No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl. There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.
As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).
Marcio Takara draws The Flash #18, and Brian Buccellato writes solo, while Francis Manapul takes a two-month break.
February’s Vibe #1 lists Geoff Johns as co-writer, but Andrew Kreisberg goes solo with March’s Issue 2. Nothing wrong with that, although it seems like Johns has been more of a spokesman for the title so far.
Last month we learned Frank Tieri is writing February’s Hawkman #17, Part 1 of a Shadow-Thief story. Now we see that Tom DeFalco is writing Issue 18, Part 2 of the Shadow-Thief story. Neither is listed as a guest writer, and the March solicit doesn’t announce DeFalco as regular writer. Hawkman is Hawkman, I suppose.
Speaking of DeFalco, I may have to try Superboy again once “H’El On Earth” is over. I got bored with Scott Lobdell’s writing somewhere around Issue 7. However, DeFalco’s work has always been pretty solid, and as R.B. Silva and Rob Lean are still on the book, it’ll look good too.
RETURNS AND CROSSOVERS
So I “won’t believe who comes calling on the final page” of Action Comics #18, eh? Unless it’s Stephanie Brown or Wally West, I bet I will.
The HIVE (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination) was a Marv Wolfman creation from his stint as a Superman writer in the early ‘80s. He used them a lot more in New Teen Titans, most notably as the group that hired the Terminator to kill the Titans. Still, it’s nice to see them pestering Superman (in March’s Issue 18), because they’re one of those groups who’s gotten just obscure enough to trigger the nostalgia reflex.
It’s kinda cool to see The Flash crossing over, however indirectly, with Dial H. Anything that brings Dial H more attention is OK with me. Meanwhile, Deathstroke guest-stars the Teen Titans and the Ravagers, while Ravagers guest-stars Deathstroke and possibly features Jericho.
All-Star Western’s solicit mentions John Leather, who in the world of Planetary was the Lone Ranger’s analogue and the grandfather of William Leather, the “Human Torch” of the evil Four. There’s very little chance this means more Planetary-style stories -- and certainly none featuring the Four -- but now I am curious to see how much ASW will use the Leather family.
Oh, and about Captain K’Rot ... I probably bought the first appearance of Jaxxon in Marvel’s Star Wars not long after it hit the spinner racks at Foodtown, so no-nonsense space rabbits and I go back a ways. I don’t have a problem with Captain Carrot getting grittified (it sounds like a non-subtle way to get in on Rocket Raccoon fever), but he’s got some big bunny footprints to fill.
I guess I need to reread Saucer Country to get the chronology straight, because Issue 13 features an Election Night storyline, and I thought Arcadia and crew were still in the middle of the primaries. It could still be the primary election, but the solicit makes it sound like November. (Which, admittedly, would be weird for a comic coming out in March. Must be the hype talking.)
Speaking of timelines, the solicits suggest that the three Justice League of America books don’t necessarily take place contemporaneously. Katana #2 implies she hasn’t joined yet and JLA #2 says the team continues to form, but when Vibe #2 mentions his “first public outing” with the team, that sounds like everyone’s gotten together. I’m sure there’s a good bit of editorial coordination synchronizing these titles (not least because DC’s launching them all together), and Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four books showed most recently how effective this structure can be, but it’s still tricky to pull off.
I may end up reading Green Arrow in spite of myself, just to see how closely Jeff Lemire comes to replicating the old Ollie’s gruff liberalism. In this respect it’s too bad Lemire won’t be using familiar guest-stars, because I always liked the old Ollie’s interactions with his fellow Leaguers. Again, though, if this makes the New-52 Ollie a credible update of the old one, I’m all for it.
The Swamp Thing and Animal Man solicits sound especially grim, what with sacrifices and tragedies and all in the wake of “Rotworld.” Granted, neither of these are warm-fuzzy titles to begin with, but I’m hoping the actual books are a little more upbeat.
There’s also a big status-quo change in I, Vampire #18, but apparently it has nothing to do with any creative-team turnover. Moreover, it would have to be some kind of change to compete with the previous one, a few months back when Andrew turned capital-E Eeevil.
March is a big month for John Constantine, what with the New 52 Constantine #1, his ongoing gig in Justice League Dark, and his hanging around the edges of Sword of Sorcery. I still don’t quite see the utility of canceling Hellblazer in favor of the New 52 book, but if it was gonna happen I guess it would have been too confusing (and perhaps logistically thorny) to switch imprints.
As the solicitation indicates, Legion Worlds was the six-month follow-up to Legion Lost (and the precursor to the DnA/Olivier Coipel The Legion series). As such, it was about three Legion continuities ago. The Legion was the last iteration of the post-Zero Hour team, which gave way to the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson “threeboot,” which in turn was ushered out by Geoff Johns’ relaunch in Action Comics (and the 2007 JLA/JSA crossover), which is (about) where we are today. Thus, if you’ve read Legion Lost and want more, here it is. For the rest of you, there’s always Wikipedia.
Here’s a little quirk about the Secret Origins hardcover, which gets a paperback edition in March: the Challengers of the Unknown story in the original Secret Origins special cuts off inexplicably after page 6, and the hardcover likewise cuts off -- although you’d think DC would want to reprint the whole story, regardless of how the special treated it. The new paperback gives DC another chance to do that, but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t. Otherwise, it’s a pretty decent book, representative of DC in the ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Regarding the new editions of Batman Year One Hundred and Superman: Secret Identity: if you don’t have ‘em, get ‘em. They’re the best.
I think the Batman Noir collection is the first time any Wednesday Comics stories have been reprinted outside of the oversized WC hardcover. I’ll be interested to see how the Batman serial turns out. I don’t think it will suffer for being shrunk to comics size, but I sure can’t say that for some of the other WC strips.
I HAVE A HYPOTHESIS
Although I haven’t been reading every installment of “Death of the Family,” a pattern did start to emerge from March’s Bat-solicitations. Conventional wisdom seems to have Alfred Pennyworth as the titular “death,” and it would certainly send Batman over the edge -- but I don’t think DC would do it. Alfred’s been dead before, killed in June 1964's “Gotham Gang Line-Up” (in Detective Comics #328) and revived in October 1966's “Inside Story of the Outsider” (’Tec #356). However, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, that was the Silver Age, and Batman’s gotten just a bit too realistic since then for Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, or any other civilian to take advantage of a reset button. If a non-costumed character dies in “DOTF,” I say they’re really most sincerely dead.
Moreover, we know that many of the Bat-titles’ headliners will survive, including Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood and Red Robin. They’re mentioned in their respective books’ solicits, and Harley Quinn appears on the cover of Suicide Squad #18. In fact, the only major Bat-character not mentioned in the Bat-solicits is Damian “Robin” Wayne. He’s on the cover of Batman and Robin #18, but its solicit says only “[y]ou dare not miss this issue ... [i]t’s the Batman and Robin story of the year!” Damian’s death would also be a sufficiently “unspeakable” tragedy to satisfy Batman #18's solicit. Additionally, the solicit for Worlds’ Finest #10 reveals that “Huntress is personally affected by a tragedy in The New 52,” and the only characters so far who might elicit that response are Batman, Catwoman and Damian. Of course, she’s been bonding with the little twerp in the past couple of WF issues.
The main flaw in this theory is Batman Incorporated’s storyline, ironically because it hinges on whether Damian will become the Batman of a hellish future Gotham. Indeed, Inc.’s March solicit observes that Batman is “on the run” and possibly “a murderer” following “last month’s shocking turn of events.” That sounds like it would dovetail neatly with “DOTF,” but clearly it’s not, because Grant Morrison’s mega-arc is currently independent of the rest of the Bat-books.
However, it could be the case (as it was with Bruce’s “death” in Final Crisis) that Damian’s death is faked in Inc. in a story which takes place before “DOTF.” Thus, he’d “die” in Inc. to thwart Leviathan, and then really die in “DOTF.” I could totally see that happening. Damian is a neat character, but he’s got a lot of Morrison-Batman in him and he’s still kinda new -- so it would make an odd kind of sense for him to go away, and smooth over some of the Bat-family’s rough edges. Yes, that means I think Damian has more “rough edges” than Jason; but on some level Jason gets a pass for being an antihero. “Robin” isn’t supposed to be arrogant and hyperviolent. (Note, though, that as per the Red Hood solicit, Jason’s “terrible suffering” could be caused by memories of his own beating at the hands of the Joker.)
It could also be the case that -- as was the alternate plan for Jason if the phones had been kinder -- Damian is merely injured right up to the brink of death, and spends a couple of months recuperating. That would have the same effect, I suppose; as would Damian actually dying but then being revived via a Lazarus Pit.
I realize I’ve been rather dispassionately gaming out various scenarios involving what would be, at the very least, the prospect of near-fatal injuries suffered by a pre-adolescent wearing the costume of Robin, the Boy Wonder. On some level this is How Super-Comics Work These Days (and by “these days” I mean “probably since Jason’s 1988 death,” but still). It would sound ghoulish to hope merely that the craft which goes into these comics justifies the horrors they depict, but that’s about the size of it. I like Damian as a character, and I hope I’m wrong about his fate. Nevertheless, the bottom line seems to be that someone’s gonna get it in February, and he might just be the best-positioned to make a full recovery.