At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose -- let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
I like the Legion pretty well, but surely I am not the only one who gets hives reading about the “suspiciously different versions” coming soon to Action Comics. Weren’t we past that...?
Nevertheless, there is a nice sense of connectivity in February’s Super-family titles. Although I am not tired of Springsteen Supes by any means, the thought of Krypto-Armor Superman trying to save his younger self from the Anti-Superman Army (again, with the Legions’ help) is a pleasingly retro idea, even if it does echo that one issue of All Star Superman. Likewise, Supergirl showing up in Superman and Superboy, and the Maid of Might having to cope with the effects of blue-sun radiation, all help bring our favorite Kryptonians together. In particular, I thought this week’s Supergirl used Superman effectively to explain not only his mission, but her relationship to it.
Similarly, February’s issues of Voodoo, Stormwatch, and Grifter will try to (re-)establish a little WildStorm corner of DC’s superhero line -- which then, I presume, can reach out to more recognizably-DC books like Suicide Squad. I’m actually reading Stormwatch and Grifter, and I liked Sami Basri’s work on Voodoo, but I’m still not sure this will get me to pick up the latter regularly. The first issue didn’t do much for me, and subsequent solicits haven’t changed that.
THE DEEP BENCH
Bleeding Cool had a good rundown of creative-team changes in the February solicitations, so I will note only a few of them. I’ll miss Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan on Justice League International, but I’m eager to see Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott finishing George Pérez’s Superman breakdowns, and Chris Sprouse and Karl Story should be good as always on Legion of Super-Heroes. Also, it’s not really a creative-team shift, but February’s Batwoman #6 marks the debut of Amy Reeder and Richard Friend in the rotation as regular art team; and Sam Kieth draws a sequence in THUNDER Agents #4.
Under different circumstances, I’d hope that the invitation to “[l]earn the origins of Central and Keystone City” in The Flash #6 would be a reference to “Flash Of Two Worlds.” However, with (apparently) no superheroic Golden Age in the New-52's history, there would be no Golden Age Flash to reintroduce. Otherwise, I’m not sure the Flash especially needs a “character-in-its-own-right” setting like Gotham or Metropolis. Central City is nice, I’m sure, but as long as its topography is conducive to super-speed action, it doesn’t have to do much more.
Almost a year ago, posting about The Atlantis Chronicles, I wondered if Geoff Johns’ Aquaman work would compel DC to reprint Peter David and Esteban Maroto’s excellent 1990 miniseries. Since the solicit for Aquaman #6 now links the continent’s sinking to Mera’s past, I am less confident about such a reprint.
The mention of Pozhar, in the solicit for Firestorm #6, gives me hope that DC will reprint much of John Ostrander’s late-‘80s run on the book’s predecessor. Ostrander introduced Pozhar (and other assorted Soviet-era characters), but they then faded into deep obscurity. It’d be nice to have a Showcase Presents John Ostrander’s Russian Firestorm to get re-acquainted.
I’m not so sure the giant bat of All-Star Western #6 is the same giant bat which figured so prominently in Bruce Wayne’s return to the Bat-books last year. Jonah Hex isn’t a pushover, but I doubt he could permanently put down a nigh-immortal critter created by Darkseid. Still, I suppose this is why we have All-Star Western and not a relaunched Jonah Hex -- to give Jonah the flexibility to wrassle with fantastic monsters.
While I have not read any issues of Captain Atom past the first, I remain a bit curious about its place in the New 52. Accordingly, I’m guessing -- based on nothing concrete beyond the solicitation -- that the “strangely similar” threat and the “ending you’ll never see coming” have something to do with his counterpart(s) across DC’s Multiverse.
I have also not returned to Deathstroke after issue #1, but it looks like the solicit for #6 will touch on Slade’s ex-wife and late son, whose stories were told in the pages of the Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans. Adeline should be pretty much the same: an Army officer assigned to shepherd young Slade through his training, the two fell in love, even without watching the Captain America movie. However, it’ll be instructive to see how the inevitable revisions to Grant’s Ravager origin affect Slade’s motivations. Grant first appeared in November 1980's New Teen Titans #1, as a selfish creep whose life was ruined (collaterally, of course) by the embryonic team’s fight with Gordanian slavers. Accordingly, in #2, when Deathstroke turned down The HIVE’s contract to kill the Titans, the HIVE turned to Grant. They made him a super-soldier, but at the cost of his remaining youth: he literally burned himself out trying to kill the Titans. Raven gave him a final moment of peace by showing him the illusion that he’d succeeded, but Deathstroke swore vengeance upon the Titans for his son’s death, and accepted the contract the Ravager didn’t complete. Thus, without a Teen Titans to destroy, I’m wondering how the new origin will play out.
Did I miss something a year ago? Wasn’t DC Universe Online Legends just an extra-long miniseries? The solicits for February’s issues make it sound like things are about to wrap up, but there’s no indication the series is about to end. I haven’t been reading it, so I have no feelings one way or the other. Still, if it’s an ongoing, it’s kind of nice to think that DC has another “classic-style” title. Ironic, too, that the classic style may be limited to tie-in books like DCUOL, Batman: B&B, and Young Justice.
Not to be unreasonably pedantic about the solicit for Green Arrow #6, but if the touch of “monstrous half-man” Midas “can melt anything,” wouldn’t that necessarily include Green Arrow?
Last month I had a chance to get a little ahead on my posting, so I speculated about the possible fates of Krypto and Wally West before realizing I had to write about the January solicits. That post got bumped back a week, but just about the time it went live there were big stories about both. And that might have been okay, but two weeks ago I mused about a Challengers of the Unknown revival, and here they are in February’s DC Universe Presents #6. Time to buy a lottery ticket, I guess -- although I feel more like Gardner Fox dreaming of Earth-Two....
READ 'EM UNDER A BLUE MOON
I almost forgot to mention the handful of DC titles shipping on one of the rarest direct-market events, the February Fifth Week. This quirk of the retail calendar can only happen on February 29, and with the New-52's strict four-week schedule it won't spill over into week 5. Thus, 2/29/12 will offer a more eclectic lineup: DC Universe Online Legends #24, Batman: Odyssey vol. 2 #5, Batman Beyond Unlimited #1, The Shade #5, THUNDER Agents #4, Legion: Secret Origin #5, Tiny Titans #49, Looney Tunes #205, Gears Of War #22, Uncharted #4, Spaceman #4, Scalped #56, and Unwritten #34.5.
Probably a lot more people have read Batman: Son of the Demon since it was reissued recently, but I think this is the first time in a long time that its follow-ups have been reprinted. I liked SOTD well enough, although it wears its ‘80s influences proudly. Bride of the Demon doesn’t stand out as much, probably because it doesn’t have the hook of Batman and Talia’s child, and otherwise it’s another Bond-influenced Rā’s al Ghūl story. However, Birth of the Demon focuses squarely on the Demon’s Head, telling his origin in detail. Plus, the present-day framing sequence is pretty rough on Batman, and it’s all depicted in spectacular fashion by Norm Breyfogle. Therefore, I endorse the Bride of the Demon omnibus collection. Like a wise man once said, two out of three ain’t bad.
Speaking of spectacular depictions, the Legends of the Dark Knight hardcover series is turning into something routinely recommendable. April’s Jim Aparo volume seems like an especially good value, reprinting twenty-two issues of early-‘70s The Brave and the Bold in full color for $50.00. If DC sticks with the Aparo series and finishes out B&B (which ended with #200), it’d probably only take another couple of volumes, and you’d be left with a very nice run of team-ups.
I have to admit, I was surprised that the second New Teen Titans Omnibus got as far as “The Judas Contract.” (I thought that would come in Volume 3.) However, as I keep saying, it’s best to read the Wolfman/Pérez run as a cohesive whole, not a series of discrete arcs. You can’t really appreciate the four issues of “Judas Contract” without the rest as context, blah blah blah, you’ve heard this before. Anyway, for just $75.00 retail, here’s your chance. I do hope DC has a Volume 3 waiting, because that would take us through Wonder Girl’s wedding in #50 and Raven’s transfiguration in the second series’ #5.
Glad to see another Flash Archives on the horizon, mostly because it helps justify my buying the previous five. However, it also includes “Doorway to the Unknown” from issue #148 (November 1968), a spooky little tale (atypical for the series) reprinted a couple of times, which I remember fondly from one of the big 1970s “Best of DC” tabloids.
Finally, this month’s surprise reprint is Black Orchid, a 3-issue Prestige Format miniseries from (as the solicit says) the pre-Sandman Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. According to his contemporaneous Amazing Heroes interview, at the time Black Orchid was a character so obscure that when he pitched the miniseries to editor Karen Berger, she thought he was saying “Blackhawk Kid.” Batman and Lex Luthor appear briefly, but McKean’s art is the real draw (as it were), taking readers from gloomy, monochromatic streets to the lush, colorful rainforest. This miniseries led to an ongoing series, and (I think) to the character even appearing in Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. She’s popped up here and there recently, so it’s not like there has been a great clamor for her return, and this may just be DC’s latest attempt to squeeze more money from Neil Gaiman fans. Regardless, it’s not a bad try.
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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?