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Grumpy Old Fan | New DCU revue: DC Comics Solicitations for September 2011

by  in Comic News Comment

Even after all the news, and all the reactions thereto, I thought there was still a little to be revealed in September’s DC solicitations. Would the First Wave books or Batman Beyond be there, moved “outside” the scope of the superhero-dominated main line? (Apparently not.) Would there be obscure reprints to pore over? (Oh my yes.) How weird could the Ame-Comi line get? (Three words: Sexy Black Flash.)

Nevertheless, this week I’m looking at the New 52’s impact on my personal bottom line, and — although I am far from the first blogger to do so — offering my take on what looks good for the foreseeable future.

* * *

First, though, a word on the collections included in the September solicits. They’re more business-as-usual than I would have expected, including paperback editions of a couple of “New Krypton” storylines, hardcovers for Batman Incorporated and Batman: The Black Mirror, and Omnibii for the Silver Age Green Lantern, War of the Green Lanterns, and the Geoff Johns runs on Flash and Teen Titans.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised to see a new Justice League of America Archives (#10, in fact), whose early-‘70s reprints will fill some holes in my collection. The one-volume All Star Superman paperback will be more convenient than either my single issues or the two previous paperbacks, and the second Suicide Squad collection is (of course) long overdue. Showcase Presents digs a little deeper for the ‘70s horror series Ghosts, a book which is familiar to me only from house ads of that time. The real rarity, though, is the hardcover reprint of The Bible, adapted by Sheldon Mayer, Joe Kubert, and Nestor Redondo. It’ll go nicely on my shelf next to the Basil Wolverton and R. Crumb adaptations.

Speaking of adaptations, I’m not sure yet about Batman: Noel. It’s too easy to screw up A Christmas Carol, especially by mixing wildly different genres (not to mention incorporating action sequences). Batman and Christmas can go together pretty well, but you have to get it just right.

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On to the main event, and we begin with some numbers. For August, DC has solicited a total of 76 issues in its main line of comics. (The complete list appears at the bottom of this post.) These break down to

— 37 issues of ongoing series (including War of the Green Lanterns, which I figure takes the place of Green Lantern; plus two issues each of Teen Titans and Superboy);
— 24 issues of miniseries (including two issues each of Batman: Gates of Gotham, DC Universe Online Legends, and Flashpoint); and
— 15 one-shots and/or special issues, ten of which are the Retro-Active specials.

For September, of course, there is just one number: 52 issues of ongoing series in the main line, with no miniseries or special issues.

Now, to be sure, the New 52 includes one anthology (DC Comics Presents), whose inaugural five-issue Deadman arc could just as easily have been a miniseries. Likewise, October’s My Greatest Adventure #1 continues two features from the just-concluded Weird Worlds miniseries. It may only last a month, but it’s a significant departure from the superhero line’s usual mix of formats. As I’ve said, an ongoing series implicitly demands a commitment both from the reader and the publisher — and while the publisher might look a bit greedy, the readers won’t be embarrassed if a good chunk of these titles fail.

The big overhaul also forces “jumping-off points” for several of the books I was reading, namely Birds Of Prey, Booster Gold, Secret Six, THUNDER Agents, Xombi, and Zatanna. Those six books represent one-third of the 19 DCU ongoing series I’m planning to buy in August. Two more,Batman Beyond and Batman Incorporated, are going on hiatus, and the rest (Action Comics, Batman, Batman And Robin, Detective Comics, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Of America, Supergirl, Superman, and Wonder Woman) are part of the overhaul.

Specifically, here’s my DCU list for August:

Ongoings (18): Action Comics #904, Batman #713, Batman And Robin #26, Batman Beyond #8, Batman Inc. #10, Birds Of Prey #15, Booster Gold #47, Detective Comics #881, Green Lantern Corps #63, Justice League Of America #60, Secret Six #36, Supergirl #67, Superman #714, THUNDER Agents #10, War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath #2, Wonder Woman #614, Xombi #6, and Zatanna #16.

Miniseries (8+): Batman: Gates Of Gotham #4, Batman: Gates Of Gotham #5, Flashpoint #4, Flashpoint #5, Flashpoint: Batman — Knight Of Vengeance #3, Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #3, Flashpoint: Frankenstein And The Creatures Of The Unknown #3, Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3 (and probably some TBD Flashpoint tie-ins).

Specials (12): Batman 80-Page Giant 2011 #1, the ten Retro-Active ‘80s and ‘90s books, and Superman Beyond #0.

That’s a total of at least 38 issues. Many of those wouldn’t have been around in September anyway — Gates of Gotham #5 would have been pushed into September, and maybe Flashpoint #5 and the‘90s Retro-Active Specials would have too. Thus, I’d have gone from an adjusted total of 31 DCU issues in August to about 25 in September — not a big drop, because the schedule would’ve been more balanced.

As it is, though, I’m faced with a dramatically different DCU in September, and am choosing to read

Action Comics, All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman And Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Flash, Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE, Fury Of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Grifter, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Men Of War, Mister Terrific, Nightwing, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Static Shock, StormWatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman.

That’s 37 DCU ongoing series, almost as many issues as August’s oddly-loaded lineup. Again, I don’t expect all of these to make it past their first year — and I wouldn’t be surprised if DC cancelled many of them at that point (or even earlier) in order to make room on the schedule for another revival like Doom Patrol or even Justice Society. I don’t expect to fall in love instantly with all of these, and will probably drop at least a few of them after the first couple of issues.

However, there are books I’ve read consistently for decades, and despite thoughts of inertia will not drop anytime soon. These are most of the familiar “foundational” titles: Detective, Action, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice League. For the most part I’m looking forward to the new teams, especially Grant Morrison and Rags Morales on Action, George Pérez and Jésus Merino on Superman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on Batman, and Geoff Johns and Jim Lee (for as long as that lasts) on Justice League.

Sadly, inertia will be a big factor in my reading Detective Comics during the Tony Daniel run. To me, Detective has always been the more cerebral of the two main Bat-books, and while Daniel’s writing on Batman has tried hard, it’s never really held my attention. The same may be true for the new Flash team of Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul, because I am unfamiliar with their writing chops; but Manapul’s art may make up for any shortcomings there. Otherwise, the foundational books have pretty strong creative teams. None of these is in any danger of cancellation, so the challenge will be to see how well they sell.

The next category includes titles I don’t necessarily read out of love for the character (although there are some), but where the combination of creative team and character has convinced me to give these a try: Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Demon Knights, Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE, Firestorm, JL Dark, JLI, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Static Shock, Supergirl, and Swamp Thing. This category’s books on the bubble include the Peter Milligan-written Red Lanterns and JL Dark and the Dan Jurgens-written Justice League International. The first two sound just crazy enough to work, and the new JLI does have Aaron Lopresti’s art potentially outweighing Dan Jurgens’ occasionally-clunky writing. I’m also a little unsure of Ethan Van Sciver co-writing Firestorm, but Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar are enough to get me on board. Likewise, I’m hoping the new Supergirl creative team brings a different perspective to the character, beyond “innocent teen.”

Beyond that is the “probably” category, where I like either the character or the creative team, but am unsure about the combination. I liked Judd Winick on Justice League: Generation Lost (and wish he were writing the new JLI — why not, DC?), and I am prepared to like Batwing, so that gets on the list. On the other hand, I’ve never gotten into any of the Catwoman series, although I’ve liked the character in the larger Bat-context. I do like Guillem March, though, and he and Winick should do a decent job on Catwoman. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason didn’t wow me with their previous Batman And Robin arc, but if it’s the only place to see Bruce and Damian in action together, so be it. Same goes for Tomasi writing Guy and John in GL Corps (and I like Fernando Pasarin as well). Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang are enough to get me on board for DC Comics Presents’ Deadman arc, as are Tony Bedard and Ig Guara on Blue Beetle. Rounding out this category, I’m inclined to support DC’s attempts at genre diversity by sampling All Star Western, Blackhawks, and Men Of War.

The rest of my picks fall into a “like the character, not sure about the execution” category. Unfortunately, the poster boy for faulty execution is back to being Nightwing, who (ironically enough) always seems a little lost without another hero (or group) to play against. I’m willing to give Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows a chance, but after giving Marv Wolfman and Peter Tomasi their shots a few years back, I’m not expecting much. Because I liked Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham on GL Corps, the cast is the problem with Green Lantern: New Guardians: I’m just not that thrilled with the Rainbow Corps. Again, it gets a reasonable shot at convincing me otherwise, as does Mister Terrific (because I am unfamiliar with Eric Wallace’s work). The good things I’ve heard about Nathan Edmondson are enough to get me to sample Grifter, and Paul Cornell, Miguel Sepulveda, and J’Onn J’Onzz will likewise get me to pick up StormWatch.

I’m still on the fence about the two Legion titles and I … Vampire!, but there’s not much to get me interested in the rest of the 52. Although Superboy, Teen Titans, Green Arrow, and Dark Knight will probably get along fine without me, I’m not betting on Red Hood, Savage Hawkman, OMAC, Voodoo, Hawk & Dove, Deathstroke, or Suicide Squad to make it to issue #13. The Hawkman, Hawk & Dove, and Green Arrow books seem especially kneecapped by the overhaul, since whatever momentum they had coming out of Brightest Day has been pretty much drained by the overhaul’s square-one atmosphere. At least Swamp Thing got a bridge-the-gap miniseries.

* * *

That’s a lot of analysis based largely on superficial impressions of the books and their creative teams. Indeed, much has been said (most of it by people smarter than I) about the general shape of September’s overhaul, its strengths, and its weaknesses. Regardless, the bottom line is … well, the bottom line — what will you buy (and how), and for how long will you buy it? By recasting the DCU line as fifty-two ongoing series, to the exclusion of just about every other format, DC is betting that it will bring readers along (and new readers in) on a more-or-less permanent basis. I don’t think that all-or-nothing stance will last, and I don’t think DC does either.

For me personally, August-to-September is a change which makes little difference to me financially. Again, I expect to drop at least a few of these books pretty quickly, and I think DC will end up cancelling at least a few of the ones I actually start to like. That sentiment seems more practical than cynical to me, because that’s been my experience lo, these many years. I usually buy about two dozen DCU ongoing series at a time, and eventually I think my “overhauled” Wednesday habits will shake out to that level.

Really, though, now I’m more curious about October — but you know what the music means … our time is up.

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August’s DCU titles, grouped by type

Ongoings: Action Comics #904, Adventure Comics #529, Batgirl #24, Batman #713, Batman and Robin #26, Batman Beyond #8, Batman Incorporated #10, Batman: The Dark Knight #5, Birds of Prey #15, Booster Gold #47, Detective Comics #881, Doc Savage #17, Gotham City Sirens #26, Green Arrow #15, Green Lantern Corps #63, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #13, Jonah Hex #70, Justice League of America #60, Justice Society of America #54, Legion of Super-Heroes #16, Power Girl #27, Red Robin #26, Secret Six #36, Superboy #10, Superboy #11, Supergirl #67, Superman #714, Superman/Batman #87, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #10, Teen Titans #99, Teen Titans #100, The Spirit #17, Titans #38, War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath #2, Wonder Woman #614, Xombi #6, and Zatanna #16.

Miniseries: Batman: Arkham City #5, Batman: Gates of Gotham #4, Batman: Gates of Gotham #5, Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing #3, DC Universe Online Legends #13, DC Universe Online Legends #14, Flashpoint #4, Flashpoint #5, Flashpoint: Abin Sur – The Green Lantern #3, Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #3, Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #3, Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #3, Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager #3, Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #3, Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #3, Flashpoint: Hal Jordan #3, Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3, Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #3, Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #3, Flashpoint: Project Superman #3, Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3, Flashpoint: The Outsider #3, Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #3, and Flashpoint: World of Flashpoint #3.

Specials: Batman 80-page Giant 2011, DC Retroactive: Batman – The ‘80s, DC Retroactive: Batman – The ‘90s, DC Retroactive: Green Lantern – The ‘80s, DC Retroactive: Green Lantern – The ‘90s, DC Retroactive: Justice League of America – The ‘80s, DC Retroactive: Justice League of America – The ‘90s, DC Retroactive: Superman – The ‘80s, DC Retroactive: Superman – The ‘90s, DC Retroactive: The Flash – The ‘80s, DC Retroactive: The Flash – The ‘90s, DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman – The ‘80s, DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman – The ‘90s, Green Lantern Super Spectacular #2, and Superman Beyond #0.