The cruellest month: DC Comics Solicitations for April 2009

This is going to be an odd round of solicit-talk for me. I skipped the March solicitations because we Robot Sixers were on a break; and I’m writing this post having spent most of the day in the car. Therefore, I ask for a little bit of slack in this look at DC’s April books.

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Honestly, I don’t know how much of “Battle For The Cowl” I’ll be in the mood to read. I’m most interested in the Azrael miniseries, because I like Fabian Nicieza and Frazer Irving; but I’m having a hard time getting excited for the rest, even the core miniseries. Nevertheless, here is your Battle For The Cowl reading order for April:

4/1: Man-Bat #14/8: BFTC #24/15: Oracle #24/22: Arkham Asylum #1, Azrael #24/29: The Underground #1

So, Arkham Asylum will be destroyed again, eh? Ordinarily I would yawn, but actually I feel a little sorry for Arkham’s administrators. I figure they must get state and/or federal funding, which means that pretty frequently they have to go before assorted subcommittees in order to justify their spending requests. Sure they get money from Wayne Enterprises, which probably also donates the latest humane-restraint gear and nonlethal weaponry; but they still have to pay staff, hold training sessions, etc.

And every year it’s the same thing: some combination of “why should we give you this money when you can’t keep these lunatics locked up?” and “why should we give you this money when you do well enough with what you have?” In particularly bad years, however, they have to ask for an even bigger amount, because someone like Bane or Ra’s al Ghul has taken out most of the south wall. This time it’s doubly bad: the Wayne funding might not come through, and it sounds like there’s some major structural damage as well. Homicidal maniacs are one thing, but I wouldn’t wish the budgetary process on anyone. No wonder Jeremiah Arkham might “fall prey to madness.”

Come to think of it, where are the non-Batman Gothamites, like Green Lantern Alan Scott and Etrigan the Demon, who could be pitching in? When did they give up caring about Gotham City? (I guess I know Etrigan’s answer….)

Finally, who wants to bet that the mysterious someone working behind-the-scenes of all these “Battle for the Cowl” things is Bruce Wayne himself? Even without the Omega Sanction’s loopholes, mightn’t Superman have used the Miracle Machine to bring one of his best friends back to life?


Here’s what I’ve learned from this round of solicitations:

-- Indeed, that is Owlman in the new Outsiders.

-- Superman leaves Earth not for deep space (as in the 1988-89 “Exile” storyline), but for New Krypton.

-- The Earth-2 Superman is the first official Black Lantern.

-- Sadly, my Bruce-Wayne-is-a-Black-Lantern theory (another alternative, next to the Miracle Machine and the Omega Sanction loophole) has yet to be confirmed.


I’m guessing that the speedster who “turns up dead” in Flash: Rebirth #1 isn’t Wally West, because it looks like Wally's on the cover of Teen Titans #70. Of course, death hasn’t stopped Bruce Wayne from appearing in Trinity or Gotham After Midnight. Even so, my money’s on someone from Blue Trinity taking the ol’ dirt nap. As for the “key member of Wonder Woman’s supporting cast,” I say Nemesis. It’ll take stronger stuff than renegade gods to dispatch Etta Candy.


Since I’ve been complaining for a while that DC needs more variety in its main line of books, I’m glad to see Dead Romeo under the DC bullet, regardless of whether it’s a DCU title. I will say that I didn’t think vampires worked like that, but I suppose that’s the point of the story.

Along the same lines (variety, not vampires-don’t-work-that-way), finally the new Warlord series is here.  Still pushing for Blackhawk, though.


Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham bid farewell to Justice Society with #26.

Gotham After Midnight and The War That Time Forgot both wrap up their year-long runs.

I’m looking forward to Justice League’s Starbreaker arc, but can’t DC find a consistent artist for the book? It keeps getting these guys who draw like Ed Benes, despite all the criticism Benes has been receiving. Maybe Federico Dallocchio (on deck for JLofA #32) will be the one.

At long last, Seaguy: Slaves Of Mickey Eye #1 is on the schedule!  But wait -- April 1?!?  I knew there was a catch....


$3.99 books include Battle For The Cowl, Flash: Rebirth, Strange Adventures, and Seaguy.  Each are 40-pagers, which makes them the same size and price as each issue of Final Crisis.  There are some $3.99 32-pagers, but they're the video-game tie-ins Gears Of War, Mirror's Edge, Prototype, Resident Evil, and Resistance.  Otherwise, the 32-page floppies are holding steady at $2.99 apiece.


I’ve complained about not wanting Titans to take JLA’s place as the designated crossover-facilitator, but the “Deathtrap” crossover does have a couple of pluses. First, it doesn’t look too painful (five issues spread over two months). Second, it apparently closes out the whole “Jericho is still evil” subplot. That said, I’m none too happy that the subplot won’t be resolved until May, but at least I know the endpoint.

In the two Green Lantern books, the buildup to Blackest Night continues (watch next month’s solicits for that Bruce Wayne figure! You’ll see!), but I swear I’m getting burned out on the thing already. It’s been hyped since the fall of 2007, for goshsakes. I’m finding it hard enough to believe that Final Crisis will be over next week, and here I’m wanting an event over before it even starts.


As with “Battle For The Cowl,” I wasn’t too jazzed about any of the ancillary “New Krypton” titles. However, James Robinson, Greg Rucka, and Pete Woods have sold me on World Of New Krypton. Still not sure about Eddy Barrows on Action Comics, though – sometimes I like his work, sometimes not. And why can’t Mon-El just pull the old “Valor” codename out of storage? Surely that has no Kryptonian connotations.

Dare I hope that one of the double-dating couples in Secret Six #8 is Catman and Deadshot? Not since Sam and Frodo has a bromance been so powerfully dramatized.


Put me down for a Showcase Presents Super Friends. I may still try to find the old color paperbacks. Also, very glad to see the Static paperback, since somehow I never saw Rebirth of the Cool at my LCS. However, I must note that the stories in this paperback are separated by about ten years. I can wait on an Absolute Promethea, though, until it has an Absolute Watchmen and the Absolute Sandman books to sit next to.

The existence of a Bayou paperback is worth noting here, if only because it’s the first hard-copy version of a Zuda webcomic. As such, it’s piqued my interest in Zuda, and in Bayou specifically. (I don’t read many of the webcomics because the computer strains my eyes bad enough as it is.)


The Grumpy Old Fan posts usually go live at noon Eastern, but really, I hope no one is reading my words then. I’ll be watching one of the most profound, historic events in my country’s history, as the reins of power pass peacefully from an administration shaped by terror and war to one promising change and the fulfillment of hope.

I know I probably shouldn’t bring the new President into this column, because as I understand it he’s a Marvel character now. Regardless, I can’t help but think that if the election of Barack Obama signals a new willingness to believe -- to invest ourselves emotionally in something positive, uplifting, even fantastic -- then our popular culture will reflect that.

Naturally, I consider DC’s superheroes well-suited to take advantage of such audacious hope. Obviously Superman and Wonder Woman are inspirational figures; but they’re hardly the only ones. I don’t read The Flash to find out Captain Cold’s dark secrets, I read it because I wish I could run real fast. I read Green Lantern because I want to fly through space with a magic wishing ring. Even last summer’s The Dark Knight, with all its downbeat moments and grim demeanor, found hope in the actions of ordinary people and inspiration in its hero. At their cores, DC’s superheroes are about liberation and freedom.  Sadly, stories which remind us of that seem increasingly more rare.

That’s why I get so frustrated with DC’s current preoccupations. For the past several years DC has draped its big events in the cloak of “change”; but its changes have, by and large, centered around carnage and death. On the same day that Spider-Man and Mr. Obama exchanged a fist-bump, Darkseid “killed” Batman.   As Brian Hibbs pointed out, last week as people flooded comics shops looking for a thumbs-up Obama cover, DC's covers were mostly black "Faces Of Evil" images.  DC has been looking inward to an ever-shrinking market instead of trying to rope new readers with more generally-appealing stories. It’s so afraid of being labeled out-of-touch, stodgy, or risk-averse, that it lets other media handle all the outreach. It is perpetually reinventing itself along well-trod lines, and never settling on what it has decided to be.  After at least five years of this stuff, that’s not change, it’s more of the same.

Time to decide, DC. The real change has come. Time to stop campaigning, and time to govern. The country -- and perhaps a fair bit of the world -- is ready to believe, ready to put away the bad thoughts, and unashamed to embrace the good. Time to step out in faith, reject the policies of cynicism, and tap into the unbridled optimism which this Inauguration Day symbolizes.

Here’s to a 2009 which brings hope and inspiration back to the skies of Metropolis, the streets of Gotham, and every corner of the Multiverse.  Now that would be a change I could believe in.

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