Friday, December 11, 2020

Review: Endless Winter Superman Special

Times are strange at DC Comics, no doubt.

The beginning of 2021 is a two month experiment, Future State, looking at their characters in a possible (or probable or definitive) future. Those books must be the remnants of the proposed '5G' reboot where DC was going to replace all their main characters with new versions. I can only assume that AT&T squelched the destruction of their newly acquired IP. And so Future State instead of being *the* future state is a 2 month detour. (I do find it intriguing that so many Future State creative teams have been announced on oncoming titles come February.)

But to lead us into this new state, DC also took December off, running the Endless Winter crossover throughout all their major books. Creative teams are not present. Ron Marz and Andy Lanning are at the helm. And so we get a speed bump before the detour.

This is not a bashing of Endless Winter, a story that I am enjoying so far. It is a questioning of DC's editorial hierarchy. Three months away from the main universe in a questionable market seems like a gamble. Trust me, I have lived through periods where a new 'jumping on' point has been a potential 'jumping off' point for me.

But enough about DC's difficulties cultivating audiences. Let's talk about Endless Winter Superman Special #1. Written by Ron Marz and Andy Lanning with art by Phil Hester and Marco Santucci, this is a decent character piece looking at Superman in contrast to the Frost King, the cause of Earth's next Ice Age.

I have been around long enough to have read many similar character studies on Superman. But when done right, they make me smile. I liked this issue. So let's dive in.

We start out in the 10th century, in a Nordic village, where a man named Edwald develops ice powers. Initially, he is lauded as a hero, defending his people with his powers.

But then he loses control and the place is plunged into an Endless Winter. People wonder if he is actually the physical manifestation of the Frost King.

There is a little bit of 'Frozen' here. Shouldn't Edwald just 'let it go'?

Eventually, with the village suffering, the people attack Edwald's house inadvertently killing his son.

Faced with that tragedy, Edwald explodes in cold energy. 

Marz asks what moment, what tragedy, will break a man? Now we have seen this moment in Elseworld's with Superman. How many dark takes are there where Lois dying sends Superman off the deep end.

But this flashback sequence, with lovely detailed art by Santucci, shows how isolated Edwald is. Is it just the death of his son or is it that plus his being shunned that causes this reaction?


Flash forward to the present. 

The Earth is plunged in Endless Winter. Mindless ice monsters prowl everywhere. Snow has piled so high that reporters in the Daily Planet smash a window from a top floor to hike down the accumulated snow.

Superman is there of course. He still protects Metropolis even if he also protects the world.

What I like about this is how Lois basically takes charge. Superman has other places to protect. She can shepherd these people to safety. And she certainly doesn't want to hunker down alone in the Fortress.

Is his having to leave his loved ones for the greater good an issue that will break him?

These two are a team. She understands his needs, his worries, his mission. He understands hers.

Hester's minimalist art works well in the context of endless white backgrounds and ice.

The captions are from a piece Lois is writing.

It is an Endless Winter and an endless fight. No matter where he goes and what he tries to do, he is swamped by the ice creatures. They can't hurt him but they can delay him, annoy him. 

You can imagine that fighting this never-ending battle could weigh on him.

Could being all-powerful but basically powerless break him?

He looks down on Earth.

Will he lose another planet? Will he be crushed by the burden to protect us?

Will this break him?

Unlike Edwald who is rejected by his friends, Superman has support though.

He heads home for a visit to his parents. He asks them if they want to head to the Fortress and they also decline.

I am all about Kent wisdom and this scene is just great. First off, Ma and Pa still talk to Superman like he is their young son. Pa tells him not to sass Ma. Ma tells him he needs to eat. Both tell him that they have survived Kansas winters in the past and can survive this one. 

He needs to head out there. 

See, Superman won't lose hope. The people won't lose hope. Everyone feeds off of everyone. Everyone supports everyone. Maybe if Edwald had such a nurturing and loving environment Arendelle wouldn't be in deep deep deep deep snow. (Oops, sorry. That's Frozen again.)

I do love Superman flying away with a Thermos of presumably Ma's soup. And seeing Kal and Krypto together always makes me happy.

So Superman doesn't crack. 

But we all knew that.

But there is still the bigger story. 

This all started when Stagg Industries and STAR Labs dug up some odd ice in the Arctic, an ice laced with Kryptonian crystal tech. And now in one big chunk, three life signals are found. 

I don't mind these one off looks at who Superman is. I know who he is. But as they say, every comic is someone's first comic. And this is fine primer on how Superman looks at the world. It also is a nice way of showing how the world looks at him. This isn't ground breaking. But it is entertaining.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me but I'm way more interested in Future State than Endless Winter. Future State seems like a good way to mix things up and every title I've seen so far makes me want to read them. I hope some of those titles stick around even if they have to be in their own Elseworlds style label to do it.

Kinofreak said...

Wasn't Edwald the father or brother of Ice?