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Grumpy Old Fan | Unfolding DC’s April solicitations

by  in Comic News Comment

Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!

On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.

A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!

Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?

SADLY, NO FOLD-IN COVERS

In addition to the fold-out covers, 13 New-52 books will sport MAD Magazine variants, by “The Usual Gang of Idiots.” I’m looking forward to their Batwoman, just to see how they spoof J.H. Williams III.

HOW’D THAT KNIFE GET THERE?

Justice League of America and Hawkman both mention the Secret Society, with JLA teasing a traitor within the new League. The most obvious choice is Catwoman, and not just because of her flexible ethical stances. Because most of the JLAers have their own titles, and because I doubt DC will turn either Martian Manhunter or Stargirl evil, it would be easiest for Catwoman to go rogue. Also, speaking of Catwoman-the-book, it kinda looks like Selina might be headed for Arkham Asylum in Issue 19.

Oh, and there’s a traitor in the Birds of Prey, just in time for new writer Christy Marx to come aboard. Might be a traitor among the Teen Titans as well, but the solicit doesn’t make that clear. Perhaps DC is worried about traitor fatigue?

COMINGS AND GOINGS

Among the “new” elements in these solicits are a new White Lantern, new Suicide Squad leader, new member of Team 7, and a “new member of the Batman family” ready to be the new Batwing. I take it this last is not Stephanie Brown (because … well, you’ll see). Cassandra Cain, perhaps?

While I may be reading too much into the return of Killer Frost in Firestorm #19, it’s not much of a stretch to think her arrival means the book is becoming more conventional. Under different circumstances this wouldn’t necessarily be the case. In the early days of Jason’s solo series, when he’d first fight Ronnie’s old foes, the villains’ seniority gave the stories an extra layer of menace. Here, though, it’s just New-52 Frosty versus New-52 Stormy. If there’s any subtext, it’s that Jason and Ronnie have both been through the whole “Firestorm Protocols” storyline, so ordinary supervillains should be comparatively easier to handle.

Speaking of old-school super-characters, there’s a strong suggestion we’ll meet the New-52 version of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man in Ravagers #11. I still don’t think that’s enough to get me to read Ravagers.

Canceled: Saucer Country, DC Universe Classics, I, Vampire and Superman Family Adventures. I was reading the first three and waiting for the fourth to be collected, so while I will miss them, it does help my budget. I really like Saucer Country, though, and I hope it’s not gone for long.

Also, regarding DCUP #19, I’m guessing the “time-displaced hero” is Booster Gold, with an outside chance of it being Captain Atom (given his fate in Firestorm), and an even more remote possibility that it’s Wally “Flash” West.  See, DC, this is what happens when you withhold half the cover.

You’ll remember from last month’s solicits that I predicted Damian Wayne’s death as part of “Death of the Family.” Since then I have heard the convincing argument that it could also happen — and would be more appropriate for the climax of — Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated arc. Either way, if Damian doesn’t survive, it sets up Batman and Robin #19 pretty well. The solicit asks, “On the darkest of nights, who is the one person Batman meets that could change his life forever?” Well, if Batman needs a new Robin, that flutter of yellow cape on Issue 19’s cover could reveal her. That’s right: The April solicitations could feature the triumphant return of Stephanie “Robin” Brown!

Or, you know, Damian could survive both Morrison’s departure and “DOTF,” and the “one person” could just be Leslie Thompkins, or a Martha Wayne hallucination, or, I don’t know, the New-52 version of Bat-Mite. Anyone but Stephanie, right?

Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes preempt Robert Venditti as writers of the new Constantine, and the aforementioned Christy Marx does the same for Jim Zub on Birds of Prey. Charles Soule is the new Swamp Thing writer, and I take it Kano is the new artist. Jim Starlin comes aboard Stormwatch, aided by artists Yvel Guichet and Jonas Trindade. Brett Booth is the new Nightwing artist, switching with Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira on Teen Titans.  Good luck to all, hiring circumstances notwithstanding.

It looks like Barry Kitson has joined the long-term rotation of Worlds’ Finest artists. He’s a good choice, considering his style is somewhere between Kevin Maguire’s and George Pérez’s; and of course he’s no slouch on his own either.

Gail Simone returns to Batgirl in April, with her first order of business presumably to finish the James Gordon Jr. story she’d started before “Death of the Family.” This is good news all around, since I thought at the time of her firing she wouldn’t have that chance.

And hey, Mogo’s coming back in GL Corps #19! Yay, Mogo!

THIS AND THAT

It’s great that Detective Comics #19 — which would have been Issue 900 under the old rules — will apparently feature 80 pages of story by John Layman, Jason Fabok and Andy Clarke. I even appreciate that it involves the number 900. However, it really wouldn’t kill DC to return to ’Tec’s original numbering, especially considering the crosstown rival just scored a big pile of cash with a 700th issue. There’s wanting to be fresh and new, and then there’s actively running away from your own past.

I guess I have to give Red Lanterns the slow clap. I didn’t think a series focusing on the Reds would stick around this long. Still, we’re at Issue 19 and counting.

Can speculation about Flash #19 be a SPOILER if it might have been revealed inadvertently in a CBR interview from November?  Based on the timing of upcoming arcs discussed therein, I’m expecting the Reverse-Flash to show up at the end of April’s Issue 19, just in time for Francis Manapul to come back to the book in May.

Phantom Stranger #7 features a story by Dan DiDio and J.M. DeMatteis, with art by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. I suspect that for a lot of people, three of those names would be enough to get them to try the book, but the fourth would be a dealbreaker.

I hope Warner Bros.’ licensing folks are kicking themselves extra-hard for passing up the opportunity to put Adventure Time’s Ice King on the cover of Aquaman #19. As much as I like BOOM!’s AT comics, if DC had the rights to them, boy, I tell ya ….

The solicitation for Vibe #3 hangs a slow, fat one over the plate by asking “[w]hat is the one super power that is more than a match for Vibe and how can it tear the universe apart?” The answer, of course, is editorial fiat.

COUPLING

Considering he showed up fairly early in Sword of Sorcery, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that John Constantine is getting more involved with Gemworld goings-on. Still, it’s an incongruous pairing, to say the least.

The Flash guest-stars in April’s issues of Dial H and Justice League Dark, and he’s on the cover of DCU Presents #19. Not on the cover of Dial H #19, though, which is too bad — I was looking forward to another Brian Bolland Flash cover.

COLLECTIONS

It was only a matter of time before DC produced Absolute Superman/Batman Vol. 1. The two arcs it collects (“Public Enemies” and “Supergirl”) are apparently perennial bestsellers in both hardcover and paperback, and both have been made into direct-to-video animated features. “Public Enemies” even got its own line of action figures. For me, though, the irony is that each of these is grounded pretty firmly in the continuity of the time (although each sought to restore previous status quos, first by “re-criminalizing” Luthor and then by reintroducing Kara Zor-El). However, I wouldn’t necessarily use that to say there’s still life in the old status quo. Instead, I think it’s more of an indication there’ll always be a market for Jeph Loeb.

Conversely, the Solo collection is long overdue, even if I’m one of the few people excited about it. At $50.00 retail for a fantastic collection from twelve pretty-talented people, it’s a bargain. The same goes for the latest Jack Kirby reprint, In the Days of the Mob.

It’s good to see the Batman and JLU stories from Batman Beyond Unlimited collected in their own paperbacks. These were digital-first stories (which I’ve been reading in their subsequent floppy incarnations), and if they succeed in paperback, that could be the foundation of a whole new business model.

It’s also good to see a Captain Comet Archives, although I have to wonder why, exactly, DC is investing so heavily in the character. I’d have expected a Showcase Presents volume first, to test the waters. Maybe those Secret Society of Super-Villains hardcovers did better than I thought.

Considering that the solicitation only mentions “the team first gather[ing] to battle … Starro,” readers unfamiliar with the Justice League’s history might be forgiven for thinking that the six issues collected in Justice League of America Chronicles Vol. 1 are a modern-sized arc all about the conquering starfish. That’s not even the origin story (which, presumably, will be collected in Vol. 2). Instead, this volume features Starro, Despero, Amazo (built by Professor Ivo), Kanjar Ro, and two non-rhyming menaces: the Weapons Master and the “sinister sorcerors.” But, if DC wants to advertise it like a regular six-issue storyline, they must know best …

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