THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up crew gathers at the center of the multiverse to talk about INFINITE FRONTIER #1 by Joshua Williamson, Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Tom Napolitano, the start of a new miniseries that looks to make use of DC’s alternate worlds. Plus, stick around to see what we thought of Batman: Reptilian by Garth Ennis, Liam Sharp, and Rob Steen.

Note: the reviews below contains spoilers.

Infinite Frontier #1

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Xermanico
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

ZACK QUAINTANCE: Okay team, we’re here (sans Joe) for our monthly roundtable chat. There’s a few high profile books this week, but I kind of want to eat dessert first and lead off by talking about the one that was my personal favorite: What did you all think of Infinite Frontier #1?

GREG SILBER: Well, I’m The Beat’s resident “Animal Man by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog” evangelist, so I’m sure you could guess what my favorite part of Infinite Frontier #1 was. But even beyond that, I really enjoyed this one.  Joshua Williamson and company are having a lot of fun with the concept of a multiverse, which is how it should be when your comic includes a bunny rabbit Superman.

CORI MCCREERY: Infinite Frontier #1 was just an awful lot of fun. It takes the concept of the multiverse and plays with it in a way we haven’t seen in a very long time, and it’s just refreshing. Hell maybe it can even finally make good use out of Flashpoint Batman.

Infinite Frontier #1

ZACK: Now now, I liked Infinite Frontier #1 too, but make good use of Flashpoint Batman is a bold thing to throw out there. Although, admittedly this issue was the most I’ve ever enjoyed the character.

GREG: I like how Williamson is playing with the “mainstreaming” of the multiverse as a concept. Just last week I was visiting my family and my 60-year-old parents who never read comics were talking about how they heard something about the multiverse on TV or whatever. Unprompted by me! It’s wild! Normal people know what a multiverse is now!

CORI: And also the mainstreaming of the multiverse WITHIN the fictional universe. The people of the DC Universe know there’s other Earths now. Not just the superheroes, but everyone.

GREG: It really would mess me up to learn there’s another version of me out there. It’s a great angle to explore. Mostly I want to know what animal i am in the Captain Carrot universe, but that’s neither here nor there.

CORI: What if Gorilla Gregg is the you from Earth 26?

GREG: Cori… yes.

CORI: Viola, I fixed Teen Titans Academy, you’re welcome Mr. Sheridan.

ZACK: Anyway. I think there’s also a thing to this comic where we haven’t had a whole lot of (super meaningful or well-done) multiverse action in recent years, and this story is well aware of that. It’s like, look I know you want this…and here it is.

CORI: Similarly, we haven’t gotten any really good Roy Harper stories in recent years, and boy howdy did this issue excite me in that regard.

Infinite Frontier #1

GREG: I’ve talked to you both privately about this, but I’ve generally been more positive on recent multiversal DC stuff. But I definitely agree this is a vibe we’ve been lacking. Fun and outwardly silly rather than tongue-in-cheek. I know way less about Roy than Cori, but HOLY MOLY was his twist in this issue wild.

CORI: loved that he got all up in the face of a Multiverse Denier, which felt rather poignant in these times. But then, yes, his twist was fantastic.

ZACK: That was great. We haven’t gotten X in recent years, but now we’re getting a whole lot of X and it rules…is a vibe that’s going around DC since the regime change. Just sayin’.

GREG: You’re not wrong!

CORI: It’s just refreshing. Like a cold Sprite on a summer day. (You can DM me for my address for the product placement check Coke).

Infinite Frontier #1

ZACK: Where do you all think this story is headed? Any predictions? Anything you’d like to see? Both Infinite Frontier #0 and the cover to this issue have promised us Darkseid

CORI: It’s clear that Darkseid is behind the Psycho Pirate in this issue, but I have no clue what his end goal is yet.

ZACK: I know it will be more detailed than this, but I think in a word, it’s EVIL.

GREG: Weirdly that wasn’t super obvious to me? But that sort of subtlety has been severely lacking in Darkseid appearances for the past few… decades. He shouldn’t be a villain who seems like he can be defeated by just punching real good! I want him to just show up on Alan Scott’s couch for no reason in the classic Kirby fashion.

ZACK: I want him to monologue more again. One of my favorite qualities of classic Darkseid was that he was kind of a blowhard.

CORI: The only thing that made it obvious to me was that Pirate had an Omega on his chest.

GREG: What did you all think of the Alan Scott stuff in this issue by the way? That was a real highlight in #0.

CORI: I keep using this word, but exciting. It’s just another way that DC in this new era is pushing things forward instead of letting them stagnate, but also doing so in a way that reengages old fans like me.

ZACK: I’ve enjoyed all the Alan Scott appearances, and he was definitely one of the things I was thinking about earlier when I mentioned getting a whole lot of certain characters and ideas that have been withheld. He’s been really well-served so far this year, in a way that makes me expect to see more Alan Scott stories too.

GREG: I literally could not care less about Alan Scott before these issues. I now care quite a bit about what happens to him next.

ZACK: Did you all have favorite moments in this issue? It all felt like a ton of fun throughout, and I think that clicked for me right away with the line, “Why would someone ship us a Batman?”

GREG: I gasped aloud when Psycho Pirate showed up. I am such a sucker for that Animal Man shit.

CORI: Loved that line, Zack, but my favorite moment was the end. And while we danced around it earlier, I’ll just say it now: Roy’s a Black Lantern, and created a bunch of Black Lantern constructs of himself to fight off some sort of execution squad.

ZACK: The ending of Infinite Frontier #1 was so great.

GREG: I’m impressed that it excited me as much as it did, because I was not the biggest fan of Blackest Night.

ZACK: That touches on something interesting. I have never read Blackest Night in full (look, I know), but I don’t think fandom for that (or any of the other stories referenced here) is a prerequisite for enjoying this comic and what it’s trying to do. It’s almost cliche to talk about this with modern superhero stories, but this one really does do a great job of walking the fine line of being beholden to past material but wholly fun and accessible without much prior knowledge.

GREG: That is such a great point Zack. Infinite Frontier #1 is the rare “event” comic that’s (A) actually good and (B) full of trivial minutiae for the hardcore fans in a way that I genuinely don’t think would alienate newbies.

CORI: I have read Blackest Night, and you absolutely never need to read it, nor any Geoff Johns event. Ever.

GREG: Not to continue my streak of being a hopeless Grant Morrison stan, but I got Final Crisis vibes from Infinite Frontier so far.

ZACK: I think that’s right, and really, my hope is the book sort of becomes this sustained multiversal romp.

GREG: Well you know you’re in for a good time when a character pulls out the Multiversity Map.

ZACK: Truly. Alright crew, any closing Infinite Frontier thoughts before moving onto our other book for the week?

GREG: What’s the over/under on Joshua Williamson himself making an on-panel appearance by the end of this thing?

ZACK: I don’t know if that’s the correct use of over/under, but I don’t think we see him in this book.

CORI: I don’t see Williamson pulling a Grant, if only because I think he’d have learned from Grant’s mistake to not make yourself intellectual property of a big corporation.

GREG: Touche!

Batman Reptilian #1

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Liam Sharp
Letterer: Rob Steen

ZACK: So, we’ve got one more book this week to talk about…Batman – Reptilian. Full disclosure, when I read this book, I thought to myself, Cori and Greg probably did not like this one very much.

GREG: You said privately the other day that there was something specific here you thought I, specifically, would hate, and I’m dying to know what that was. And to be clear, I didn’t hate Batman Reptilian. It just seems like a case of “not for me.”

CORI: I didn’t necessarily dislike the book, like it’s not gonna get a D or an F grade when I review it in my monthly column, but I didn’t like it either. It’s just kinda there, and I don’t see the point for it with much better Batbooks on the market right now.

ZACK: It was just the whole vibe of the book, Greg. I think this is a book that doesn’t like Batman very much, and for whatever reason, I thought you specifically Greg would not be super into that sort of thing.

GREG: You were correct!

ZACK: To me this book has an energy that might be summed up as “hey, isn’t Batman a dumb thing?”

CORI: I also didn’t care for the art. The Liam Sharp painting doesn’t work well for me. It’s too dark and really not easy to read on a tablet. Maybe it’d be better in physical copy.

GREG: I was thinking the same thing. Liam Sharpe is super talented, but I could barely follow what was happening visually here. Which isn’t a problem when I read more traditional pencils-and-inks by him

CORI: To me it felt like he was trying to hard to be Dave McKean.

ZACK: To be fair, the low-res PDF format we get review material in also does not do painted artwork — especially that of a darker bend — any favors.

GREG: I’d say I’d be willing to reread in print, because I prefer print anyway, but “overly verbose, mean Batman” just isn’t something I really care to revisit.

CORI: There’s just better Batman I can spend my time reading. Like when I read 1000 issues of stuff with Tim Drake in it.

GREG: There are some good ideas here, like Batman using the refrain that he “doesn’t kill” as a point of intimidation, but there are people who aren’t me who will enjoy all that a lot more.

ZACK: So, I’m not inherently opposed to the idea of exploring what if Batman was a total dick and his refusal to kill is actually a scarier thing than if he did end people. That said, after one issue, I’m in a place of, wait and see if this comic will end up being something I really like. I do find it darkly funny that a criminal would be laying awake at night, hearing the phrase “remember…Batman doesn’t kill” and just shaking from what that might mean for him.

GREG: I genuinely loved that, haha.

CORI: Yeah, that threat is the one thing I really enjoyed from the comic.

ZACK: It’s almost like your imagination is worse than the real threat.

GREG: I should also add, taking over for the late great Steve Dillon, for whom Batman Reptilian was originally written, is an unenviable task. I liked Sharpe’s little note about him, and I respect the hell out of him drawing this in a style that’s totally unlike Dillon’s.

ZACK: It really is, and it occurred to me that having a forward telling readers this script was meant for Steve Dillon is maybe not a great idea. No knock on Liam Sharpe (whose work I also love), but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed we never got to see the Dillon version here. I found myself wondering throughout what could have been, and it kind of took me out of the story.

CORI: Yeah, might have been better to save that for the afterword of the last issue.

GREG: If it were up to me that’s what I would have done. But like I said, it’s a bit of a lose-lose situation, and regardless of the execution of the art itself, I thought that note was really sweet.

CORI: The note was wonderful.

ZACK: The note was quite touching.

Checkmate #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Josh Reed 

CORI: So uh, Checkmate, eh?

ZACK: Feel the delay! That book looked great, but jeez, you can kind of feel how many plot lines it references that have since moved on.

GREG: I had pretty much the same reaction to this issue as I did its predecessor, Event Leviathan, which is that there sure are a lot of people talking about things that certainly seem very important, but I can’t find much of a reason to care.

CORI: It was clearly a book that was meant to come out before Infinite Frontier started and the fact that it didn’t is just brutal to it over all.

GREG: I do have to wonder how different we’d feel if it came out sooner. Our lukewarm reception might not be the fault of the comic itself, you know?

CORI: I think I’d be much warmer to it if it came out when it was supposed to. I liked most of Leviathan quite a bit. But the delays killed this book, and I’m also struggling to care.

ZACK: I agree, and I also liked Leviathan. I do have a hope for this book though, which is that it gives us a satisfying end to the Leviathan storyline. It kind of seems like Leviathan is done in the new Infinite Frontier status quo, which means this book could have a roll in tying up the loose ends.

GREG: I like the Leviathan concept and am a bigger Bendis fan than most, so I’m cautiously optimistic Checkmate will find its footing.

ZACK: Well team, I think we did it, another great and super witty chat by a trio of wonderful people.

CORI: Yeah, always fun! I’m going to sleep now.

ZACK: See you all somewhere in the multiverse!

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