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Grumpy Old Fan | DC in June strives with 45

by  in Comic News Comment
Grumpy Old Fan | DC in June strives with 45

March is the final full month of the New 52, so appropriately enough it also brings the solicitations for the first full month of … well, whatever we end up calling these books. (The Fine 49? The Diverse Curse-Reversers? The Too Few For 52 Redo?)

Actually, this month it’s more like the Thrivin’ 45, because these solicits don’t include four ongoing series already announced as part of the post-Convergence lineup: Justice League United, Cyborg, Mystic U and Dark Universe. No doubt they’ll benefit from the extra month’s rest.

Among all the new and returning series are a number of associated changes and comebacks. There’s Tight-Shirt Superman, Mecha Batman, Pointy-Wristed Wonder Woman, Hoodie Green Lantern, the reintroductions of Reneé Montoya and Kate Spencer, and Selina Kyle back in the Cat-suit. Even with all that, though, there’s So! Much! More!

Let’s get started, shall we?

SCHOOL SUPERS

Although they were all announced a while back, these solicitations offer some fairly substantive information on a couple of new series. Among those is Doomed, which has a reasonable premise that still sounds unsustainable. The recent “Doomed” crossover in the Superman books featured a lot of internal struggles between Clark/Superman and the invasive “Doomsday personality,” so this series needs to distinguish itself somehow with regard to that element. The idea of an ordinary person slowly turning into a supervillain — and more particularly, a recognizable supervillain — is intriguing, but again I wonder how long a series can sustain that sort of unresolved tension. Each of these new series is supposed to get at least twelve issues, so at least it’ll have that cushion.

Where Doomed is about “a Metropolis U student,” the new Dr. Fate (drawn by Sonny Liew!) centers on “an overwhelmed Brooklyn med student.” Those demographics sound very CW-friendly, don’t they? Anyway, this series’ initial solicitation is more playful than Doomed, which on some level is probably inevitable. I also wonder if this means time is running out for the current Earth 2 Fate, because this series doesn’t appear to be connected to the new Earth 2: Society. Despite Daniel Wilson saying “most” of the World’s End characters will be in Society, I could see the Helmet of Fate being lost in the shuffle. Probably for the best. I liked Earth 2’s Fate, but he was taking a pretty good beating the last I saw him.

THIS AND THAT

Batman is one of my favorite characters in all of pop culture, but lately … boy howdy, sometimes I feel like I have seen enough Batman to last me 10 lifetimes. If the Bat-Mite miniseries goes really meta, and takes on the marketing apparatus which facilitates such a Bat-glut, I’ll be eager to read it.

Originally announced as an ongoing series, now Prez is just 12 issues. I guess the good news is, at least it’ll get those 12 issues. (And just for my own edification, the Multiversity Guidebook says Prez Rickard is POTUS on Earth-47, not the Beth Ross of this Prez. Not that it matters.)

The Martian Manhunter has sustained his own series before, so it’s not a stretch to think he can do so again. The “Shapeshifters! Trust no one!” plot also works well for the character, given the history of the White Martians and J’Onn’s own struggles to fit into Earth society. However, it also sounds like the early arcs from the New 52 Grifter and Voodoo series. I have faith that Martian Manhunter will get beyond those superficialities.

While the Finches certainly haven’t ignored the Azzarello/Chiang run on Wonder Woman, I think it’s safe to say that there’s been a clear break between the two creative teams. In particular, David Finch’s art is worlds away not just from Chiang’s, but from artists like Goran Sudzuka who filled in for Chiang occasionally. Therefore, I am curious to see how Sudzuka’s art interprets Meredith Finch’s script for a backup story in the Wonder Woman Annual. (Meanwhile, the solicit for WW #41 reveals — spoilers! — that the new Donna Troy will be evil for at least a little while longer.)

I know Green Lantern: New Guardians has been canceled, but if DC were going to kill off Kyle Rayner I doubt they’d announce it via solicitation. Besides, I presume DC is going for a Guardians of the Galaxy feel with June’s Omega Men launch, and if one of the Nov– I mean, Green Lantern Corps has to pay for the new book to be successful, then so be it.

CLASSIC LEAGUE, TO SAY THE LEAST

The last time DC launched a series called Justice League of America, it offered a PhotoShop-friendly set of variant covers, one for each state. While Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America #1 doesn’t go that far, its variant-cover strategy does sound an awful lot like the 1991 X-Men #1 plan. That one featured four different, interconnecting covers (one per week) and a fifth which brought ‘em all together in a big foldout. Hitch’s JLA involves ten covers: the regular team portrait, the Joker variant (since June is Joker-variant-cover month), a variant for each of the seven Leaguers, and a super-special variant foldout which combines all the individual-Leaguer variants. Oh, and the regular issue is $5.99 for 56 pages. Callbacks to the ‘90s don’t come cheap.

The story itself apparently involves a “peaceful, religious” group of aliens with a “sinister” secret connected to ancient Krypton. It’s way too early to judge — and “Justice League vs. alien armada” stories aren’t exactly unusual — but I will say that the first storyline from Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA involved a group of alien superheroes with a benevolent façade and a connection to another Leaguer.

It’s encouraging to see Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok taking on so much in “Darkseid War.” Forever Evil squandered a lot of crossover potential, and “The Amazo Virus” was entertaining but might have run an issue too long. Johns tends to have good starts, so front-loading “Darkseid War” with murder mysteries, evil offspring, and explosive character interaction may end up inflating my expectations. Still, it all sounds promising.

FAMILIAR FACES, UNFAMILIAR PLACES

The setup for the Black Canary series is among the plot points in this week’s Batgirl #40, but it’s covered in such a way that it raises the kinds of questions one would expect to find answered in the first issue of a separate ongoing series. In other words, well done.

He’s “Damian Wayne” in Gotham Academy #7, but in the new Robin series, he’s “Damian al-Ghūl?” Sounds like the Year of Blood has something to do with this.

If this were the old days, I’d lobby for Hal Jordan’s new partner Darlene to be a callback to his brief time as an interstate truck driver. Now, though, I’m expecting “Darlene” to be the nickname of a 700-pound mass of purple flesh from the other side of Citadel space.

Having read almost none of Red Hood and the Outlaws, and having read only the first issue or so of the current Harley Quinn series, I don’t know much about either the New 52 Starfire or how Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti will handle her. I am very familiar with the classic Starfire from New (Teen) Titans, as well as Animated Starfire from the original Titans cartoon, but I suspect that might not count for much. Nevertheless, Emanuela Lupacchino should be a good fit for the character, and you’d think the new Starfire series would have less manic energy than Harley Quinn — probably closer to the Gray/Palmiotti/Conner Power Girl series, in fact. I’m leaning towards getting this book, despite my old-fogey dreams of a proper Titans reunion.

June marks the beginning of Gene Luen Yang’s run as Superman writer, but according to these solicits, it’s on part 4 of an intertitle crossover. This is not exactly unprecedented for the Super-titles, since the first issue from the current Action team of Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder was a “Zero Year” Batman crossover. I’m of two minds about this. You’d think DC would let a National Book Award winner lead off with his own storyline. At the same time, though, the Super-books have a history of being interconnected, so maybe it’s better to get that out of the way early.

Of course, the big question about the new “Truth” arc involves the particular “big secret” to be revealed. Clark has already told Jimmy Olsen his dual identity, but it’s not like he needs to tell the rest of the world. From the solicits’ talk of “a bond broken” and “a relationship tested,” it sounds like something interpersonal, but what could Supes have done to Batman and/or Wonder Woman that’s big enough to warrant at least a four-part crossover? Perhaps the mysterious delivery from this week’s Superman #39 is involved, although that could just be a bit of symbolism from outgoing writer Geoff Johns.

CHOOSE YOUR VILLAIN NAMES CAREFULLY

I notice the Flash solicit advertises “Professor Zoom,” and not “Reverse-Flash.” Unless this is just a nomenclature mix-up, Professor Zoom has never been introduced in the New 52, but a version of the Reverse-Flash has. Indeed, Professor Zoom was the driving force behind Flashpoint, so the little conspiratorial voice in me wants the slip to have more cosmic implications. Regardless, I think it’s just a slip — the cosmic implications will have passed by this point.

COLLECTIONS

This set of solicits doesn’t feature anything particularly obscure, but I am still impressed with three reprint collections we’ll be seeing this summer. Aquaman: Sub Diego was an early-2000s storyline where Aquaman had to deal with half of a certain comics-oriented city falling into the Pacific. It didn’t last all that long (when the Spectre went crazy in the Infinite Crisis era, he stepped on Sub Diego), and next to the Hook-Hand Period or even Sword of Atlantis it may end up being a footnote in Aqua-history; but now readers can revisit it more conveniently.

The America Vs. The Justice Society paperback is basically a history of the JSA’s adventures in All Star Comics, viewed through Batman’s accusations of treason unearthed posthumously via his diary. Since the Earth-Two Huntress and Robin both grew up to be lawyers, they defend the JSA, and while the ending is probably a foregone conclusion, it may not be entirely what you’d expect. Of course, it’s grounded firmly in Earth-Two lore, but the basic JSA recap structure is probably applicable to fans of the single-timeline “generational” team as well.

Finally, the Batman: Second Chances paperback reprints 12-ish issues of the late-‘80s Batman that introduced the “new,” edgier Jason Todd. You may notice a distinct difference between the Max Collins/Dave Cockrum issues, which weren’t exactly Sugar & Spike but were more lighthearted compared to Jim Starlin’s scowly work. When fans wanted to kill Jason about a year after the last of these stories was published, mostly it was because Starlin had made him into such a surly punk.

With all the Harley Quinn material generated in the past couple of years, the Harley Quinn paperback in these solicits looks like a grab-bag from the pre-New 52 days. I suppose it will show the character’s development from her first comics appearances to the recent past. It’s not really a play for older readers who might not like the current Harley, and I guess that fans of the current Harley have more than enough to be satisfied.

The first Wonder Woman By George Pérez Omnibus does collect the writer/artist’s first two years on a title he helped redefine, but it’s worth noting that if DC plans a second volume, the amount of Pérez in it will be somewhat diminished. Still, while Pérez largely stepped away from the drawing table for the remainder of his WW run, he continued as writer (sometimes co-writer), collaborating with folks like Mindy Newell, Chris Marinnan and Jill Thompson. To me, that almost makes those years more interesting, but I can’t argue with two years’ worth of Pérez cartooning.

#CHANGETHECOVER

Good for DC for pulling Batgirl’s Joker variant cover. I agree entirely with protecting the vision of the book the current creative team is trying to promote, and I note further that the cover would likely have been at odds with the vision of the Gail Simone-led team, which dealt directly with Babs’ trauma.

Out of all of the Joker variants, only the Batgirl cover has the book’s star in actual peril from the villain. Aquaman looks a little nervous among the Joker-sharks, and the Jokerized Justice League (on the incumbent JL) is pretty creepy, but nothing like Batgirl’s tear-streaked terror. Elsewhere, the Joker is either a figure of fun or controlled menace. Deathstroke is ready to pounce on him; he’s at the heroes’ mercy on the Action, Catwoman and Superman/Wonder Woman covers; and abstraction rules on the covers of Batman/Superman, Detective, Green Arrow and Green Lantern. The covers for Flash, Justice League of America, Lobo, Secret Six, Sinestro, Suicide Squad, and Teen Titans seem routine (as far as killer clowns go), with Karl Kerschl’s Superman cover a good effort but a weak punchline. Not surprisingly, the Batman cover is well-executed and stylish, while the covers for Gotham Academy, Gotham By Midnight, Grayson, and Harley Quinn all within their books’ particular tones. Even Brian Bolland, the Killing Joke artist himself, has turned in a fairly nuanced portrait, with a cartoonishly-menacing Joker and a Wonder Woman who looks almost bored by the whole affair.

I recognize that the Joker is DC’s most marketable villain, but as with Batman, often that means oversimplifying the character into a license to be scary. However, where Batman’s “scary quotient” has some pretty obvious limits, the Joker’s doesn’t, and that blurs the line between transgressive (but acceptable) and just plain tasteless. I like Rafael Albuquerque’s work a lot, and I think he’s a big part of American Vampire’s success. He also did a pretty great cover for this week’s Batgirl: Endgame special, one which does capture the character’s tenacity and heroism. I don’t think anyone at DC should have okayed the Joker cover, though, and I’m glad it’s off the market.

GOLDEN IDOL

Speaking of variants, let’s talk about the Apple Watch of these solicits. DC is giving you a choice of Doctor Fate helmets — the impetus for which apparently comes from its background role on a TV series few have watched — offering fans the basic electroplate model for $500, or the limited-edition gold-plated model for $800. Now, DC has done things like this before, mostly for life-sized Green Lantern power batteries which run a few hundred bucks apiece. I object less to those, because a) people have heard of Green Lantern, b) it might be a pain to try and build your own power battery (especially one with special effects), c) if you do try and build one, it’ll probably end up costing a few hundred bucks anyway, and d) all things considered, it’s just — just, I emphasize — on the acceptable side of an expensive indulgence.

With this, my first thought was, if you’re a comics fan and you even get to the point of thinking, “do I have $500 for a Helmet of Fate?” odds are you have literally no other use for $500. You have given to all the charities you care to support. You have paid your taxes. You have no worries for food, shelter, clothing, education, utilities, entertainment, whatever. You are as comfortable with your retirement and other savings as anyone could be. In fact, if you look at these solicits and you think “hey, I could swing a $500 “Helmet of Fate,” I’m guessing it wouldn’t take much to push you into the $800 gold-plated model. Why not? After all, it’s likely that you’ve somehow managed to wind up with a few hundred extra dollars every month. You might have to forego a few weeks’ worth of splurges, but I’m guessing that once you unpack that gleaming objet de la bande dessinée and place it in a position of tasteful honor, it’ll all be worth it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And here is the Futures Index for this week’s Issue 46:

  • Story pages: 20
  • Batman/Atom/Mr. Terrific pages: 3 (2+1)
  • Plastique et al. vs. Eye-Zombies pages: 2 (1+1)
  • Lang Family pages: 5
  • Firestorm pages: 3
  • Batman Beyond vs. Bat-Joker pages: 7
  • Simpler description of Hymenoepimecis Argyraphaga: Parasitoid wasp from Costa Rica
  • Distinguishing traits of the Costa Rican parasitoid wasp: it lays an egg on a spider’s abdomen; injects the spider with a chemical which forces the spider to build a nest for the larva as it develops; and then kills the spider and uses its carcass as a new cocoon to start the process all over
  • Relative complexity of the new Batman Beyond’s origin: equal to one Matrix-Supergirl, or about half a Donna Troy

NOTES: Obviously the bulk of this issue dealt with Terry McGinnis and friends trying to take down Brother Eye, but I want to start with the two other subplots, both of which feel like pitches for spinoffs which will never happen.

First, I think I understand why Lana had to be the one to cap off the “Fifty Sue’s new family” subplot, and not Fifty Sue herself. By pulling Lana’s latent superpowers out of left field, Lana can be a role model for her “daughter,” and can also make the point to Rock that Fifty Sue wouldn’t have been so easy on him. That said, revealing Lana’s superpowers with two issues to go — and no foreshadowing that I can recall — seems like an incredible cheat. The other prong of the Fifty Sue subplot, dealing with the DNA vault, also seems to have been concluded with no payoff for the larger story. I’m guessing the DNA vault will be used somehow to repopulate the new Earth-2, but that has ramifications for the Earth-2 books, not this one.

The Firestorm sequence could easily be a capper for her subplot, but it too feels like the pitch for a Firestorm series coming in July or thereabouts. Maybe Firestorm will be part of the new Batman Beyond? It would make sense, given their shared history. Otherwise, Futures End has spent so much time on Madison that she’s either being groomed for an ongoing or in danger of becoming a Mary Sue. We’ll find out soon enough, whether it’s in two issues or Convergence.

Finally, for all of the zombie-fighting and AI-wrangling, the Batman Beyond subplot came down essentially to “Tim takes over for Terry; will go even farther back in time and push the reset button.” We know from the June solicits that Tim will end up in a Kamandi-ized version of “the definitive DC future,” and I’ve speculated that he’ll have to make it back to a more Beyond-ish future eventually — perhaps there to get reacquainted with Firestorm? — but that presents a whole other set of issues.

See, the Tim Drake of Futures End is the New 52 Tim, plus five or so hard years. The Tim Drake of the original Batman Beyond was the Tim of the Batman animated series, who’d suffered a hideous fate at the hands of the Joker (and who had been the only other Robin besides Dick Grayson). Thus, while June’s Beyond series will look like the traditional Beyond future — which survives as Earth-12, because why not be unnecessarily duplicative — it won’t be that future. Instead, the new Batman Beyond is really an older version of a Robin who took over the mantle after his predecessor was Kyle Reesed.  He’ll have little-to-no idea what the “real” Beyond future is supposed to be, which I guess gives Dan Jurgens and company a good bit of leeway. Comics, everybody!

Oh, and Tim’s got two issues to stop the apocalypse. Good luck, Tim!

NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: All kinds of Bat-action!

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