Every failed launch brings a new excuse.

Infinity Inc. #1

Fairly interesting little spinoff we've got here. I suspect I'm not alone in ranking the Infinity Inc. storyline in 52 at the bottom of the heap; despite a cute underlying premise of Lex Luthor plotting to devalue society's idea of the 'superhero' by flooding the public with shitty spandex stars, the material rarely rose above simplistic culture-of-fame noodling and dull soap opera. But there was certainly some promise in hiring Peter Milligan to script the ongoing - surely that veteran of Paradax and X-Statix might find something interesting to do with the material. Or at least make it more entertaining.

As it turns out, Milligan takes a somewhat unexpected approach. Maybe especially unexpected from a marketing standpoint. The cover of this debut issue screams "Everyone can get the powers. ONLY SOME DARE TO USE THEM!" This has almost nothing to do with what the comic's actually about; really, Milligan goes in the very opposite direction, presenting a group of ex-superheroes who've long ago 'got' the powers, and then lost them, and dearly wish they could dare use them again. Think of it as a sequel-in-theme to X-Statix, if that earlier series had ended with the team simply fading from popularity, and everyone's powers fading with their renown.

In the actual Infinity Inc. setup, Luthor simply turned off everyone's superpowers. But their powers aren't totally gone, it seems. Gerome McKenna, the former Nuklon, has literally split into two identical people, one often begging the other to pose nude, and staring at him for hours. Meanwhile, Erik Storn, the ex-Fury, sits around his mother's house stuttering, while Natasha Irons has ominous dreams of flight and umbrellas, and John Henry Irons, the superhero Steel, walks around handing out affirmations to the depressed. Also, a ludicrous mesh top & black fingernails emo named Dale cries about the black pit inside him to an existential psychologist:

"I like you, Mr. Existentialist. I'm starting to feel that creepy ol' transference that patients are supposed to get for their doctors."

"W-well, strictly speaking that's a psychoanalytical concept, whereas..."

"Whereas we adopt a more phenomenological perspective."

At which point the boy grabs the doctor's head and sucks the life right out of him in a blast of white light. This is the overriding tone of the issue.

If Milligan's recent Batman Annual #26 came equipped with subtextual doubts about its own utility as a backstory gap-filler comic, this book provides a more direct confrontation of superhero unease - it's all about the inner state of the failed superhero concept, the ruins of people gone from a successful run to something infinitely less thrilling. Insert DC Comics sales analysis here. Milligan packs the book full of manifest dream content, pathological narcissism, therapy-as-religion, sucking others dry to feed the lonely self... but nothing seems apt to provide a cure. Even turning to good ol' established superheroes like Robin is no use - Milligan characterizes him as kind of an asshole (which might get amusing later, if Milligan keeps it up for the Robin segments he's writing for the upcoming Ra's al Ghul crossover).

This defeatist atmosphere is conveyed fairly well by artist Max Fiumara, whose inclination toward enveloping shadows is put to good use, along with his sometimes awkward postures - all of the characters are already feeling a little awkward anyhow. I'm not thrilled with Dom Regan's colors; sequences often look brighter than is complimentary to Fiumara's approach, and there's way too many flares of light speckling some pages. Maybe this candied look will function later on as a superheroic counterpoint to the brooding otherwise of subject matter and visual approach - it's hard to tell where the story might be going, as Milligan is quite good at demonstrating the dead ends these cancelled properties are up against.