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Grumpy Old Fan | Growing the garden: DC’s May solicits

by  in Comic News Comment
Grumpy Old Fan | Growing the garden: DC’s May solicits

The next phase of the New 52 begins in May, as six new titles debut and Rob Liefeld carves out his own niche with a handful of others. My first impressions of the Next Six remain largely positive, but we’ll get into that in a bit.

SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (GOLDEN AGE EDITION)

Basically, what we know about Earth-2 so far is that it has its own (multi-generational) version of the Trinity, it’s home to Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and probably Ted Grant, and at some point Darkseid invades. This does not mean that everyone who first appeared during the Golden Age still did. Indeed, we can suppose that, because the New-52 Huntress is apparently in her early 30s (at most, I’m guessing), that would make her parents at least 50-ish and probably closer to 60 or even 70. Thus, the Earth-2 Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle could have become Batman and Catwoman anywhere from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. It’s a significant change from the original Earth-Two, where Helena Wayne was born in the early 1950s and became the Huntress in the late ’70s.

However, it leaves room for Alan, Jay, et al., to have come on the scene in the Golden Age, as before — or, perhaps more likely, at or after the original Trinitarians in an unspecified “50 years ago” timeframe. Ever since the original Earth-Two’s introduction, its heroes have been tied inexorably to the Depression era and to World War II. Now, though, everything can be moved forward some 20 years (to the era of Mad Men — convenient!), finally “unsticking” them from a very definite point in history.

SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1990s EDITION)

For whatever reason, any appeal Ravagers had for me a couple of weeks ago seems to have evaporated. Throwing in familiar New Teen Titans names (Beast Boy, Terra, Thunder and Lightning) hasn’t done the trick, and may even have helped turn me off. I don’t like being so negative without giving the book a chance, but there it is. Otherwise, I’m on board for Batman Incorporated, Earth Two, and Worlds’ Finest, I’m eager to see Dial H, and I’m curious about G.I. Combat. Ravagers surely has an audience, but I’m not it.

May brings an expanded Rob Liefeld to DC’s superhero line, as he becomes co-writer of Hawkman and Grifter and takes over Deathstroke. This seems like a bigger deal than it actually is, especially when you consider that Jeff Lemire and Scott Lobdell have three regular titles each (Animal Man, JL Dark, Frankenstein; and Superboy, Teen Titans, and Red Hood). In fact, several more writers have two regular titles each: Grant Morrison (Action, Batman Inc.), Geoff Johns (Aquaman, Green Lantern), Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing), Judd Winick (Batwing, Catwoman), Peter Tomasi (GL Corps, Batman And Robin), Peter Milligan (Red Lanterns, Stormwatch), J.T. Krul (G.I. Combat, Captain Atom) and Paul Levitz (Worlds’ Finest, Legion). Maybe DC is hoping that Liefeld will attract enough attention to his books to goose their sales — and maybe if that doesn’t happen, they’ll be among the next to go.

CROSSOVERS

Here’s the lineup for May:

Blue Beetle #9 and Green Lantern: New Guardians #9;
Teen Titans Annual #1, Superboy #9, Legion Lost #9, Teen Titans #9, and Ravagers #1;
Suicide Squad #9 and Resurrection Man #9;
— “Night of the Owls” in all the Bat-books (except Batman Inc. and Batwoman) and All-Star Western;
— John Constantine in Animal Man;
— Animal Man in Frankenstein and Swamp Thing;
— the Red and the Green in the Animal Man Annual;
— a Red Lantern in Stormwatch; and
— OMAC in Justice League International (which crosses over with Firestorm.

Did I miss anything?

MULTIMEDIA

I was never a regular Smallville viewer, but I’ll be getting Smallville Season 11, if only to see how Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez get themselves out of some of the series’ bigger plot holes. First up, I imagine, is explaining how Clark can live virtually his entire life without glasses or other disguise, and then convince just about everyone he’s ever met that he looks nothing like this “Superman” guy. Plus, I expect we’ll see “Smallville Batman” before too long.

The long-awaited Batman: Earth One OGN is scheduled for July, probably to accompany The Dark Knight Rises. Regardless of how different the two takes turn out to be, I don’t think that’ll be a problem — the general public seems able to handle multiple Batmen — but in light of the Smallville comic, I wonder if DC and Warners have talked about continuing Christopher Nolan’s interpretation through OGNs? While comic-book adaptations of DC’s other-media interpretations are nothing new (see, e.g., the current Batman Beyond, DCU Online and Arkham City books), the movie blockbusters never seem to generate any print sequels.

THIS AND THAT

With James Robinson writing Vandal Savage’s daughter for three issues of DC Universe Presents starting in May, the anthology goes into somewhat-uncharted territory by featuring a relatively new character. From what I have read, she’s not Scandal Savage from Secret Six, but I have to think there’s some hidden connection to an existing title. On a theoretical level I’m happy to see DC taking such risks. I just have a hard time believing that’s the case here, particularly with the Huntress miniseries serving as a backdoor introduction to the upcoming Earth-2 titles.

(And speaking of Huntress, I finally caught up with all five issues over the weekend. It’s pretty good, if somewhat more generic than I expected. I hadn’t seen a lot of Marcus To’s art, and I liked his blend of soft lines and straightforward storytelling quite a bit. Levitz’s scripts were fine, although the series so far has been very episodic: every issue features Huntress taking down some criminal enterprise in spectacular, no-nonsense fashion. I’m hoping the final issue ties everything together well.)

While we’re on the subject of backdoor connections, May’s Action Comics seems like an obvious bridge between the 52-Earth Multiverse of Final Crisis and Grant Morrison’s long-promised Multiversity project.

I’m definitely looking forward to Superman Family Adventures, even if it’s not the classic-look Supes. I’ve been wanting DC to do more straight-up humor titles, and although it’s tied into the superhero books, anything from the Tiny Titans team is welcome.

VERTIGO

As far as I know, there’s no set endpoint for The Unwritten, but I don’t see it going much further. It’s been around for just about three years so far, and two more years would get it to #60. In fact, the current “War Of Words” arc is shaping up to be a pretty critical point in the series’ overall storyline, so much so that May’s issue #37 sounds like there’s not much more to go. Although I give the series at least through issue #50, I could see it getting to #60 (a la Scalped). I’m sure DC/Vertigo probably doesn’t want it to end that quickly, and the end of “WOW” could always change my mind; but for now, two more years and out.

By the way, I am surely not the first to notice this, but it’s pretty ironic for Vertigo to describe Saucer Country in terms of two TV shows which have been off the air for a while.

COLLECTIONS

In light of Batman: Odyssey and the Legends of the Dark Knight artists’ series of reprints, it’s not surprising that DC would reprint the Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams books as paperbacks. This first book doesn’t include the stuff you’d expect to see — the first Denny O’Neil stories (including the classic “Secret of the Waiting Graves” and Man-Bat’s introduction) aren’t until Vol. 2, and the Ra’s al Ghul stories wait until vol. 3 — but the World’s Finest and Brave and the Bold stories reprinted here are still enjoyable. Specifically, they show Adams somewhat subdued, perhaps trying to conform to Carmine Infantino’s “New Look” redesign, but still progressing recognizably toward the Darknight Detective who would inspire future generations.

Those Infinity Inc. hardcovers (plural, now) make more sense in light of the Earth-2 titles, and part of me is eager to read them. However, I’m just now catching up on the original Justice Society stories from All Star Comics, and want to get a little more grounding in the Golden Age before getting into the later stuff.

It’s good to see Kryptonite Nevermore collected in a relatively inexpensive paperback. The overall arc isn’t perfect, mostly because the first story (“Superman Breaks Loose,” from Superman vol. 1 #233) ends on a very strong, ominous note which the rest of the issues never quite live up to. Still, it’s a good example of how one creative team — new writer Denny O’Neil, new editor Julius Schwartz, and the iconic team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson — tackled the perpetual question of What Do We Do With Superman?

With Volume 7 scheduled for October, the Wonder Woman Archives are going pretty far into the original Marston/Peter run. I estimate roughly that it would take another four or five volumes to collect all those stories, which would get you into the early 1950s and the transition from Marston and Peter into Bob Kanigher’s more fantastic take on the character. That would put the WW Archives on par with the All-Star, Legion and Justice League books, each of which has published at least nine volumes (with, I think, another Justice League on the way). Nevertheless, that would be about right for the idiosyncratic origins of comics’ signature superheroine.

I wondered how long it would take DC to do a Showcase Presents Showcase collection. It’s not a bad idea, although the material might be better served with a color collection of the features which didn’t later get their own series. Seems like DC did that a few years back, though; so that’s probably why we’re now getting it all in one place. I suppose you get to see what DC thought would be good follow-ups to the Flash, the Challengers of the Unknown, etc. Plus, it looks like Volume 2 would lead off with the first few Green Lantern stories.

Wasn’t the original Night Force collection solicited as a hardcover? And shouldn’t it have come out by now? In any event, a $30.00 paperback is scheduled for June, which is fine with me — I just want to read the thing.

The “First Wave” line only goes back a few years, but (along with the last round of Red Circle books) it seems like a relic now. You’d think it would do acceptably well, what with teaming up Doc Savage, Batman, the Spirit, and various other pulpish characters, under the direction of Brian Azzarello, Rags Morales, and Phil Noto. Maybe it’ll read better in paperback form as an experiment, and not as the desperate cornerstone of an abortive proto-franchise. Maybe DC is just trying to capitalize on Dynamite’s upcoming Shadow series, and its reprinting the Howard Chaykin miniseries which DC published back in 1986….

* * *

Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?

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