Dan Didio and Keith Giffen's Infinity Man and the Forever People is the New 52 version of Jack Kirby's 1971 Forever People series. The Forever People were part of Kirby's Fourth World epic, which has a long and interesting history that I won't go into here. The Forever People, who starred in an eleven issue self-titled series, represented the otherworldly New Gods' next generation and featuried DC's first black hero, Vykin the Black. While the Fourth World saga was prematurely ended by DC a couple of years later, many classic comics fan consider it to be a seminal classic and a genre defining series.
Anyone who's followed DC since it relaunched its superhero line in 2011 can see how highly Didio values the Fourth World. The new continuity's flagship series, Justice League, began with Earth's superheroes fighting back an Apokoliptian invasion led by Darkseid, the chief antagonist of the Fourth World's New Gods. Since then, a number of Fourth World characters have made appearances in other DC books, ranging from Didio and Giffen's cancelled OMAC series (another concept created by Kirby) to Wonder Woman and the alternate universe book Earth 2. Those who regularly read DC's comics have probably noticed that the company has subtlely been laying the groundwork for some sort of New Gods event, and Infinity Man and the Forever People could be the next step in those plans.
Infinity Man and the Forever People #1 is very much a homage of the original material. Giffen's art deliberately apes Kirby's, right down to the signature Kirby crackles and characters that ooze energy and kineticism. The page layouts are also evocative of Kirby's original Forever People series, with thick gutters and large panels similar to Kirby's original page designs. Most of Infinity Man and the Forever People's pages have four panels or less, a rarity in today's comics. And of course, there's a computer program named after Kirby, about whom one character describes as "without him, none of this would be possible." The comic is a love letter to the original material, and fans of the original series will probably be delighted to see how similar it feels to the 1971 Forever People series.
However, all that homage comes at a cost. The page count (20 pages) combined with the large panels mean that Didio and Giffen have relatively limited space to tell a story. Infinity Man and the Forever People contains only 77 panels, for an average of 3.85 panels per page. Compare that to DC's Justice League United #2, with 87 panels (4.35 panels/page) or Future's End #6, which has 97 panels (4.85 panels/page). Compared to other comics, Infinity Man and the Forever People has 10-20% less panels with which to balance plot and characterization. Kirby's original series had this problem too, and chose to sacrifce characterization for plot. Forever People was very plot-heavy and differentiated very little between characters outside of their power sets and costume design.
Infinity Man and the Forever People takes the opposite approach. Didio and Giffen spend most of the comic introducing readers to the individual characters, and giving each distinct character traits and relationships with other team members. The first issue really only covers three story beats: the Forever People are introduced and then introduced to Earth, and then the comic jarringly shifts to an issue-ending threat on the other side of the world. With the initial introductions out of the way, there will hopefully find a better balance between plot and characterization in future issues. I am interested to see if the book's next issues, which will be illustrated by Tom Grummett and Jim Starlin, will keep the Kirby-esque panel layouts or use more modern page designs.
Fans of Kirby's classic Fourth World will probably enjoy Infinity Man and the Forever People, as will fans of DC's current ongoing superhero line. The first issue is unfortunately light in plot, and spends a bit too much time paying homage to Kirby to my liking, but it's not a bad comic by any stretch. My bet is that Infinity Man and the Forever People will be an enjoyable read in collected form, but individual issues could leave readers feeling like they're not getting their money's worth.
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About the Author - Christian Hoffer
Christian Hoffer is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Hoffer is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.
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