, too.
Reintroducing Agent Cameron Chase and Director Bones is an easy sell to fans of the characters, but if you’ve never seen them before, their first scene will make you love them. At the same time, it digs into the fact that people learning of the multiverse is causing existential crises on a global scale, bringing a new and appreciated non-powered perspective of an Event Comic’s™ fallout.
The standout art moment of the book comes when Barry Allen tries to access the multiverse’s new mystery world, Earth-Omega. He’s forced through different art styles and different modes of reality, seemingly just from talking to one of its inhabitants. It’s great to see Xermanico and Romulo Fajardo Jr. flex, but this doesn’t just look gorgeous, it makes you stop and process how surreal this moment must be from Barry’s perspective. The splashes of red between panels make you feel like violence is being done to the page itself, and I’m living for it.
Of course, this ends with Barry in a bad position — one he could have avoided entirely if he just waited for the rest of Justice Incarnate before heading off into the unknown. It feels like an oversight more than a believable mistake, which is a shame because there’s a lot of great writing surrounding it.
The last scene of the book might be my favorite because it just begins with random people in a diner discussing their hazy memories of the end of the world and the implications of the multiverse. It makes the world feel tangible in a way that superhero comics have trouble with as it engages with some interesting ideas — particularly once a crisis-denier starts talking, going off on how he’s never seen any of the crazy shit like gods or apocalypses in person, and it’s all probably being used to keep us in line.
That hits different in 2021, as we deal with our own constant string of crises and horrible reveals about the nature of the world, and some people retreat into their own constructed realities to avoid reckoning with their beliefs.
There’s an opportunity for Infinite Frontier to expand on those ideas, and use the comics medium to talk about how people handle (or hide from) the craziness of our world. For all of my criticisms, none of them are deal-breakers if you’re used to DC comics madness, and there’s a chance this comic could be something really special. All of the right ingredients are there, and the creative team is on fire, but we’ll have to wait and see what Williamson has cooking before we can call this a success.