DC’s new approach to continuity demolishes old ways of thinking to embrace the company’s best ideas and give readers the credit they deserve.
Warning: contains mild spoilers for Infinite Frontier #0, Batman/Catwoman #1, and Future State: Teen Titans #2!
If there’s a topic that’s more contentious than any other among comic fans, it’s the role continuity plays in the stories they love – which is why it’s so shocking to see DC demolishing its approach to continuity, even if it’s in favor of something better. The motto of the comic giant’s new Infinite Frontier era is, “it all matters.” The “all” in this case is every story DC has ever told, from Batman’s mainstream adventures to his time as a vampire, and every one of the various mutually exclusive origins ever given to Supergirl. So, how is this possible?
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DC’s Apocalyptic Dark Nights: Death Metal saw the Multiverse recreated without boundaries. DC’s official canon is that for almost the last decade of their comics, time and reality have been warped by outside forces who are now thankfully out of the picture. But “fixing” reality is hard to do when events have now played out in multiple different ways, so rather than try to forge a new continuity by selectively excluding stories that many fans love, DC’s new policy is that all these timelines have effectively been merged together. The damage is fixed, things are back to normal, many characters have even been brought back to life, and many more are now undergoing “unification” – remembering multiple versions of their lives not as an unpleasant, fractured experience, but as a collage of events that brought them to a new, complete understanding of who they are.
It’s an ambitious approach that actually mimics how fans have always understood comics – that every Batman story adds to the idea of who Batman is, even if it’s not “in continuity” – but also opens up every DC story ever told to writers, giving them free rein to bring back the best ideas. Already, Batman #106 has casually referenced the forgotten Batman: Cataclysm event, while Future State: Teen Titans took the opportunity to fold in ideas from their animated adaptations, adding characters like Red X and the Unkindness to comic canon. But it’s not just about the stories DC is welcoming back into the fold – it’s how they’re doing it.
Tom King’s Batman/Catwoman charts the impact of a horrific murder as it reverberates through Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle’s life together. At the center of this event is Andrea Beaumont – a character famous from beloved animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, who returns to Gotham as the titular villain from that film. But what’s so special about this is that Andrea is returning, with Tom King’s story implying that some prior comics version of the movie plotline took place in Batman’s past. Likewise, DC’s Future State: Teen Titans took the opportunity to jump ahead in time and introduce Red X as someone the characters already knew from prior adventures.
While the comics are now going back to the start of Red X’s story, what these ambitious moves show is that DC is truly embracing the idea of its new continuity operating with the benefit of fan knowledge. Fans have already met the Phantasm and Red X, and DC acknowledges this by treating them as characters who already exist in comic continuity, even though that hasn’t been true until now. It’s a bold move that brings to mind the MCU’s decision to leap into Spider-Man’s narrative without wasting time on an origin story that everyone in the audience already knows – these characters have already been introduced in other works, so why bother pretending they haven’t?
Fans still need space to get to know these characters, but they don’t necessarily need to see them introduced into the world any more than one has to read a Joker or Lex Luthor origin story to understand what they’re about. By accepting the reality of a media savvy audiences, DC is demolishing many of the demands of contrived continuity to instead give readers the credit they deserve. These stories happened, fans know they happened, and by progressing with that assumption, DC’s Infinite Frontier is already fulfilling its promise of boundless new potential that respects and values everything that came before.
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