Welcome back, everybody, to my read through DC Comic’s next Justice League Event for 2020, Endless Winter. Today I’m taking a look at Superman Special #1, Part 3 of Endless Winter. I’m going to be taking a look at each issue of this event, including tie-ins, and assessing the extent of this Nordic nightmare! I’m adding each review to the master Endless Winter Reading Order and assessing which issues are essential and what tie-ins you can leave out if you like. You can also check out the primer we published a couple weeks back to get familiar with the landscape before diving in!
Releasing today, 12/8/2020, Superman Special #1 mirrors Flash #767 in a lot of ways, but seems to strike a more poignant and important tone. Superman is checking in with his loved ones just like Barry. At the end of my review of Flash #767, I reserved judgment of the impact of the contents of that book for a later date when the entire event has been released. Superman Special #1 seems important to some degree right from the get-go, though.
Check out the full solicit and then my review below. Beware, dear reader, spoilers abound ahead!
SUPERMAN: ENDLESS WINTER SPECIAL #1
written by ANDY LANNING and RON MARZ
art by PHIL HESTER and ANDE PARKS
cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
variant cover by RAFAEL GRASSETTI
ONE SHOT | ON SALE 12/8/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
“Endless Winter” chapter three! Superman finds himself at the center of an epic battle as the Frost King’s hordes of ice monsters come to life. Is this frozen onslaught too much for the Man of Steel, or can he stop it before it rampages across the chilling wasteland the world is becoming and reaches civilization? The answer to this question comes from an unlikely source close to Clark Kent’s earthly roots!
This issue starts with the introduction of Edwald Olafsson, a man from Greenland with the power of cryokinesis, the ability to manipulate ice. We quickly catch on that these powers could spell the origin of the Frost King if things turn bad, and they do. If Endless Winter #1 was Frost King’s first appearance, then this is his origin story.
Marco Santucci’s Greenland flashback sequence is full of fine details and vividly populated panels. When we make it to present day Metropolis, however, there is a whiplash of a sea-change in art.
The art is not “bad”, but more stylized and simple than the opening pages. I don’t like using the term “bad” anyway because it does a disservice to the artist, the reader, and the person writing the review (me). If you just say something is “bad” you don’t get at the elements, the characteristics of the art and you rob yourself of finding out your preferences. At first, I was taken aback by Hester’s more Bruce Timm-verse cartoon-esque art.
However, given the tone of the message this issue is trying to communicate, I came around by the end of the issue. You see, whether or not Ron Marz and Andy Lanning intended it, Superman, portrayed as the beacon of limitless hope against a global catastrophe that seemed relentless and without end seemed like an allusion to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether or not intended (and I think it probably was), writing this issue in 2020 and reading it in 2020 turns it into a COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of visiting his Mom and Pops isolating at home during the pandemic, Superman visits them in Smallville and blasts some ice zombies off their lawn. I mean, he would have if Krypto didn’t first.
Maybe Superman is the proxy for front-line medical workers here, but Martha tells him that they’re fine out on the farm, tells him not to worry, sends him on his way with soup in a thermos under his arm, and Superman is re-invigorated, ready to continue fighting. Ask me in 2019 if I would like an issue like this and I’d say no. Nothing inherently bad with this message of hope. I just didn’t need it. But right now, as tired and frustrated as I am in 2020? This felt good to read. The issue ends on a cliff-hanger. Where has Stagg been since Endless Winter #1? Well, you’ll find out and I think past and present are about to collide!
With Frost King’s origin here, I would say that Superman Special #1 is an essential read in the Endless Winter reading order.
Superman Special #1 is on sale now!