It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
DON’T CALL ME CHIEF
With Superman Unchained and Batman/Superman, there are now four regular Superman titles. (Okay, maybe three-and-a-half.) However, B/S (unfortunate abbreviation, that) and Action are both scheduled for the first week of June, with Unchained on the second week (alongside Superboy and Smallville Season 11) and Superman on week four. This leaves Supergirl alone in week three. I suppose the month is front-loaded to account for delays, but for someone who bought the weekly Super-titles back in the day, it looks kinda odd.
As for Superman Unchained itself, I’m predisposed to like it. I like Scott Snyder’s writing, and Jim Lee did a fine job on Superman’s “For Tomorrow” arc several years back. However, while I’m sure everyone gets along just fine on the Superman books, I wonder which one now becomes the flagship. Snyder seems to have taken the lead on the Bat-titles, thanks to Batman heading up the two big crossovers which have dominated the last year or so. When the New-52 Superman books debuted, the spotlight was split somewhat evenly. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales headed a high-profile revamp in Action Comics, but being set in the past separated it from the rest of the superhero line. Meanwhile, George Pérez got to tell present-day stories (for a little while, at least) in Superman. After Pérez left Superman, the book treaded water for several months until Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort came along, while Morrison and company continued doing their own thing in Action. Now Lobdell and Rocafort have headed up the Super-books’ own crossover (Action not included), and Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel will take over Action in April. None of these are scheduled to interact anytime soon, and I’m sure Unchained will have enough time to establish its own identity before that happens — but when it does, what then? Morrison and Morales aside, the New-52 Superman hasn’t been defined all that well, at least not in the kind of way that would distinguish him from previous incarnations. Do we expect Scott Snyder, Scott Lobdell, or Andy Diggle to take the lead on that? Do any of them really need to?
FAMILIAR FACES, NEW BOOKS
Oh, how I have missed Astro City! It’s not like ROBOT 6’s readership needs to be introduced to Samaritan, Winged Victory, the Confessor, et al., but I hope the DC bullet on the cover gives this title the sales boost it deserves. In return, Astro City can only help class up any publisher lucky enough to print it. Here’s to a long and eventful stay.
The phrase “prequel to Trinity War” reinforces my theory that Pandora may be of more interest, at least at first, to folks curious about the New-52 as a concept than Pandora as a character. Like I said last week, that could change, and frankly I hope it does. There’s always room for a good new character, but you can show cosmic tinkering in a miniseries.
I thought J.M. DeMatteis was supposed to be joining Keith Giffen as co-writer of the Larfleeze series. That would at least get me to check it out. Larfleeze is a decent supporting character who hasn’t quite made the case for his own title. However, DeMatteis compares him to G’Nort, and Giffen promises lots of new characters and situations, so it sounds more promising than I would have imagined.
ODDS AND ENDS
This month’s only intertitle crossover involves Birds Of Prey and Talon, but there are other meetups: Kid Flash and the other Teen Titans guest-star in Flash #21; Flash and Swamp Thing are still in Justice League Dark, and Jonah Hex pops into the present in All-Star Western. Also, Green Arrow #21 mentions “the mysterious Outsiders,” but I doubt that’s a reference to the old Batman/Nightwing-headed team.
Batwoman exists in an odd corner of the Bat-verse. Part of it is very down-to-earth, grounding Kate Kane firmly in military training and tradition, and giving her a complex viewpoint otherwise. However, practically since her introduction in 52 she’s fought an evil cult alongside a group of were-creatures, and she’s just coming off a team-up with Wonder Woman where they fended off a giant sea monster. It’s almost the inverse of the regular Batman vibe, where the villains are merely murderous psychopaths and the heroes have more of the fantastic elements. Nothing specifically to do with Batwoman #21, except that there’s a beast-person on the cover. Should look pretty with Francisco Francavilla drawing, too.
A welcome superfecta from Scott Snyder includes Batman #21, The Wake #2, the new Superman Unchained and an American Vampire one-shot with regular AmVam artist Rafael Albuquerque. I wasn’t expecting to see any new American Vampire until the fall, so that last is an especially pleasant surprise. Other writers with four titles in the June solicits include Jeff Lemire (Green Arrow, Animal Man, JL Dark and Constantine) and Ray Fawkes (Pandora, JL Dark, Constantine and Legends of the Dark Knight).
I won’t turn down a new Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents book, but the Phantom Zone paperback reprints one of the best late-period Bronze Age Superman stories. While that sounds like a lot of qualification, I really enjoyed this miniseries. Opening with an ingenious escape — which, in its inevitability, is all the more horrifying — the Zoners wreak havoc all across Earth-One. They send the Justice League Satellite hurtling out of the solar system, trap Supergirl in the Fortress of Solitude, and imprison Superman in the Zone. It’s a blockbuster plot told with skill and style by Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, and Tony DeZuñiga, and it includes an imaginary-ish apocalyptic follow-up (drawn by Rick Veitch and Bob Smith) from the final days before the 1986 Superman relaunch.
ZERO DARK KNIGHT
For various reasons I’ve been pretty hard on some aspects of the New-52 relaunch. At the top of that list is the shortened timeline, reduced to “five years” from a previously nebulous 10-plus. Especially frustrating was the initial word that the Bat-books were relatively untouched. This proved unworkable pretty quickly. On that level, it’s good to see Scott Snyder taking 11 issues to tell the New-52 origin of Batman in the “Zero Year” storyline. By placing Batman in flashback mode for 11 issues, the present-day Bat-books can worry a little less about coordinating with it. Also, if my math is right, “Zero Year” will conclude in April 2014’s Batman #31, just in time for the 75th anniversary of Batman’s debut (in Detective Comics Vol. 1 #27, cover-dated May1939, but close enough). Of course, by that time there will already have been a Detective Vol. 2 #27 (presumably cover-dated December 2013), which you’d have to think would be anniversary-related as well.
Anyway, I really do like the idea of a somewhat-comprehensive Batman origin story, which to my mind hasn’t been attempted seriously since 1981’s Len Wein/John Byrne/Jim Aparo Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries. Now, I know what you’re going to say, but “Batman: Year One” didn’t try to pull together various pre-existing elements of Batman continuity like ULOB did. Instead, it was basically an expansion of the page-and-a-half “Who He Is and How He Came to Be” origin from Detective #31, which along the way changed the backstories of Alfred Pennyworth and the Gordon family. (Previously, Gordon had been an older Commissioner when Batman came along, his biological children were Barbara and Tony, and Alfred came to Wayne Manor after Dick Grayson did.) Not that I don’t like “Year One,” just that its goals were different from ULOB.
For that matter, I don’t expect “Zero Year” to be the continuity quilt that ULOB was. Snyder told IGN as much:
This is not, “Why is Damian as old as he is?” Or, “Why does this character functions as he or she does in the 52?” That said, it’s an intensely personal story to me and Greg about why Bruce does what he does and who he is for us, and done in a way that hopefully you’ve never seen. But will some of those questions be answered? Will some of those continuity things you’re curious about be addressed? Sure.
But if you’re going into it looking for answers to all that stuff, it’s not designed for that reason. That’s definitely not the impetus for why we’re doing it; we’re not doing it to explain away some of the questions about the 52. We’re doing it because we thought it was the biggest and boldest and most personal story we could do with Batman right now.
However, “Year One’s” structure allowed for all kinds of additions. The original Legends of the Dark Knight anthology was based around the conceit that those out-of-continuity stories all took place within a “Year One”-like setting, if not between the events of “Y1″ itself. This led ultimately to the two Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale maxi-series, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, which themselves had to be reconciled with (and were eventually deemed by many fans to be superior to) the subsequent in-continuity “Year Two” and “Year Three” arcs. Thus, Snyder and his collaborators have the chance with “Zero Year” to claim this particular period for themselves, and give Batman a fairly stable foundation which can be revisited but not amended (or unbelievably contorted).
That said, June also brings Batman/Superman (which, somewhat counterintuitively, looks to be part of the Superman office) and its early years setting. Presumably the lines of communication are open between Snyder and B/S writer (it’s just the abbreviation; I don’t believe it) Greg Pak so that each gets what he needs without handicapping the other. Likewise, I’m expecting Snyder and/or Pak (if only parenthetically) to place the first Justice League arc in its proper chronological context. It would be nice to see Dick Grayson/Robin towards the end of “Zero Year,” but I’m not counting on it.
And speaking of Robin, there’s a good chance “Zero Year” pushes the next one’s introduction to summer 2014. Right now Harper Row looks about as inevitable as you can get, particularly in light of this week’s Batman #18. She shows up in June’s Detective Comics as well, which makes sense. She’s Snyder and Capullo’s creation, but if she’s going to be Batman’s new “intern,” she should be familiar to readers of all the regular Bat-books. Still, since she is Snyder and Greg Capullo’s creation, I expect if she’s nominated they’ll handle her costumed debut after “Zero Year” ends. Otherwise, Batman and Robin #25 seems like the next obvious choice, and it comes out in October….
Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?
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