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Comics Wire: DC teases Infinite Frontier era; Fantastic Four and Defenders; this week's hot reads

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Feb 10, 2021, 10:02 AM EST (Updated)

Welcome to Comics Wire, SYFY WIRE's weekly comics column that gets at the pulse of what's going on in comics right now. We've got what you need to know about huge crossovers, real-life issues facing the industry, cool first looks, the week's hot new comics, and everything in-between.

In less than a month, DC Comics will launch what they've dubbed the Infinite Frontier Era with the massive Infinite Frontier #0 special, and now that the moment is drawing closer, we're starting to get a better sense of what that special will actually contain and why it matters so much to what's next. Late last week, DC released a string of compelling new preview pages from the one-shot, which you can check out in the gallery below, and also shed some light on the lineup of stories as we prepare for an era that seems poised to open up the wider world of DC characters in ways that even Future State has perhaps been unable to do.

Earlier this month, in an interview with Newsarama, Infinite Frontier #0 co-writer and "showrunner" Joshua Williamson offered a tease of what's to come in the special by essentially describing the frame story he's scripted for it. We know that in the wake of Dark Nights: Death Metal the DC Multiverse became something more like an "Omniverse," as new multiverses began emerging after our heroes' victory and Hypertime began healing around them, and we also know that Wonder Woman's role in the final battle had a lot to do with that. Now, as Wonder Woman ponders an offer to ascend to a higher plane of existence after her victory, Williamson is preparing to take her on a tour of the DC Omniverse in an effort to find the "cost" of this new infinite frontier.

"Before she agrees to keep ascending, she's like 'I have to know what that cost is. I have to know what is out there that was the cost,'" Williamson explained. "So, the Spectre offers to take her on a journey to try and find what that cost is, and that's what takes us across the DCU and all these different chapters that were done by different creators, we go through the other chapters that I wrote."

That's all a rather grand, cosmic way of saying we're going to get a grand tour of what this reshaped DC Universe looks like in terms of the consequences of Death Metal, and it'll all help set the stage for what's to come, whether we're talking about the future of Batman, the new Suicide Squad series, or even more just-announced new DC projects. Future State will, of course, also have a role to play in all of this, as in the last week alone DC has announced a new ongoing series that takes place in the Future State version of Gotham City and a new Wonder Girl comic focusing on the Future State Wonder Woman, Yara Flor. It's all extremely ambitious, and provided DC continues to lean into the possibilities provided by this omniversal shake-up, it also feels like it has the capacity to be very friendly to new readers, lapsed readers, and beyond.

Infinite Frontier #0 arrives March 2.


Two ambitious new Marvel projects

Marvel Comics

In the past week, Marvel Comics has announced two very intriguing projects that fans of ambitious superhero storytelling should absolutely keep on their radar in the coming months. First up, last Wednesday the publishers revealed that writer Mark Russell and artist Sean Izaakse are giving the Life Story treatment to the Fantastic Four, in celebration of 60 years of Marvel's first superhero team.

The Life Story concept originated with the excellent Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, and it carries an ambitious central conceit: Tell the story of the chosen character or characters in real time. So, instead of the sliding timeline usually at work in Marvel continuity, the FF stories published in the '60s will be set in the '60s, the stories published in the '70s will be set in the '70s, and so on. It's a way to reckon with the timeline of these characters in a whole new way, and given how well Russell has handled ambitious superhero concepts in the past, it's going to be an absolute must-read, particularly for a Ben Grimm superfan like myself.

Fantastic Four: Life Story launches in May. Head over to Marvel's website for a closer look at the debut issue.

Marvel Comics

And speaking of ambitious stories, it looks like Marvel's weirdest superteam is making a comeback. The publisher dropped the teaser image above, featuring gorgeous Javier Rodriguez artwork, as a teaser for the formation of a "New Defenders" team this summer. Sadly, that's all we really know about what's to come so far, but if you look at the tarot cards in the image, you can see that they feature both Defenders mainstays like Hulk, Namor, and Silver Surfer and characters like Moondragon, Cloud, Valkyrie, Harpy, Beast, and Daimon Hellstrom.

Plus, there's the Masked Raider, who had a key role to play in Marvel Comics #1000 via Al Ewing's "Mask of Eternity" frame story in that one-shot. The Masked Raider's presence, plus that of Immortal Hulk mainstay Harpy, could suggest an Al Ewing Defenders book is in our future. While I'd be overjoyed to hear that, we'll have to wait for more details to know for sure. Watch this space.


More news: Silver City at AfterShock, Made in Korea from Image, and an intriguing Kickstarter

AfterShock Comics

- The folks at AfterShock Comics are on quite a hot streak of high-concept new genre series lately, and this May it feels like they might have another hit on their hands with Silver City, a new supernatural series from writer Olivia Cuartero-Briggs and artist Luca Merli. The book follows a young woman who arrives in the title city — a metropolis that represents the afterlife — and tries to unravel the mystery of how exactly she died, only to then stumble upon a kidnapping plot and discover that she's developing supernatural abilities in death. That's a lot to dig into, and I can't wait. Check out a preview over at the AfterShock site.

- If you're looking for a new hard sci-fi comic, Image Comics might have you covered with Made in Korea, a new miniseries from writer Jeremy Holt and artist George Schall that's described as Ex Machina meets Descender. According to Holt, the series emerged from his own very personal journey of self-discovery, and will "follow Jesse, the world’s first true A.I. system, on an exciting exploration of what it means to be a family in an age when biological parenthood is no longer a reality." This fascinating sci-fi deep dive arrives in May, and you can check out a full preview (including some beautiful art from Schall) over at Image's website.

- Are you on the hunt for a new comics Kickstarter to back? Might I suggest The Miracles, a new original graphic novel from writer Joe Glass, artist Vince Underwood, colorist Harry Saxon, and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou that packs a hell of a hook in its description. The book will follow a comic book-obsessed teenager who discovers that he's not only developing superpowers, but he's secret the son of superheroes. But not just any superheroes: The superheroes from the very comics he grew up reading, who've become refugees in our world. I was sold even before I saw the art, which also turned out to be fantastic. You can snag a digital copy for about $14. Head over to Kickstarter and check it out.


New Comics this week: Radiant Black, a DC Comics Valentine's Special, and more!

Image Comics

That's the news. Now let's talk about some of the comics I got excited about this week.

Radiant Black #1: Easily one of the most-hyped comics of 2021 so far, writer Kyle Higgins and artist Marcelo Costa's Radiant Black is billed as a superhero story for a new generation, a blending of stuff like Power Rangers and Invincible that hopes to bring something fresh to a very well-trafficked genre. That's a bold way to market the book, but after reading the first issue it really feels like the folks at Image Comics truly didn't undersell it. This really is a fresh, vibrant new vision of superhero stories, packed with potential and humor and truly gorgeous art.

This story picks up with Nathan, a struggling writer who's just had to move back in with parents to claw himself out from under a mountain of debt. Everything changes when, one night while walking through his hometown, he spots a strange object hovering in the air and grabs onto it. Suddenly, Nathan is imbued with powers beyond his wildest dreams, but where did the powers come from, and who might be looking for them?

There's some very familiar to the way Radiant Black launches its story, whether you're a Power Rangers fan or a Blue Beetle fan or even a Spider-Man fan, that immediately gave me a kind of warm cozy feeling as I settled into Nathan's story. Baker and Costa aren't trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the stuff we love about superheroes; they're fans too, and they prove they know how to set this kind of story up with deft, efficient hands.

No, what makes Radiant Black special is the same thing that makes a lot of the great early superhero adventures special: A point of view. There's a genuine emotional weight to Nathan's struggle to find meaning in his life, particularly when he ends up in the last place he wanted to be, and Costa's art sells that whether he's illustrating intimate conversations over beers or the sudden emergence of a new supersuit with a very slick design. Higgins' script, imbued with humor and sharp dialogue throughout, only adds to the feeling that we know this guy, and we're immediately invested in his budding superhero career. Radiant Black is a sharp, thoughtful, relentlessly entertaining superhero debut, and a must-read for fans of the genre looking for something new.

DC Love is a Battlefield #1: I've written before about my soft spot for DC's seasonal 80-page anthology comics, and this year's Valentine's special is no different. Packed with talent and brimming with stories ranging from classic pairings to unexpected new connections, it's pure joy for fans of romantic comedy and superhero adventure alike.

In the realm of expected-but-still-very-entertaining stories, the anthology launches with a Batman/Catwoman tale from Christos Gage and Xermanico that takes one of DC's greatest couples to a very odd party. From there, we get a genuinely emotional Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor tale from Crystal Frasier and Juan Gedeon that takes an unexpected turn when a villain makes a powerful admission, and later Cavan Scott and Jose Luis give us a time-spanning Hawkman/Hawkwoman tale, while Regine Sawyer and Rob Guillory show us what Mister Miracle and Big Barda do for their anniversary. Of all these more familiar pairings, though, the one that hits hardest is a Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy tale from Tim Seeley and Rebekah Isaacs that will have you wiping a tear or two from your eye even if you've never shipped it.

On the slightly more unexpected side of things, Mark Russell and Nik Varela offer an extraordinarly clever (even by Mark Russell standards) Amanda Waller and Perry White meet-up (yes, really), while Marquis Draper and Pop Mhan show us the highs and lows of young love with a Kid Flash/Red Arrow story, John Ridley and Amancay Nahueplan show us what happens when John Stewart and Fatality meet among the stars, and Sina Grace and Karl Mostert deliver a tale of re-connecting exes with Nightwing and Starfire. Then there's the Sgt. Rock story from Pornsak Pichetshote and Chris Mooneyham that at first blush maybe looks like it doesn't belong in a Valentine's special but... just give it a little time.

It all combines for one diverse, constantly surprising journey into DC Comics love in all its form, and I highly recommend picking up for luxurious weekend reading, maybe with a few lit candles.

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas: There's no shortage of them at the moment, but it still gives me great joy when I come across a new graphic novel that I can happily give to just about anyone I know and feel they'll get the same sense of delight that I did. Tell No Tales, the new OGN from writer Sam Maggs and artist Kendra Wells is exactly that kind of book -- a big, exuberant hug of adventure storytelling that blends historical fiction and a little magic to weave a delightful adventure.

Tell No Tales focuses on Anne Bonny and her crew of misfits as they sail from adventure to adventure, guided as ever by Anne's determined spirit. Everything changes when a new player emerges on the nautical map: Woodes Rogers, a man on a mission to wipe out all pirates with the help of his own devastating ship and a sense of destiny as fierce as Anne's own. If they're going to make it out alive, Anne and her crew have to go on a journey, guided by Anne's own dreams, to get everything they need to defeat this new menace.

Guided by the framework of this quest narrative, Maggs' script merges witty dialogue and a wonderful fullness of characterization to deliver a story that manages to deliver emotional setups and payoffs not just for Anne herself, but for every single member of her crew as they make various stops along their journey. It's a book packed with story, and yet it never feels overstuffed or off-balance. Wells' art, which is just as full of vivid characterization as Maggs' scripting, adds to the sense that everyone on this particular ship is a fully formed human worth investing in, whether you're looking for humor and adventure or a story about love in its many forms. I was delighted by every page of this, and I really hope Anne and company get another voyage or two in the future.

King in Black: Black Panther #1: Over at Marvel, the King in Black tie-ins continue, and I remain fascinated with the many ways in which various creators have tackled the notion of an invading force of symbiote dragons who've blotted out the sun and set about turning every human they can grasp into Knull's monstrous army. This week that war shifts to a new theater with King in Black: Black Panther from writer Geoffrey Thorne and artist German Peralta, and I was incredibly impressed with how things went down on the Wakandan front.

As with a great many of the best Black Panther stories, Thorne and Peralta begin their tale by establishing the multi-faceted focus of T'Challa himself. He's a superhero but he's also a brother, a King but also an Avenger, a lover but also a warrior, and all of these aspects converge in every conflict whether he wants them to or not. With all that in mind, Thorne's script brings T'Challa's sense of leadership in crisis to bear on an increasingly besieged Wakanda, as the Black Panther begins contemplating deploying weapons his people never hoped to see again.

Thorne and Peralta expertly walk the line between military thriller and mystical journey with this debut issue, as Thorne's scripting deftly navigates T'Challa's heart and mind and Thorne makes scenes in front of computer consoles just as compelling as all-out Symbiote battle sequences. The result is yet another reminder that tie-in comics have a lot to say about the larger emotional journeys of massive crossover events, and I'm eager to see where this particular miniseries goes next.

ORCS! #1: The basic hook of ORCS!, the new all-ages fantasy series from writer-artist Christine Larsen, is that Orcs are more than just the nameless villains in every fantasy story. Orcs have a culture all their own, a culture that includes great adventurers, and those adventures are very much worthy of a chronicle. Of course, not every Orc adventurer is going to get the quest right on the first try.

It's from this standpoint that Larsen introduces to Bog, Zep, Pez, Utzu and Gurh, a misfit band of Orcs who are out to prove they're more than just screw-ups after a misunderstanding gets them in trouble with the King. Together, no matter how scared they are of those gross Elves out in the world, they're going to seek their fortune... if the squirrels don't stop them first.

I knew when I first heard about ORCS! that it was the kind of book I'd adore, and I was proven right by Larsen's debut issue. This is a fast, funny, lighter-than-air adventure book perfect for fantasy fans young and old, and I'm so pleased it's out in the world.

And that's it for Comics Wire this week. Until next time, remember what John Custer told his son Jesse in the pages of Preacher:

"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."