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Report Card | ‘Lazarus,’ ‘Earth 2’ and more

by  in Comic News Comment

Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.

So read on to find out what we thought about Lazarus and Earth 2, as well as to review the news of the week!



 


Six Archie Comics employees filed a 29-page, $32.5 million lawsuit against Archie Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit, accusing her of “destructive, dangerous and at times deranged behavior” that not only has caused them mental anguish and emotional distress, but threatens to cause the collapse of the publisher. They seek a permanent injunction removing Silberkleit from Archie’s Mamaroneck offices and barring her from having any contact with the plaintiffs or their families. If successful, $7.5 million of the $32.5 million would be earmarked for an anti-bullying campaign.

The lawsuit is the third that’s been filed in a volley of back-and-forth legal moves. Archie filed a lawsuit against Silberkleit in 2011, accusing her of bullying and sexually harassing employees. Supposedly that was resolved, but earlier this year Silberkleit filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former friend Sam Levitin, who served as her liaison with Archie following the resolution of the first lawsuit. Levitin wanted to have her removed as a company trustee, saying she “lacks functional communication skills and has an unstable temperament.”


The controversy and missteps around DC’s Villains Month event didn’t seem to hurt their sales at all, as DC Comics dominated the direct sales comic market in September. According to Diamond, DC accounted for 40.39 percent of the direct market’s dollar share and 45.17 percent of its unit share to second place Marvel’s 28.49 percent and 29.83 percent. The top 10 comics of the month were split evenly between the two publishers, as the first issue of DC’s Forever Evil miniseries took the top spot, followed by three of Marvel’s big event books: Infinity #2 and #3, and X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1. The decimal numbers worked in Batman’s favor, as four of the Batman-related books — Joker, Riddler, Bane and Penguin — landed in the top 10 as well.

In other sales news this week, manga is back in force on the graphic novel chart, thanks to an attack from Attack on Titan, IDW touted the success of their My Little Pony line, which has topped 1 million physical copies sold to date, when you take into account all the various My Little Pony series and graphic novels.


Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores.


Bone and RASL creator Jeff Smith has been elected to the Board of Directors for The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Smith joins Larry Marder, Jennifer L. Holm, Paul Levitz, Jeff Abraham, Dale Cendali, Joe Ferrara, Milton Griepp, Andrew McIntire and Chris Powell in serving on the organization’s board.

“The CBLDF has always been an important organization to me, and I’m looking forward to increasing my efforts to support its work as a member of the board,” Smith said. “I’m especially pleased to help them with their excellent work protecting the Kids’ Right to Read. CBLDF resources like Raising A Reader, and their constant schedule of education events make a huge difference in preserving the rights we all depend upon to make and read comics.”


Earth 2 #16

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Nicola Scott
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
Published by DC Comics

I ended up not having much use for “Villains Month,” mostly because after a while it turned into a series of downbeat stories about largely unsympathetic characters. Therefore, it’s somewhat ironic that my pick for this week was a downbeat story about a decisive battle between the “Wonders” of Earth-2 and the forces of Apokolips. In the end — and I mean that, because the issue ends on a devastating cliffhanger — the issue stuck with me largely because of the creative team’s efforts.

Earth 2‘s parallel-world setup gives it a certain amount of narrative freedom that even the original Earth-Two didn’t have. The latter purported to continue the adventures of DC’s Golden Age characters, many of which had been revamped (if not superseded) on the “main” Earth-One. Accordingly, while the older characters could marry, have kids, and even die, there was at least a nominal sense that they were “safe,” because of their particular places in history. Not so with the current Earth-2, whose characters and situations are total reboots, not continuations of any kind. Theoretically, anything can happen to these characters or their world; and so far Earth 2 has used its first war with Apokolips to kill off its major superheroes and install a new world order. Indeed, this issue opens with the World Army attacking Steppenwolf’s forces, followed by the last stand of the proto-Justice Society.

The issue unfolds methodically, opening with a splash page, two double-page spreads, and then two double-page layouts for its first nine pages, and closing with another double-page layout. Nicola Scott uses a lot of large panels on the single-page layouts, with at most six panels on the most crowded pages. This makes the issue a somewhat quick read, but Scott’s work draws the reader in, both conveying the action efficiently and encouraging a slower pace to catch all the nuances. For example, one panel shows the heroes’ faces responding in closeup, with Fate’s helmet reflecting the speaker’s face. She then frames the next panel (showing the superheroes headed for the action) so that the giant Atom’s feet are outside its borders, with his back foot in the top-left corner and his front in the bottom center, while the Flash runs from top-left to bottom-center and Green Lantern and Doctor Fate fly alongside. Patanzis’ colors set the mood well, with lots of dark clouds lit by energy effects, and garish oranges for the Apokoliptians’ death rays.

Robinson starts with a couple of dueling narrators, an omniscient one and Steppenwolf, but then switches to the news-story perspective of embedded journalist Lee Travis. At times this is overkill, since (especially at the end) the reader can see just how bad things have gotten, but for the most part it helps drive home the fact that this is, in fact, the last battle of the last war.

DC gets a lot of flak for visiting horrible circumstances upon its nominally-happy set of characters. Thanks to Justice League: Cry For Justice, Robinson has been part of that in recent years. The developments in this issue may not be surprising, especially if you’ve been following the book from the beginning. In fact, they may be another infuriating example of DC’s indifference towards the characters it controls. However, as a single issue of a series where such things are permissible, if not exactly ideal, I thought Earth 2 #16 was executed well, and I’m very eager to see where the series goes next. —Tom Bondurant


Lazarus #5

Written by Greg Rucka
Art and Letters by Michael Lark with Brian Level
Color by Santi Arcas
Published by Image Comics

Rucka and Lark’s examination of technology mixed with family political battles continues to fascinate me. As this issue opens, a great deal of the attack on Forever is played out in scenes showing Dr. James Mann and Dr. Bethany Carlyle monitoring machines that track Forever’s vitals.Not completely mind you, there are also cutaways to Jonah Carlyle and those monitoring/orchestrating the attack on Forever and the Morray Lazarus, Joacquim, as well as scenes of the action itself. As much as I appreciate Lark’s art on this series, I feel I have done a disservice to Arcus for not commenting on the value the colorist has brought to the series as well. There is a vibrancy to Arcus’ color choices that make this series a must read. —Tim O’Shea