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Grumpy Old Fan | Stick a fork in DC’s March solicitations

by  in Comic News Comment
Grumpy Old Fan | Stick a fork in DC’s March solicitations

A while back I wrote that DC Comics could stand to cancel some books, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. DC’s March solicitations are among the most significant of the New 52. The August 2011 solicits, which were the last of their particular era, were relatively routine; back then, every superhero title was either being canceled or relaunched. By contrast, March 2015 looks like the start of another line-wide makeover. It will see the end of several series, including some charter members of the New 52.

The solicits actually extend to the week of April 1, which will feature a slew of annuals, the final issues of the three weekly series, and Convergence #0. (All that will cost you $54.89 retail.) With Convergence then taking over April and May, readers will have to wait until June’s solicits (coming in February, of course) for the first full picture of the New However-Many. Although the nature of Convergence still suggests that some old, familiar elements will be reintroduced into the New 52 — because why say “every story matters” if you’re not going to use at least some of them going forward? — these solicits are arguably the strongest indication to date that the New 52 isn’t going away.

LET’S DO THE NUMBERS

The March solicitations for the main line of superhero books represent a total of 45 ongoing series and four miniseries (including The Multiversity, which probably ties only obliquely into Convergence). Six of those ongoings will have annuals coming out on April 1, and the Batman arc “Endgame” will spin off into four crossover specials (Batgirl, Gotham AcademyArkham Manor, and Detective Comics). However, 13 of those 45 ongoings are canceled as of March, leaving 32 regular series upon which to build the June superhero roster. Thirty-two isn’t chicken feed, but it’s a considerable reduction from DC’s favorite number.

The 13 canceled series are Aquaman and the Others, Arkham Manor, Batwoman, GI Zombie, Green Lantern Corps, GL: New Guardians, Red Lanterns, Infinity Man and the Forever People, Klarion, Secret Origins, Swamp Thing, Trinity of Sin and Worlds’ Finest. Five of those series are original New 52 members, but none of the rest are older than twelve issues (counting last September’s specials) and three will only make it to Issue 6.

Otherwise, to a certain extent the list is somewhat predictable. (Guess A&TO won’t last longer than Superboy and the Ravers after all.) It includes a number of low-sellers; Worlds’ Finest seems rather redundant in light of both its format change and the happenings on Earth-2; and Arkham Manor might as well have been a miniseries, as its premise all but screamed “temporary!” However, I was surprised that DC would cancel three Green Lantern titles. (The GL line needed to be trimmed, but I didn’t think the publisher would be so brutal.) I also thought Batwoman and Swamp Thing were fairly stable in the grand scheme of things, even if the former had seen better days and the latter was losing its popular writer to Marvel.

GOING FORWARD

The 32 surviving series include:

  • The eight “foundational” series (Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League, Superman and Wonder Woman);
  • Eight Bat-family spinoffs (Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Catwoman, Gotham Academy, Gotham by Midnight, Grayson, Harley Quinn and Red Hood and the Outlaws);
  • Three Superman family spinoffs (Batman/Superman, Supergirl and Superman/Wonder Woman);
  • Three ancillary Justice Leagues (JL 3000, JL Dark and JL United);
  • Six series featuring characters with recent or upcoming multimedia exposure (Aquaman, Constantine, Deathstroke, Green Arrow, New Suicide Squad and Teen Titans);
  • A collection of antiheroes (Lobo, Secret Six and Sinestro); and
  • whatever Earth 2 ends up becoming.

A number of these series — including Batman, Catwoman, Earth 2, JL United, JL Dark and Wonder Woman — will be wrapping up their current storylines. The solicits for a handful of others (for example, Constantine, Flash and Supergirl) sound similarly conclusive. However, several series will apparently just go on hiatus for two months. This latter group includes Aquaman, Deathstroke, Grayson, Green Lantern, Justice League.

Additionally, some solicitations promise some sort of big “change,” either to the series’ status quo or to the DC Universe as a whole:

  • JL United #10 specifically teases “events … that will change the DC Universe forever,” perhaps facilitating another Legion of Super-Heroes ongoing series;
  • JL Dark #40 notes “[m]ajor changes … as the team faces its final fate”;
  • Green Lantern #40 advertises “a status quo change that will impact all the Green Lantern titles”;
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #17 mentions “a major change in Kal and Diana’s relationship”;
  • Batman Eternal #52 notes that its “nightmare … will shape the face of Gotham City to come”; and
  • Harley Quinn #16 claims “everything changes … for more than forever!”

Nevertheless, just because a series might make it past Convergence doesn’t mean it’ll last much longer. If any book is going to benefit from April and May’s cosmic spring cleaning, my money’s on Earth 2 getting a new (or older, if you get my drift) cast of characters. Elsewhere, the increasingly-desperate solicits for JL 3000 make me think it’s only got a few issues left (although ironically, it now features the return of a few “old-school” characters). JL United must take care not to feel redundant; while JL Dark and Gotham By Midnight may be increasingly more isolated as Swamp Thing, Klarion and other “dark” titles get the ax. I have no idea how much longer the antihero books like Lobo and Sinestro might run. Sinestro is getting an annual, but so is Batwoman.

The spring break will probably give at least a few titles a chance to change creative teams. I’m looking at you, Wonder Woman; but other books with recent structural shakeups — i.e., Catwoman, Supergirl, Constantine, Teen Titans — could also get some new guidance. Conversely, for whatever it’s worth, I’d say some books are locks not to change: Action, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Gotham Academy, Grayson, Harley Quinn, Justice League, Secret Six, Sinestro and Superman. For the most part these are “if it ain’t broke” situations featuring strong marriages of characters and creative folk. It still leaves two-thirds of the Surviving 32 up for grabs, though.

YET MORE ALTERNATES

Batman: Earth One Volume 2 is on the schedule for May, almost two years after its predecessor but only about six months after Teen Titans: Earth One, the most recent book in this particular line. I liked the first BM:E1 book pretty well, comparing it to a TV series’ pilot episode. Volume 2 will come out as the first seasons of Gotham and The Flash, and the third season of Arrow, are all winding down. I’m curious to see whether that will be good timing.

(By the way, according to recent DC house ads, the Earth One characters are also part of the Multiverse. I suppose that could facilitate future crossovers, although the main rule of an Earth One series seems to be that you don’t talk about any other series, even other Earth One series.)

And speaking of television, the final printed issue of Smallville Season 11 comes out in March. It too has been dealing with Multiversal issues (including its own “Crisis”), but from what I can tell, with an eye towards fleshing out various DC concepts — Batman, Wonder Woman, the Teen Titans, etc. — in the Smallville context. However, with Smallville off the air for a few years and other DC shows getting the comics tie-in treatment, it was time to retire. Still, it’s set a precedent for a Gotham: Season N+10 tie-in comic to show its version of Batman.

COLLECTIONS

The series was never a big hit, but it’s nice to see Dial H getting a spiffy all-in-one hardcover. (It apparently doesn’t collect the Forever Evil tie-in issue, but that was more of a thematic epilogue than a final chapter.) I have all the single issues and was thinking about getting the paperbacks, but I can hold out ‘til May for this.

The Deadshot: Bulletproof paperback collects a miniseries from what I suppose is a “lost period” in the character’s history — post-Suicide Squad, pre-Secret Six, and definitely pre-New 52. I haven’t read it, but because it’s not a New 52 offering I presume it’s being collected to capitalize on the character’s TV and (presumptive) movie appearances. Probably pretty decent regardless.

Between the first paperback collection of his first ongoing series, and the second paperback collection of New Teen Titans, these solicits include a double dose of Deathstroke reprints. DC has been Deathstroke-happy for a while now, and I suppose NTT is a perennial bestseller, so I can see why it would put out both of these books. While part of me thinks that ‘80s and ‘90s Titans series appeal only to fans my age, I will say that if you’ve never read Wolfman/Pérez New Teen Titans, it holds up pretty well, and it may work even better as one big 50-plus issue saga.

Although the solicitation for the 75th-anniversary Justice Society hardcover focuses on the earliest Gardner Fox-written stories and the more recent Geoff Johns-written tales, the team’s resurgence in the ‘70s and ‘80s shouldn’t be forgotten either. Writers like Paul Levitz and Roy Thomas, and artists including Joe Staton and Jerry Ordway, helped distinguish the original all-star superhero team from its more famous successors in the Justice League. In the ‘90s, writer James Robinson incorporated elements of his darker version from the Golden Age miniseries (drawn by Paul Smith) into his Starman series. That led to a revival in JSA, co-written by David Goyer and drawn by Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair. Only after Robinson and Goyer stepped back did Johns come into his own, and the series really took off. Accordingly, I don’t want to diminish Johns’ work, but this volume should reflect the lesser-known (and still entertaining) corners of the feature’s history.

Similarly, I am disappointed in the Superman vs. Darkseid paperback. Basically it collects a three-issue arc from 1986’s Super-titles, written by John Byrne and Marv Wolfman and drawn by Byrne and Jerry Ordway; and lumps it in with various other isolated incidents. There’s nothing from the character’s early period, where he was manipulating Intergang in Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. (There’s no Jack Kirby at all, which should probably be enough for many consumers.) I don’t even think there’s anything from the ‘90s, and I know Darkseid showed up in the Superman books at least a couple of times in that decade. I’d be a lot more interested in a collection of the non-Kirby New Gods material from the ‘70s. Besides, if I wanted to see a classic Superman/Darkseid fight, I’d watch that “Destroyer” episode of Justice League Unlimited.

THIS AND THAT

Elsewhere on the Superman front, John Romita Jr. writes and pencils Superman #40, which sounds like a vignette in the upcoming “Superman gets a new power” subplot. Bizarro guest-stars in Action Comics #40, which may be his first New 52 appearance outside of Forever Evil. Supes himself guest-stars in Scooby-Doo Team-Up #9, as Mystery Incorporated visits Metropolis.

Vertigo’s latest all-star anthology with a classic DC title is Strange Sports Stories, a four-issue miniseries which starts off with a 40-page, $4.99 first issue. That alone makes it sound like the eventual collection will be more economical.

Finally, DC, in all seriousness, I would rather have a Mother Box app than a Mother Box replica. I know you put a lot of effort into the upcoming tchotchke, and it shows. Still, to borrow another Kirby question, are you ready for the world that’s coming?

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

And here is the Futures Index for this week’s Issue 33.

  • Story pages: 20
  • Stormwatch/SHADE pages: 6
  • Fifty Sue pages: 5
  • Batman/Plastique pages: 4
  • Firestorm pages: 5
  • Number of subplots which could potentially deviate from the nightmare future: 2
  • Number of subplots which appear to be headed straight for it: at least 1
  • Main character in the odd subplot out: Fifty Sue
  • Odds that this miniseries will involve a fight between an omnipotent adolescent girl and a tiny ancient three-eyed creature in an adolescent girl’s body (which may or may not be controlled by a tiny adult male): 1 in 5
  • Odds that this miniseries will involve a fight between a woman struggling to avoid a future where she’s turned into a cyborg and a woman turned into a superhero by the indirect actions of her boyfriend who’s supposed to be dead: 1 in 10

NOTES: As indicated above, for some reason I want to compare and contrast each subplot’s main female characters. Father Time and Fifty Sue’s superficial resemblances invite comparisons, but something about the glimpse of OMAC-Plastique made me look at Madison/Firestorm differently. The former is a symbol of a future that can’t come to pass (or if it does, must be shunted into a corner of the Multiverse so the superhero line can shift its focus to a more pleasant Earth). The latter is also a symbol, but of the “Five Years From Now” future which is this series’ present. MadiStorm’s backstory cannot happen in the regular New 52, because it arises directly from the horrors of the Earth-2 war. However, because her existence as Firestorm depends on the actions of Tim Drake, who according to this story’s logic is someone capable of “changing the future,” she’s worth watching. Likewise, Plastique’s actions are also related directly to another change-capable individual, the time-traveler Terry “Batman” McGinnis. That sort of analysis keeps me reading, because otherwise Futures End would be a mere exercise in nihilism like Earth 2: World’s End.

Accordingly, I thought this was a decent-to-good issue. I’m actually starting to warm to Fifty Sue and Plastique, and while I root for the Atom, his mutiny still came off as misguided. The revelation about Father Time and her three eyes provides another link to Brainiac, and the sight of Brother Eye bouncing around the grid ended up being suitably chilling. There’s going to be a zombie-cyborg apocalypse, but maybe something new can be done about it.

NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Stormwatch cleans up SHADE! Polaris punches back! Rooftop Batman Beyond! More Bat-Joker-stein! And … the Atom versus tentacles!

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