Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Because they went live around the same time as last week’s column, I’ve had the better part of a week to consider the April DC solicitations. I’d like to tell you I dug deep into the language and the numbers, forsaking all regular human needs in order to unlock the secrets of DC’s superhero springtime, but we all know that didn’t happen. I blame the football.
There could be a couple of reasons to cut two issues from the runs of Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost. Twenty-four issues may be easier to collect, logistically speaking, than twenty-six. DC may also want to wrap up these storylines in advance of Free Comic Book Day (May 7 is the Saturday after the month’s first Wednesday), when I presume the big Flashpoint push will begin. The solicit for Flash #12 seems to indicate that Flashpoint starts in May.
Related to my musings about the early end of Brightest Day is the ripple effect its rescheduled conclusion might have had on books like Green Arrow. As you may know, I have not been reading the current GA series, because I simply have not been interested in Ollie’s apparent journey of self-discovery prompted by all of last year’s melodrama. Therefore, it could be completely unwarranted for me to ask something like “was J.T. Krul forced to abandon a vital issue of badass mopery just to accommodate Brightest Day?” Regardless, I suspect the answer would still be “no.”
ANNIVERSARIES AND OTHER MOMENTOUS OCCASIONS
Action Comics #900 is at least 96 pages’ worth of Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, Lex Luthor vs. Superman, and the usual assortment of short stories and pinups. It follows last year’s Batman #700, Superman #700, and Wonder Woman #600, so the bar is fairly high, but not unattainable for this lineup. The 50th issue of Justice Society (another good candidate for Wonder Woman-style renumbering) also ships in April, offering the same kind of all-star creative team on a smaller scale.
Finally, I note that Batwoman #1‘s resolicitation is here, in opposition to the house ads which still say “February.”
EVENTS AND CROSSOVERS
At first I thought the cover of Superman/Batman Annual #5 was by George Pérez, but no. (Mr. Pérez is doing just about every other cover variant this month, though.) Miguel Sepulveda’s work does look fairly Pérez-ian, which means I am that much closer to following all of “Reign of Doomsday.” Still, Superboy #6 is just the end of “Act I?” Sheesh!
Obligatory Green Lantern speculation: Assuming that the mystery figure on the cover of Green Lantern #65 is the new alpha-male of the Sinestro Corps, I’m guessing it’s John Stewart. I have nothing really to back that up, story-wise, except that DC hasn’t really known what to do with John for a while now. The other three each play fairly central roles in Green Lantern, GL Corps, and Emerald Warriors, but John seems stuck behind Kyle in GL Corps. This could also free John to move over to the upcoming Red Lantern series, although obviously I have no idea of the mechanics.
It’s not particularly unusual for an inter-title crossover to have different writers, but I do find it a little curious that the conclusion of the “Angels of Death” storyline in Batman isn’t by regular writer/artist Tony Daniel. The first and second parts, in Red Robin #22 and Gotham City Sirens #22, come from those books’ regular creative teams (or at least it looks that way), but Batman #709 is by David Hine and Guillem March. I’m not really complaining, because I think they’re all solid teams. I guess Daniel probably needed a break.
Hard to believe that the JMS-plotted “Grounded” and “Odyssey” storylines (in Superman and Wonder Woman, like you didn’t know) will be just about over by April. Both Chris Roberson and Phil Hester’s first issues writing/scripting/making something worthwhile from the Straczynski plots have been received fairly well, or at least better than JMS’ solo-writing efforts, so I’m more optimistic that they will each stick around afterwards. This week’s Wonder Woman has me curious to see just how much of the “jacket-and-pockets” look will survive. Between this storyline and Flashpoint’s alternate timeline, I’m still presuming she’ll go back to the classic status quo once one or both of those have ended.
QUITE A LOT ABOUT THE COLLECTIONS
When I first saw the solicitation for DC Comics Presents: Ninja Boy, I kept thinking irrationally of Lagoon Boy, one of the superhero line’s lesser-known teen heroes. Instead, Ninja Boy was a six-issue series which came out from WildStorm in 2001-02. There was a paperback collection of all six issues too. Honestly, I hope this abbreviated reprint finds its audience, because clearly someone at DC thought its time had come again — and if it sells well enough, who knows what else the 96-pages-for-$7.99 format might yield?
When I read “Hush” as twelve issues of the regular Batman book, all those years ago, I found it to be a somewhat obvious travelogue through the Bat-universe. It culminated in a revelation which hasn’t stuck, and introduced a new villain so annoying he’s since been subjected to years of rehabilitative storylines. Still, Jim Lee did some really good work, so I guess that’s the appeal of the $40.00 Hush Unwrapped hardcover. (It may also be the only single-volume “Hush” collection outside of the Absolute Edition.)
Reprinting the first Deadman stories in paperback reminds me that the Deadman of Brightest Day has necessarily gotten away from the proto-“Quantum Leap” body-hopping which was the character’s signature move. I like the idea of Deadman as supernatural detective, so I’m eager to see how these early stories balanced the murder mystery with metaphysics. I’m also pleasantly surprised that these are color reprints, although I think there’s more than enough material for a Showcase Presents volume.
Soliciting a $40.00 Infinity Inc. hardcover makes me want to say something like “longtime DC fans are no doubt excited,” etc., but then I think — aren’t we lifers already a significant part of DC’s readership? Indeed, haven’t we been waiting for more quality Earth-2 reprints ever since that second Justice Society paperback appeared? Because the original Infinity ran from 1984-1988, an entire generation (ironically enough) has had time to finish college since its last issue was published. Still, Infinity did represent veteran writer Roy Thomas’ attempt to steer a new course for the old Earth-2, not by giving it a next-gen team like the Teen Titans, but by saying it didn’t have to be so much of a Golden Age museum. Basically, I’m happy that DC wants to reprint artifacts like Infinity, Inc., but I’m not sure it’s worth $40.00 to me.
At the other end of the cost-benefit spectrum, I have tried to get into both recent Superboy relaunches, but despite the talents of all involved, something about the character just doesn’t click with me anymore. However, the Boy Of Steel paperback, collecting the Geoff Johns/Francis Manapul stories from Adventure Comics, actually looks like quite an attractive package. Six issues and change for $14.99 retail is about right for a decent-sized story, even if it isn’t by the current creative team.
Speaking of older relaunches, the twelve-issue Legion Lost from about ten years ago gets a nice hardcover treatment — but again, I imagine it has little to do with the current series. Legion Lost continued the “soft reboot” of the post-Zero Hour Legion (started in the “Legion of the Damned” storyline, conveniently solicited here as well) — or as some of you may think of them, Legion #2 in the Legion of Three Worlds. Basically, Legion Lost split up the team by transporting half of them an unimaginable distance across the universe (not unlike “Star Trek: Voyager”) and daring them to find their way back. L. Lost was the only Legion title published for those twelve months. It was followed by the Legion Worlds miniseries, which looked in on those left behind, and then by the relaunched ongoing series, called simply The Legion. That, in turn, yielded to Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s Legion #3, which lasted fifty issues before its fate was determined by Final Crisis: Legion Of Three Worlds. Ironically, Legion Lost may work best as something other than the main Legion title. It’s certainly an unconventional take on the team — again, think “Voyager,” which was ostensibly about preserving the ethics of “home” when you’re far away — but as a dark, suspenseful story of survival, it’s pretty engaging.
The upcoming Justice League International Vol. 6 paperback begins reprinting the “Adam Hughes Era” of Justice League America, along with concurrent issues of Justice League Europe, from the late ‘80s. Given Hughes’ popularity, this isn’t really surprising. If they continue reprinting JLA and JLE together like this, Hughes’ run (which lasted, off and on, through JLA #44) should span a few more books. I’ll be curious to see how far it goes, though. Giffen and DeMatteis (and eventual JLE scripters William Messner-Loebs and Gerard Jones) lasted a total of five years on both books, but they weren’t always crackling with wit and charm. In fact, I kind of hope that DC does end up reprinting all five years’ worth of comics, and then collects the next year or so of both titles (featuring Dan Jurgens on JLA, and Jones and Ron Randall on JLE). Collectively, it would be a good study in contrasting styles — especially since Giffen and DeMatteis have since succeeded Jurgens on Booster Gold.
Some final paperback/hardcover notes: I want to read Warren Ellis’ script for Planetary/Batman just to see if he actually refers to Adam West at any point; it’s great to see new editions of Joe Kubert’s Yossel, Dong Xaoi, and Jew Gangster, especially since they’re pretty affordable; and I can’t turn down a new We3 which includes new story pages.
THIS BOOK’S THAT OLD?
Finally, although I talk about the solicitations every time they come out, I always get the feeling that I have ignored a significant chunk of the superhero line. There are just some books that tend not to draw attention to themselves — or, to put it bluntly, they tend not to draw my attention. Accordingly, this month I want to take a look at several titles which just keep chugging along without an inordinate amount of buzz. And yes, that is a nice way of saying “this book’s that old?”
Outsiders #39: It’s 3-and-a-quarter years into the title which lost a writer (Tony Bedard) before the first issue was published, and which saw its first writer (Chuck Dixon) leave DC entirely after ten issues. Now it’s almost thirty issues later, DC overlord Dan DiDio has (or will have, assuming these solicits hold up) fourteen issues under his belt, and the book has recently acquired not-too-shabby penciller Keith Giffen. I suppose DiDio can keep Outsiders going as long as he wants, but I don’t read much about it and don’t have much incentive to pick it up. If the bulk of DC’s readers are (and continue to be) similarly apathetic, I give it to issue #45.
Supergirl #63: With all its retoolings, it seems like Supergirl should be starting from a new issue #1 every year. However, Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle (and various fill-in artists) recently wrapped a two-year run as the book’s regular creative team. A good bit of that was devoted to the “New Krypton” storylines, but Gates and Igle put their own stamp on Supergirl, at once integrating it into the Superman family and giving it a unique tone. I really liked last week’s issue #60, which brought aboard the new team of James Peaty and Bernard Chang (with the one-time contribution of writer Nick Spencer), and I think Supergirl is on solid ground. I’ve been hurt before (especially by the cancellation of Peter David’s long run), but I think the Maid of Might could make it at least to issue #80, as David’s title did.
Superman/Batman #83: In the eight-plus years since Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness kicked off “Public Enemies,” a number of similarly-themed anthology titles have come and gone, including Batman Confidential (currently a lame duck), Superman Confidential, JLA Classified, and JSA Classified. The long-running Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight was also cancelled during this period, after a run of over two hundred issues (plus assorted Annuals and Specials). I was a regular reader for the first few years, but after a while found it easy to ignore, and now only pick up the occasional issue or Annual. Nevertheless, I am warming again to the idea of a monthly World’s Finest team-up where regular continuity need not intrude, and I suppose enough of the readership feels the same. Anthologies tend to walk a thin line at DC, though. Issue #100 will either be the series’ final issue, or a giant vote of confidence in its future.
Doom Patrol #21 and Doc Savage #13: I read DP regularly because it has the same kind of antisocial vibe as Secret Six; but again, it is a title with which the comics blogosphere doesn’t seem overly concerned. Not surprisingly, issue #17 was 188th on December’s Top 300 Comics list, with just over 9,500 copies sold to shops. I’m guessing the book will reach issue #25, just so it can be canceled on a multiple-of-5 number; but in any event I probably shouldn’t get too attached. On the other hand, December’s Doc Savage #9 sold just under 6,900 copies for 203rd place, and April’s #13 starts a six-issue storyline.
Booster Gold #43: April’s solicitation sounds awfully conclusive, what with the “biggest decision of all times” and “start of a new Booster” language. That sort of talk makes me worry that Giffen, DeMatteis, and Batista are ready for the last roundup. However, Booster Gold has lasted some three-and-a-half years with solid sales and decent word of mouth, so who’s to say the book can’t continue as long as the creative team(s) are inspired to do so? If Booster lasts to issue #50, it can make it to #60; and if it’s not canceled by that point, who knows when it will be?
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Anyway, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?