Back Issue Bin Review: Infinity, Inc. v1
|December 5, 2012||Posted by Jess under Back Issue Bin Review, Comics|
I had been meaning to read Infinity, Inc. for ages, because Power Girl! Huntress! Jade! Uh…some other people! I finally got around to it so that I could write about Jade – and then of course I forgot to blog about it for ages, and now I have kind of forgotten what I wanted to say. But I’ll do my best to reconstruct.
Infinity, Inc. ran for 53 issues from 1984-1988. It was written by Roy Thomas and his wife Dann, and the bulk of it was drawn by a young up-and-comer named Todd McFarlane, with Michael Bair taking over on the later issues.
The cast consisted of the children and protégées of the Justice Society of America. Now, for those of you who need a little comics background1: The JSA was the first superhero team, made up of DC characters created in the late 30s and 40s, a.k.a. the Golden Age. After World War II superheroes fell out of vogue and many of these characters fell out of comics, except for really big names like Superman and Batman. In the 50s and 60s, a.k.a. the Silver Age, DC revamped many of their characters, replacing 40s-style characters and origins (like the old Hawkman, archaeologist Carter Hall) with Space Age-style ones (like the new Hawkman, space cop Katar Hol of the planet Thanagar). Eventually they established that the new, hip heroes lived on Earth One, while the old Golden Age heroes lived in a parallel dimension known as Earth Two. This included not just characters like Hawkman who had been totally revamped, but parallel versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – still Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, etc., but older and wiser.
The unexpected consequence of this was that the writers were suddenly free to experiment with these characters in ways they never would’ve normally. Earth One’s Wonder Woman had to be young and single, of course, but on Earth Two she could be married with an adult daughter. In fact, lots of the members of the Justice Society wound up with superpowered kids, or at least protégées. And those kids got together and formed Infinity Inc.
So, the lineup:
- Star-Spangled Kid, later Skyman, a.k.a. Sylvester Pemberton, the team’s leader and the only member who is not JSA-spawn; a Golden Age hero himself, he was lost in time for several decades, making him the same age as the JSAers’ kids. He leaves the JSA to found and lead II, despite the fact that his main superpower is “has a car,” and he doesn’t even have it anymore.
- Silver Scarab, a.k.a. Hector Hall, the son of Hawkman, whose main powers are a solar-powered suit and being a bag of dicks, like, all the time.
- Fury, a.k.a. Lyta Trevor, the superstrong daughter of Wonder Woman and Hector’s fiancée.
- Nuklon, a.k.a. Albert Rothstein, the grand-godson of the Atom, super strong with the power to change his size and density, and also one of like three Jewish characters in the whole DCU, WHAT UP AL ROTHSTEIN, BIG UPS TO MY JEWISH BROTHER.
- Northwind, a.k.a. Norda Cantrell, who is half-human, half-Mysterious Bird-Thing, and a protégée of Hawkman’s.
- Jade, a.k.a. Jennie-Lynn Hayden, illegitimate daughter of Green Lantern with the same powers as his ring.
- Obsidian, a.k.a. Todd Rice, Jennie’s long-lost twin, with shadow powers and also SUPER ANGST powers. Oh, Todd.
- Brainwave, Jr. , a.k.a. Hank King, Jr., son of JSA villain Brainwave.
They are briefly joined by Power Girl, Superman’s cousin, and Huntress, Batman’s daughter, but Peej and Huntress decide to stick with the JSA. Eventually the Infinitors add to their ranks with:
- Wildcat II, a.k.a. Yolanda Montez, protégée of the first Wildcat, given cat DNA in the womb by an evil obstetrician, YES, I ACTUALLY JUST TYPED THOSE WORDS.
- Hourman II, a.k.a. Rick Tyler, son of Hourman, who takes a pill that gives him superpowers for – you guessed it – one hour.
- Dr. Midnight, a.k.a. Beth Chapel, protégée of the original Dr. Mid-Nite, only able to see in total darkness, and actually way more interested in being a doctor than in being a superhero.
The series itself was a perfectly fine read. McFarlane’s art, unexpected as it was in this context, was pretty great (though Bair’s is awful, all cheesecake and no substance). I liked most of the characters, with the exception of the unrelentingly obnoxious Hector and Rick, who I think were supposed to be kind of intolerable. Most of the interpersonal relationships were a little too soapy for me, with a lot of pining and flouncing, but Jennie and Todd’s slightly-unhealthy closeness and complicated relationships with their father, mother, and stepmother were cute, and the occasional flashbacks to Lyta, Hec, Al, and Rick as kids were almost unbearably adorable. (Lyta is stronger than all of them! And tells them so constantly! So freaking cute.)
One thing I’ve noticed is that comic book teams, especially ones from the 80s, always seem to have one team of villains who are…well, they’re terrible. They’re always totally outmatched by the heroes in power, and yet manage to pose a threat every time, making the heroes look like incompetent idiots. So it was with the Outsiders and the Masters of Disaster, with the Suicide Squad and the Force of July, with the New Teen Titans and the Fearsome Five, and so it is with Infinity, Inc. and Helix, a group of extremely emotionally needy genetic misfits. Like, come on, Infinitors, you have Wonder Woman’s daughter on your team! Why are these losers making you work up a sweat? However, Helix is led by Mister Bones, a rhyming wisecracker with invisible, poisonous skin who kind of sort of joins Infinity, Inc. as a pain-in-the-ass hostage. Then, as if him hanging around needling the team wasn’t delightful enough, he goes on to work for the DCU’s government in the Department of Extranormal Operations, and I’m sorry, a sassy cigar-smoking skeleton working for the government like it ain’t no thang is 100% why I love comics.2
I’ll be honest, too: though most of the melodrama in the series left me cold, particularly anything involving Hector and Lyta, the final arc, where a villain uses Mister Bones’ cyanide touch – against his will – to kill Sylvester, actually really devastated me, despite being well aware that it was coming, and despite Bair’s art being more interested in Jade’s breasts than anything else on the page. Stupid comics giving me feelings!
What I found most interesting about Infinity, Inc., though, was that it’s so very much a DC series, and not just that, but so very much a DC series of that particular time. DC’s been all about the legacy heroes since 1956 (well, they seem to have jettisoned most of that with the reboot, which is why I drink), and obviously everyone in this series except for Syl is a legacy in either name or family connection or both. More than that, though, this was the kind of series that could only have come out of the period just before the Crisis, when the multiverse was still in effect, but DC was moving more towards soap opera plots instead of gaudy sci-fi, and when they were happy to explain the complicated backstories and interpersonal relationships of their characters with endless editorial notes, crossovers, and Secret Origins. As much as current DC editorial and executive policies may frustrate me, I love the DCU so much, so something so dyed-in-the-DC-wool made me really happy to read.
That said, next up I gotta read something not written in the 80s. So much melodrama, you guys!