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Grumpy Old Fan | New year, old habits from DC in January

by  in Comic News Comment
Grumpy Old Fan | New year, old habits from DC in January

Although the first issues of Who’s Who and Crisis on Infinite Earths got a headstart in the closing months of 1984, January 1985 kicked off DC Comics’ 50th anniversary in earnest. No doubt real life — i.e., the DC offices’ upcoming westward move — is preventing the publisher from starting the 80th anniversary celebrations this January, and the solicitations certainly don’t have much in the way of commemoration.

(To be sure, the month’s variant-cover scheme involves the 75th anniversary of The Flash, which Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco has already covered extensively on his own blog.)

Therefore, while the real fireworks will probably have to wait another couple of months, the January solicitation tease the return of Robin, changes in the Super-status quo, and other various and sundry plot churning.

LOOKING AHEAD

One thing that jumps out at me from these solicits has to do with numbering. Now, we all love numbering — big versus small, gimmicks versus straightforward integer progression — but the January books are soliciting the 38th issues of the remaining original New 52 titles. That puts the 50th issues of those series on track for January 2016; or, more likely, February 2016, if next September is another “take a break for a set of specials” month. If I were DC and wanted to relaunch my various titles, and I were a year away from a set of 50th issues, I’d probably wait a year.

But, you know, that’s just me. I’d also find some way to give Damian Wayne some closure, and thereby preserve some emotional resonance not just for his death, but its aftermath. It’s relatively easy to bring a specific character back. It’s harder, more challenging, and perhaps in the long run more rewarding to examine the role of “Robin” and craft a new character to address how that role might have changed over time. I recognize that these are probably minority opinions, and as always I’ll wait to see what’s on the page.

Aaanyway, it seems like “The Infinitus Saga,” the JL United storyline that reintroduces the Legion of Super-Heroes to the New 52, will wrap up ahead of the big editorial move. I imagine that puts a new Legion series at around May or so.

Also, that’s a pretty great Hawkman cover, and I say that as someone who’s never particularly cared one way or another about Hawkman.

LOOKING BACK

Two things about the Superman #38 solicitation: First, the whole “new costume/powers/path/friends” angle doesn’t sound like it’s going to wrap up before March. That’s not a criticism, as Johns and Romita are apparently having a pretty great time on the book, and it shows on the page. However (I suppose this is 1-A), conventional wisdom has the “new” stuff actually going more retrograde — back to the Daily Planet, maybe ditching the high collar, maybe headed back to a more romantic relationship with Lois — and besides, I can’t imagine going much more “new” than the New 52 has already been. Second, while JR Jr. has already drawn Batman — in the Punisher/Batman crossover from (gasp!) 1994 — I guess twice in 20-plus years deserves some kind of attention.

Meanwhile, in Action Comics, the notion of Superman fighting the Ultra-Humanite — originally a bald-scientist villain who famously predated Lex Luthor, later a brain-swapping fiend who ended up in a giant white ape’s body — makes me irrationally happy. I don’t know how this version of Ultra might be “undead,” but it’s still nice to see Pak and Kuder going a little deeper into the bad-guy bench.

I have a similar reaction to the Green Lantern solicit. The quintessential Hal Jordan story asks Hal to choose between life on Earth and his interstellar responsibility to the Corps. That was the core of the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run, the early-‘80s “Exile In Space” story (which led indirectly into Hal’s quitting and John’s replacing him), and even “Emerald Twilight.” Accordingly, while it’s hardly a new plot, it lends itself to multiple interpretations, and I’m eager to see what the current team does with it.

ODDS AND ENDS

Speaking of Who’s Who, the Multiversity Guidebook is both calculated to serve the nerdy appetites of readers who dig the concept as much as Morrison does, and to play into the miniseries’ metafictional conceits. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!

With Ice joining the JL 3000 cast, I’m guessing there will be at least one Frozen joke in January’s issue #13. It’s just too obvious for Giffen & DeMatteis to ignore. However, I do trust them to make it a good one.

Caleb points out that Aquaman and the Others still hasn’t been canceled as of Issue 9. I think that’s an important milestone, given the number of New 52 books that didn’t make it past Issue 8. Still, back when ATO was fsolicited, I set its over/under at 19 issues, which is how long Superboy and the Ravers lasted back in the day. I’m still not inclined to take the under, just on principle.

I haven’t read Constantine since the Forever Evil crossover ended, but I wonder about doing a Constantine on Earth-2 story right when the new TV show will be airing. Maybe TV-Constantine will be hanging out with Doctor Fate, and that’ll make those hypothetical readers who come to the comic from the show feel more at ease.

I’m curious about two of the origins in Secret Origins #9. First, will the Power Girl origin be about the one from Earth-2, or the one she helped create on the main DC-Earth? Second, the John Stewart origin story from Green Lantern #87 is one of my favorite GL stories ever — so no pressure, of course — but more to the point, I wonder how much the SO version will focus on his military background and/or his failure to save planet Xanshi. Those are two later additions to the character which seem to have overshadowed the more nuanced aspects I first appreciated. Either way, it’ll be good to see Pat Broderick back on a Green Lantern story, since he was the initial artist on the relaunched GL Vol. 3, which featured John, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner for much of its first year.

Because I don’t read Red Hood, I notice from Batman Eternal that Jason has been on the Venom for a while now. Technically this doesn’t make him the first super-powered Robin, but I just want to point out that Damian won’t be the only “augmented” Bat-sidekick out there.

I’m more familiar with Landry Walker through his Batman: The Brave and the Bold stories and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, so I’m intrigued by the thought of him writing an angst-ridden Guy Gardner in Red Lanterns.

WEEKLIES

In the way that it connects to the preexisting ongoings, Earth 2: World’s End seems to have adopted a structure similar to Forever Evil (and, before it, Blackest Night). The weekly miniseries tells the main story, the Earth 2 ongoing fills in some character gaps (like Justice League and Green Lantern did for their respective spinoff events), and Worlds’ Finest provides some deeper background. That approach risks making the individual issues incomprehensible to someone who’s not reading the whole thing, but the WF stories are more like background on the entire setup; and I don’t imagine anyone who’s been reading Earth 2 would just keep reading it without picking up World’s End as well. In fact, with Power Girl and Huntress now part of Earth 2, and the Earth-2 Trinitarians now taking over WF‘s flashbacks, the two ongoings have, in a sense, traded formats.

The Futures End solicitations almost make it sound as if the miniseries will be focusing on more individual stories (Frankenstein, Amethyst, Dr. Polaris, etc.), but that’s probably just a function of their brevity. After January, there are only eight more issues to go, so the various plots need to start moving a bit faster. Case in point: the “you know who” Bat-Joker-Borg battle teased for Issue 38.

The big doings in Batman Eternal involve Harper Row’s debut as Bluebird and January’s last issue reaching back to Batman #28, published 11 months earlier, in February 2014. As with Futures End and World’s End, though, Eternal needs to hit the accelerator not just to make its March deadline, but to set up the hellscape seen in its own Issue 1.

COLLECTIONS

1940 was a pretty productive year for introducing long-lasting characters. Besides the Flash (Jay Garrick) and Robin the Boy Wonder, it saw the debut of Captain Marvel. Accordingly, it’s entirely appropriate for DC to put out a 75th-anniversary Shazam! hardcover, and I’m glad to see it’s considerably bigger (400 pages) than 2008’s Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told collection (224 pages).  Still, I wonder how much duplication there will be in the larger book. There’s plenty of material, but inevitably the same stories tend to crop up.

For whatever reason I have never really taken to the art of David Finch, but I suppose the combination of his work on Wonder Woman and Forever Evil, and the perennial appeal of Batman, justifies his “unwrapped” volume.

These solicits include a handful of semi-obscure Batman stories that have received some recent attention. All of the Blink collection and the actual Dark Knight, Dark City storyline were reprinted a few years back as part of the DC Comics Presents line of floppy oversized issues. Now they’re being collected — and in DKDC’s case, with a Milligan-written run of offbeat Detective issues — in more standard-sized paperbacks. It’s all good material. The two “Blink” stories were highlights of the old Legends of the Dark Knight, and of course DKDC got a significant shout-out as part of Grant Morrison’s Bat-run. Plus, they’ll be affordable books, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Also worth the money and shelf space is the Orion By Walter Simonson Omnibus, reprinting Simonson’s Fourth World work from the early 2000s. In tone it’s more like Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman than Simonson’s Thor, but just putting together Simonson and Kirby concepts should be enough for a lot of super-comics fans.

Finally, I will definitely be getting a copy of the first Scooby-Doo Team-Up paperback. It’s right up there with Simonson + Kirby in terms of ideal pairings, particularly since it seems to take its cue from the Hanna-Barbera/Cartoon Network versions of our favorite superheroes.

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

And here is the Futures Index for this week’s Issue 25.

  • Story pages: 20
  • Stormwatch pages: 5 (including a double-page spread)
  • Cadmus Island pages: 4
  • Constantine/Superman pages: 5
  • Firestorm pages: 6
  • Number of subplots involving Brainiac: at least 2
  • Number of subplots involving teleportation: 3
  • Odds that Professor Yamazake becomes Doctor Polaris: 5:1
  • Number of characters potentially able to defeat Brother Eye, at least partially: 2 (Mr. Miracle and Fifty Sue)
  • Number of teams currently planning attacks on Cadmus Island: at least 2
  • Apparent value of Firestorm to the overall plot: hard to calculate at this time

NOTES: This issue was a lot of setup and not much payoff. Stormwatch has embarked on a new adventure across the Multiverse that will probably take all of November to complete. Fifty Sue and company are waiting to attack Brother Eye, but they’re in line behind the folks on Arrow Island. (Meanwhile, Frank Rock’s crew is gunning for Fifty Sue.) Superman and Constantine are headed for one of the seven “portals to insanity,” and Ronnie and Jason just exposed themselves, however inadvertently, to the dangerous Professor Yamazake. Basically, there are a whole lot of plates spinning, and they need to start coming together fairly soon. The bulk of Futures End reads like a string of loosely-connected moments intended to inform — and so far, not to contradict — the nightmarish events of its preview issue.

At least this issue gave us the big reveal about the “cyber-Parasite” — namely, that it’s a herald of Brainiac intended to test Superman in advance of Old God Brainiac’s arrival. Constantine’s narration is all well and good, but in light of “Doomed” it seems a little hyperbolic. Remember, in the closing issues of “Doomed,” Brainiac’s ship was bigger than the Earth. If I were Superman I’d focus more clearly on that than on Constantine’s ominous portents. I mean, the Brainiac that Stormwatch escaped seemed a bit less threatening than the Brainiac at the end of “Doomed.” Maybe Constantine’s waiting for the Doomed hardcover?

Although she wasn’t quite as sparkling this issue, I do still like the character of Fifty Sue, mostly because I can’t figure out if she’s one of the FE’s biggest good guys or bad guys. Again, at some point in this story someone will need to act in a way which prevents the nightmare future from happening. I haven’t seen that yet — at least, not expressly — which is why so much of this miniseries seems like an exercise in futility. However, you’d have to think that Fifty Sue will be part of Brother Eye and/or Brainiac’s ultimate demise. It’s just hard to see how she gets there.

NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Red Robin studied! Yamazake strikes! Death in Cadmus Park! And … a visit from Batman!

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