What's new with the <i>New</i> New New 52 books?

On Friday, DC Comics announced four titles will launch in September, at which point the New 52 DCU (or New52U) will be one year old, and every title will get a special zero issue (you remember; you were there).

At this point, it's unclear whether DC will be canceling four existing books to make room for this third wave of new titles — remember when the publisher announced a half-dozen new books in May, it was to replace a half-dozen canceled ones — but given the amount of work that went into making "The New 52" a thing, it seems likely that four books will be canceled shortly to keep the number consistent.

Of course, DC doesn't always do what seems most likely, does it? For example, when rebooting and relaunching the entire line of comics in an attempt to increase readership by seeking out new audiences, it mostly just rearranged their creative teams, so the "new" DC Comics were being made by the same people who made the "old"  DC Comics, which is a little like a losing baseball team deciding to have all the players trade positions and see if that helps.

But what about these new titles? Who is making them, and what chance do they have in today's market? Better than Hawk and Dove and OMAC? What chance do they have of growing today's market or, at the very least, growing DC's readership?

Let's take a closer look at the books, and judge them by the judge-able information DC has released:



DC seems pretty confident that people won't be sick of this "Court of Owls" business come September, at which point Batman writer Scott Snyder's story concerning a shadowy group of assassins in Gotham City will have been running roughly a year, including a two-month, 14-issue crossover story involving every title tangentially related to Batman (up to and including All-Star Western).

Snyder will co-write this new series with James Tynion IV, and former Catwoman artist  Guillem March will draw it. It seems to spin pretty directly out of Snyder's owl stuff.

"Meet Calvin Rose," DC's PR copy reads, "the only Talon to ever escape the grasp of the Court of Owls. This former assassin of the Court is trying to live a normal life ... but that's impossible when he's being hunted by his former masters!" I immediately thought of Azrael, a book that followed a man who escaped from a shadowy group of assassins to star in a huge, multi-book Batman line crossover story before ultimately getting his own title. Of course, that may just be because I am old.

It is perhaps worth noting that "Talon" is a name that exists in other contexts already in DC Comics, having been the name of an Earth-3 Owlman's version of Robin, a character who, at this point, has logged in many more appearances in Art Baltazar and Franco's Tiny Titans than in any other comic. And anyway,  if Talon's leaving the Court of Owls, shouldn't he change his superhero codename? Maybe they should go with .. .let's see ... Oh, how about Nite Owl ...?

I really like March's work, although I wish DC would use him better (i.e. assign him to a book I want to read), and I get the feeling he's not quite as popular outside of my apartment as he is within it (at the very least, he's not an artist whose name alone can carry a book) .

I imagine, then, that how well this does will be up to how much affection folks continue to have for Snyder, one of the "new" DC writers (who actually wrote for the Vertigo imprint for a while before getting a DCU book, prior to the reboot/relaunch) who has gained the most traction among fans.

If DC doesn't decide to cancel any other Batman-related books (Catwoman, for example, is losing its artist), then this will push the number to ... Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman Incorporated, Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Batwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey and Red Hood and The Outlaws ... a baker's dozen, by my count.

Sword of Sorcery

So named because titling it "Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld" might inadvertently result in a girl reading it, and we wouldn't want that! This apparently will be a revival/reboot of Amethyst, the early '80s fantasy series by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Ernie Colon aimed at younger, female readers.

And it will be written by Jem creator Christy Marx, an honest-to-goodness female lady (thereby doubling the number of female writers DC recruited to refocus its line to attract the attention of a newer, wider audience with their "New 52" initiative), whose previous credits include about 30 years' worth of writing for animated and live-action television. As someone who wasn't already writing comics for DC in early 2011, she definitely counts as new blood.

The artist on the Amethyst feature, however, will be Aaron Lopresti, who is a fine superhero artist, but whose work has recently been seen in such DC comics as the just-canceled Justice League International and pre-New 52 books Justice League: Generation Lost, Wonder Woman and the "Garbage Man" feature in anthology books Weird Worlds and My Greatest Adventure. So don't expect this book to look any different than the bulk of DC's line; it certainly shouldn't look anything like the "DC Nation" animated short.

To justify not calling the book Amethyst, there will be a back-up feature. This will be by regular DC contributors Tony Bedard and Jesus Saiz, set in "a post-apocalyptic wasteland" and feature the characters Beowulf and Grendel, last seen (in DC comics) in the pages of  Wonder Woman comics drawn by Aaron Lopresti.

In the plus column, this book may just be different enough from the rest of the line to stand out and attract readers who aren't interested in the rest of the DCU (and/or DC readers who want something different than they get in the other 51-55 books), and since it does take a chance on a new writer instead of someone from the same old talent pool, who knows what will happen?

On the other hand, Lopresti and Saiz art guarantee it will look like so many other DC Comics of the past few years, and the back-up should make this a more-expensive book than most DC ones, costing $1 more than what they charge for the "Johnny DC" titles aimed at younger, non-adult readers.

The Phantom Stranger

DC Comics' Co-Publisher Dan DiDio has assigned this book to writer Dan DiDio, who has previously proven himself sales poison with the canceled New 52 book OMAC and the canceled pre-New 52 book The Outsiders (the rest of his comics writing being constrained to stories or issues in anthologies, and a Blackest Night-related one-shot). He'll be joined by artist Brent Anderson (an experienced superhero comics artist who is nevertheless an outside-the-box choice for a new DC book in that he wasn't regularly drawing any DC books between 2005 and 2011).

Their leading man is the the mysterious caped, gloved and hatted figure who first appeared in the '50s in a story by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, but whose mysterious supernatural nature has kept him hanging around the DCU pretty much ever since, generally as a prophetic of deus ex machina-type figure. He's never carried a solo title too terribly long, with his 1969 series lasting the longest with 41 issues.

He did appear in a back-up story in the massively popular Justice League reboot, and he also played a prominent role in DC's Free Comic Book Day offering. DC is promising this series will have something to do with the nature of the "New 52" multiverse/continuity rejiggering — "Spinning out of his recent appearances in JUSTICE LEAGUE and DC’s Free Comic Book Day story, learn more about the true origin of The Phantom Stranger and his connection to the mysterious Pandora," says the PR — so perhaps that will help overcome the significant sales drags of DiDio's writing credit and The Stranger's always-a-bridesmaid status.

Team Seven

Here's the latest attempt in trying to force DC readers to care about an element of DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee's WildStorm imprint, importing another concept from the old WildStorm Universe (whose books were dying on the vine before DC finally folded it), fortifying it with DC Universe connections and hoping it takes (see also Voodoo, Grifter, StormWatch and, to a lesser extent, Superboy and The Ravagers).

Originally Team Seven was a paramilitary, guys-with-guns team in the WildStorm Universe, the creation of writer Chuck Dixon and artist Aron Wiesenfeld in a 1994 series by the same name. This title will be written by Strange Talent of Luthor Strode's James Jordan (new to DC) and drawn by Jesus Merino (old to DC), and will include a mix of WildStorm and DC characters.

These are Dinah Lance (Black Canary), Amanda Waller (of Suicide Squad), Steve Trevor (Wonder Woman's old-school love interest, who now appears in Justice League), John Lynch (from WildStorm's Gen 13 and Sleeper), Alex Fairchild (Father of Gen 13's Caitlin and Roxy, the former of which has been appearing in Superboy and The Ravagers), Cole Cash (Grifter) and Slade Wilson (Deathstroke, The Terminator).

The PR copy for this one notes that it is "set in the early days of DC COMICS-THE NEW 52" (so, last September?) and promises that, "... threads of the entire DC Universe collide ... As Superman emerges, so does the world's counter measures against him and his kind ... their story will change everything you know about DC COMICS-THE NEW 52."

Which is fine with me; I know so little about it now.

The set-up of army guys in a world of emerging superheroes sounds awfully similar to that of Men of War (canceled) and Blackhawks (also canceled), but given the connections to so many other DC titles, from Justice League on down to Birds of Prey and ther recently Rob Liefed-ed Grifter and Deathstroke, this could pull in enough interest to keep it going for a good long time. That said, it is set five years in the past, and most of those characters will have to go on to become different characters elsewhere, so it can't go on too long, can it ...?

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