DC's year-end crossover event gets a frigid, but fun enough debut in Justice League: Endless Winter #1 (opens in new tab). Sebastian Stagg, fresh off his stint terrorizing the Terrifics, has been doing some digging in the Arctic Circle. More than that, he's been collecting the remains of Superman's destroyed Fortress of Solitude, amassing the Kryptonian crystals for his own nefarious purposes and financial gain. But when his meddling unleashes the Frost King, a new cold-based baddie with connections to the ancient Earth-Prime, Stagg and the Frost King plunge the planet into the titular cold snap, threatening multiple teams across multiple titles.
Written by Andy Lanning & Ron Marz
Art by Howard Porter, Hi-Fi, Marco Santucci, and Arif Prianto
Lettering by Andworld Design and A Larger World Studios' Troy Peteri
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
But though this opening issue is given a fun, grounded charm by writers Andy Lanning and Ron Marz, capped off by cinematic artwork from the teams of Howard Porter and Hi-Fi alongside Marco Santucci and Arif Prianto, Justice League: Endless Winter #1 ends up feeling largely kind of frivolous; doubly so in the ongoing wake of the ending movements of Dark Nights: Death Metal. While fun, and occasionally quite striking visually Justice League: Endless Winter #1 might leave readers a bit cold.(opens in new tab)
Dark things are afoot in the Arctic Circle. Sebastian Stagg, now fully backed by the Stagg family fortune (much to the chagrin of his antihero sister), has committed his considerable resources to dig in the Circle. It is all in pursuit of controlling the leftovers of Superman's Fortress of Solitude, destroyed all the way back in Man of Steel. Meanwhile, in warmer climes, some cult-favorite super villains like Rampage and Catman are kicking back...having just destabilized the local government for money. This, naturally, brings the attention of the Justice League, who crack down on the semi-Secret Six reunion and then are alerted to the drilling once Stagg's crew starts to crack the surface of the ice, drawing the ire of the Frost King, this event's 'Big Bad.'
For a bit, the fun energy of Ron Marz and Andy Lanning's past works pings through the JLA. Throughout an introductory set-piece, lovingly rendered by Porter and Hi-Fi, Marz and Lanning find a really fun dynamic with their lineup, evoking the feel of both the Justice League cartoon and Porter's own JLA, which is even visually referenced in Batman's introduction wherein his iconic 'shoulder points' return. But that visual fun is almost instantly undercut by the truly jarring decision to make their 'nameplates' on the page the older 'New 52' logos, making them incongruous with the tone and energy of the title.
And even though the cinematic artwork of Porter and Hi-Fi keep up the flighty fun of the opener, Lanning and Marz's script never really tops out beyond just fine. After some more check-ins with the larger cast of the crossover, namely Black Lightning Jefferson Pierce and his family, the League is called to face the Frost King, broken from his icy prison in the Arctic Circle by the combination of Stagg's work and the Kryptonian Crystals. Here it is revealed that other ancient heroes like Black Adam, Viking Prince, and Hippolyta once sealed the Frost King away, keeping him from the history of Earth-Prime. But even with this neat bit of history, it all never adds up to much, standing as just a smaller scale, almost quaint counter-programming to the Multiverse-ending stakes of Dark Nights: Death Metal.
That isn't to say that Justice League Endless Winter #1 doesn't look tremendous. Far from it, in fact. Both Porter and Hi-Fi fit back into the kinetics and expressionism of the Justice League really well. Though some of the page layouts are a little humdrum, Porter's pencils and Hi-Fi's colors really sing from the page. Flashback artists Marco Santucci and Arif Prianto also add a neat double-feature-like energy to the issue's back half, transporting readers to the first war with the Frost King with sketchy, more rough-hewn pencils and ombre colors. These pages stand a neat contrast to the slicker, more flashy action in the present and give the event a neat bit of unexpected scale with the reveal.
But I just keep coming away from Justice League: Endless Winter #1 wishing I enjoyed it more. Though given a broad, more classically inspired feel and look to a new DC crossover, I can't help but feel like Marz, Lanning, and company are just marking time until Dark Nights: Death Metal reveals the 'next chapter' of DC. Not exactly the feeling you want when reading a big winter 'blockbuster' heading into the Christmas season. Even with the grounded charm and solid artwork, Justice League: Endless Winter #1 is a coldly concentrated shot of average to kick off this winter crossover.