Infinity Man and the Forever People #1
“Planet of the Humans”
Writers: Keith Giffen & Dan DiDio
Pencils: Keith Giffen
Inks: Scott Koblish
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Giffen & Koblish (regular)/J.G. Jones (variant)
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
I’ve never really been a big fan of the late Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters, which he created while working for DC Comics in the 1970s. I later appreciated the quirky, bizarre flavors of those ideas later in life, but they still weren’t something that excited me like other super-hero characters did. When I have been interested in those characters, it was usually through the interpretations offered by other comics creators. For example, I thought Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio’s short-lived OMAC series in the first wave of the New 52 was an underappreciated and entertaining series that celebrated Kirby’s concepts, updating them while also staying true to them. So when DC announced Infinity Man and the Forever People, featuring another revival of a Kirby-created property by the same creative team, I was immediately intrigued. I just picked up a shelf copy at my local comic shop this week rather than add it to my pull list earlier, and I’m glad I did. The reason: I won’t be reading the second issue. While I appreciated the personality the writers brought to the characters as well as some of the tweaks they’ve made to the original source material, there’s not a lot of story here to hook a reader.
A handful of young residents of New Genesis, including graduates from an elite academy, embark on a mission to Earth, though judging from the friction among them, it’s going to be a rough ride. Serafina and her brother Vykin butt heads as the latter rails against the presence of the rebellious Mark Moonrider. And no one can quite figure out the weird, ditzy and dishevelled Dreamer Beautiful. After getting their act together at the prodding of the stern instructor Himon, they encounter a much more positive influence on the other side of a Boom Tube, when their contact and guide on Earth welcomes them and shows them around.
Kirby’s influence on Keith Giffen’s style is abundantly clear in his work, pretty much through his career, but for this project and OMAC, it’s not just an influence on display. He’s clearly trying to channel the King directly, and he does an excellent job, while still maintaining his own distinct, rough style in the process. He’s altered the original designs of the Forever People a bit, but they’re still quite recognizable from their original forms. My favorite alterations are those of Serafina and Big Bear. The latter still boasts pretty much the same costume/outfit as his Bronze Age counterpart, but Giffen has removed his big mane. He remains the likeable figure Kirby created but doesn’t look, well, ludicrous.
I have to take issue with some of the typesetting in this issue. Travis Lanham’s yellow-on-blue captions aren’t as easy to read as they should be, and the font is too tight. Furthermore, the polished, digital qualities of the lettering really shine through in those captions, and that seems to go against the old-school, Kirby vibe for which Giffen and DiDio are striving here. And then there’s the cover logo. It’s kind of boring, to be honest, and it emphasizes a technological tone rather than the sense of wonder and adventure the characters are meant to represent.
The biggest deviation to be found in Giffen and DiDio’s reinterpretation of the Forever People is Serafina. The character was originally Serifan, whose cowboy-like qualities made the overall tone of the group seem even more random and surreal. By making the character a young woman and the sister of Vykin (thankfully no longer referred to as “Vykin the Black”), the creators have toned down that weird and rather silly side of the property a good deal. She’s also the central character here, at least in this first issue. She’s the most relatable of the Forever People. She’s not the most intriguing — we’ve yet to know what Dreamer Beautiful’s deal is or Mark Moonrider’s.
The most confusing element in the book, aside from the lack of information about what the group of young New Gods are meant to accomplish, is the introduction (re-introduction?) of Azur Te, Vykin’s apparent girlfriend. She seems to serve absolutely no purpose here, save to give Vykin someone to abandon in the name of an adventure he doesn’t want to undertake. Her attitude would seem to suggest she’ll become an antagonist somewhere down the line, but the brief moments that dwell on her presence could have been better used to develop the main characters or plot more clearly.
Ultimately, the writers go awry by failing to really tell the audience what the story is. We don’t know what the mission to Earth is about. The character with top billing on the cover isn’t even mentioned. While mildly curious about some of the characters, Giffen and DiDio don’t give the audience a real reason to care about what happens to them. We don’t know what’s on the line for them personally or in the big picture. It’s clear the creators are trying to move the story along at a brisk pace, but the plot lacks any kind of definition. 6/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.