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Grumpy Old Fan | Canceling the future: DC’s August solicits

by  in Comic News Comment

DC Comics’ August solicitations include both the end of “Trinity War” and of four series, including the latest Legion of Super-Heroes title. Otherwise, not much jumps out at me. Even the collected-edition section isn’t that diverse, as it’s heavy on “Death of the Family” books and pretty light on the vintage reprints.

NOT QUITE DEAD

If Talon weren’t a Bat-title, I’d say it was getting ready to be canceled. Issue 11’s solicitation refers to an “epic finale,” with Batman pitching in to help “eliminate the Court of Owls once and for all.” However, because so much work went into making the Court of Owls a credible threat to the Bat-clan, I doubt they’ll be eradicated completely. Likewise, I don’t think Talon is going anywhere, at least not yet.

Similarly, the continued existence of Batman Incorporated is one of the questions posed by the sure-to-be-epic conclusion of Grant Morrison’s Bat-work. In other words, is a revamped Club of Heroes so wrapped up with Morrison that it can’t survive without him? More to the point, is a Morrison-less Batman Inc. still marketable? Presumably the answer rests in the sales numbers for August’s Batman Incorporated Special — which, incidentally, appears to indicate just who among the various Inc.’ers survives the end of the regular series. I guess DC isn’t worried about spoiling such things, because it’s done something similar with the last couple months of Lantern Corps solicits.

TRINITY WAR IS OVER (IF YOU WANT IT)

The triptych of covers for August’s Justice League titles involve the various Leaguers clustered around a big glowing orb. (Probably not the Orb of Confusion.) Now, for the past two years I’ve been predicting the end of the New 52 status quo in one form or another, and the conclusion of a high-profile crossover like “Trinity War” offers an excellent opportunity to push the ol’ reset button. This is especially true considering Pandora’s involvement in the timeline shenanigans which led to the relaunch. However, now that the opportunity is here, two years really doesn’t seem like the right time (as it were) to roll back all or part of the changes. You might ask, if not now, when? Well, the window for a wholesale undoing isn’t getting any bigger; but all the same, two years doesn’t seem like much of a chance to give a line-wide housecleaning. Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn” stunt lasted about a year before everyone was reintegrated into Earth-616 through Heroes Return, so perhaps the window has closed already, and we fans of the old stuff might just have to wait for a particular book’s tone to shift organically, and/or a particular character to reappear on his or her own schedule.

That really has nothing to do with “Trinity War,” but more pertinent analysis can be hard when all you have to go on are a few paragraphs and some covers. Overall I’d say “TW” has some hints of 1999’s Day of Judgment (a demon takes over the Spectre, requiring a trip to Hell to get a suitable host) with some Identity Crisis (a superhero is murdered) and a little reorganizational work. I’d almost say that “[t]he end of the Justice Leagues” means cancelling one of the titles (Dark, most likely) and/or replacing Justice League with Justice League of America — just so JLA is once again the heavy-hitter flagship title — but all that seems a bit premature too. Maybe it’ll just mean disbanding temporarily in order to shuffle the lineups again.

CROSSOVERS

“The ‘Psi-War’ epic begins!” in Aug. 28’s Superman #23, but it “continues” two weeks earlier, in the 14th’s Superboy #23 (probably just non-linear storytelling). It sounds decent, mixing Hector Hammond with the HIVE and the Psycho-Pirate, and tying it all in with Superboy’s backstory. The previous Super-crossover, “H’El on Earth,” relied a little too much on Supergirl’s willingness to throw the Earth under the cosmic bus, but this one looks more straightforward.

Both Green Lantern and GL: New Guardians use the new villain Relic, although neither seems to have anything to do with the other outside of his involvement; so I’m not sure how much of a crossover it’s supposed to be. The NG solicit sure makes it sound important, though.

VOILA!

It’s like Christmas in August! Get ready to learn “the secret behind Pandora’s Box” (Justice League #23), “Superboy’s ultimate nemesis” (Superboy #23), “the fate of the Black Diamond” (Demon Knights #23), “the true nature of the Kollective” (Stormwatch #23), and “the true nature of Waller’s new deal with the team” (Suicide Squad #23). Also, “Black Canary learns a devastating truth” in Birds Of Prey #23), “a major villain emerges from the shadows” in Threshold #8, and Dial H #15 has “all the answers you’ve been looking for.”

BAT-NOTES

I counted 50 New 52 titles in these solicits, including the Batman Incorporated Special. This includes three books with “Justice League” in the title, two with “Trinity of Sin,” five Superman-family books, five Lantern Corps books, and fourteen in the Batman family. Presumably there’ll be one fewer Bat-book next month, but 13 out of 45 is still almost 1 in 3 main-line DC superhero books with a Bat-connection.

Batman: The Dark Knight #23 features Clayface, who was just captured in this month’s Batman #20. I’m not saying you can have too much Clayface (although I’m sure that’s possible), just that I never thought I’d have to consider it. Alex Maleev draws the issue, though, so it should look good.

As far as C-list Batman villains go, I’ve always liked the Wrath, so I’m eager to see his return in upcoming issues of Detective Comics.  Because Alfred tends to get short shrift in these “villain attacks Wayne Manor” storylines, it’s good to know (per the ’Tec #23 solicit) that everyone’s favorite butler at least holds his own.

Batman and Nightwing #23 (the solicitation for which helpfully adds “Guest starring Nightwing!”) finishes off the “five stages of grief” arc by asking if Batman could have saved Damian. I think we all know the answer, particularly as the fifth stage — spoiler! — is “acceptance.” Accordingly, I suspect this issue will finish going through all the DC-specific methods for bringing someone back from the dead (Lazarus Pits, magic, nanobots, etc.), and if I remember Tomasi’s love of continuity accurately from his work on Nightwing, it should be laid out pretty efficiently.

My prediction for All Star Western #23, also involving Batman somehow, is lots of scowling and clenched teeth.

POTPOURRI

The American Vampire Anthology’s creative teams threaten to bring out a string of cringeworthy, Crypt-Keeper-esque puns: A murderer’s row! A killer lineup! A book to die for! By the light of the Fabio Moo— OK, that’s enough.

I don’t read Fables, but if I did I’d be super-excited about it getting the Jess Nevins treatment. He’s tracked down all manner of literary allusions across a number of genres, and he should do right by Fables.

Speaking of doing right by venerable characters, Wonder Woman — or at least her Smallville counterpart — shows up in Smallville Season 11 #16. I’ve enjoyed writer Bryan Q. Miller’s sequel series a lot more than I did the actual Smallville, mostly because it’s done what the TV show was set up specifically never to do. In that respect I suppose it’ll be instructive to see how he presents a character who almost had her own David E. Kelley TV show, and who might still get her own CW TV show one of these days.

Also, it looks like Batman Beyond Unlimited is being relaunched as Batman Beyond Universe, complete with new creative teams. I’m glad it’s continuing, but I thought the new creative teams were a part of the old series, along with the new “Batgirl Beyond” who’s getting ready for her own debut.

COLLECTIONS

Remember when Secret Society of Super-Villains was one of those old series that would apparently never be collected? Now it’s coming out in paperback (although I wouldn’t count on this paperback having everything listed in its solicit).

I’m looking forward to the DC One Million Omnibus, but I kinda agree with Caleb that it may be a little too complete. Sure you get all the Superman, Starman, Batman, etc., tie-ins; but you also get single-issue alternate takes on late-‘90s series like Chase, Chronos, Hitman and Azrael. In fact, I already own everything in this book except the Chase, Creeper, Hitman, Impulse, Lobo and Resurrection Man issues, so that makes this book a little less economical. Still, I’d have to dig through a lot of longboxes to get ‘em all. Wonder if this means there won’t be a cut-down version of DC One Million to go along with the re-edited JLA paperbacks?

LONG LIVE THE LEGION!

I put the over/under of a new Legion book at three months, and I’m inclined to take the under. (Remember when DC canceled The Flash after just 12 issues?)

Relaunching the Legion isn’t exactly new. It goes at least as far back as 1984, when the regular book was retitled Tales of the Legion to make way for a new LSH #1. Two years later, when the Superman revamp eliminated Superboy, the Legion had to deal with that as well. The “Five Years Later” revamp came along in 1989, with its own patch on Superboy; and five years later (as it turns out), Zero Hour rewrote Legion history entirely. That lasted ten years and spanned three Legion series (LSH, Legionnaires, and The Legion), but it was succeeded by the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson “threeboot.” Regardless, Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer brought back the sorta-kinda-original Legion in 2007’s JLA/JSA crossover “The Lightning Saga,” and 2008-09’s Legion of Three Worlds confirmed them as the “new” regular version. Indeed, the New 52 didn’t seem to have much effect on that version beyond a new first issue and a companion series, Legion Lost. Therefore, although Mark Waid tweeted that the Legion has been published continuously for 40 years, that still includes seven relaunches (of one kind or another) — and at least three separate continuities — since 1984. And yes, I would argue that the 1984 “Baxter-Paper” series represented a relaunch, because (just as New Teen Titans did, around the same time) it jumped ahead in the timeline, so the “softcover” (i.e., original) series could catch up with it.

One thing that strikes me about the Legion’s voluminous history is the way it interacts with our perception of time. That sounds very metaphysical, so I’ll try to boil it down. For someone like me, who’s been reading superhero comics continuously for 30-odd years, the Legion is just one of those DC mainstays. It’s as much a part of the superhero line’s makeup as, say, Aquaman or Hawkman. The Legion was there before me, and I think it’ll be there as long as DC publishes superhero comics.

Furthermore, the Legion has always seemed to reward its longtime fans, either by building on its history or by working in enough nods to that history to sustain the latest relaunch. For someone who’s been a part of Legion fandom — perhaps even casual fandom — Legion lore may be best acquired gradually, one issue at a time. It only feels like five, ten, twenty, or forty years if you step back and realize how long it’s been since you started reading. (That story about the Nightwing/Batgirl wedding produced a similar feeling in me, when I realized Dick’s been Nightwing for almost 30 years, and it’s been 25 years since The Killing Joke.) The great irony (for lack of a better term) of our current age of reprints is that if you wanted to, you could probably catch up on a good bit of Legion history, given enough time and effort. Like any other long-running series, LSH is now this big chunk of info-matter — a thing to be mainlined in marathon reading sessions, and not so much doled out issue by issue, month by month. The question then becomes whether there’s still a market for all that old material. Again, conventional wisdom seems to be that there will always be a Legion book, because there’s always been a Legion book.

If that circular argument remains unbroken, it means simply having a Legion book isn’t as big a question as justifying a Legion book — which, again, goes back to all those relaunches. Speaking as someone who dipped in and out of the Legion books for about 18 years (from “Five Years Later” to the end of Waid/Kitson), and who’s probably best-acquainted with the post-Zero Hour and “threeboot” teams, the thought of tackling all that old-school continuity makes a relaunch more inviting. The ironic thing about the New 52 relaunch is that the Legion seems barely to have been touched, continuity-wise. It tied into the New 52 Superman because writer Grant Morrison used some Legionnaires in Action Comics, but that presented the team simply as a part of Superman’s history, and vice versa. However, with all that said, I think it’s easier for a longtime fan to revisit those old stories than it would be to shine them up for less-experienced readers. Along the same lines, if you’re used to a Legion whose history spans the decades, you might be less inclined towards a relaunch. The post-ZH Legion lasted for ten years (and was relaunched “softly” about six years in with the Legion Lost miniseries), and the “threeboot” got six — practically eye-blinks in the team’s 55-year existence.

So where does that leave the Legion in the fourth quarter of 2013? Maybe relaunched with more of an emphasis on its Superman-family roots; or maybe as the rumored “Justice Legion,” paralleling today’s A-listers more closely. Any relaunch would naturally benefit from a high-profile creative team, and probably one with no prior connection to the series (as heretical as that might sound). I don’t have any ideas along those lines, but now I’m sad there will never be a huge, crazy crossover with Dial H. …