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Grumpy Old Fan | DC hopes you'll heart Harley in February

In April, DC Comics released solicitations for its July titles alongside an extra batch of advance listings for the September Futures End-related one-shots. This week, in a move that's perhaps unintentionally similar, the publisher's February solicits arrive amid advance info about the spring’s Convergence tie-ins.

The scheduling gap isn’t quite as great -- only a couple of months here, as opposed to five months last time -- and I can understand why DC would want to avoid a lot of negative fan speculation about Convergence. Still, it steals some thunder from the current batch of solicitations, which try to compensate with a raft of Harley Quinn variant covers (including, strangely enough, one for Harley Quinn itself). In addition to her own series and Suicide Squad, Harl also gets a Valentine’s Day Special, another hardcover collection, a statue, an action figure, and a guest-shot in Deathstroke. At this rate I’m expecting her to be Wonder Woman’s new Amazon queen.

PACKING UP

The fact that these are the February solicitations means there's only one more month (thank goodness!) to speculate about how the various series will accommodate DC's westward move. For example, this month's rundown of concluding story arcs includes “The Amazo Virus” in Justice League #39; perhaps Justice League Dark's timestream shenanigans; and Action Comics’ “Horrorville.” Meanwhile, stories with one more month to go include Justice League United's “Infinitus Saga,” Batman's “Endgame” and Swamp Thing's “Machine Queen.”

Of course, after February the three weekly series have just four issues remaining in their respective runs. As you might have expected, it doesn't look good for Earth-2 in World's End, while we know that Gotham City's going to be more or less OK after the events of Batman Eternal. (I think the real drama of Eternal is whether it can make Hush a credible villain, amirite?) However, the weekly with the most questions is still the one that drives DC's bus, Futures End. With Convergence on deck for April and May, it's possible -- if not probable -- that Futures End's final issue will feature a cliffhanger to be resolved starting in June. You'd think such a cliffhanger would reach back to affect today's DC Universe, not just the miniseries' cracked Five Years From Now setting.

I suppose it's also possible Futures End could just end on its own terms, as a straightforward adventure story about superheroes rising above their fears and differences to fight off apocalyptic threats -- but really, who expects that sort of thing anymore?

SPRINGTIME FOR JIM LEE AND ‘MASTERMEN’

Seeing that Jim Lee and Scott Williams would be the art team for The Multiversity: Mastermen, my first thought was that it reunited them with their onetime Authority collaborator, writer Grant Morrison. My second thought was, “that Authority run lasted two issues and was so hideously snakebit that it had to be finished later by a Keith Giffen-led crew of re-enactors.” Later, I realized I was confusing Lee with Gene Ha, and that Lee and Morrison had actually collaborated on exactly one issue of WildCATS. Regardless, I think all involved can manage to put out a single 48-page special on time, but my fingers are still crossed.

YOUR PERIODIC REMINDER THAT THESE SERIES STILL EXIST

The breathless listing for Aquaman and the Others #10 advertises “the death of an Other,” perhaps forgetting that a couple of Others have already died since the team was introduced.

“Weird names” isn't the most articulate way to discuss two fairly new series, but the solicits for Forever People #8 and Klarion #5 toss around “Aagog,” “Thumpa,” “Leilani,” “Zell,” “Piper,” “Noah” and “Rasp” like readers (and, more importantly, retailers) are supposed to recognize them immediately. In the aggregate I presume they give a decent sense of each issue’s tone, but you have to get past all the letter salad first.

In its own short existence, G.I. Zombie has been pretty enjoyable on its own terms. The solicit for February’s Issue 7 mentions “the United States of Apocalypse” and a nightmarish threat from the heartland, both of which are enticing prospects (story-wise, that is). However, now I wonder if it could use a little more grounding in the recognizable superhero universe. The New 52 version of I, Vampire had a somewhat-similar perspective, but pretty early on it featured guest stars like Batman and John Constantine. I mean, what good’s a nationwide threat if you don’t explain why the other super-folk can’t handle it themselves?

I detect more than just the veneer of desperation in the JL 3000 solicit. If Convergence really is bringing back some of the old crew -- even for just a couple of months -- why not try to build on that, instead of going for self-pity?

WORLD’S FINEST POTPOURRI

Mentioning the name “Cain” in a Bat-context undoubtedly excites a certain segment of Batgirl fandom. For their sakes, let’s hope the Fist of Cain (coming to Grayson #7) is a step toward re-introducing Black Bat.

The Deathstroke vs. Batman matchup started out as a tantalizing possibility back in the early '80s, when Slade Wilson was going up against Robin/Nightwing on a regular basis. However, that was at the height of New Teen Titans' popularity, when Deathstroke showing up in a Bat-book would have been a great favor to the Bat-book. Today, Batman is DC's alpha male, with Deathstroke surging thanks to Arrow. Accordingly, a Deathstroke/Batman battle -- with a side of Harley Quinn, why not? -- seems driven more by marketing than by a fannish “who'd beat who?” attitude. Ironically, the prospect of an “intense, brutal battle” may well speak directly to the kind of fan DC wants to attract.

Since the solicitation for January’s Superman #38 mentioned a costume change, I’m trying not to read too much into the lack of a regular cover (upon which we might see said costume) for February’s Issue 39.

While I’m still disappointed that DC has apparently decided to revive Damian Wayne, I can’t decide whether the upcoming “Super-Damian” storyline (in Batman and Robin, of course) sounds just ridiculous enough to be a fake-out. I mean, I know Damian isn’t going to have these powers forever; and it is something of a cooling-off arc after the current romp across Apokolips. Still, it’s the kind of thing that could be an elaborate dream sequence -- why wouldn’t Bruce wish for his once-dead son to have these incredible abilities? -- or one last victory lap. Probably none of that, but you never know.

Meanwhile, in Superman/Wonder Woman, B&R writer Peter Tomasi re-introduces us to Magog, Kingdom Come’s personification of 1990s superhero excess. I’m guessing this has something to do with the “future child of Supes and Wondy” storyline that’s about to start. I don’t know exactly why we’d need to see Magog otherwise.

COLLECTIONS, BRIEFLY

The next Batman hardcover, The Graveyard Shift, reprints a number of shorter stories from the months between “Death of the Family” and “Zero Year.” I suppose if you’re reading the New 52 Batman in the order in which the stories take place, you’ll start with “ZY” and go through “DOF” before getting to this volume. It’ll be a palate-cleanser before Batman Eternal and “Endgame.”

The 75th-anniversary Robin hardcover is almost deliberately vague on creators beyond Dick Grayson’s Golden Age teams and the ubiquitous Chuck Dixon (who wrote huge chunks of both Nightwing and Robin). I suppose that’s inevitable, considering that the book will likely be more about “Robin,” the identity, than Dick, the character who’s actually turning 75. Dick was Robin for about 44 years, so you’d think he’d get the most coverage -- although I doubt it’ll be over twice as much as Tim Drake, who “only” spent 20 years in red Kevlar. Jason Todd and Damian Wayne each were Robin for about four years, so they probably merit a story apiece; and although Stephanie Brown only spent a few months as the Girl Wonder, she got a nice spotlight in Detective Comics #796. What could it hurt?

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

And here is the Futures Index for this week’s Issue 29.

  • Story pages: 20
  • Firestorm-plot pages: 20
  • Number of featured characters: 5, plus assorted goons
  • Number of deaths among those characters: at least 1
  • Morning line on MadiStorm being a future-altering character: 4-1

NOTES: This is the first single-story issue of Futures End since the Arrow Island spotlight/flashback in Issue 21, but on its face it doesn’t appear to be as important to the overall series as that one was. The immediate takeaways include a) the return of Firestorm, duh; b) the death of Ronnie Raymond; and c) the revelation that Cadmus was behind Yamazake’s teleportation experiments. I didn’t put Yamazake’s death in that list because there was no body, and because I agree with Chad Nevett that he’ll be the new Doctor Polaris.

By itself that might be sufficiently significant -- albeit weird, considering it basically happens off-camera -- but I’m more interested in the emphasis on Firestorm, and particularly her connection to Tim. If Tim is truly a wild card, able to affect the future, then his involvement in these events helped ensure the creations of both Polaris and MadiStorm, who could also be so positioned. The bulk of Futures End might be one long slog towards robot holocaust, but at least these folks offer some hope.

Otherwise, though, the issue is kind of a mess. I am no fan of “writing for the trade,” and I know that every issue is someone’s first, but really: if you’re reading FE even casually, you know the basic setup, right? You certainly don’t need the “Five Years From Now” captions, especially this far into the series. What’s more, Tim spends the first page telling us how he was Red Robin of the Teen Titans five years ago, and he recognizes Ronnie is Firestorm but not vice versa; and then page 2 ends with three panels of Tim explaining all that (just more succinctly) to Ronnie.  Likewise, Ronnie and Tim make a big deal about the security coming from Cadmus, only to have Jason make a big deal about the security coming from Cadmus. Yamazake is as paranoid as ever, but other players get their share of anvilicious moments too. Madison laments all the lies she’s been told, Tim mopes about being too out of shape, and the teleporter accident pauses just long enough for Ronnie to say his penultimate goodbyes. MadiStorm’s double-page “OMG!” also came across as more vacuous than the writer(s) -- I suspect this was all scripted by Dan Jurgens, but it’s not clear -- probably intended.

NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Another single-story issue? It’s Team Arrow vs. OMACs, Lois and Lois, and Ollie in the crosshairs!

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