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Grumpy Old Fan | A World’s Finest feast from DC in November

Whether you call it “Divergence” or “DC You,” November represents the sixth month of DC Comics’ line-wide retooling. In just about three months it’ll be time to start taking stock of what worked and what didn’t, but for now we’re looking at what’s new and/or shiny.

THE 800-POUND GORILLA BOSS OF GOTHAM CITY

At the head of the line is a certain Bat-sequel. The hype surrounding Dark Knight III: The Master Race is understandable considering the shelf life of The Dark Knight Returns. It and its follow-up are two of DC’s most evergreen reprints, and DK3 will no doubt join them in the Valhalla of immortal collected editions.

In fact, the instant-classic nature of DK3 comes through in each issue’s formatting. Instead of the series of mini-graphic novels in which the original miniseries appeared -- for a few years called simply “the Dark Knight format” before getting the “Prestige Format” moniker -- consumers of DK3 can enjoy each issue first as a regular comic book with a bound-in 16-page minicomic, and then as a more durable Collector’s Edition suitable for slipcasing (sold with DK3:CE #8). The solicitation notes specifically that the minicomic will have no ads, so does that mean the regular 32-page issue will have the usual 12 pages of ads? The solicit for the Collector’s Edition of Issue 1 (due out two weeks later, on Dec. 9) is for a single 40-page issue, which suggests 16 pages of minicomic and no more than 24 pages of regular story. Therefore, if you wait two weeks and pay over more than twice as much, you might get a break on commercial interruption and your eyes don’t have to work so hard.

As for DK3’s merits, certainly those of us who remember DK2 for its buildup and letdown -- not to mention Miller’s own missteps over the past 10 years or so -- are probably a little less jazzed about this project. The Dark Knight Returns blew apart the Bronze Age Batman and became an immediate cultural touchstone, but The Dark Knight Strikes Again was an unchecked explosion of superheroic Id, culminating in a bit of hard-to-swallow revisionist history. Perhaps DK2’s worst offense was that it felt unnecessary, as the original had already given Bruce Wayne a satisfying final act. In that respect DK3 risks being received as yet another exploitation of a classic DC story for the sake of one more hardcover at Barnes & Noble. We’ll see in a few months, I suppose.

AIN’T LIKE DUSTING CROPS, BOY

Because I am An Old, I have little to no idea about the merits of the Max Landis-written Superman: American Alien miniseries. While the screenwriter of Chronicle and American Ultra is certainly no stranger to the Man of Steel, at worst American Alien sounds like the product of getting high and falling asleep binge-watching Smallville. Of course, at best it will be a fresh-but-faithful take on Superman’s boyhood.

ACH DU LIEBER!

The third Major Release of the November solicits is the first issue of Batman: Europa, the long-promised prestige project featuring the art of Jim Lee. Although I already sound annoyingly jaded and cynical, once again I am not sure how excited to be about this miniseries. The prospect of Jim Lee drawing Batman and/or various other DC characters was exciting and new back in 2002, when he was penciling “Hush” and then went on to “For Tomorrow” in Superman. In 2015, a few years removed from his extended tours on Justice League and Superman Unchained -- not to mention leaving his stamp on DC’s A-listers with all those New 52 redesigns -- Lee drawing Batman just isn’t as big a deal. The story and setting seem like decent draws, however. Batman doesn’t globe-trot as much anymore, so books like Batman Incorporated, Batman in Barcelona (cover by Jim Lee!) and Batman: Scottish Connection are notable exceptions.

Note, though, that Batman and Robin Eternal breaks out the passports in November, flashing back to Prague and jetting off to Gamorra. If ever there was a time to revive Batman Incorporated, I’d say this is it.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

Francis Manapul makes a welcome return in November, drawing B&RE #5 and Justice League #46. For the latter he’s teamed with former Flash writer Geoff Johns. The old Aquaman team of Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier reunite as well on Justice League United #15.

There might not be a new Supergirl series solicited this month, but I don’t think DC is dumb enough to kill off the Supergirl of Justice League 3001 right when her present-day TV show is starting. My guess is that Issue 6's “super-death” is Superman 3001, which would allow his successor to get a personality upgrade.

An optimist would likely consider Prez #6 to be the end of the series’ first six-issue run. I am not sure it pays to be optimistic about Prez, but it couldn’t hurt. I’m a lot more confident about American Vampire’s future, after it goes on hiatus with November’s Issue 11.

It’s not that I don’t want to read the new-look Catwoman, it’s just that there are only so many comics I can read, you know? That’s why I’m not as up on the current version of the Spoiler as I might have been otherwise. Still, I think she’ll fit well with the folks at Batgirl.

YOU HATED THE FIRST PART, NOW HERE’S THE BEST PART

If the solicit for Batman Beyond #6 proves true, and it really does feature the “final showdown with Brother Eye,” then I say thank goodness. Frustration and anger with the last issue of Futures End motivated me greatly to pick up Batman Beyond, and even then I was betting that DC wouldn’t turn the series into month after month of post-apocalyptic cyber-zombie warfare. In hindsight it’s a pretty cynical way to sell a series. First, Futures End presented a monstrous view of everyone’s favorite super-folk corrupted by evil machinery, but that itself implied a happy (or at least happier) ending. Then, when -- SPOILERS -- that ending didn’t quite materialize, here came Batman Beyond, with the promise of the actual conclusion. It’s like, “we led you all the way down the primrose path into a dead end, and now we’re ready to show you the way out.” (And yes, I know the ending was better with regard to the Earth-2 survivors, but only in the sense that they weren’t involved in screwing up the main DC-Earth.)

Speaking of follow-ups to this spring’s multiversal adventures, I think the Lois & Clark series will be fairly well-received, but I am looking forward more to Titans Hunt. While the former will no doubt satisfy readers hungry for classic Superman action (even in a black suit), I’m eager for the latter because it looks like it will harmonize the current versions of Dick Grayson, Roy Harper, Donna Troy, et al., with their predecessors. Indeed, Donna’s history with the Multiverse could make it easier for an earlier version to step into the boots of the current one. Meanwhile, bless its heart, Telos #2 teases another peek at the title character’s Not-Silver-Surfer origin, and asks readers to recall the “edgy” version of Captain Carrot -- as opposed to the more traditional Multiversity version -- from the short-lived Threshold anthology. Good luck with that, Telos.

POTPOURRI

Sholly Fisch really needs to write more DC series. His work on the all-ages Super Friends title didn’t get the attention of, say, Tiny Titans -- which I love, don’t get me wrong -- but it was a really clever, sweet take on the Silver Age Justice League. That makes me very excited for something like the ghostly guest-stars of Scooby-Doo Team-Up #13.

I’m not sure if the guy in the mask on the cover of Earth 2: Society #6 is Johnny Sorrow or the Psycho-Pirate, but the kid in the foreground almost has to be another version of Anarky, and I do like the design of the villainous Hourman.

Unless I’ve missed one recently, the Green Arrow costume on the covers of Green Arrow #46 just might be the first in the character’s history with a big chest symbol. When Neal Adams redesigned the Arrow-suit in the late ‘60s (upgrading it from the rather plain original), the only such personalization was a stylized “G” belt-buckle. I suppose the archer’s silhouette was distinctive enough. Actually, as long as I’m talking about costumes for characters I haven’t been following as closely, the Hawkeye costume used to have a subtle “H” pattern, and now it has a more prominent arrow-symbol on the chest. Maybe Ollie’s just trying to keep up.

COLLECTIONS

At $9.99 retail, the Batman Vs. Superman collection is so ridiculously inexpensive it almost makes up for its by-the-numbers nature. As with so many other Bat-elements, the notion of a fractured World’s Finest goes back to The Dark Knight Returns, so it hardly seems coincidental that this paperback would come out the week after the first issue of Dark Knight III, and probably pretty close to another Dawn Of Justice trailer as well. None of the stories in this book is older than the DKR excerpt, two of them feature the art of Jim Lee and Scott Williams, and one comes from the incredibly successful Batman team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Now, DC could probably put together a thicker tome with deeper dives into its vast archives and even crazier Silver Age stories about its two biggest heroes fighting each other. Maybe that’s coming next spring.

In the meantime, readers in a more cooperative mood can pick up a new edition of Matt Wagner’s Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity (not to be confused with the year-long Trinity miniseries from writers Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, penciller Mark Bagley, and a host of other artistic collaborators). It’s a pretty neat standalone story that serves as sort of a thematic counterpart to 1990's Dave Gibbons/Steve Rude World’s Finest miniseries. That one was very earnest and straightforward, aiming for more of a classic approach, and this one has a similar approach.

On the other end of the spectrum is Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, which is just what it sounds like: an alternate-history Batman that draws very heavily on Lovecraftian elements. If you’ve ever wondered “what if Mike Mignola got Batman to fight Cthulhu,” here you go.

Collections of classic series in this month’s solicits include the early ‘00s Catwoman Vol. 4; the early-‘90s Demon Vol. 1 (from Garth Ennis and John McCrea, picking up from Alan Grant and Val Semeiks); the late-‘90s Nightwing Vol. 4; and the late-‘80s Green Arrow Vol. 4. The latter, written by Mike Grell and drawn by various artists, features the long-awaited teamup of brothers in facial hair Oliver Queen and Travis “Warlord” Morgan. It may never happen on TV, but now it’s in paperback.

The second reprint of early-‘90s Deathstroke The Terminator includes the introduction of a new Vigilante. She succeeds the black-costumed, red-goggled Adrian Chase, created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez for New Teen Titans, so appropriately enough, Pérez inks the issues in which she appears. That is something I did not know, so I am thankful to these solicits for inspiring me to look it up.

The second ‘80s Suicide Squad collection finally gets (another) slot on the schedule. Featuring team-ups with the Doom Patrol (pre-Morrison/Case version) and Justice League International, it’s got something for everyone, and it’s just good comics besides.

And last but not least, Lex Luthor gets A Celebration of 75 Years. I hope it includes the seminal “Luthor Fights For Good,” written by Cary Bates and penciled by Curt Swan, from 1980's Action Comics #510-11. In fact, I hope it includes a heaping helping of the purple-and-green jumpsuit era. Sure, I grew up with those stories, but they also feature a Luthor who had developed into a pretty complex guy. Once best buds with Superboy, he’d sworn to destroy the Last Son of Krypton after that life-changing lab accident; and as a result he became the greatest criminal mind of his time. What’s more, in the right hands he was genuinely funny and scary -- not in a Joker sort of way, but in a more recognizable sense of controlled menace. That Luthor wasn’t impressed with Superman merely because he thought himself superior. Instead, the Bronze Age Luthor dismissed his omnipotent foe because he knew him. He’d spent most of a lifetime hating Superman, and channeled that hate laser-like into any number of diabolical ventures. That’s the Luthor I want to see more of.

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